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Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip: Chillin’ in the Gulf on New Year’s Day

by Alison Large Ketcham on December 9th, 2023
The Flora-Bama Lounge invites adventurers from near and far to continue the New Year’s Day tradition of taking a dip in the Gulf of Mexico.

40th Annual Polar Bear Dip

On Monday, January 1, 2024, scores of partiers, some in costume, others in wetsuits–and more wearing nothing but swimsuits–will gather at high noon on the beach outside the iconic Flora-Bama Lounge for the 40th annual Polar Bear Dip. History shows it will take more than chilly water (think mid-fifties) to dampen the enthusiasm of this crowd, which typically numbers more-than 1,000 people.

Flora-Bama owner and Minnesota native Pat McClellan started the popular custom as a way to draw customers on this historically slow business day. His idea took hold and four decades later continues to draw crowds to the beachside bar with the mantra “Live Music & Good Times Since 1964.”

All Ages Welcome

The watery free-for-all is free, open to all ages, and starts around 11 a.m., with the dip in the Gulf scheduled for noon. It’s followed by a traditional feast of black-eyed peas, cornbread, ham, greens, and more. For all who “fully submerge,” in the Gulf there is no charge for the feast, which includes a free draft beer for adults. There will be live music all day long, and plenty of fun for everyone. Polar Bear Dip towels and T-shirts will be available for sale at the gift shop.

Birmingham-area resident Sheri Corey and her family of 10 pose for a photo on the beach during the 2023 Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip.
Birmingham-area resident Sheri Corey (in the white hat) and her family partying on the beach at the
2023 Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip.

“We have been doing it for the past 10 years,” says Birmingham-area resident Sheri Corey, who makes the annual trek with her husband, other family members, and sometimes friends. “It is one of my favorite times to go to the beach. After the hustle of the holidays, it’s a nice break.”

Although Corey’s crew usually wears bathing suits, she rarely submerges in the chilly water, she says.

“I typically don’t go far, but I have been knocked down all the way,” she adds. “It’s very refreshing!”

On the Alabama/Florida State Line

The Flora-Bama Lounge is located at the Alabama/Florida state line, between Orange Beach, Alabama, and Perdido Key, Florida. In addition to hosting special events like the Polar Bear Dip, the Interstate Mullet Toss, and Bulls on the Beach, it features live entertainment daily, three restaurants (Flora-Bama Oyster Bar, Yacht Club, and Ole River Grill), a package store, a gift shop, and multiple bar areas.

Corey’s crew has no plans to stop their annual tradition any time soon.

“I don”t know why anyone would question not going,” she says. “It’s so fun to see the costumes and everyone is just there for fun!”

A man dressed as a woman in a one-piece read bathing suit that reads "Life+Guard" with fake breasts and hair  poses with a woman dressed in a disco jumpsuit on the beach during the 2023 Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip.
Fun-loving partiers at the 2023 Polar Bear Dip.

It’s also one of the main venues for the annual Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival, which was held this November on Perdido Key and in neighboring Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.

Where To Stay in Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, and Perdido Key

Check out our listings at Orange Beach vacation rentals, Perdido Key vacation rentals, and Gulf Shores vacation rentals for places to stay in the area. Accommodations include single-family homes, hotels, and condos. Here’s hoping you have a safe and happy new year!

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