Yes, it’s totally possible. While you won’t find any camping in Manhattan (no camping in Central Park, sorry!) there is camping nearby and with a massive and reliable public transit system spending a few days visiting New York City couldn’t be easier. Not to mention staying in an RV makes visiting America’s largest city (also one of the most expensive cities) more affordable.
RVing And New York City
Where to Stay and Then What?
The first thing you need to consider is how close do you want to stay to the city?. If you want to be up close to the action your best best will be Liberty Harbor RV Park located near the PATH system, New Jersey Transit light train, and ferry. The campground is a bit on the pricey side but when you consider how much it is to stay at an inexpensive hotel in New York City, it turns out to be a steal and the convenience of the location can’t be beat.
If you don’t mind driving a bit to get to the nearest public transit station or want to have more of a retreat setting, you’ll find more options. There are private, state and county campgrounds on nearby Long Island, north of the city, and in New Jersey. Use an app like Allstays to find RV parks and campgrounds in the vicinity. Do keep in mind that while you may save on nightly camping rates, the cost of your transportation to get into the city will go up the further out you stay.
While this wasn’t our first visit to NYC, it was our first time visiting the city by RV. To ease our nerves we plotted our route ahead of time. Driving on the New Jersey Turnpike is not the place to be deciding which way to go. Nor is it the place to lose a bike off the back of the trailer but that’s another story for another time. I was especially nervous about using the public transit system to get into the city once we parked. From past experience, I knew the subway was easy but buses, trains, ferries, and light rail all made me want to change the destination on my GPS. Thankfully each system has a trip planner and/or links to maps making the planning relatively simple. Here are links to each system:
What to See
You’ve parked your RV and your cortisol levels have returned to normal after the drive through town. Now it’s time for the fun part, going into the city! But before you hop on the nearest subway or train take some time to decide what you are going to see. Unless of course, you want a day of spontaneity for which no justification needed!
The choices of things to see in NYC are endless. There is something for everyone but it’s impossible to see everything. Do you like art, science, theatre, history, food, fashion, architecture, or exploring unique neighborhoods? Our suggestion would be to sit down and make a list of the places everyone in your party wants to see. I’m sure many of the choices will overlap. Everyone wants to visit Central Park! Next decide what will fit in your budget. Then prioritize by neighborhood. This is will save you time and money. Speaking of saving money…
Ways to Save in NYC
New York is notoriously expensive and while it’s nearly impossible to visit New York without spending a small chunk of change, you are already ahead of the game by staying in your RV as opposed to hotels which easily run $200+ per night.
Brown Bag It – Why not take advantage of your accommodations by saving on food! Our number one tip to save money would be to eat breakfast at home in the RV and pack a lunch or dinner to take into the city. While New York may have an abundance of amazing restaurants, eating out for every meal can quickly drain the budget. Most days, we chose to eat out once saving us loads of cash plus, sitting in central park eating a packed lunch is fun! We’d also recommend stocking up on groceries before you get to the city.
Subway PassAre you going to be visiting New York for more than a few days? Then consider buying a subway pass. As of now, it’s $30 for a 7 day unlimited ride pass.
Discount TicketsIf seeing a Broadway show is on your list of things to do you can save money by getting tickets the day of or the day before at a TKTS Discount Booth. We went to the booth in Brooklyn but the boys weren’t particularly interested in anything available that night so we took the subway out to Coney Island instead. However, we have bought show tickets here in the past.
Find the Free (or reduced cost) Museum DaysMany museums have free or reduced cost admission days. For example the Museum of Modern Art is free every Friday from 4-8 pm.
Free Things to SeeThey say the best things in life are free and New York City is no exception. Grand Central Station, New York City Public Library, the 9/11 Memorial, a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, a stroll through Central Park, and a ferry ride to Staten Island are just a few of the free things to see or do in New York.
Some of Our Personal Favorites
For us the best part of New York was just being there. We spent many hours walking the city streets and taking in the sights and sounds. Here are some of our personal favorite things to do in NYC.
ChinatownThe boys loved exploring Chinatown. Everything from dim sum to watching elderly men play board games in the park felt almost like a visit to China. My personal favorite stop was the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory for black sesame ice cream. Yum!
Central ParkWho doesn’t like Central Park! There are so many things to do in the park from boating to carriage rides to a zoo. Not too mention, it’s simply a great place to take a break from the city bustle and people watch.
FAO Schwarz and the Apple StoreLocated near Central Park these stores were big hits with the boys.
Wholesale DistrictI enjoyed browsing the inexpensive costume jewelry shops located in the wholesale district after a (free) tour of Theodore Roosevelt’s Birthplace.
The High LineThe High Line is an elevated park built on an old section of the former New York Central Railroad. Walking through the park was relaxing, fun, and free.
Statue of LibertyWe opted out of going up to the Empire State Building this visit and instead took a ferry out to see the iconic Lady Liberty up close and Ellis Island. I’m not sure what was more impressive the Lady herself or the views of Manhattan from the ferry.
Times SquareWhile not Brent’s and my personal favorite, the boys loved it! The Toys R’ Us is especially impressive to the young and young at heart.
Everyone has different tastes but one thing we all agreed on was visiting New York City was near the top of all of our favorites places we’ve been. In fact, the boys are asking us when we can return to the Big Apple.
Have you ever gone RVing in New York City or any other big city? What was your experience like? Any advice or tips to #GoRVing in NYC?