Searching for the Perfect Summer Camp


Wondering what summer camp should look like for your child?  Over the past few years, visions of bunk-lined cabins nestled in the woods, canoe paddles dipping in rippling waters and marshmallows melting on sticks by the campfire have morphed a bit. Sailboats bobbing in a bay, jet skis skidding through wavy lakes and swords thrashing about in duel have also become a part of the picture.

Does that mean the days of camp lore have moved behind us?  No, not in the least! Your child can still enjoy the iconic wilderness experience.  However, options abound if they have something a little different in mind.  Choices have exploded over the years. Literally.  At University of Missouri’s Explosives Camp, you can learn how to blow things up.  Wow.

Fortunately, there are some less volatile options, as well.  To help you get an idea of the different types of camps, we’ve broken them down into basic categories with descriptions, and created a list within each to help you narrow down which camp may be the most appropriate for your child.

Wilderness/Adventure Camps

These are pretty traditional and don’t really need an introduction. However, there may be an option that you haven’t considered. If you’re feeling nostalgic about the camp experience, or, if you think your child may not be ready to be on their own for summer camp, consider a new trend—family camp.  The concept is the same: cabins (At Camp Cheley, Colorado, you get to sleep in a covered wagon!), daily activities, communal dining and campfire circles.  In a way, it’s a bit like an all-inclusive family vacation without the fancy service.

Sports Camps

Athletic camps are often hosted for a few hours each day and typically run by recreation centers, coaches or high schools.  However, overnight stays are also available and often located on college campuses.  A few companies provide sports camps as well.  For example, Nike has basketball camps in the Charlotte area, golf camps at Tanglewood and a baseball camp at Guilford College.

Arts-based Camps

These types of camps encompass music, drama and drawing.  Some great local options include:

  • Theater Camp—your children will practice and then perform a play for the camp’s conclusion;
  • Design Camp at NCSU—includes landscape architecture and graphic design;
  • Art Through Improv at SECCA—explores sculptures, miniatures and painting.

If you have an aspiring composer, Camp Jam has locations across the U.S.  Campers can play in a band, write songs, make music videos and perform in a concert.

These types of camps encompass music, drama and drawing.  Some great local options include theater camps where your children will practice and then perform a play for the camp’s conclusion, Design Camp at NCSU, and Art Through Improv at SECCA.  If you have an aspiring composer, Camp Jam has locations across the U.S.  Campers can play in a band, write songs, make music videos and perform in a concert.

Passion Camps

Often focusing on a skill or career, these types of camps encourage your child to discover more about something they enjoy and can also help them determine if it is a passion they wish to pursue.

A few of the more exciting activities to consider:  digging up dinosaur bones in Colorado, sailing sunfish along the Outer Banks, training to be a spy at Lake Como, choreographing a fight scene at stunt camp, soaring on trapezes at circus camp and swimming with stingrays at Sea World’s marine biology camp.

Academic Camps

Usually hosted on a college campus, academic camps are fantastic for kids who simply love to learn.  Campers typically sleep in dorms, dine in the college cafeteria and use actual university facilities for their classes.  Local academic institutions host day camps, as well, such as Camp Med or Camp Cardiac at WFU.

A sample curriculum from Ferrum College’s overnight camp in Virginia includes Crime Scene Investigation, Hogwarts Academy and Living 1800s-style, along with more traditional options such as theater, drawing and writing.  Students can cap off the week with a little ziplining and rappelling if they are feeling adventurous!

With all of these new ideas, you may now be facing the problem of which one to choose!  First, figure out which camps fit your child’s personality and age range the best. Second, narrow them down by cost and/or proximity.  And, finally, a good ole “pros and cons” list usually finishes off the task.  Happy camping!


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