The best family campgrounds near NYC

These spectacular family campgrounds create a wonderful opportunity to unplug with your kids

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Want to stargaze, roast marshmallows and sleep in a tent? These family campgrounds are a great way to escape the city for a weekend and spend some time in the great outdoors. There's plenty of fresh air to be enjoyed, hiking trails to be explored and cool bugs to identify, plus many of these campgrounds also host family activities at night, like free summer movies and singalongs. Some will even rent you tents and equipment so you don't need to lug anything along.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best family vacations

Don't have a car? That's no problem. Many of the picks on our list are accessible by Metro North or LIRR, so it'll be easy to get your crew to and from their latest adventure. Enjoy the best outdoor activities for kids, NYC beaches and other great free activities for kids to make the most of the season.

Family campgrounds near NYC

Hither Hills State Park

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.

NYC Parks

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

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Watch Hill Fire Island National Seashore

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.

Trek to the Watch Hill Family Campground for an awesome outdoor experience with the family. There’s a visitor center and marina within walking distance, plus miles of lifeguarded ocean beach and nature trails. There are 26 campsites available that hold two two-man tents or one five-man tent, and you’ll need a reservation in advance to make sure you can secure a spot—this campground is popular! Plan to spend your days making sandcastles and splashing in the water, and be sure to stop by the general store for kitschy souvenirs and ice cream. P.S. Watch Hill is also home to the Flying Horse Carousel, which is the oldest continuously operated flying horse carousel in the United States. *Website down at press time, call 631-597-6455 for more information on rules and reservations.

Floyd Bennett Field

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.

Manhattanites have always considered Brooklyn to be something of a wilderness, but it may still come as a surprise that you can actually camp there. With 32 tent sites and 9 RV parking sites available year-round, there’s plenty of opportunity to snag a spot and feel like you’ve ditched the city for country life. In the area, families can check out Civil War-era forts and restored historic aircraft, go hiking or try archery, canoeing and horseback riding. Sites also offer campfire rings, plus picnic areas and grills are open for sharing. 50 Aviation Road, Brooklyn, NY (718-338-3799, recreation.gov). $30­–$60 per night. Book online at reserveamerica.com

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Malouf's Mountain Sunset Campgrounds

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 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. Call for location details (845-831-6767, maloufsmountain.com). Primitive site $48 per night for multiple night stay, platform site with chow box $68 per night for multiple night stay. Book online at maloufsmountain.com.

Clarence Fahnestock State Park

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. Rte 301, Carmel, NY (845-225-7207, newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com). Book online at newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com. $9 per night.

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