We love you, NYC, but sometimes we need our space. Fortunately, these great family camping areas near Gotham (and even within the five boroughs) are a perfect excuse to break away from the urban jungle.
We certainly hope you and your adventurous brood are prepared to enjoy fun outdoor activities for kids and families: hiking, swiming, fishing and, arguably our favorite camping activity, roasting marshmallows and snacking on s'mores.
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Although these destinations—some of which are on Long Island, others are upstate—are definitely a change of pace for city residents, there are nearby amenities like restrooms and showers that will make it all the more simple to travel with kids (so don't stress too much, Mom and Dad).
Although we highly encourage a lengthy bucket list when it comes to summer activities for kids in NYC, you should definitely escape the craze for at least one weekend with a trip to these family campgrounds. Just don't forget the marshmallows!
Family camping near NYC
Travel time: 3 hrs from Penn Station. Take the LIRR to Montauk and a short cab—or a hike—to the park.
The camping scene in Montauk is just as alluring as its beaches. Bring the kiddos and take in a waterfront view at Hither Hills State Park, which provides access to bike trails, Napeague Harbor's "walking dunes," night fishing (which requires a permit and ranges from $35–$60), playing fields and other popular things to do. The campground offers either one five-person tent or two two-person tent or the option to camp in an RV (there is a $10 vehicle entry fee). The camping fees range from $35 per night for New Yorkers and $70 per night for those traveling from different states. Note that motor homes, pop-ups and trailers are not allowed in the parking lots on Friday–Sunday. Pets are prohibited in the camping area.
To learn more about the regulations and to book a trip, visit parks.ny.gov.
Travel time: None!
Looking to get in tune with nature? Believe it or not, you don't even have to leave NYC. If you're anxious to swap your apartment (briefly) for a tent, have a look at NYC Park's Family Camping events. They're the perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city...without actually leaving. The free program, which operates on a lottery system, allows campers young and old to unleash their inner Henry David Thoreau. Visitors will enjoy an evening hike through the park, stories by the campfire and other exciting outdoor activities (hello s'mores!). Although the event is free, registration is required. The 2019 schedule is as follows:
Friday, July 12: Wolfe's Pond Park, Staten Island
Friday, July 12: Fort Tryon Park, Manhattan
Sunday, July 14: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Saturday, July 20: Fort Tryon Park, Manhattan
Saturday, July 20: Alley Pond Park, Queens
Sunday, July 21: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Saturday, July 27: Conference House Park, Staten Island
Friday, Aug 2: Fort Totten Park, Queens
Saturday, Aug 3: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
Friday, Aug 9: Blue Heron Park Preserve (in Blue Heron Park), Staten Island
Saturday, Aug 10: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Saturday, Aug 10: Alley Pond Park, Queens
Tents will be provided. All that's required of visiting campers is a sleeping bag and additional bedding (and perhaps a teddy for little campers).
Register at nycgovparks.org.
Travel time: 2 hrs from Penn Station. Take the Long Island Rail Road Montauk Branch to the Patchogue station and catch a shuttle bus (or walk) to the ferry terminal. Take the 20-minute ferry to Watch Hill. Campground is a quarter-mile walk from the ferry dock.
The trek to the Fire Island attraction is well worth it. Families can tuck in under the summer sky in either two two-person tents or one five-person tent in the 26 sites available (fees run from $25–$35 and online reservations are required). Kids will love being within walking distance of the gorgeous beachfronts, but mom and dad will be especially excited to know that the amenities on the grounds include bathrooms, showers and running water—a must when traveling with kids in tow. For those campers who are looking to take their experience up a knotch, Watch Hill does offer glamping in Safari-style accommodations (platform tents, netting to keep the bugs at bay, rechargeable LED lanterns) for a slightly higher rate ($195 for summer weekends). Learn more about rates and availability on lovefins.com.
To learn more about the regulations and to book a trip, visit nps.gov.
Travel time: Travel times vary. 2 or 5 train to Flatbush/Brooklyn College; transfer to the Rockaway Park–bound Q35 bus. Ask the driver to stop at the last traffic light before the bridge toll plaza after crossing the Belt Pkwy.
Camping within the five boroughs is a possibility thanks to Floyd Bennett Field. The BYO tent destination, which is open from May through October, boasts 32 tent sites and 12 RV parking spots. Stays start at $30 per night and $210 per week and onsite amenities include picnic tables, grills and a firering. Restrooms and showers are nearby, much to parents' relief. No sweat if you've forgotten your gear at home—the camp store offers what you'll need for a night outdoors.
To learn more about the reservations and book a trip, visit recreation.gov.
Travel time: 2 hrs from Grand Central. Take Metro-North's Hudson Line to the Beacon station. Beacon train shuttle will drop you at the beginning of your hike of choice, and shuttle will also deliver your gear to your campsite for you while you hike (hike options range from 30 minutes to 5 hours).
Prepare for an awesome weekend in the shady woods! Maloufs Mountain in Beacon, NY—open from April until October—offers well-spaced campsites so your little chatterboxes won’t keep the neighbors up, plus two site options: tarped platform sites (think mini covered porches) and Primitive Sites (no covering, just wood chips and a picnic table). Platform Sites offer mini kitchens (called chow boxes) with a gas stove, sink, pots and pans, dish soap, paper towels and more, so it’s a pretty cushy deal. There’s also a bathhouse with running water, toilets, hot showers and dryers for wet clothes. Nightly rates are $55 and up for the Primitive Site and $70 and up for the Platform Site.
To learn more about the regulations and to book a trip, visit maloufsmountain.com/campgrounds.
Travel time: 1hr 30 mins from Grand Central. From Grand Central Terminal, take Metro-North's Hudson Line to the Cold Spring station. Arrange ahead of time for a taxi ride to the campgrounds (about $20).
You’ll find a traditional family camping experience at Clarence Fahnestock State Park, complete with fishing in Stillwater and Canopus Lakes. Rowboats are available for rental, plus there’s a nature center with environmental displays and touch boxes for kids. Enjoy the spending time at the beach, hiking, picnicking and special outdoor movies shown on Saturday nights. Each site is equipped with a picnic table, small BBQ grill and a nice fire ring. Reservations can be made all year. Note that there is a non-refundable reservation fee of $9 for campsites, cabins and cottages.
To learn more about the regulations and to book a trip, newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com.