The Best Places to Make Camp – Right in New York City!
Perhaps you are looking to explore everything New York has to offer on the cheap. Or maybe the idea of camping in the middle of a belching, seething and busy metropolis is an item on your bucket list. Whatever drives you to exploring your cowboy fantasies; the good news is that you can sleep, safely and legally, under the stars in New York City and you will not have to occupy any part of Wall Street while doing it! We’ve rounded up some of the best camping in NYC for you.
Free Camping in NYC Parks
Occasionally, the New York City Parks Department holds overnights in local green places like Prospect Park and Central Park. The best news is that the campouts are free, and they include ranger-led night hikes with a dinner at the end. Unfortunately, only 30 tent sites are available, and they are awarded via a lottery.
You do not need to invest in lots of expensive equipment or even leave NYC to camp, simply take one of hop on and hop off blue buses, for example, and pitch tent this summer. The rangers bring just about everything you require for a night al fresco, including a tent! This annual program starts around Memorial Day, but you need to register early.
Camping at Gateway
One of the things you should definitely do for your NYC camping adventure is reserve one of the tent sites at Gateway National Recreation Area. The area is a 26,000-acre paradise with waterways and parks spreading across Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn and Monmouth County, New Jersey. Camping at the Gateway is an exhilarating experience with each of the different locations offering you its own assets.
If you value your privacy, you will love staying at Sandy Hook. While it’s technically in New Jersey, the 20 secluded sites are all within a short distance from the area’s most-loved beaches, including the clothing-optional Gunnison – if you’re into something like that!
If you’d like to camp out with a view of Brooklyn and Coney Island, you have a choice of three campsites right at Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island. It is an old military complex that also happens to have showers – but, beware, they’re really cold! The fort is also close to an overlook under Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which offers you fantastic views of Manhattan and the New York Harbor.
Floyd Bennett Field
Brooklyn borough has something to offer you, something that’s part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, belongs to the U.S National Park Service and one of the federally protected campgrounds in the Big Apple – this is Floyd Bennett Field. Sometimes called Camp Gateway, this park is home to 32 tent sites, a retired airfield and 9 RV parking sites. A vintage Boeing C97 from the 1950s peacefully rests not far from the camp store.
Floyd Bennett Field is probably the cheapest accommodation you can find in New York and is a great place to start exploring some of NYC’s iconic sites, including the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center Memorial and the Statue of Liberty. Swim and kayak in the morning at the Riis Beach, catch a bus and head into Manhattan and finally, settle down to roasted marshmallows over a campfire!
While Floyd Bennett is not a lush campground surrounded by vast wilderness, the tents are grouped around open green space closed off by trees. Take a walk on a Saturday afternoon, and you’ll likely catch the smell of kebabs smoking on woodfire grills as kids toss Frisbees. You will not see many stars in the night sky, but you’ll hear the sound of planes since the busy JFK International Airport is just 11 miles away.