A frigid tradition: Polar Bear Plunge returns to Bradford Beach Sunday

Posted at 12:05 PM, Dec 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-30 14:07:11-05

A frigid, new years tradition returns to Milwaukee's lakefront on New Year's Day as hundreds of brave residents plunge into the icy, cold waters of Lake Michigan for the annual Polar Bear Plunge.

The event starts at Noon on Sunday at Bradford Beach. The event is a free non-sponsored event, open to the public and does not require registration. Parking will be limited for the event, those driving should give themselves extra time to park.

If you plan on taking the plunge into Lake Michigan, the Polar Bear Plunge Milwaukee website offers the following suggestions:

  • What to wear:
    • People are recommend to wear layers, which are easy on and off as well as comfortable.
    • It's important to consider how much clothing you want getting wet, remember you want to be able to get out of it as soon as possible and into dry loose fitting clothing. Plan on wearing some type of footwear during the plunge the lake bottom could be rocky.


  • What to expect:
    • Take deep breaths and walk slowly into the water.
    • Running may cause you to fall and get hurt.
    • The water maybe icy.
    • The bottom tends to be rocky and it's always extremely cold, prepare yourself for your body to feel like it’s going into shock.
    • The Milwaukee Fire Department Paramedics are in the water waiting in the event of someone needing assistance.


  • After the plunge:
    • Get dried off and dressed before you leave the beach.
    • Remove all wet clothing and get into dry clothes as soon as possible.
    • Bring Warm dry socks and winter boots. 
    • Your feet are your first warming priority. 
    • Bring heating packs for your hands and feet.
    • Layering sweatshirts and sweatpants are recommended after you get out of the water.
    • Towels and wool blankets, a sleeping bag is also highly recommended.