Urban Camping

Trip Planning

Urban Camping

Some folks only think about rustic or remote destinations when they picture RV trips. However, our nation’s cities are packed with history and culture, and it would be a shame not to consider using your RV when you visit them. Places like New York City, Boston, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Charleston may not come to mind as traditional camping locations. However, there ARE campgrounds near these great cities and near other urban destinations across the nation. Get ready to plan your first or next urban camping trip!

Urban Camping Perks

Urban camping definitely has its perks, even though it might look quite different from its rustic cousin. RVing at an urban campground can be much more comfortable than staying in a hotel in the city. You’ll have the benefit of having all your own stuff, without having to pack suitcases. You’ll have access to your food and your prep space. Plus, some urban campgrounds are fun, relaxing retreats after busy days in the city.

Urban camping is also more economical than staying in a hotel. Cities are expensive. Period. Expect to pay premium costs for food and entertainment. Plus, there’s just so much to explore that you’ll find yourself dropping dollars all over town. Then, there’s the cost to stay in a hotel. A single night might cost more than the monthly rent on your first apartment. Camping is such an affordable option.

Urban Camping Tips

  • Plan to use the campground as a basecamp, not a destination.

    While some urban campgrounds truly are fantastic, others are more like parking lots. Adjust your expectations and your time in the campground to fit the reality of the park you’ve selected. Most of the time, you’ll find yourself spending very little time at the campground, anyway, so you really won’t care if it’s a concrete lot. Just use it as a place to rest your head at night.
  • View the campground expense as an affordable, more comfortable hotel.

    Admittedly, you will pay much more per night for an urban campground than you’d pay for a rustic campground. However, focus on how much less the campground will cost than a hotel. We promise you, this will make the campground seem inexpensive, no matter how much your campsite costs. Plus, as we mentioned earlier, you’ll get to relax in your comfortable RV at the end of the busy day.
  • Think about security like you would in any urban location.

    Pay attention to your surroundings. While camping in an urban location, be a little more mindful about leaving personal items out in the open. Some campgrounds have additional security in place to help protect your home on wheels.
  • Research routes in and out of the city, including talking to campground staff who usually have extensive experience guiding people on the safest routes.

    Hauling your RV through city traffic might not be easy, but the campground staff can give you the best tips and routes to safely get to their campground.
  • Don’t expect huge sites…real estate is valuable in urban places.

    While some urban campgrounds have acres of grasslands, others are concrete parking lots, leaving little room between you and your neighbor. Know this going in so you won’t be disappointed. That cramped, barren parking lot might have skyline views and easy access to the city, to make up for the lack of traditional campground ambiance.
  • Avoid driving in and out of the downtown areas during rush hour.

    Driving downtown during rush hour can suck the fun out of an urban adventure. Planning your schedule to head in later or earlier than rush hour will make for a less stressful day.
  • Consider your public transportation options.

    Avoid driving altogether! One of the tremendous advantages of staying in urban campgrounds is that they are accessible for public transportation or ride-sharing services. You might even find a bike or scooter rental nearby.
  • If you have a large tow vehicle, research downtown parking in advance.

    If you insist on driving in, make sure to research your parking options, not only for price but also for size.

Recommended Urban Campgrounds

You’ll find a wide variety of urban campgrounds. While we noted that some might be tight and bare, they are all great locations to park your rig. Here are some of our favorite options for urban camping:

We hope we’ve inspired you to take a chance and check out one of our nation’s great urban camping destinations. You’ll be glad you did!

Jeremy Puglisi

The RV Atlas

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co-hosts of the weekly RV Atlas and Campground of the Week podcasts and the RV Atlas blog. They are also the authors of See You at the Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors, and Where Should We Camp Next: A 50 State Guide to Amazing Campgrounds and other Unique Outdoor Accommodations, and the Acadia National Park Adventure Guide. After buying their very first pop-up camper more than 10 years ago, Jeremy and Stephanie caught the RV bug in a big way, and now spend over 70 nights a year in their travel trailer with their three sons, Theo, Max, and Wes, and sweet Maggie the pup. You can follow along on their adventures (and misadventures) over at RV Atlas.