Enjoy Free Family Camping in NYC Parks with Urban Park Rangers

New York City Camping Lottery |Urban Park Rangers Sponsor Campouts in New York City

Contrary to what you might think, you don't need to invest in expensive equipment or even leave New York City to pitch a tent and camp this summer. The Urban Park Rangers offer FREE overnight family camping at designated times and locations in all five boroughs. Bonus: They bring almost everything you need for a night spent alfresco, including the tent!

The annual program kicks off around Memorial Day and although it's FREE, advance registration is required for all campouts. Read on to find out how to snag a spot at one of these cool camping trips.

If you've never gone camping before, it might seem a little intimidating. That's why these Urban Park Rangers family camping trips are so great. The staff provides most of the equipment; all you need to pack is clothes, flashlights, and sleeping bags.

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Classic camp-style eats are on the menu for some of the NYC campouts.

The adventure starts in the early evening. At some campouts there's a barbecue, with s'mores as the obligatory dessert. Nighttime activities include hiking, stargazing, and visiting the nocturnal creatures who live in the parks. These campouts start in late spring and continue on select Friday and Saturday nights throughout June, July, and August.

The only hard part about these camping trips is securing a spot. There are around 30 spaces per outing, and registration only stays open for 24 hours. Lucky families are selected via lottery.

Here are just a few of the family camping adventures planned for summer 2017:

  • Family Camping at Pelham Bay Park (Bronx) on Friday, June 30
    Register on Wednesday June 21
  • Family Camping in Blue Heron Park (Staten Island) on Saturday July 29
    Register on Wednesday July 19
  • Family Camping in Fort Totten Park (Queens) on Friday August 4
    Register on Wednesday July 26
  • Family Camping in Prospect Park (Brooklyn) on Saturday August 12
    Register on Wednesday August 2
  • Family Camping in Central Park on Saturday August 19
    Register on Wednesday August 9
  • Family Camping in Alley Pond Park (Queens and home to the adventure park and zip line) on Saturday August 26
    Register on Wednesday August 16

You can find a full list of family campout dates for 2017 in the Urban Park Rangers Calendar of Events. Make a note to register on the correct date. It's probably best to register for as many of the trips as possible until you snag a spot, but don’t register for the same trip more than once! If you do, you'll be disqualified.

Want to camp in a bit more wilderness? New York state is offering first-time campers FREE camping and even gear at select parks this year, including one in the Catskills.

A version of this article first published in April 2010, but it is revised annually. 

Photos courtesy of NYC Parks.