Awesome Summer Camps You’ve Never Heard Of

You may still have snow on the ground, but that doesn’t mean summer camp spots aren’t filling up fast. Whether you’re looking for a sleepaway or day camp program, we’ve got 16 intriguing options that’ll crank your kid’s summer adventure factor up to 11. From a pirate camp on a remote island to a rodeo training camp, we’ve found cool picks from coast to coast. Scroll down to see them all.

Circus Camp - Hancock, NY

courtesy French Woods

All the world’s a stage for your kid, so give her the spotlight with a sleep away performing arts intensive program at French Woods Camp in upstate New York. The facility boasts a 12,000 square foot covered performance pavilion with top notch equipment for almost every type of circus performance imaginable: Acrobats, jugglers, wire walking, flying trapeze and even fire twirling! If campers need a break from their “major” activity, there are “minor” activities that can be chosen at breakfast, so there’s always something new to learn and do. Campers get to participate in one of three circus performances every session: Big Top, Late Night FireFly or Junior Circus (for kids ages 10 & under).

Psst! The youngest campers are accompanied to and from activities by a counselor at all times, which will help to ease any worries mom or dad might have about their tiniest performers.

Dates: Jun. 7-Sept. 2, 2018
Ages: 7 & up

Snowboarding Camp - Government Camp, OR

courtesy High Cascade Snowboarding Camp

If your outdoor enthusiast can’t get enough time on the slopes during the winter, then the High Cascade Snowboard Camp (HCSC) is a perfect fit. Kids will be supervised 24/7 by experienced staff, will have the chance to demo 2019 gear, have access to two private terrain parks and the 22,000 square foot skateboarding parks, professional instruction and GoPro™ Video Analysis, among other fun activities. Other instruction options include the learn to ride Soft Start™and Hot Laps™ freeride coaching sessions, as well as coaching-only sessions.

Worried that your youngster might be out of his league? Don’t be. All abilities are welcome and the camp is all-inclusive (arrive at the airport and the camp takes care of the rest!).

Dates: Jun. 17-Jul. 31, 2018
Ages: 9 & up

Pirate Camp - Vason Island, WA

Courtesy Dragonfire Pirate Camp

Argh, mateys! If your camper has set her sights on a larger-than-life pirate adventure, Dragonfire Pirate Camp on Vashon Island, Wa is the place to make it happen. For 31 years, Captain Jim Sir and Captain Jacq M’am, have been leading campers in a fanciful world aboard the pirate ship, Parrot-Eye (see what they did there?). Along with a staff of experienced counselors, they put young pirates through the paces: finding just the right pirate look, preparing fresh pirate meals, putting on a sea-rific play, making their own wooden daggers, and of course, “sailing” the high seas on Parrot-Eyes. With a maximum of 20 kids in each session, this day camp is a fully immersive experience … no plank walk required.

Dates: Jul. 9-12; 16-19; 23-26 (campers of all ages) & Jul. 30-Aug. 2, 2018 (campers entering 6, 7 or 8th grade)
Ages: entering 1st grade-end of 5th grade

Rockstar Camp - Nationwide

courtesy School of Rock

Yes, School of Rock is a rock music camp. No, Jack Black will not be your instructor. The real-life coaches are still pretty cool though, and petite players will get a dose of the real thing instead of spending hours playing Guitar Hero. All levels of expertise can get in on the action—the programs range from Beginner to Performance Boot Camp and Songwriting & Recording Camp to Famous Rock Band Camps (think The Beatles, Nirvana.). While there is no sleep-away version, camp sessions are held at School of Rock locations across the country.

Dates: Sessions run from Jun.–Aug.
Ages: 6 & up

Horseback Riding Camp - Prescott, AZ

Kars4Kids Donation & Educational Programs via flickr

Summer camp and horses go hand in hand. For your little equestrian who really wants to up her riding game, Friendly Pines Camp in Prescott, Arizona offers an intensive riding program. There are several different options available for campers: Western, English and Bareback riding, Ranch Hands and Packing (learn how to care for a horse and pack for long trips) as well as vaulting and pony driving. Most of the riding activities are offered in beginning, intermediate and advanced levels and kids can ride as much as they like! There’s also classic camp fun like archery, kayaking and crafts.

Dates: Jun. 10-Jul. 21, 2018, 1 and 2-week sessions
Ages: 6 & up

Wizards & Warriors Camp - Burlington, MA

Albert Cook

For fantasy fanatics who dream of battling trolls and evil sorcerers in stone castles, Wizards and Warriors Camp is pretty much the most amazing camp ever. Campers will be able to prep potions and don armor for an epic battle using characters of their own creation. It’s a cool blend of imagination and education that focuses on the commonalities of world cultures. This year in the Land of Sidelterra (the mythical realm kids enter at camp), the focus will be on Bulgarian history and stories, guided by an educational consultant who not only knows her stuff but gets in on the role play action too. Consider Wizards and Warriors to be the cultural crossroads where kids get to experience history, mythology and literature, taking what they learn from reality to fantasy all week long.

Good to know: If your kid is more The Walking Dead than Harry Potter, be sure to check out the overnight Zombie camp option!

Dates: Jul. 1-Aug. 14, in 2-week sessions, for both overnight and day camps.
Ages: Day camp, ages 6 & up. Overnight camp, ages 10 & up. Little Knights overnight camp, ages 5 & up.

Fun on the Farm Camp - Cazadero, CA

Plantation Camp's Facebook

Send your kids to a place where the farm-to-table movement has been happening for decades. Plantation Farm Camp has all the traditional activities of a summer camp (canoeing, arts and crafts, campfire and skits), but it’s located on a 500-acre, real working farm in Sonoma County, Ca. Campers choose their own chores, help raise the farm animals and provide food for camp meals. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, redwood groves, lakes and creeks, the program encourages independence, teaches environmental sustainability, and lays the foundation for lifelong friendships.

Dates: Jun. 10- Aug. 18, 2018; 1, 2 & 4 week sessions
Ages: 8 & up

Who Dunnit? - Lake Como, Pa

courtesy Camp Lohikan

It’s the year 2018, and as diabolical masterminds try to take over the world, there has never been a greater need for secret agents. But like all agents in training, there are a few skills campers must master first—like ATV and jet ski evasive maneuvers, martial arts, wall scaling, and of course paintball, paintball, paintball. Sound fun? Your kid will certainly think so, once she finds herself at Camp Lohikan, a classic sleep away camp nestled on 1,200 acres in the Poconos mountains. The camp offers one-week mini-camps, 2, 5, 6-week and full spy adventure sessions throughout the summer, and each one is filled with exciting physical challenges and tasks to help kids increase their critical thinking skills.

Dates: Jun. 24-Aug. 18, 2018
Ages: 6 & up

Camp Motorsport—Clover, VA

courtesy Camp Motorsports

If you’re already fearing the day your kids ask for the keys, get mentally prepped years in advance by sending them to Camp Motorsport, where they'll be able to drive to their heart’s content daily, on both paved and off-road tracks, in the camp’s racing go-karts and off-road buggies. Expect campers to log learning time with STEM-centered automotive design activities that encourage kids to learn about being behind the wheel and under the hood. When your wanna-be Dale Earnhardt Jr. slows down, there’s ample chance to swim and boat on the camp’s private lake or play sports in the fields and meadows of the camp’s 400+-acre property. It’s the most fun your kids can have behind the wheel without a driver’s license!

Dates: Jun. 24-Aug. 11 2018, in 1-week sessions
Ages: 9-17

Sea Camp - San Juan Capistrano, CA

Catalina Sea Camp's Facebook

You’ve thought about sending your kids to an island (sometimes deserted!) before, and now here’s your chance. Seafaring pups will come home as seasoned salty dogs after learning the ropes at Catalina Sea Camp. During their week at camp, kids get to try out most everything imaginable that’s sea-related: sailing, SUP-ing, kayaking, snorkeling and even basic scuba instruction. They’ll also learn about ocean life in the Marine Biology Lab. And if they need to dry off a bit, they can spend time cooking, crafting and getting their sport on with beach-side activities like gaga ball, basketball and volleyball. It’s a given this is the summer adventure of a lifetime—it’s also a given you’ll still be finding grains of sand months after they’ve come home.

Dates: Jun. 9–29, in three week-long sessions.
Ages: 8-13

OK Computer - Connecticut, Georgia and Ohio

photo: courtesy NCC

Put all that screen time to good use at National Computer Camp this summer. Tech-centric kids will be in their element at National Computer Camp because this camp offers a ton of different courses. The curriculum includes video game design, computer languages, web page design, 3D printing, Android App programming and more. Offered as both a sleep away and day camp, curious kids can attend all the sessions: Nothing is repeated during the course of the summer. Worried your camper might spend all her time in front of a screen? Chose the computer + sports option, and she’ll be playing soccer, ultimate frisbee, tennis and other fun games.

Dates: Jun. 24-Aug. 3, 2018
Ages: 6 & up

Rodeo Camp - Van, TX

courtesy Sky Ranch

There are moments where corralling your kids feels like you’re wrangling a wild horse. Now it’s time to return the favor. Your kids can build beginning rodeo roping, barreling and poling skills during a week-long session at Sky Ranch, located about 90 miles east of Dallas, Texas. Boys and girls break out into groups and spend time in the horse arena each day practicing and learning new skills. But they also get to ride the zip lines and barrel down waterslides during afternoon activity.

Dates: May 27- Jun. 2; Jul. 1-7; Aug. 5-11
Ages: Grades 2-7

Sailing Camp - Mystic, CT

Jim Sorbie via flickr

Whether your kids already have their sea legs or if they're landlubbers, there’s a place for them at the Joseph Conrad Overnight Sailing Camp in Mystic, Connecticut. Kids share in the morning deck chores, learn to navigate the waters of the Mystic River, enjoy stargazing in the planetarium, learn the nautical history of the local seaport, tune in to sing-a-longs and at the end of each day, retire on the Joseph Conrad itself, a square-rigger ship permanently moored and now suited to sleep 45 tiny sailors!

Dates: Jul. 8-13, 22-27 & Aug. 5-10, 2018 (Beginner age 10-13); Jun. 17-22, 2018 (Beginner/Intermediate ages 10-13)

Ages: 10 & up


Tinker Camp - Half Moon Bay, CA

Gever Tulley courtesy The Tinkering School

Forget the blocks. This is where your budding builders will grow to new heights. A wild version of Tinkering School, this overnight camp is an epic adventure on the San Francisco Peninsula. Hands-on kids will get to dream up, collect stuff for, and then build projects with help from counselors. With groups maxing out at 18 to 20 campers, your tiny tinkerers will get plenty of one-on-one time with adult collaborators—meaning total safety and tons of learning opportunities.

Dates: Jun. 24- Aug. 11, 2018
Ages: 8 & up

Ninja Camp - Sloatsburg, NY

courtesy Ninja Warrior Camp

Any ninja-in-training will want to spend a few days training with other like minds this summer at Ninja Warrior Camp. Over 90% of the camp activities are held outside, and each camper will receive real ninja training: leadership skills, hand to hand combat, mental strength, stealth tactics and even mind control. One of the longest-running ninja camps for kids, the high-intensity training is not for the faint of heart. Besides the serious training, campers also have fun at pizza nights, during night hikes, at tumbling sessions and obstacle course challenges, and while learning about the history of Japan.

Good to know: There’s also a five-day Ninja Warrior Day Camp available for kids who aren’t quite ready to brave the overnight adventure.

Dates: Jun. 24-27, 2018

Ages: 8 & up


Cooking Camp - Owatonna, MN

Coqui the Chef via flickr

The culinary arts program at Camp Pillsbury welcomes both beginning and expert chefs. Campers get to spend a serious amount of time in the kitchen during their stay and will learn essential skills like how to prep and cook for others, kitchen safety, how to cook with fresh ingredients from scratch, discovering world cuisine, and most importantly, learning how to work as a team. Kids will be guided by professional culinary instructors, get plenty of hands-on time each day and best of all, they’ll get to eat everything they prepare!

Dates: Jun. 11- Aug. 20, 2018
Ages: 6 & up

Do you know about any cool camps for kids? Share with us in the comments!

— Allison Sutcliffe & Gabby Cullen


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