If you are looking for something fun and unique to do in Boston this June, you do not have to look any further. Taking place June 13th and 14th, rain or shine, the free Boston Dragon Boat Festival provides guests the opportunity to learn more about Asian cultures while also watching the magnificent dragon boat races as they glide through the Charles River.
Featuring 20-foot long Hong Kong-style fiberglass boats complete with dragon heads and tails, the dragon boat races are certain a site to see. Originating around 2,300 years ago, dragon boat races served as a ceremony meant to commemorate the life and death of Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan was a Chinese poet and political leader best known for his patriotism and contributions to classical poetry. Today, the races take place around the world and serve as both a popular sporting event and means of celebrating Chinese culture.
This year, the dragon boat race time trials will take place from 7:00 am to 2:00 pm on June 13th. The actual races will take place the following day from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm. Racers of all ability levels are invited to participate in the event, ranging from first-time racers to seasoned experts. It is also common to see boats representing various clubs, communities, businesses and schools. As a result, the event typically features more than 50 competing teams.
If you want to get a good spot for the time trials, they take place at the MIT Pierce Boathouse dock. The Sunday races take place in the Charles River within the docks on the Boston side. They begin between the River and Western Avenue Bridges in the area that is closer to Western Ave and they end near the Weeks Footbridge. As such, those bridges serve as great locations for watching the races.
In addition to watching the dragon boat races, festival guests can also head over to the Cambridge side of the Charles River to watch yo-yo performances, drum dances, Lion dances, martial arts, crafts and musical performances. While the event focuses primarily on the Chinese culture, the festival typically includes snippets of Japanese and other Asian cultures as well. These activities are scheduled to start at noon on June 14th and will take place until 5:00. Typically, these cultural activities and events are kicked off by the eye dotting ceremony, after which arts & crafts and performances are made available in the main tent and Asian food is made available along Memorial Drive.
Attracting people from all over the world, the Boston Chinese Dragon Boat Festival is the biggest dragon boat race in the country as well as the longest-running festival of its kind in North America. While dragon boat races are traditionally held on the 5th day of the 5th moon on the lunar calendar – which means it falls somewhere in late May to mid-June on the solar calendar – the Boston event typically takes place a week or two following Memorial Day.