As rents rise, the job market freewheels, and the pressures of living in the city mount, more and more hustling urbanites are wistfully eyeing the horizon from their cubicle windows. While it’s easy to romanticize the idea of chucking it all to live out of a van or build an off-grid backwoods compound (social media does nothing to dispel this glamour), the truth is that nomadic escapism isn’t the answer for everybody.
You may very well live in a city because you want to, high rents and traffic jams be damned. You want to bask in a lively mix of cultures and demographics. You want a variety of options for weekend fun, from comedy clubs to ballet to pick-up soccer in the park. You want a slew of great takeout options within a mile radius of your apartment.
But you also want to get away from it all sometimes. The thing is, you don’t need to invest in a whole bunch of gear (not to mention esoteric survival skills) in order to do it.
For you, my friend, there is urban camping.
Urban camping means spending the night in or near a city. While the classical version involves semi-legal squatting in a public area or parking lots (see “boondocking”), in recent years, cities around the world have exploited the practice for the benefit of jaded urbanites who want the feeling of getting away from it all and immersing themselves in nature, while enjoying the comforts and security of having home only a short cab ride away.
Whether you’re new to the idea of camping, lacking the typical
Collective Governors Island
Governors Island, New York City
You can’t get much more urban than NYC. Whether you live in the city or feel like mixing it up on your next holiday to the Big Apple, try camping at Collective Governors Island. Located between the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn, this peaceful island oasis gives you an opportunity like no other: the chance to step outside your tent at night and look directly at the downtown NYC skyline.
If available, reserve one of the Summit Tents. These luxurious, private two-person tents feature chandeliers, 1,500 thread count linens, private en-suite bathrooms with a flushing toilet, and spa bath products. Watch the sunset over the city on your private deck before you head over to the bonfire for s’mores. Fair warning: urban camping done the New York City way can become addicting.
Kirby Cove Campground
San Francisco, California
Though this locals’ secret has made its way to the interwebs, it’s still one of San Francisco’s most beautiful out-of-the-way places. Kirby Cove Campground has five sites and they are reservation-only, keeping this sought-after urban camping experience devilishly out of reach for nearly everyone. In other words: book early.
The epic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco are the real gems of Kirby Cove. It’s so secluded, yet so close to the city at the same time. Campsites have access to pit toilets, barbecue pits, fire rings, and a beach with a view straight out of a postcard. Get some friends together and stay a few nights at this amazing campground. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and there’s nowhere else in the city where you can stay for $25 a night and have the Golden Gate Bridge so perfectly at your disposal.
Île de la Cité, Paris
Paris’ iconic Seine River boasts two islands in the middle: the pint-sized opulent playground of Île Saint Louis, and the larger but lesser-known Île de la Cité. However, further down the river, there is another Île de la Cité that’s home to a 16-acre, four-star urban campsite. We don’t know who awards these stars, but given Maisons-Lafitte’s très près accommodations, they seem completely warranted. Located just 10 minutes from the nearest RER/Metro stop, Maisons-Lafitte offers not only “pitches” (the European term for campsites), but also a number of cabins and treehouses equipped with TVs and dishwashers.
Pet-friendly with discounted passes to Paris’ best attractions, Maisons-Lafitte offers a perfect balance for experiencing the city’s fabled magic. Take in the cosmopolitan culture, then unwind while watching the sunset melt over the river into the starry skyline. In between exploring the city, you can spend your off-days in classic French country style playing petanque, fishing in the Seine, or sipping pastis in the on-site bar/restaurant while watching barges float by.
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