Want to try your hand at camping? New York City has a surprising number of options within the city limits, all reachable by public transportation. You just need a Metrocard and a tent — and some marshmallows to roast. Even better: Most campgrounds are no more than $20 a night, and some are even free. Here’s our roundup of the city’s best.
NYC Department of Parks and Recreation
Every year the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation offers families the chance to camp in popular city parks for – wait for it – free. From leafy Central Park to sprawling Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx to the bird-filled Blue Heron Park in Staten Island, the city’s green spaces are prime territory for a memorable urban adventure. Of course, there’s a lottery involved, so get ready to try your luck: Each event has a different date upon which the lottery begins and is open for 24 hours. There are a number of dates still open this summer, including (but not limited to): Aug. 23 at Central Park (lottery opens Aug. 13); Aug. 9 at Van Cortlandt Park (lottery opens July 30) in the Bronx; Aug. 16. at Owl’s Head Park (lottery opens Aug. 6) and Sept. 20 at Prospect Park (lottery opens Sept. 10) in Brooklyn; Aug. 8 at Cunningham Park (lottery opens July 29) in Queens; and Aug. 2 at Blue Heron Park (lottery opens July 22) and Sept. 19 at High Rock Park (lottery opens Sept. 9) in Staten Island. For each lottery, submissions are open for 24 hours, beginning at midnight on the date specified; the lottery closes at 11:59pm and a computer generates a list randomly. Between 30 and 40 spots are available per event, depending on the capacity of the location. A waiting list is also generated. nycgovparks.org
Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn
Floyd Bennett Field is one of those hidden nooks that you wouldn’t know about unless someone told you. (And here we are, telling you.) Located on Jamaica Bay in Brooklyn, Floyd Bennett Field has a huge range of activities, including ecology walks, kayaking and paddling trips and hiking excursions. The Field also has an urban camping program which is exactly what it sounds like: a chance to camp in the city. Bring a tent and all the necessary amenities (but no alcohol, and leave Fido at home, as neither spirits nor pets are allowed), and you’ll be set, for just $20 per night. But make sure to reserve a space in advance on the Field’s website as it fills up quickly (though mid-week sites obviously are available for longer than weekend spots). Other attractions are nearby, too: horseback riding at the Jamaica Bay Riding Academy, the New York Aquarium, and mini golf at the Brooklyn Golf Center (for when the s’mores just don’t cut it anymore). 50 Aviator Rd., Brooklyn, 718-338-3799, nyharborparks.org
Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island
To make a full weekend of your camping adventure, hop on the Staten Island ferry and head out to Fort Wadsworth, which covers an impressive 226 acres on the northeastern shores of the island. The camping sites, available for $20 a night, are spacious enough for one large tent or two smaller ones, and include a picnic table, grill, fire ring, showers and restrooms – and very cool views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Plus, Great Kills Park is nearby, with a swimming beach, kayaking, a multi-use bike path and surfing, fishing and sunbathing (bring the sunscreen!). Reservations are necessary. 210 New York Ave., Staten Island, 718-354-465, nps.gov
For more outdoor adventures in New York City, check out New York’s Best Parks, 10 Amazing Places to See Wildlife in New York City and a Perfect Summer Saturday for Nature Lovers in NYC.