Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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Past the indulgence of the holidays, what better way to ring in the new year than by taking it outside? Family health and fitness will probably need a motivation boost after Christmas, which is why these New Year outdoor fun ideas will get all the family in the right mood to face 2017.
If you need inspiration, check out what others do on New Year’s eve and New Year’s day around the world.
Think jumping in cold water after breakfast on New Year’s day is torture? Not for the many polar bears out there. I’m talking about our Canadian, Dutch, British and US friends for whom polar bear dips have become a steady and invigorating tradition to ring in the New Year in nothing but a swimsuit.
In Canada, Vancouver is famous for its Polar Bear dip, as are Edmonton (AB), Bowen island (BC), Calgary (AB), Ottawa (ON), Oakville (ON), Toronto (ON), perth (ON), Clarington (ON), Sarnia (ON), North Hatley (QC), Halifax (NS), Prince Edward island, Ness lake.
In the Netherlands, the lovely city of Scheveningen is where it’s at for “Nieuwjaarsduik” amateurs, as well as 89 other locations. In the UK, it’s beautiful Scotland that hosts the annual “Loony Dook” in South Queensferry, but “south of the wall” in Sutton Park, a smaller dip takes place as well.
In the US, Sandy Point State Park hosts Plungapalooza as a fundraiser for the Special Olympics. Other Polar Bear dips are held in Seattle, Evergreen, Colorado, New York, Lake George, Boston, Milwaukee’s Bradford Beach, New Hampshire and New Jersey.
Last but not least, in San Francisco, the ultimate Polar Bear event is the New Year’s day Alcatraz swim for members of the Dolphin Club and South End Rowing Club. This highly anticipated event sees dozens of brave swimmers jump in the San Francisco Bay at Alcatraz Island to swim back to Aquatic Park in San Francisco, a jolly swim followed by lunch.
This resolutely family-friendly event in Miamisburg (OH) is a race that doubles as breakfast. How’s that for a fun way to usher in the New Year? The aptly-named Pancakes & Resolutions Run offers timed races at 1 mile, 5K, 10K and The Beast (all 3 races – does it mean more pancakes?). With awards and shirts for kids and adults, a free pancake breakfast, finisher medal, photos and more, this should convince even non-runners to get out of bed.
Chicago also hosts a New Year’s Day 5K Run/Walk that welcomes kids (there’s an “under 14” category) and parents alike for an 11am start on January 1st. Participants choose between a chip-timed 5K run, a 5K fun run and a 5K walk. The Windy City sure knows how to motivate fitness enthusiasts on cold winter days.
If you’re longing for sun and mild temps, head to LA for the New Year’s Race. This race features a 5K, a 10K and a Fun Run. It starts at 5pm to finish in the dark. This year, this race partners with non-profit A Place Called Home to raise funds to help kids gain better opportunities through educational programs, counseling and mentorship.
If snow is more your thing, Portland Maine’s Back Cove NRCM Polar Bear Dip & Dash blends the best of both worlds with a “moderately easy” 5K fun run before a dip in the Atlantic. Note that this energizing initiative takes place on December 31 and that it helps raise awareness about climate change.
Down under in Australia, Melbourne hosts a New Year’s Eve 4K and 8K morning race in the Botanical Gardens followed by breakfast by the Yarra River.
Nothing says good health resolutions like a day outdoors. To encourage people to get outdoors, America’s State Parks have teamed up to organize First Day Hikes nationwide in 50 states. On New Year’s Day, hundreds of free, guided hikes will be organized and kids and adults will get their hearts pumping to enjoy the beauty of a state park. Find a First Day Hike near you by clicking here.
In the UK, the National Trust helps people get out more by inviting them to join New Year’s Day guided walks across the country. For instance at Knole House in Kent, adults and children are invited to discover more about the ancient parkland, understand its seasons and when and where to return to enjoy seasonal changes. At Stourhead in Wilshire, the New Year’s Day walk though the garden and surrounding woods ends with mulled wine and mince pies. Find a guided National Trust walk near you by clicking here.
Fine, this may seem random but it looks fun if you’re Switzerland-bound. At Klosters ski resort in Switzerland, the “Hotsch” Race (pig race) on New Year’s Day is a long-standing tradition that will melt the youngest hearts. Ten little piglets run a race in the snow, cheered on loudly by local people and visitors. The tiny porkers from the local Kessler farm are meticulously prepared for their big day for weeks, a process involving plenty of patience and special training. Local bands provide musical entertainment. No pigs? No worries. Organize a small race outside on New Year’s day, whether it be a spoon or a snail race. All races are fun ways to celebrate the first day of the year.
After you’ve taken part in a Polar Bear dip, nothing more welcome than a big old bonfire on the beach. This New Year’s day tradition features bonfires of Christmas trees on the street throughout the Netherlands and it’s considered to be a way of driving off the spirits of the old year. If nothing else, it will take the whole family out and it’s great to warm your hands while watching the flames of a bonfire.
(Note that if you don’t know what to do with your old Christmas tree, many cities recycle them into wood chips that are composted for garden beds or used on woodland paths.)
Happy New Year, everyone!