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May 05, 2015

Where to cheer on the Dad Vail Regatta

The best places to sit, what to eat and how to get there

Friday, May 8 and Saturday, May 9 marks the 77th Annual Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta. The largest collegiate regatta in North America, over 100 college and university crew teams from the U.S. and Canada will participate in Dad Vail, with over 175 races taking place on the Olympic-length course. This year, Drexel University will go for its third consecutive overall points championship.

Flowing down the Schuylkill River from above Strawberry Mansion to the Columbia Avenue Bridge, Dad Vail is one of the city's biggest sporting events for spectators. Follow our guide to the weekend to be sure you don't miss a single stroke. 

How to Get There

The races run parallel to Kelly Drive, which will be closed during the regatta days, and take place about two miles above Boathouse Row. There will be very limited parking along Kelly Drive, so, if you'll be driving, it's best to plan on parking in Fairmount Park, where overflow parking will be directed. From there, free shuttle buses will be available about every 15 minutes from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on both days to bring spectators and competitors to race areas. 

Shuttles will also run from the Art Museum to the race course, stopping at the mid-race, final quarter, finish line and Rower's Village marks. Spectators can take SEPTA bus routes 32 and 38 to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, then walk to the Joan of Arc statue at 25th Street and Kelly Drive to access these shuttles.

Of course, if you're up for the trip, the Schuylkill River Trail brings walkers and cyclists right into the viewing area. Just don't plan to utilize Indego Bike Share -- there is no bike station near the regatta.

Where to Watch

If you're serious about seeing who wins each race, you're going to want to sit in the grandstands (above) by the John B. Kelly statue. They are right by the finish line, just above the Columbia Avenue Railroad Bridge, along Kelly Drive. This is where race programs will be available, too. Races begin at 7 a.m., so you'll want to get there early for a guaranteed seat.

Just about 500 meters from the grandstands, you'll find a Kids Fun Zone right by a jumbotron. If your little ones need a break from sitting still, you can keep an eye on the races from there. 

Any free seat along the river is fair game for spectators, too. If you're looking to get a little closer to the water (or don't want to fight with early crowds at the grandstand) try around the 500-meter mark or the starting line, just above the Kelly Drive-Hunting Park Avenue intersection. Feel free to bring a beach chair, a packed lunch and your leashed dog, too. Check out Dad Vail's 2014 map for an idea of what race day will look like. 

What to Do

When your eyes aren't glued to the finish line, the Dad Vail Food Court will occupy your time. Located near the jumbotron and Kids Fun Zone, the area will host plenty of food trucks and mobile vendors with goodies like cheese steaks and hoagies available for purchase. For the adults in attendance, Sly Fox Beer will host a beer garden complete with their Dad Vail Pale Ale, made just for the occasion.

It looks like the weather may get a bit rainy on Friday and Saturday, so be sure to bring an umbrella with you just in case. Though a little rain likely won't affect the schedule, if the weather begins to endanger rowers' safety the races will stop. Check out Dad Vail's race contingency plan if the weather looks bleak.

Can't attend the races? 6ABC will start live coverage at 1 p.m. on Saturday

Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta

Friday, May 8 and Saturday, May 9
7 a.m.-5 p.m. | Free admission
Schuylkill River at Kelly Drive
Strawberry Mansion Bridge to Columbia Avenue