Can you (legally) go camping in New York City?
It might be a stupid question to ask about a heavily populated urban area that, save for Central Park, is notoriously devoid of large green spaces. Yet, in honor of Ask a Stupid Question Day (September 28th), we thought we’d research that very topic.
Turns out the answer is: Yes, there is a campground in New York City.
And we aren’t talking about pitching a tent on a desolate plot of concrete either. Take the 2 train to Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue, then hop on the Q35 bus, and you’ll be find yourself at a campground by Jamaica Bay. A campground with, you know, dirt and trees. The sort of campground where you can roast s’mores.
Of course, pitching a tent in Brooklyn isn’t like camping in a utopian wilderness. New York City’s only official camping is on the grounds of a former airport—Floyd Bennett Field—and within earshot of a current one—JFK International.
Bennett Field’s glory days were in the 1930s, when it served as the city’s first airport and hosted historic flights from the likes of Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes. Today, the former airplane hangers are a derelict mess. The former power plant looks as if it were bombed out in a long-ago war. The remnants of the old airport haven’t been removed so much as they’ve been abandon and semi-overgrown.
The U.S. National Park Service, which runs Bennett Field as part of its Gateway National Recreation Area, plans to restore portions of the property and help nature along in reclaiming the rest. Currently, there is enough cleared out woodsy area for 41 camp sites: 6 for small RVs and 35 for tents only. After restoration is complete there could be more than 600 sites, which would make Bennett Field the world’s largest urban campground.
Should you camp there?
Out-of-town travelers considering making a tent at Bennett Field their home base for exploring NYC should take note: At the time of writing the campground has no shower facilities. However, each camping site does have a picnic table and fire ring. Dumpsters, restrooms, recycling bins and basic wash-it-yourself laundry facilities are a short walk away. The area is well patrolled by park rangers and, by all accounts, safe.
In addition to being connected to the Manhattan by public transportation, there’s a surprising range of activities on tap in the vicinity of the campground. Those include fishing, hiking, kayaking and golfing. Rent a bike at the Aviator Sports Complex (see map below) and explore the old runways. Zoom (vicariously) around the remote control car racetrack. See vintage airplanes in the resorted portions of the old airport open to visitors.
But the best part about the camping accommodations at Bennett Field is the budget price. A three-night stay will set you back a mere $50. Is there any hotel in New York City with rooms that cheap? Now THAT is a stupid question.
Every month a group of expert, independent travel bloggers converge on a single topic in a Travel Blog Mob. September 28th being Ask a Stupid Question Day, we asked “Why not adapt that as our monthly theme?” Check out: