Winter snows never stop polar bears from diving into the water, so why should it stop you? From sauna-filled Scandinavia to coastal towns all over the U.S., polar bearing is a popular tradition with a growing following. This practice of taking a wintertime dip in icy waters is a new year's tradition in many places. Once you try it, you'll never forget how invigorating polar bearing is!
There are a number of polar bearing festivals all over the country, but you can also give this a try on your own. First, check with your local town organizers to see if your area hosts a group polar bear event. Because the water can be so cold, it's best for safety reasons to do this in groups. Plenty of lakeside and coastal towns have annual polar bear days, when people group up on the beach and run into the chilly water. Or they might jump off a dock all at once in the spirit of community fun.
If you go polar bearing, be sure to bring a couple of big dry towels for each polar bear. You'll want to dry off as quickly as you can and have a spare towel to wrap around your wet hair. A big parka and boots with fuzzy linings are also smart things to bring, so you can warm your skin up right away. If you have a wet suit, by all means wear that into the water.
Polar Bear Festivals
To take part in a big-group polar bearing, head to one of these wintertime festivals:
Polar Bear Festival in Seward, Alaska
You'll need to dress up in your wackiest costume to fit in with the crowd that goes racing into Resurrection Bay every January. This event raises money for the American Cancer Society and is wildly popular, even though the participants often have to break through ice to reach the water. Special buses bring polar bears from Anchorage just for this fun event. If you can jump into these frigid waters, you'll know you're the toughest polar bear around!
Polar Daze in Bemidji, Minnesota
The highlight of the event is the polar bear dip in Lake Bemidji, but this festival also offers a competitive broomball game, a build-your-own-sled derby, and an ice-fishing contest. Stick around town to join in the candlelight ski along the shores of Lake Bemidji or to take part in the Taste of Northern Minnesota. This charming town, in the land of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, is a classic place to go polar bearing. Polar Bear Dip in Perdido Key, Florida
Visit the beautiful beach near the Flora Bama Lounge on the Alabama-Florida state line for this milder polar bearing event. Participants hold hands in a line and rush into the ocean waters together. Afterwards, everyone enjoys a traditional dish of new-years black-eyed peas as a reward.Polar Bear Ice Festival at Bear Mountain, California
Late November and throughout December
Go polar bearing in style when you slip into the heated outdoor pool on a weekend morning at the Bear Mountain Resort. Santa even makes a poolside appearance as the holiday season draws near. Other festivities include winter golfing, ice skating, fun with Santa, and tours of an actual ice dome.
These are a few of the larger polar bearing events, but don't count out your own local area. Swim clubs and scout groups from all over the country hold regular polar bear events, and not all of them take place in the winter. In chilly regions, summer morning swims can be just as daring and invigorating as a January splash.
If you're looking for a way to get into the polar bear spirit but still stay warm and dry, try something related, like a visit to see the polar bears at your local zoo. You can watch them dive into the water and still keep your feet dry!