Smores in Times Square? or How To Camp in the Big City (T-16 days)

By design, the journey from Kirk Creek, CA to Acadia, ME, started July 31 but then stopped after one day at home (Roseville, CA) for a month. The trip proper resumes in full from home Sept 2. Here we recall one of the most interesting questions we tackled months ago when we built this plan: how to see Boston, NY and DC while pulling a tent trailer!



This perfect drawing comes from the talented pen of my dear brother Greg Stevens and well illustrates today’s post.

Does anyone take a camping trip to New York City?  This fall we imagine driving in to the Big Apple while other camping fans are heading out, as if we’re going the wrong way. So why would any self-respecting, outdoor-loving couple want to take their camper to the Capitol, their grill to Gotham, or their sleeping bag to Bean Town?

The answer is fairly straightforward:  It’s a road trip across the US, and the cities are part of the country. To see the land entirely is to also see how we have settled it. We will see tall mountains and tall buildings, broad prairies and Broadway.  Fine then.  We can pull the trailer through the concrete jungle, but setting up camp in it is another thing.

RV City Lot

Please no.

We already knew that we did not want the dreaded in-city “campground,” something like living in a parking lot. We’ve done that in Las Vegas, I think the park was called Asphalt Gamblers’ Paradise. Some travelers are OK with this, simply on practical grounds, but the option lacks charm.

Neither did we fancy any long hotel stays. Three or four days each in Boston, New York and Washington DC would make for quite a stretch of days with the pop-up sitting idly near downtown or suburban hotels. We will often stay in hotels or homes on this trip, 11 of 49 days, but the longer city visits needed another solution.

WompatuckBoston:  We bounced between several ideas–camping far from the city (closer to NH), suburban hotels, country inns–but eventually found Wompatuck.  This is a state park 35 miles from Boston, not far from some of the John Adams sites we want to visit.  The website commentary on the campground is positive, including some mention of how folks use a nearby water taxi to shuttle in to the city.  Hey, maybe we’ll take a boat to the Red Sox game!

Manhattan all-001

NYC from Liberty Island, 2000. A bittersweet picture, no? This was our last visit of any length to this city, with all three kiddos. This year’s revisit will be as empty-nesters. Ground Zero will be one of our stops, for sure.

New York City: An online travel forum was a big help.  We posted a question about staying near the city in a hotel, but most people responded that we’d worry about the trailer’s safety in the lot.  Four days with the trailer closed down, running the refrigerator to keep the mayo and beer cool, schlepping with backpacks in and out of a costly city hotel room?  Just did not sound right.  Ultimately we found a KOA north of the city, up by West Point, and we’ll take the train into the city.  We’ll even do one overnight in the DoubleTree at Times Square hotel, see Pippin and Dave, and return to camp by train the next day.

Washington DC: We finish our NYC trip with a one-night visit with friends on Long Island, and scoot on down to DC where we found a campground near Quantico, VA.  It is 8 miles into the woods, and we end up camping not far from Manassas.  This puts us a reasonable driving distance each morning to see sights we’ve missed on past DC trips, like Mount Vernon and the Jefferson Memorial, plus some that we want to see again.

Oak Ridge

‘Course, with fall colors like these, as seen in this photo from the park site, we may not want to venture to very many places.  Given our proximity to Manassas / Bull Run, we might prefer instead to listen for the ghosts of Civil War soldiers moving through.


About Cal Stevens

Learning professional, a training manager, speaker, writer; two careers in helping others succeed. Travel writer for the common road trip.
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