Camping is great for connecting with nature, but it’s also great for connecting with your friends. Or acquaintances you’ve been trying to connect with for a while now.
Parties shouldn’t be limited to a backyard with a deck or a garage with a beer-stained ping pong table. The trees, the ocean, or even a sea of fellow campers can all be the perfect backdrop for a trip you will never forget—or may have trouble remembering, depending on how hard you party.
Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area
Camping on the beach and in the dunes on the Central Coast can be an awesome, though sandy, experience. Pile up wood for a bonfire, crack open a few select drinks, and enjoy the vibe of the only state park in California where you’re allowed to drive on the beach—though not when under the influence of anything, just like on the roads, so stick to water or soda if you’re getting behind the wheel (and you’ll want to get behind the wheel of something). Once you drive a mile south of the entry point at Pier Avenue, you can unload your OHV and enjoy zipping through the dunes. Dune buggies and their relatives rule here, as do adrenaline-fueled jumps and sometimes loud nights. The Fourth of July can make this area look like a war zone.
Campland on the Bay
San Diego mixes two worlds with this urban campground, where you can unzip your tent in the morning and take a short hike … to a game-filled arcade. Live music and other events are scheduled throughout the season, as are contests and enough recreational activities to make you long for a lounger. One summer day alone can feature an officially organized yoga session, capture the flag round, photo scavenger hunt, dodgeball game, water balloon toss, and an electric light parade once it gets dark. Quiet time doesn’t start till 11 p.m.
Partying is not just about where, it’s about when. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (just Coachella to its friends) is a springtime celebration held each year in Indio. If camping to you means sharing space between concerts with half a million other people, this is the where and when for you. Car and tent camping is available, with the only headcount limit listed on the official festival site as “as many people … as you can comfortably fit.” No fires are allowed, but you can light up a portable grill for toasting some s’mores if you get hungry.
Masterson Group Campground
This site can fit up to 75 people, and with a $75-a-night reservation fee, that comes out to just $1 per person for the privilege to party in the Mendocino National Forest. You can spend the money you’re saving on food, drinks, and other stuff to make your stay a fun one. A fire ring can form the flaming heart of your site, spread across open meadows and surrounded by dense trees. With this much room, you can bring everyone, and tell them to bring everyone. Just make sure they all get the code to the combination lock guarding your exclusive hotspot.
There are sites for tents and RVs here at this popular Lake Tahoe destination, all of which can be described as “lovely.” The big draw, however, is the mile-long private beach, where sand volleyball and cocktail service reign throughout the long summer days. Wait, is this site technically in Nevada? Once you’ve had a few ciders, you won’t care.