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If the thought of camping includes heading for bed once the sun goes down, then you might be missing out on the best part of camping. Whether you’re winding down after a busy day, or the fun is just beginning after a relaxing day, there are plenty of nighttime camping activities that keep the kids and adults entertained all evening long.
When the sun goes down, the fun doesn’t need to end at the campsite! Plan out a few activities in advance to make sure you have any items needed. Be armed with a few additional activities doesn’t require anything, to keep the gear to a minimum.
Things to do While Camping at Night
At the campsite or around the campground, there are many fun nighttime camping activities for kids and families. Some campgrounds do have organized activities after dark, so check into those as well. Whether you are a seasoned camper or your family is brand-new to camping, these ideas will keep everyone having fun well into the night.
1. Catch the Sunset
Get a head start on the evening hours by watching the sun sink into the horizon. If you’re camping in the mountains, at the beach, or on a lake, you’re in the perfect spot to catch a beautiful sunset.
Turn it into an astronomy lesson or just gaze at the stars. Many campgrounds are away from the light pollution of the city, where you can see more stars than you ever thought existed.
For those that really have a passion for stargazing, find a campground located in an area that is certified by the International Dark Sky Association – and prepare to be amazed.
3. Bring Out the Glow Sticks
Once it’s dark, it’s time to bring out the glow sticks. Kids have endless hours of fun making and wearing bracelets, necklaces, and glasses.
Amp up the fun with a glow stick dance party. Use painter’s tape to outline arms and legs with glow sticks and get dancing!
4. Play a Game of Glow in the Dark Bowling
Save a few of those glow sticks to set up a game of after-dark bowling at the campsite.
DIY this game by pushing a few glow sticks into empty water or soda bottles to make bowling pins. A small, lightweight ball works perfectly as a bowling ball.
This glow-in-the-dark ball is easy to find if it rolls into the darkness.
5. Let Kids Sleep in Their Own Tent
As kids get older, they’ll look forward to their own camping adventures. Start them out by letting them sleep in their own tent. Consider switching out one large tent for 2 smaller tents – one for the kids and one for the adults.
Keep in mind that many campgrounds allow only two tents per campsite.
6. Get Night Vision
Use night vision goggles to experience the outdoors in a whole new way. Only a small about of light is needed to pick up on motions made by nocturnal animals and other critters out roaming after dark.
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7. Take a Night Hike
This is especially fun when there is a full moon. Find an easy trail close to the campsite for a very different hiking experience.
If there are no easy trails, or the moon isn’t bright enough for the trail, taking a night walk around the campground is a good alternative.
8. Release Paper Sky Lanterns
The evening skies become magical with glowing lanterns floating above. Simply light the bottom of the lantern and the heat from the flame will lift it into the sky.
Sky lanterns should be used with caution, especially in areas where fire danger is high. For extra precaution, tether the lantern to something near you to reduce the risk of catching a tree or other tall structure.
9. Play Flashlight Tag
Remember this childhood favorite? It’s been so long since I’ve played that I needed a refresher on how to play.
This game can be played with as few as 3 people. It’s more fun with more people, so encourage others to join in – even the adults!
One person is “it” and counts out loud to 50 while the other players hide. Once 50 is reached, players are found by using a flashlight to spot them. The first person caught in the beam of light becomes “it” in the next round.
10. Take a Night Time Swim
Swimming is always a fun camping activity, but the adventure heightens when it’s after dark. Not only is the light (or lack there of) different but the sounds are different too.
This is especially awesome on nights when the moon is shining brightly.
If the kids are too young or inexperienced swimmers, just let them play on the edge of the water where they can be well supervised.
11. Catch Fireflies
Summer nights were meant for catching fireflies, and it’s just as fun to do at a campground.
Capture the fireflies in a glass jar with a lid (make sure there are small holes for air) and use the jar as a temporary nightlight.
12. Night Time Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts are an entirely new challenge when done as a nighttime camping activity. Have kids use their flashlights to find objects around the campsite. Older kids can venture out in search of items around the campground.
Take time to reflect and capture memories from the day in a journal. Writing about the day’s activities and plans for the next day is a good pre-bedtime activity, right before settling in for the night.
There are some fun camping journals (all found on Amazon) that are great for younger kids.
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14. Play Cards or Board Games
A deck of cards and travel-sized board games work well for camping no matter the time of day or type of weather. Either way, playing outdoors makes it more fun.
At night, hang a lantern over the picnic table and bring out the games! This is one of the nighttime camping activities that we also do on rainy days.
Pro tip: while dice games like Yahtzee are fun and portable, they can get loud in the nighttime quiet of the campground. Make sure the games are neighbor-friendly!
15. Take Night Time Photographs
Learn to capture images of nature after dark. If you have a DSLR camera, these tips will help you get started. For those who prefer using the camera on their phone, there are apps that make nighttime photography super easy. Try Night Camera, NightMode, or NightCap.
Things to Do Around the Campfire
After the sun goes down, most of your time will probably be spent around the campfire, especially on chilly nights. These nighttime camping activities are perfectly entertaining for time gathered around a roaring fire.
16. Make a Colorful Campfire
Add a packet of Mystical Fire to your campfire to create fun colors that dance in the flames. These are even more fun when you secretly throw a few packs on the fire and watch reactions as people realize the fire is changing colors.
Pro tip: Just make sure to do this after dinner and s’mores, since it’s not safe to cook over the fire once the color-changing packets are added.
- DROP UNOPENED: on fire watch the vibrant colors.
- WINTER, SPRING, SUMMER, FALL: on any wood fire
16. Play Music Around the Campfire
Bring any favorite instrument for an outdoorsy way to spend time around the fire (maybe leave the drum sets at home though!). Guitars, ukuleles, and harmonicas are totally worthy of a concert around the campfire.
No instruments? An acapella sing-along is just as fun! Find some new songs or relearn your childhood favorites with these classic campfire songs.
If singing isn’t your thing, they have a playlist ready for listening to music by the campfire.
18. Tell Spooky Stories
Ghost stories around the campfire are the quintessential camping experience. Keep it tame for little ones, but go all out for the grown-ups!
19. Make Shadow Puppets
This classic activity can be around the glow of the campfire or even in the tent. Find a space where you have a glow of light on one side and your hands cast a shadow on the side of a tent, in the trees, or another space where the shadow is clear.
Older kids can practice making their own shadow puppets, while younger kids can try guessing what it is.
If it’s been a while or you’re new to shadow puppets, find ideas and how-tos here.
20. Cook up Some Campfire Desserts
Roast marshmallows for s’mores, make fruit-filled mountain pies, or roast Starburst candies over the campfire (trust us on this one!).
Up your s’mores game by setting out a bar with various cookies, chocolates, and spreads any try new flavor combinations for your marshmallow-filled sandwiches.
21. Read a Book By the Campfire
Move bedtime stories into the outdoors. Read aloud to little ones, or have everyone bring their own book for some quiet time by the fire.
Or make it a family activity where everyone takes turns reading a few pages out loud.
In case the campfire isn’t providing quite enough light for reading, have headlamps on hand for reading your favorite books.
22. Play Flashlight “I Spy”
A nighttime spin on I Spy is so much fun as a campfire game. Make this after-dark friendly with flashlights (or headlamps).
Each person takes a turn shining the flashlight on something, while everyone else keeps their eyes closed. Then rest of the group uses their flashlights to try to spot what the first person spied.
23. Play Charades or Put on Skits
Acting out clues or scenes of a story makes one of the best nighttime camping activities.
Make charades camping themed by acting out putting up a tent, making a campfire, or catching and cleaning a fish for dinner.
Or put on a skit. Kids have so much fun putting on a show for the adults. Find great camping-themed skit ideas here.
24. Play 2 Truths and a Lie
This is a great way for new friends to get to know each other better.
Each person takes turns telling the group 3 things about themselves. Two of those are true, and – you guess it – one is a lie. It’s up to the group to figure out which is the lie.
Another good one is “never have I ever,” a game where each person takes a turn making a statement that begins with “never have I ever.” The rest of the group does something to indicate if they’ve ever done that before. Younger kids can do things like raising their hands or take a drink of hot chocolate. Adults usually opt for a sip of an adult beverage.
25. The Greatest of All Night Time Camping Activities: Time to Connect
One of the many things we all love about camping is the time we have free of distractions. We’re not running in multiple directions with kids’ activities, laundry, and household maintenance.
There is no need to make plans or have structure around the campfire either. Use this time to your advantage to connect with your family and friends with conversation.
Before your next camping trip, pick a few activities and make sure to get any required items added to your camping checklist. Then be ready for the fun of camping after the sun goes down!
With so many fun things to do after dark at the campground, it’s hard to choose just a few. Let us know your favorite nighttime camping activities in the comments!
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