Coney Island to welcome thousands for annual New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge

polar plunge
Chilly!: Thousands of swimmers dove into Coney Island’s icy waters on New Year’s Day 2020.
Photo by Erica Price

Preparations for the annual Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge are underway, with this year’s event on New Year’s Day marking the 120th anniversary of the traditional icy dip into the Atlantic.

Organized by the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, this year’s “Plunge for Coney” event will see thousands of fearless participants descend onto Coney Island Beach in blankets and bathing suits in an effort to fundraise for the community.

“Once again, all New Yorkers and visitors from far and wide are welcome to join in a brisk dip in the Atlantic Ocean at Coney Island to ring in the New Year,” said Dennis Thomas, president of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club. “We are partnering with the Alliance for Coney Island in order to raise funds to support non-profit organizations in the Coney Island community.”

There is no fee to participate, Thomas said, but donations are encouraged.

Participants have already raised $14,000 for the community so far in pre-registration, with all proceeds going towards local non-profit organizations.

The event, which dates back to 1903, was canceled in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but returned to smaller scale in 2022. Coney’s Plunge is back in full swing for New Year’s Day 2023 — a testament to “real New Yorkers” turning out for the People’s Playground.

“Remember, on New Year’s Eve, tourists go to Times Square, but real New Yorkers show up at Coney Island to embrace the sea on New Year’s Day,” Thomas said.

Funds from this year’s Coney Plunge will benefit the New York Aquarium — particularly its seascape program, designed to restore and maintain the populations of marine life — and the Alliance for Coney Island, which produces more than 30 free events for the public each year including Flicks on the Beach and Friday Night Fireworks.

“The Alliance for Coney Island is proud to partner on this great event,” said Steve Cohen, Chairman of the Alliance for Coney Island. “The Polar Bear Plunge marks the official start of the New Year in Coney Island and is a fun event, even for those not brave enough to take the plunge. We appreciate all the support from fundraisers that help our local non-profits. We hope that plungers and spectators will stop into our local businesses that will be open on the boardwalk and throughout Coney for their New Year’s Day celebrations.”

The Polar Bear Plunge looked a little different back in the ’70s.Barbara Rosenberg/Coney Island History Project

If taking a dip in the freezing ocean isn’t your style but you’d still like to give back, attendees can purchase commemorative shirts, hats, mugs, tickets to local attractions, and more as part of the local fundraiser.

For those interested in participating, pre-registration for the event is open until midnight on Dec. 31, with registration day-of beginning at 10 a.m. inside Coney Island’s Luna Park on Stillwell Avenue.