There aren’t too many major urban centers that have tent sites open to the public within them; they are cities, after all. Still, a few do come to mind. One is on an island, and the other two are within parks that add a splash of wilderness in the midst of the hustle and bustle.
The Best Urban Camping: Rob Hill Campground
San Francisco's Rob Hill Campground recently underwent a multimillion dollar renovation to make it more accessible and look less manicured and human-managed. The only tent camping area within the city’s limits, its four acres sit among eucalyptus trees at one of the highest points in the Presidio, towering hundreds of feet in elevation above San Francisco Bay. Rob Hill’s four group campsites can fit as many as 30 people. You’ll find a fire ring, toilets, and picnic tables, but no showers.
COST: $100 per site, per day
The Best Urban Camping: Boston Harbor Islands
The camping on the uninhabited, wooded specks of land dotting Boston Harbor is one of the city's underappreciated resources. There are 10 individual sites and one group site open on Grape and Bumpkin islands, and six individual and two group sites on Lovells Island, all reachable by ferry. A new camping area and yurts will also be available on semi-developed Peddocks Island in 2013. Small campfires are permitted on the beach below the high tide line, but the camping is supremely rustic—no bathrooms or showers. The nights and early mornings are glorious, as the buzz of boat traffic and airport diminish, and the sounds of nature take over.
COST: $6 per night for a campsite.
The Best Urban Camping: Oleta River State Park
This beach-fringed 1,000-acre natural playland where the Oleta River meets Biscayne Bay is actually in North Miami, but still falls within the Miami metro area. During the day you can kayak, hike, fish, laze on the beach, or pedal on its 10 miles of bike paths. At night, stay in one of its 14 primitive one-room cabins.