The annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York City is both a cultural celebration and a sporting event, with more than 100 colorful boats paddled by teams of up to 20 competing for prizes and the title of fiercest dragon. And it’s FREE.
It’s the largest such festival in North America, held in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park. The boats are works of art, hand-carved and painted by craftsman in Hong Kong, with a Dragon head at the front and Dragon tail at the rear.
This year’s 25th festival, Saturday and Sunday, August 8th and 9th and promises to be extra special, with 2,500 participants competing from across the U.S. and Canada, and it’s FREE to watch. The dragon boats race on Meadows Lake from 10 AM to 4 PM both days, rain or shine. Plus, there are demonstrations of traditional Chinese arts and crafts, martial arts demonstrations, the traditional Dragon dance, music and lots of Chinese food at the ethnic food court. Event website.
Dragon Boat racing history
The tradition of Dragon Boat Racing is an annual Chinese rite commemorating the idealistic poet and reformer Qu Yuan who drowned himself in the third century B.C. to protest his emperor’s policies. The locals raced in their boats in an attempt to rescue the poet. To prevent fish and water dragons from eating his body, the locals beat their drums and splashed their paddles. This was the beginning of Dragon Boat Racing.
Subway directions — Take the #7 to the CitiField stop. Three choices from there — transfer to special MTA shuttle buses directly to the Festival site, walk (about 15 minutes), or take the colorful park trolley to the festival site. Parking on-site is limited, but you can park at CitiField and take the special MTA shuttle with your MetroCard or correct change.