The month of October means many things to the people of New England: burnished and bright fall foliage, pumpkin fare galore, and the holiday of Halloween. But each autumn, Boston’s boasts a sporting event unlike any other, and it’s time for the 2012 Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR). This weekend, Saturday, October 20th and Sunday, October 21st, Boston will host the renowned 48th annual, 2012 Head of the Charles Regatta, the world’s largest two-day rowing event with a jam-packed schedule. Below we’ve compiled a full schedule, start times, maps and where to watch the 2012 Head of the Charles race this weekend. Additionally, you’ll find photos of  last year’s Head of the Charles race.

Each year, the regatta tows in over 9,000 athletes and 300,000 spectators to the banks of the Charles for a nation-wide competition on the water. The 2012 schedule is complete with 55 different race events, which cover a 3.2 mile stretch along the river and will include competitors from all across the map.

With 2012 pulling in even more competitors — there are at least 70 more boats this time around — the Head of the Charles on October 20th and 21st will surely continue to be an epic rowing race. In order to help you sort out the sporty chaos around the river on this eventful day, BostInno gives you the six best spots to watch the race as well as a helpful map and schedule. With this info, you’ll be navigating the Charles River like a Winkelvoss in no time.

Best Spots to Watch the 2012 Regatta

The Head of the Charles race route passes under seven bridges, so any one of these overpasses offers a great vantage point for viewing the race. Most people prefer watching between the Lars Anderson Bridge and the Weeks Footbridge, which is the race’s approximate halfway point — but there are plenty of locations along the river to cheer on the crew teams while also enjoying some accommodations officially provided by the Regatta.

Boston University Bridge — The first bridge of the regatta is the BU Bridge, which scullers pass under fairly soon after the official start. This bridge is a good choice to watch from if you want to catch the beginning excitement of the regatta. What’s unique about races like the Head of the Charles is that each boat in the race launches in a fast-paced sequence; the competitors race not only against each other but also against the clock, as each boat starts the race at 15-second intervals apart.

Magazine Beach — If you would rather watch the race on land instead of over a bridge, Magazine Beach in Cambridgeport is a grassy picnic area with playing fields on the banks of the Charles. The spot is in a bend in the river just after the BU Bridge and before the one-mile mark, so viewers here would see the races’ beginnings as well.

Weld Exhibition — In order to catch the rowers at the pivotal halfway point, the HOCR will have set up the Weld Exhibition on the Cambridge side of the river in between the Anderson and Weeks bridges. The area is near Harvard’s Weld Boathouse and is one of the most animated spots along the river to watch the race. Besides cheering the scullers on, visitors can sample goods from HOCR official sponsors and pick up official Regatta programs, merchandise and up-to-date race results.

Reunion Village — Another near halfway point to glimpse the action is Reunion Village, located near the Weeks Footbridge and on the Boston/Allston side of the Charles River. For a $5 entry fee, HOCR brings you a panoply of refreshment options to enjoy while watching the race, like a cash wine and beer bar and a dining tent catered by Boston Burger Co. The location also gives play-by-play color commentary of current races and is a main tailgating spot for many of the colleges and universities whose teams participate in the regatta each year.

Dr. Dudley Paul White Bike Path — Follow the Dr. Dudley Paul White Bike path along the Boston side of the river and you will have an unobstructed view of the river’s edge from the Weeks Footbridge all the way to the Eliot Bridge and into Herter Park. This is a good route to take if you want to get some exercise and see the racers in both the middle of the event and also at the end.

Eliot Bridge Enclosure — The Eliot Bridge is the last bridge racers cross under before the finish line. At this location, the HOCR will have its 4th Annual Eliot Bridge Enclosure, which is a hospitality tent offering fine dining and drink selections for a pre-registered ticket price ($90 for one day, $150 for the weekend). The tent is catered by the Island Creek Oyster Bar and has a gourmet breakfast and lunch buffet as well as a premium cash bar — not to mention a great view of the final leg of the race.

Christian Herter Park / Rowing and Fitness Expo — Christian Herter Park marks the finish line for the Head of the Charles and is accordingly a lively place to watch the race and observe the winners. It is also the location of the HOCR’s Rowing and Fitness Expo, the retail headquarters of the regatta. Here you can buy rowing gear, merchandise, sponsored items, food and souvenirs from over 70 vendors. Herter Park is also the location of the Official Awards Ceremonies of the Head of the Charles Regatta, which happen at the end of the day on Saturday and Sunday.

After all the hype around the Head of the Charles, if you are still not convinced to go the world’s largest rowing event, at least head over to Harvard Square the weekend of the 20th — the Regatta brings tons of freebies from tons of vendors and patrons to the Cambridge area that spectators and stragglers alike should take advantage of. Some notables are Sabra hummus, Boloco5-Hour Energy, and Boathouse Sports.

In order to get a better idea of the bridge pattern and the race’s course, here is a map of the 2012 Head of the Charles event. Additionally, check out this bridge-by-bridge guide from Channel Partner Hopper.

2012 Regatta Schedule

New for 2012, online regatta management and entry-submission website RegattaCentral launched a mobile app this fall that will be compatible for the Head of the Charles Regatta and will feature entries, clubs, athletes, schedules, and results, so you can stay on top of the events you want to see from your smartphone.

But, if you would rather get a good-old run down of the events for this year’s Head of the Charles, click here. The first event begins at 8  a.m., and they run until about 5 p.m. the same day.

History of the Regatta

Founded in 1965 by three members of of the Cambridge Boating Club, the Head of the Charles follows the tradition of the original “head of the river” races popular in England, from which the trio’s Harvard University sculling instructor, Ernest Arlett, hailed. Forty-eight years later, boat clubs across Cambridge and beyond continue the tradition and race three miles upstream from Boston University’s DeWolfe Boathouse to Christian Herter Park one weekend each October. Winners in the races receive bronze medals and can be awarded any one of the 28 cups and trophies designated in the competition, such as the Arlett Cup, named after the regatta’s original conceiver and given to the champion of the Men’s Lightweight Singles each year.

Among the 2,031 entries represented in the Head of the Charles this year are 705 rowing clubs, 383 cities, 37 states and 28 countries. With such an abundant and diverse set of racers, the Head of the Charles produces compelling results among scullers each year and world-class winners who earn the title the “Head of the Charles.”

So whether you want to venture out to experience a crisp, colorful New England fall, to tailgate in style and cheer on a favorite rowing team (or twenty), or to check out some cool merchandise, the annual Head of the Charles Regatta proffers more than one reason to congregate along the Charles this month.