Once an important New York City airport, Floyd Bennett Field—part of Gateway National Recreation Area—is now dedicated to the celebration of aviation history, sports, and the great outdoors. A wonderful escape from the bustle of the urban life, it is unlike any other place in the city.
Sure to please any outdoor enthusiast, Floyd Bennett Field has a wide variety of nature programs that includes urban camping, ecology walks, astronomy and gardening events and kayak trips. Experienced paddlers may bring their own kayaks or canoes and launch from the Seaplane Ramp into Jamaica Bay, but can also enjoy challenging group excursions. For visitors without paddling or water experience, Gateway periodically offers beginner programs at Floyd Bennett Field and other sites that give first-timers the chance to safely get out on the water.
For those who prefer to stay dry, there are plenty of other chances to get in touch with nature at Floyd Bennett Field. Ranger-led walks through the wild North Forty highlight the site’s unique, sensitive ecology and give visitors the opportunity to get as close as possible to amazing flora and fauna without causing harm. Bird lovers especially will appreciate the wild grassland areas; these uncut sections provide a variety of rare species with essential native habitat. Additionally, the Floyd Bennett Field Garden Association runs Brooklyn’s largest community garden, where members plant and tend their own plots.
One of the most exciting developments at Floyd Bennett Field is the urban camping program, which gives visitors the chance to sleep under the stars and even cook over an open flame right in New York’s back yard. Each campsite is basically equipped, providing campers with a comfortable space while still enabling the classic camping experience of pitching a tent and “roughing it.” There is also some RV parking available. Camping spots fill up quickly, so be sure to make a reservation and review campground access, policies, and amenities to plan for your campout. For group camping, the Ecology Village offers programs that provide a communal experience perfect for large school groups and multiple families.
Named for naval aviator and Brooklyn resident Floyd Bennett, the first person to fly over the North Pole, the old airport was a point of departure for other record-breaking flights of famous aviators including Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes. The site opened in 1931 as New York’s first municipal airport and was converted to a Naval Air Station in 1941. It was then the most active airport in the United States during World War II. Now, Floyd Bennett Field is home to the Historic Aircraft Restoration Project (HARP), which restores and maintains a wide variety of aircraft and gives visitors the opportunity to get up close to—and even inside of—these amazing airplanes. Located in Hangar B, this impressive collection is a must-see for any fan of aviation history.
Another popular destination at Floyd Bennett Field is Aviator Sports & Events Center, a recreation facility that offers a wide variety of sports-related programming and facilities including sports camps, fitness classes, and field space. Sports enthusiasts can sign up for specialized, continuing programs or drop in for public skating, rock climbing, basketball, and more.
In addition to the offerings at Aviator Sports, other park recreational activities include horseback riding at Jamaica Bay Riding Academy, golf and mini golf at the Brooklyn Golf Center, archery, biking, softball, and fishing. Visitors can also make use of the Jamaica Bay Greenway, a multi-use pathway adjacent to Floyd Bennett Field perfect for walking, jogging, or biking.