Best Healthy Alternatives for New Year's Celebrations


Traditionally New Year's Eve is chock full of wild revelry, accompanied, on occasion, by regrets come New Year's Day. There are many people, though, either tired of the same old drunken scene year after year or simply by nature who would prefer something healthier and less fraught with questionable decisions. Here in the Bay Area, there are all kinds of opportunities to ring in the New Year with alternative, active, outdoor celebrations.

For the Runner

Running opportunities abound both on the 31st and the 1st. In fact, there's one race that begins on the former and ends on the latter. A 24-hour running race isn't for everyone, but Coastal Trail Runs has shorter options for those of you who want to join the overnight cheering party, yet still compete. The New Year's One Day (previously known as the San Francisco One Day, but a change in GGNRA rules precipitated a change of venue from Crissy Field to Hellyer Park in San Jose) is a timed event where runners spend their allotted time ( 6, 12 or 24 hours ) running around a One mile course. The One Day style events are great for fans and crew because you get to see your runner over and over, over the course of the race; 120 times, if you happen to be cheering for the women's race record holder, 139 times for the men (New Year's One Day).

Another running company, Brazen Racing, has two races, one on the 31st (Brazen New Year's Eve) and the second on the 1st (Brazen New Year's Day), and if you do both you earn the "New Year Mega Medal." Both days have a 1/2 marathon, a 5K, and a 10K race and each day uses the same race courses at Lake Chabot in Castro Valley.

Other Running Options:

DSE windmill Run

Resolution Run

If swimming is more your style...

For those of you interested in channeling your inner polar bear, presumable only temporarily and without seal consumption, there are several opportunities to freeze off your bits with a jump in the ocean or the bay. Riptide SF, "...the Bay Area's best little honky-tonk by the beach. Located in the Sunset District of San Francisco...", has for years hosted the PLUNGE after party. Take a jump in the ocean at noon and then enjoy a beach party. But wait! There's more! For those of you who prefer more public humiliation (and I'm referring to men naked in the cold), you can tack on a naked bike ride up and down the Great Highway (The PLUNGE and Naked Bike Ride).

If you're in the East Bay and would rather freeze your bits without the public nudity and day drinking, the East Bay Dipping Society is hosting a Polar Bear Dip at Crown Beach on Alameda island (Polar Bear Dip).

And finally, for the swimming portion of our list, the South End Rowing Club does a New Year's Day Alcatraz swim (Alcatraz Swim) every year but you have to be a member of the club. Implying that if you're a member you probably already know about it anyway, so what's the point of inclusion herein?

Skaters of both the ice and roller varieties have several options

On New Year's Day, you can skate scantily clad, like your Polar Bear Brethren, and compete for prizes on the Union Square Ice Rink. The Polar Bear Skate begins at 2:30 pm on the first of the year and they invite skaters "… to wear their wildest and most inventive beach attire…". For more G-rated, kid-friendly skating both Union Square (Union Square Ice Rink) and Downtown Ice in San Jose (Downtown Ice) have skating most days through mid-January.

If communing with nature in a more ambulatory fashion (and with less water; frozen or otherwise) is how you want to celebrate the coming of the New Year, a guided hike might be just the thing for you. In fact, there are a plethora of perambulatory possibilities for celebrating on foot. Some of these are guided hikes; East Bay Regional Parks does several, and some, like the meetups, are communal.

Shoreline Park in Mountain View at 10:00 am on New Year's Eve: South Bay Natural Connections

New Year's Day in Los Altos Hills at 1:00 pm: Pathways Committee Walk

Hiking, Native Plants, AND a picnic!? Hosted by the California Native Plant Society, 10:00 am at North Whitehouse Creek Trail in Pescadero, CA: New Year's Walk

A bigger commitment and a ferry ride, Angel Island on New Year's Day: 2024 New Year's Day Angel Island Hike

East Bay Regional Parks guided Hikes:
NYE - Sunol Regional Wilderness (Free but $5 parking)
NYE - Coyote Hills Regional Park (Free but parking fee)
NYE - Coal Mine Experience (Reservations required)

Finally, if you don’t feel like participating in a group activity, go find yourself a mountain top and greet the New Year’s sunrise with a solo yoga session. But, however you choose to celebrate, whether it's traditional hedonism or athletic adventure: be safe, make good choices, and have a happy New Year.