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Boston Dragon Boat Festival 2024

Charles River gets crowded during the first dragon boat festival in the United States.

Dates: June 9, 2024

Boston Dragon Boat Festival
Boston Dragon Boat Festival
Boston Dragon Boat Festival

The annual Boston Dragon Boat Festival is a great way to spend a summer weekend on the Charles River. As the pioneering dragon boat festival in the United States, it commemorates the passing of the revered Chinese poet and patriot Qu Yuan. It grew from a small neighborhood event into the area’s largest water festival, attended by over 20,000 spectators each year.

Schedule of Boat Races

The most interesting part of the festival is the race between about 70 teams, accompanied by various cultural performances. Each boat has 20 paddlers to row the 500-meter course. Trial races are scheduled for Saturday, while the main program runs from 8 am to 5 pm on Sunday.


The cultural program for the Boston Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival runs from noon to 5 pm. The opening ceremony is scheduled for 12:30 pm, followed by the Dragon Dance Parade from 12:30 to 12:40 pm. While you watch, you can try Asian fare and traditional Chinese arts and crafts, dance, music, Dragon Dance Demonstrations, and good food. The event features various Asian communities in the Greater Boston area, promoting their distinct cultures.

Location & Tickets

The Boston Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival's venue is the John W. Weeks Footbridge, situated on the Charles River in Cambridge, MA. Activities take place along Memorial Drive, and the Dragon Boat Races are held in the Charles River. Admission to the festival is free of charge for festival-goers and racing spectators.

History of the Festival

The inaugural Dragon Boat Festival in the United States was established by three friends in 1979. The event showcased grand dragon head constructions affixed to the racing boats alongside cultural performances, making it a vibrant and artistic affair. Moreover, the festival showcased community art through week-long exhibitions at prominent venues across Boston, including the John Hancock Center, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Boston Public Library.

Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated in many countries on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. The tradition began about 2,000 years ago when Yuan drowned himself as an act of protest. Boston was the first North American city to hold a Dragon Boat Festival, and it is the largest such event in New England.

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Authors: Sophia Andrus