Take The Plunge At The 2015 Coney Island Polar Bear New Year’s Swim
For a city that has become the New Year's Eve capital of the planet–about one million people will pack themselves into Times Square for the ball drop this year, and another one BILLION will watch it on TV, making our midnight, their midnight–there are surprisingly few different types of things to do both that night and, especially, on New Years Day. The fancier-than-usual private party, the crowded club or restaurant or bar, the Central Park run and fireworks pretty much sums your Eve options*, and on the Day itself, well… usually some form of hibernation and/or hair-of-the-dog activity prevails. HOWEVER, there is one NYC New Year's tradition that veers completely from the norm (except, for some participants, the hair-of-the-dog part): Coney Island's annual Polar Bear swim. Do it once, and it's a story you can tell the rest of your life.
Bucket List Alert: The Coney Island Polar Bear New Year's 2015 Swim Is On!
If form holds, the Coney Island Polar Bear Swim of 2015 will include: thousands of "swimmers" (mostly really just "dunkers"), many of whom will be in crazy costumes; goose bumps galore; pre-gaming at Ruby's on the boardwalk (or not… this is very much a family-friendly event); a variety of styles, most involving a mad dash into the water, followed immediately by a mad dash out; many thousands more onlookers, gawkers, rooters and supporters. The atmosphere on the boardwalk and beach is always decidedly festive, but the temperature definitely plays a huge role in how much actual "fun" (as opposed to "gritty determination") is involved for everyone. I've been out there in a wide array of weather and believe me, warm (mid-40s and up) and sunny is better.
Coney Island Polar Bear Club: Winter Bathing At It's Finest
If you want to just come out and spectate, the initial "Plunge wave" goes into the ocean at 1:00 p.m., with the crowds usually showing up, and showing off, around noon. There are many subsequent plunges, each accompanied by much fanfare. If you want to swim (and, if you've never done it, you should) you can either pre-register here–you'll be asked to make a donation to Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses, and their families–or register on the boardwalk that day (though that line is long), or simply join in the increasing hordes of rogue swimmers who go in just outside the "official" Polar Bear area. If you register you get all of the bells and whistles, including an "I Did It" certificate or sometimes a medal. Either way, prepare to be freezing, wet, proud of yourself.
Take The Plunge! More Information About The Coney Island Polar Bear Club
The Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year's swim happens on Thursday, January 1. The first plunge is at 1:00 p.m. Pre-registration can be done online, here. Take the D, F, N, or Q to Coney Island, Stillwell Avenue, and head over to the boardwalk.
For Some Dry Fun, Check Out The Pratt Steam Whistles
*For a few years in a row now my personal NYE plan has been, basically: get blown away by the insanely loud, crazy cool Steam Whistles at Pratt, pictured below. It's still unclear whether Pratt’s Chief Engineer Conrad Milster is, in fact, going to put on his usual show, and if he does it will likely be his last.