Family Camping with NYC Parks Urban Park Rangers


The other day we had the chance to participate in family camping with the Urban Park Rangers in Van Cortlandt Park. This lottery based program gives families from NYC the chance to camp at different parks around the 5 boroughs. Families enjoy a campfire and other fun activities with the rangers, and tents are provided. We have tried a few times to win a spot and were finally chosen, so read along for what to expect!



We arrived at our camping area at 6pm, grabbed a tent, and scoped out our spot. Being that the usual area where family camping takes place in Van Cortlandt Park was turned into a picnic area, we were lucky enough to be able to camp on the lawn of the Van Cortlandt House- the oldest standing building in the borough of the Bronx. It was such an awesome opportunity to camp on such a historical site.

After our tent was up and our beds were set up, we sat outside our tent to eat the dinner we packed. Most families packed their dinner in their coolers, but we saw some arrive with take out food- the perks of camping in the city!



After dinner, the rangers taught everyone how to build a fire, and out came the s’mores ingredients! No campfire is complete without a little s’mores making, and it was fun sitting around the fire with all of the other families as we roasted marshmallows.



Once it got dark enough, we headed out for a night hike. The rangers told us we could bring flashlights, but that they wanted us to try to go without them as long as we could- so that our eyes could adjust to the darkness. It was a full moon, so most of us went the entire way without pulling out our lights. The first hike was over an hour, and some folks opted to go back to their tents when we made it back to the campground area.

A few of us opted to keep going on another hike, where we’d be climbing to the highest point in Van Cortlandt Park.



We were so glad we chose to do the second part! We walked up to the cemetery where the Van Cortlandts are buried, and then up to the top of Van Cortlandt Park. Here, we climbed onto some rocks to sit and enjoy an awesome view of the city lights below.  After, we headed back down to our tents, where most families headed to their tents to catch some Zzz’s. We awoke to the sun rising and the birds chirping, and broke down our tents around 7am.

The NYC Parks Family camping is a great experience for all families. Whether you are a camping enthusiast or don’t own a tent, it’s an experience to check off your bucket list. To learn more and to see when the next registration period opens up for upcoming camping experiences, visit

Tip: Write down the registration date on your calendar- it’s easy to forget!

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