Since camping in NYC parks is prohibited unless you're doing it with the Urban Park Rangers, most local families head out of town for their overnight alfresco adventures. But there are actually two under-the-radar campgrounds right here in NYC, both located in the National Park Service's Gateway National Recreation Area, where families can pitch their own tents. We've got the scoop on where they are, how to snag a site and everything else you need to know about camping with kids right here in New York City.
My kids love exploring the campground at Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett Field.
Though my nature-loving family hasn't yet spent the night at Gateway's Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island (it's on our bucket list), we have camped several times at Floyd Bennett Field in our home borough of Brooklyn. Open year-round, this rustic campground on beautiful Jamaica Bay offers 32 tent sites and 20 RV parking sites, vault toilets, showers and sinks with running water, and lots of traditional outdoor activities like hiking and roasting s'mores. It's especially perfect for families, because alcohol is not permitted, so you don't have to worry about raucous groups ruining a tranquil getaway.
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In our experience, all of the tent sites at Floyd Bennett Field are clean and well-maintained. Reservations must be made in advance, and you'll likely want to check the map to select one that offers privacy. Our favorites are located in the shaded areas of Goldenrod. You need to bring your own gear, but a Camp Store sells essentials you might not want to schlep like firewood, coffee, water, snacks, kites and first-aid kits.
My kids loved hanging out with the National Park Rangers at the Camp Store.
Of course there are lots of great activities to enjoy before you turn in for the night.
Hiking: We always start off our adventure with a family hike. Floyd Bennett Field is home to many easy trails that run through gorgeous wooded areas.
Biking: We also enjoy cycling together on the paved bike paths. Bring your own ride or rent one from Wheel Fun Rentals, which has a kiosk at Aviator Sports & Events Center.
Kayaking: If you bring your own kayak, there are several launches along Jamaica Bay. On weekend mornings through Labor Day, National Park Rangers offer FREE walk-up kayaking to visitors ages 6 and up. Life vests (and lifeguards) are included.
Fishing: There are lots of places to cast your line around Floyd Bennett Field, but you must bring your own equipment. Remember, everyone ages 16 and up must purchase a fishing license in advance.
Strolling along the beach is lovely, especially at sun set.
Swimming: While there is a pretty beach at Floyd Bennett Field, it is strictly for strolling; swimming is prohibited. If you just must get in the water, drive over the Marine Parkway–Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge to nearby Jacob Riis Beach in Queens.
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Nature Activities: National Park Rangers also lead walks and other nature activities every summer weekend. You can find a calendar of events on the website.
Fire Pit: Of course once night falls, we always build a campfire, roast s'mores and sit around telling scary stories. It wouldn't be a proper family campout without all that!
My son, super-proud of the campfire he started!
What to Bring & How to Snag a Tent Site
Must-Have Gear: Floyd Bennett Field isn't glamping. It's an authentic camping experience. As such, you need to bring your own tent and sleeping bag. A sleeping pad, sunscreen and insect repellant are highly recommended. All sites have picnic tables, charcoal grills and fire rings, and accommodate up to six people. No electricity is available.
Reservations & Fees: Reservations can be made online at recreation.gov. Advance reservations are required at least a day in advance! The cost is $30 per night with a 14-night maximum stay.
How to Get There: While you could take the Q35 there, are you really going to lug all your gear on the bus along with the kids? Driving is going to be easier. Floyd Bennett Field is located at 50 Aviation Road in Brooklyn. Once inside, follow signs to Camp Gateway and be sure to check in at the Camp Store before heading to your tent site.
Rules: Find the complete list of rules and regulations, along with other important information, at nps.gov.
Interested in camping on Staten Island? Find out about the campground at Fort Wadsworth, which has similar rules and also requires reservations.
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