Enjoy Free Family Camping in NYC Parks with Urban Park Rangers

Urban Park Rangers bring tents (and set them up, too!) for family camping nights in NYC parks.
Free Camping for Kids in New York City | Things to Do This Summer with Kids in NYC

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 in city parks at select times and locations throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Bonus: They bring almost everything you need for a night spent under the stars, including the tent!

The annual program kicks off a little before 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—including some signup periods that open this week!

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 and into the summer and fall.

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 a few of the upcoming family camping adventures:

Family Camping in Marine Park (Brooklyn) on Saturday, July 6
Register on June 26

Family Camping in Wolfe's Pond Park (Staten Island) on Friday, July 12
Register on July 3

Family Camping in Central Park (Manhattan) on Friday, July 12
Register on July 3

Family Camping in Van Cortlandt Park (The Bronx) on Sunday, July 14
Register on July 3

Family Camping in Fort Tryon Park (Manhattan) on Saturday, July 20
Register on July 10

Family Camping in Alley Pond Park (Queens) on Saturday, July 20
Register on July 10

Family Camping and Insect Exploration in Marine Park (Brooklyn) on Sunday, July 21
Register on July 10

Family Camping in Conference House Park (Staten Island) on Saturday, July 27
Register on July 17

Family Camping and Astronomy in Fort Totten Park (Queens) on Friday, August 2
Regiser on July 24

Family Camping in Pelham Bay Park (the Bronx) on Saturday, August 3
Register on July 24

Family Camping in Blue Heron Park Preserve (Staten Island) on Friday, August 9
Register on July 31

Family Camping in Prospect Park (Brooklyn) on Saturday, August 10
Register on July 31

Family Camping in Alley Pond Park (Queens) on Saturday, August 10
Register on July 31

Check back for additional times as they are released. Smart tip: Make a note to register on the correct date. It's 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. 

Still not sure you can commit to an overnight campout with kids? The Urban Park Rangers also lead a variety of one-day outdoor education events all summer, including canoeing, birding, wildlife walks, and even a workshop in how to build the perfect campfire.

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

Photos courtesy of NYC Parks.