Our Spectator’s Guide To The Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta On The Schuylkill River This Weekend, May 9 And 10

The Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, the largest collegiate regatta in the country, returns to the Schuylkill River this weekend, May 9 and 10 with more than 125 crews in tow. (Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia)

The Schuylkill River is home to a number of world-renowned races, including the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta which returns to the river this weekend, Friday, May 9 and Saturday, May 10.

The regatta welcomes more than 125 colleges and universities from all parts of the country to the annual (and free!) regatta, which has been continuously in Philadelphia for more than 60 years.

Shuttle buses leave the art museum frequently for free trips to and from the race course, so accessing the more than 175 races is a cinch.

Read on for more on this annual marquee event.


The regatta is named for Harry Emerson “Dad” Vail, a crew coach at the University of Wisconsin in the early 20th century who led his crews to win many races, even though there were few places for rowing in Wisconsin.

Thousands of athletes from more than 125 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada compete in the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, the largest collegiate regatta in the nation and a Philadelphia tradition.

The two-day race is held on the Schuylkill River and has attracted competitors and their families for generations.

The Race Course

The Dad Vail races take place on a six-lane, Olympic-length course. Rowers begin just north of where Kelly Drive intersects Hunting Park Avenue, and end 2,000 meters later at the Grand Stand, just above the Columbia Avenue Bridge.

For the full schedule of races and times, click here.

Where to Watch

The ideal place to catch the action is the Grand Stand near the Jack Kelly statue, where the races will conclude. From the Grand Stand, cheer on college rowers in the final moments of the race.

Note that shuttle buses will also stop at Rowers Village, near the start of the course, the Canoe Club (mid-course) or the 500 meter mark (final quarter), so you’ll have to walk to this ideal viewing location.

For more on the regatta, see below.

Food and Drinks

Indulge in an array of food, alcoholic beverages and non-alcoholic drinks inside of the food court, located at the 500 meter mark which also happens to be a shuttle bus stop.

Enjoy quintessential Philly food like cheesesteaks and hoagies or munch on a smaller snack. Pair your eats with an alfresco beer as the food court promises an on-site beer garden, too.

The Dad Vail Regatta is also a big event for packed picnics, bring your favorite food and drinks from home and nosh while watching the races.

Getting There

The races occur roughly two miles north of Boathouse Row, about five miles northwest of Center City. Those coming on foot or by public transportation can pick up a free shuttle bus from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at 25th Street and Kelly Drive, just outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art (near the statue of St. Joan of Arc).

Those driving should head towards Kelly Drive in Fairmount Park. The road will be closed for the event, but cars will be directed through the park and to remote lots (which charge a nominal parking fee), where free shuttles will pick up and drop off every 15-20 minutes. The event is also easily accessible by bike. For updates on parking and security, check here.

See below for the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta map.

Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta
When: May 9-10
Where: Schuylkill River
Cost: Free
More info: www.dadvail.org

(Image courtesy Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta)


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