Philadelphia Dragon Boat Festival
A colorful celebration of an ancient Chinese tradition
October 5, 2013
Stroll up Kelly Drive along the Schuylkill River for an unusually colorful and dramatic regatta, the Philadelphia Dragon Boat Festival, Philadelphia’s annual celebration of an ancient Chinese tradition.
The boats, festooned in brilliantly colored dragon heads and tails, are manned by teams of 20 paddlers and compete against each other in several heats throughout the day.
But that’s just half the excitement. A wide range of corporate, civic and community groups send teams to this regional event, and each team sets up a tented picnic area along the riverfront — making for a fun and festive atmosphere for paddlers and spectators alike.
Dragon Boat racing is a tradition that dates back to 278 B.C., when the ancient Chinese poet and statesmen, Qu Yuan, drowned himself in the Milou River. According to legend, local fishermen rushed out to rescue him, and failing that, banged drums and splashed furiously with their paddles, hoping the uproar would deter dragons and fish from eating his body.
Proceeds from the Philadelphia races support the services of Fox Chase Cancer Center, one of the nation’s first comprehensive cancer centers.
Kelly Drive is closed to traffic for the event and parking is scarce. If you’re coming as a spectator, you will want to pack a picnic.
Live music and vendors selling dragon boat paraphernalia and other Asian goods, including clothing and crafts.
Dragon boat racing is one of the fastest-growing water sports in the world. Philadelphia’s festival is the largest of its kind in North America.
In the neighborhood
Museums & Attractions
Kelly Drive at Girard Avenue North of Girard Avenue Bridge Philadelphia, PA 19121
- First Niagara Big Cat Falls
- Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial
- John B. Kelly (The Rower)
- Mann Center for the Performing Arts
- Schuylkill River Trail
- Smith Memorial Arch
- General Ulysses S. Grant
- Please Touch Museum
- Playing Angels
- View more attractions