Family campgrounds near NYC
Travel time: 3 hrs from Penn Station. LIRR to Montauk and a short cab ride—or a hike—to the park (or rent a Zipcar if you’d rather get there quickly!)
Hither Hills is only a few hours from the city, plus you can take the LIRR there (just be prepared to walk or cab the last small leg of the journey). This 168-site beachy camping area offers all kinds of options for families, including tent camping and RV camping just a short way from the water. You and the kids can play and swim at the two-mile ocean beach, fish (you can get a 7-day sport fishing permit $25), hike or bike in the area, and a summer recreation program offers free family movies, dancing and summer theater. 164 Old Montauk Highway, Montauk, NY (631-668-2554, nysparks.com). Camping $35 per night, $70 per night for non NYS residents. $10 vehicle entrance fee. Book online at newyorkstateparks.com.
Travel time: None!
On select nights in summertime, NYC Parks hosts family camping in every borough (in sports like Marine Park, Central Park, Alley Pond Park, Inwood Hill Park and Blue Heron Park). Families must enter a lottery and earn tickets to participate (it’s free if you are selected). If you get them, all you need to do is bring your own sleeping bag and bedding; NYC Parks will supply the tents and will lead a night hike in the park. There will also be storytelling and s’mores! Various locations. Book online 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.
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.
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
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.
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.