1. MSP Polar Bear Plunge in Maryland (known as Plungeapalooza) from World’s Coolest Polar Bear Plunges

World’s Coolest Polar Bear Plunges

1. MSP Polar Bear Plunge in Maryland (known as Plungeapalooza)

Plunge Maryland / Facebook

This year the event is celebrating its 20th anniversary on Jan. 30, 2016. The money raised will go for the support of 7,169 athletes with intellectual disabilities around Maryland. This is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Maryland Special Olympics. The icy water plunge has become among the most popular in the country, turning it into a must-do winter event for many adrenaline-seekers.

2. Looney Dook at Edinburgh’s Firth of Forth, Scotland

Photo Modified: Flickr / Kristian Dela Cour / CC BY-SA 4.0

The comically-named dress-to-impress event has a bonus – the plunge is in the River Forth with the notorious Forth Rail Bridge in the horizon. For more than 25 years thousands of participants, also called “Dookers,” and spectators swim in the freezing water to raise money for various charities all over the U.K. The fancier the dress for the swim, the better. Musicians playing the bagpipe make the event even more glamorous and exhilarating. There is a parade through the town before the plunge and people are wearing "loonies" costumes, acting jokers the best they can.

3. The Coney Island Polar Bear Swim, New York

Photo Modified: Flickr / Kim / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest winter bathing organization in the country, founded in 1903. The founder, Bernarr Macfadden, believed that a dip in the ocean in the cold winter can boost a person’s endurance, virility and immunity. Donations reached $70,000 last year. The money is used to help children attend Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses.

4. Polar Bear Plunge at English Bay, Vancouver

The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim Club is one of the largest and oldest Polar Bear Clubs in the world. Its first even was in 1920 when about 10 people participated. A new record for partaking was set in 2014 when 2,550 registered. The Peter Pantages Memorial 100 yard swim race, a separate event for more advanced swimmers, and the costumes participants and spectators wear are the biggest attractions of the event. The plunge has becomes a famous tradition and many locals have it on their to-do lists. Donations go to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.

5. The Polar Bear Swim at Scheveningen, the Netherlands

Photo Modified: Flickr / Alexander Fritze / CC BY 4.0

This plunge, called the Nieuwjaarsduik (Dutch for “New Year’s Dive”) has become so famous and huge it is actually sponsored by a corporation. Scheveningen, a huge beach resort, has been the top location for this Dutch tradition since 1960 when a few people decided to start the new year fresh. And what better way than to swim in icy waters…More than 10,000 people participate every year now.

6. SuperBowl Sunday Fundraising Swim at Long Beach, New York

This annual event began unintentionally in 1998 when two guys decided to go for a dip before the big game. The swim has been a fundraiser for The Make-A-Wish of Metro New York ever since as a way to honor Paulie Bradley who died at the age of 4 before being able to receive his wish which was to boogie board in Puerto Rico. About $570,000 were raised is 2014 making 79 wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions come true. This year’s Super Bowl Splash is on February 7.

7. Polar Bear Plunge at Lime Kiln Lake in Waupaca, Wisconsin

This year the swim on January 1 benefitted the Waupaca Fire Department. People swam despite the thin ice on the lake and the temperatures in their low 20’s. The youngest swimmer this year was 8 year old. Many people chose the “all or nothing” approach and jumped off the dock instead of running in the water.

8. Polar Bear Plunge in the sea at Barry Island, near Cardiff, Wales

Barry Island New Year Day Swim / Facebook

The Polar Bear Swim at Barry Island has been a tradition since 1984. It’s among the most popular New Year’s Events in the country. This year the donations went to Tenovus Cancer Care, a treatment center. Swimmers take pride in the costumes they wear. This year they included all kinds of superhero and Star Wars characters, fancy gowns, professions such butlers (serving drinks), and even bagpipes.

9. Olcott Polar Bear Swim for Sight at the Lions Pavilion in Olcott's Krull Park, New York

This year’s ice waters dip is scheduled for March 6. The swim has been taking place since 1969. It started as a challenge to people who were boasting about how they can endure winter’s toughest conditions. The plunge grew to be a community event when people recognized its fundraising potential. Contributions go for the support of sight programs, community services for children, healthcare and helping with disabilities, as well as various environmental projects such as planting trees.

10. Polar Bear Dip in Szigliget, southwest of Budapest, Hungary

The Polar Bear Plunge tradition is fairly new in Szigliget. This was its fifth anniversary but already quite popular. Hundreds of people ran into the freezing water of Lake Balaton pushing chunks of ice out of the way.

11. The Sears Great Canadian Chill at Britannia Beach in Ottawa, Ontario

This is another Polar Bear Plunge where the participants take pride in their costumes. This year some came dressed up as Vikings. All proceeds raised by the 250 brave people who ran into the cold water went to the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario for research and treatment. The same Polar Bear Dip but in Toronto is scheduled for February 15. There will be ice sculpting, food trucks and a kids zone.

12. The Polar Bear Plunge at Wildwood, New Jersey

The New Jersey Special Olympics Polar Plunge is taking place on January 16 in Wildwood. The Highest Fundraising Team gets the Willdwood Polar Bear Plunge Championship Cup. Another Polar Bear Plunge in the state is scheduled for February 20 in Seaside. Last year about a thousand brave men and women ran into the icy Atlantic, raising more than $348,000.