Camping with a Twist
If the traditional family camping excursion isn’t cutting it for you anymore, pack up your gear and pitch your tent in one of these outside-of-the-box campsites. Trade your ho-hum camping experience for one that will surely find a place in the collective family memory.
Wikimedia Commons via JackyR
Gates to Hell Gas Crater
The next time someone urges you to “go to hell”—which hopefully isn’t that often—tell them that you’re already on your way. This natural site in Turkmenistan has been burning since 1971 when a drilling rig accidentally broke open the hellish fire pit. You can visit the gas crater while staying in a nearby yurt. Just don’t try roasting your marshmallows over the fire: The edge of the pit is crumbling, so it’s best not to get too close.
flickr.com via Laika ac
Nyiragongo Volcano in Congo
People usually go camping to be near a body of water, so why not go the opposite route and try a campsite where fire is the draw? Accommodations at Mt. Nyiragongo in Congo include modest huts on the rim of an active volcano. Adventurous visitors should be prepared to hike, since the 8-kilometer trek to the campsite is pretty steep and can take anywhere between four to six hours to complete.
flickr.com via Nina R
Floyd Bennett Field in NYC
New York City is probably the last place that comes to mind when you think of singing campfire songs and pitching a tent. Did you know that the bustling metropolis is home to the largest urban campground in the U.S.? The site of NYC’s first municipal airport, now defunct, features 46 campsites and access to Jamaica Bay. You can even cycle down the airstrip once used by Amelia Earhart!
flickr.com via Eden, Janine and Jim
Hwange National Park Zimbabwe
This far-away camping excursion requires plenty of planning, since trips are usually booked solid at this popular spot. Why are so many eager to flock to this campsite in the middle of Hwange National Park? It overlooks an active watering hole, attracting a bevy of wildlife, including elephants, so it’s a prime area for wildlife enthusiasts and amateur photographers.
Wikimedia Commons via Fabio Achilli
Bruneau Dunes State Park Idaho
Head to Bruneau Dunes State Park in Idaho to gawk at the continent’s tallest single-structured sand dune, which is more than 400-feet tall. There’s plenty to do aside from checking out the monolithic dune—including swimming, fishing, and boating. The park is also home to the state’s largest public observatory, where visitors can peer through high-tech telescopes. In 2019, the park began the final steps to become recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association as a Dark Sky Park.
Wikimedia Commons via Charles Knowles
White Sands New Mexico
The White Sands National Monument is quite possibly one of the most alien-looking landscapes on Earth. Sleep among the rippled white dunes at one of the park’s minimalist campsites. Access there is first-come, first-served and is sometimes interrupted due to activities of the nearby missile testing range. If staying overnight seems a little too adventurous, there are two short hiking trails in the vicinity—Backcountry Loop and Alkali Flat Trail.
Wikimedia Commons via davebluedevil
Crater of Diamonds State Park Arkansas
Throw your losing lottery ticket away and book some time off, because you might have better luck at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas. This camping spot might not look like much, but the 37.5-acre plowed field is the world’s only publicly accessible diamond-bearing site. On average, visitors dig up about two precious stones per day. People also find plenty of other gemstones there, including jasper and quartz. Feeling nostalgic about your rock collection of yesteryear? This is the perfect place to reboot your favorite hobby. In addition to the diamond field, there are trails, a pool, camping facilities, and picnic areas.
Wikimedia Commons via Digging For Diamonds
Head to this little island off the coast of Maryland and Virginia for a beach getaway to remember. The beautiful seaside locale’s campsites fill up fast and are reservable between April and October. The island features hiking trails, stunning ocean views, and most exciting of all…wild horses! The majestic creatures, thought to be descended from horses that survived a shipwreck, roam free throughout the island.
Wikimedia Commons via Lyndi & Jason
Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve, Vallejo, California
Once off-limits to the public, Mare Island is now the site of a 300-acre park. The preserve is open to the public and features beautiful views of the Bay Area and a variety of hiking and biking trails. There are three unique campsites available for reservation in the park, including two spacious yurts and a 1930’s bunker. The area is also dog-friendly, so bring your furry pal along for the trip.
Wikimedia Commons via Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve
Tiger Drive-In Theater, Georgia
Buy a ticket in advance and mark your calendar for the next movie-under-the-stars event at this Georgia drive-in theater. You’ll enjoy two feature-length films and are welcome to spend the night once the credits have rolled. Movie-goers are encouraged to bring a picnic or snack on-site at the TDI-Grill concession. The next morning, campers are invited to the nearby Chattooga River for a variety of water-based activities
Wikimedia Commons via Brian Stansberry
Bodie California Ghost Town
If you’re in the mood for spookier fare, see how long you last telling ghost stories around the campfire in an actual ghost town. Once a bustling mining town, Bodie is now a veritable specter of the past. Designated a State Historic Park in 1962, today visitors are welcome to walk through the dilapidated town and peek through the windows of abandoned buildings. Camping is available a few miles outside of town at Paradise Shores, which offers basic campsites and trailer accommodations.
flickr.com via Mike McBey
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