14th annual Polar Bear Plunge set for Jan. 1 at Matthews Beach

Start off the New Year with a splash!

Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Meadowbrook Community Center Advisory Council are co-sponsoring the 14th annual Polar Bear Plunge at noon on Thursday, Jan. 1, 2016 at Matthews Beach, 9300 51st Ave. NE. Registration begins at 10 a.m., and the plunge starts at noon sharp.

A 2016 Commemorative Badge of Courage will be given to all heroic Polar Bear participants who immerse themselves neck-deep in the water. The patch will show the world that participants braved the frigid waters.

Warming refreshments will be served. While people wait for the plunge to kick off, there will be games, a photo booth, music and a t-shirt/sweatshirt vendor.

As in previous years, younger polar bears and anyone else who needs a little more room can take part in the Polar Cub Club part of the event immediately preceding the main plunge. For the truly hearty, double-dipping is allowed.

Seattle Parks and Recreation offers a few tips for enjoying a fun, safe swim:

  • Make the plunge even more special by dressing up in a costume!
  • Come early, and carpool or take the bus (you can plan your trip at http://tripplanner.kingcounty.gov/).
  • If you have heart problems or other serious medical concerns, we recommend that you consult your healthcare professional before taking the Polar Bear Plunge. If you can’t go in the water, come and watch!
  • Don’t drink alcohol–it doesn’t warm you up, and it accelerates hypothermia.
  • Stay in the water for no longer than 15 minutes—you lose body heat 25 times faster in water than in air.
  • Keep your outer clothing on until you’re ready to get in the water. After the plunge, remove wet clothing before getting into dry clothes.

The Polar Bear Plunge was the first official event of its kind in the Seattle area and has inspired other, similar events throughout the region. Janet Wilson, Aquatic Center Coordinator at Meadowbrook Pool, started the event on Jan. 1, 2003. About 300 people participated in that first Polar Bear Plunge, and since then the attendance has soared to more than 1,900 brave bears. Like the plunge on Facebook here.

Pathway of Lights returns to Green Lake on Saturday, Dec. 12

Volunteers needed!

Seattle Parks and Recreation presents the Pathway of Lights at Green Lake on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., rain or shine.

Join thousands of families, friends and neighbors for this beloved Seattle tradition. Travel the 2.8-mile path around the lake, taking in the warm glow of the luminaria, music and refreshments. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own lights and candles to add to the ambiance.

Local musicians will perform at four sites around the lake:

  • The Green Lake Community Center on the east side
  • The Aqua Theater on the south side
  • The Bathhouse Theater (Seattle Public Theatre) on the north side
  • The Arch on the east of side of the community center/pool.

This fun event is free, but community members are encouraged to bring non-perishable food donations to benefit neighbors in need through the FamilyWorks food bank. Food donation bins, as well as warm drinks and treats, will be available at the locations listed above.

Volunteers are needed to help place and light the thousands of luminaria and to clean up after the event. Individuals, businesses, community organizations and school and scout groups are welcome to participate. Setup takes place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. and cleanup from 7:30 to 9 p.m.

This Seattle tradition is presented in partnership with the Green Lake Advisory Council and with help from community partners, the Green Lake Masonic Lodge #149, PCC Natural Markets, Seattle City Light, and FamilyWorks.

Become a fan of the Pathway of Lights Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/GreenLakePathwayofLights, to get updates about the event. For more information, please contact the Green Lake Community Center at 206-684-0780 or email Chris Easterday at chris.easterday@seattle.gov.

Entertainment lineup and map


Celebrate the season with Seattle Parks and Recreation

Holidays in Westlake Park, 2014, photo by TIA International Photography

The holiday season seems to sneak up on us and then it’s over before we know it. There are so many activities and things to be done; it can be hard to keep track of them all. We’ve created a one-stop guide to all of our festive happenings. Find gingerbread decorating for the kids, take advantage of low-cost childcare options, discover where to buy local, unique presents and locate a drop-off spot for gift donations.

The holidays can be stressful when you’re going it alone. Luckily, you have us.



Gingerbread House Decorating
What: Gingerbread house decorating
Where: Northgate Community Center
When: 6-7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4
Cost: $8 per house

Luminaria Walk
What: Luminaria walk and hot chocolate
Where: Meadowbrook Pond
When: 5:30-7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 5
Cost: Free

Gingerbread House Decorating
What: Gingerbread house decorating
Where: Laurelhurst Community Center
When: 5:30-7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 11
Cost: $8 per house

Snowflake Funfest
What: Carnival games, swag making, crafts and hot chocolate
Where: Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center
When: 6-8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 18
Cost: $3 per individual, Family fee (5+) $12


Multi-Cultural Dinner
What:  A community dinner, celebrating food from around the world
Where:  Bitter Lake Community Center
When:  5:30-7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4
Cost:  $3 per person, $10 per family of four

Holly Day Decorations
What: Create beautiful wreaths, garlands and sprays using invasive plants that need to be removed from the park like English ivy and holly
Where: Discovery Park Environmental Learning Center
When: 2-4:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 5
Cost: $9 per person, pre-registration required

Gingerbread Jubilee
What: Gingerbread house making
Where: Ballard Community Center
When: 6:30-8:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 10
Cost: $5

Gingerbread Houses
What: Gingerbread house decorating
Where: Magnolia Community Center
When: 5:30-7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 11
Cost: $3 per person, $10 per family of four




Belltown Holiday Artwalk
What: Check out the Beaconettes performing at the artwalk
Where: Belltown Community Center
When: 6-7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9
Cost: Free

Garfield Campus Holiday Party
What: Family dinner and celebration, gifts for children*
Where: Garfield Community Center
When: 6:30-8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 18
Cost: $2 per person
*Pre-registration is required for child to receive a toy at the event. Toys are for children under 12. Call 206-684-4788 for details.


Winter Wonderland Party
What: Crafts, photos, visit from North Pole
Where: International District Chinatown Community Center
When: 6-8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 18
Cost: $1 per child


Gingerbread House Making
What: Enjoy hot cocoa and decorate a gingerbread house
Where: Delridge Community Center
When: 6-7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 9
Cost: Free

What: Games, refreshments, Santa visit
Where: South Park Community Center
When: Noon-2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 12
Cost: $2 per person, free for ages 2 and under

Winter Festival
What: Celebrate the holiday season with games and refreshments
Where: High Point Community Center
When: 5-7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 18
Cost: Free

Christmas Ships in Lake Union Park, 2014, photo by TIA International Photography


Twinkle, Twinkle
Join us from 4:30-6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4, for the fourth annual “Twinkle, Twinkle Freeway Park Winter Warmup” event! The Jim Ellis Freeway Park Association in partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation and Exeter House will be leading s’more making, holiday crafts and singing with the Dickens Carolers. Participants can warm up with free hot chocolate by a bonfire.

This year the Dickens Carolers will lead a parade to Westlake Park beginning at 6 p.m. to join the Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition downtown.

Pathway of Lights
Join thousands of people for “Pathway of Lights” around Green Lake from 4:30 – 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 12. Experience the warm glow of luminaries and sounds of the season performed by schools and local artists.

Christmas Ships

Since 1949, glistening lights on grand ships have glided across the Puget Sound to celebrate the holiday season. The Argosy Christmas Ships sail to more than 45 waterfront communities every year. Choirs onboard the ships greet those onshore with 20-minute performances of popular carols, while those on land keep warm near cackling bonfires waiting for their arrival.

This year, Seattle Parks and Recreation is hosting special bonfire events in many of its waterfront parks. For a complete Christmas Ships schedule, go here.


Gingerbread house decorating

SHOP (and childcare!)


Ravenna Holiday Art and Crafts Sale
What: Locally crafted gifts from artists, activities for kids, warm soup
Where: Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center
When: 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 5
Cost: Free

Parents Night Out – Drop and Shop
What: Childcare during shopping season
Where: Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center
When: 6-9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 11
Cost: $15, sibling discount $5

Parents Night Out – Drop and Shop
What: Childcare during shopping season
Where: Northgate Community Center
When: 6-9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 18
Cost: $15, sibling discount $5


Holiday Bazaar
What: Marketplace Gift Bazaar, proceeds go towards recreation scholarships
Where: Rainier Beach Community Center
When: 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 5
Cost: Free



Pathway of Lights glows across generations

Luminaries line Green Lake

The city is dark. The air is cold. But Green Lake Park is aglow.

Since the 1980s, on the second Saturday of December, neighbors, families and tourists have celebrated the Pathway of Lights.

The idea was brought to Green Lake Community Center by a woman who was inspired after seeing a similar event on a southwest trip. The named was coined through a community contest.

In its inaugural year, luminaries encircled only the community center and the event was marked with horse-drawn hayrides. Throughout the years the event continued to expand. While guests used to light the luminaries by passing candles to one other, large community groups are now needed to help with set up. Local performers and artists are stationed around the lake to entertain walkers.

Canoe adorned in lights on Green Lake

Despite its growth, the event has maintained its intimate, community feel as the same volunteers and families return every year.

Green Lake Advisory Council Member Sue Ruuska and her husband have been involved with Pathway of Lights since its inception. Sue, known as the “bag lady,” and her husband, the “sand man,” would put together the paper bags and sand and their daughters, then 8 and 11, would run the luminaries around the path.

Now, Sue can be spotted at the event with her 3-year-old granddaughter.

“I like to watch people come with funky costumes and decorate themselves with glow lights,” Sue said. “Some people come with candles, some people bring their kayaks decorated in lights and others come with a group of friends and start caroling.”

This year, the Pathway of Lights will take place from 4:30-7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12 at Green Lake. Guests are invited to stroll the path lined with luminaries, listen to sounds of the season and enjoy refreshments.

Participants can bring their own candles or lights to add to the festive ambiance and as always, newcomers are encouraged to start their own traditions.

Pathway of Lights is a food drive benefiting FamilyWorks and participants are asked to bring non-perishable food items if they are able.  Special thanks to event sponsors Greenwood Masonic Lodge, PCC Natural Markets and Seattle City Light.

Give thanks with Seattle Parks and Recreation

Thanksgiving is coming. Leave the cooking to us.

November is upon us, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we’re reflecting on all of the things we’re thankful for this year.

  1. We work in diverse city with lush forests, sandy beaches, endless hiking trails, swimming holes, recreational opportunities and vibrant communities.
  2. We were able to fund new programs for special populations this year. Using 2015 ramp-up funding for the Seattle Park District, we were able to expand dementia-friendly recreation programming and add an extra week of Specialized Programs summer camp to our offerings. We hope to continue expanding programs for underserved communities.
  3. The National Wildlife Federation named Seattle the sixth friendliest city for wildlife in the country.
  4. Volunteers donated nearly 13,000 hours of their time to Seattle parks in April during Earth Month work parties. These volunteers and the community members they inspire represent the current and future generation of environmental leaders, and we’re so thankful for all they do.
  5. We welcomed Jesús Aguirre as our new superintendent.

What are you thankful for this year? If free food is on the list, we’ll hope you’ll join us at an upcoming Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving Dinner at Yesler Community Center
6-8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13
Bring family and friends and dine on a Thanksgiving meal with traditional and non-traditional dishes!

Thanksgiving Feast Party at Garfield Community Center
6:30-8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 20
Enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving feast with your community.

Thanksgiving Dinner at Southwest Teen Life Center
6:30-7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 19
Join Southwest Teen Life Center for an evening of delicious food and friendly company.