Going to summer camp is a big part of the “quintessential” summer experience for kids around the world. For most families, a local day camp or a carefully planned sleep-away experience is the big event of the summer. Then there are some summer camp options that the average family (and average summer budget) may not be busting down the cabin doors to get to. Listed in order from the affordable to the downright insane, here are ten summer camp ideas you can look into this year.
Estimated price: $5-$10 per week.
Local Community Gardens
While not exactly a traditional camp, community gardens are a great way for families to get outdoors and connect with friends and neighbors. Many community gardens are well organized with resources on how to start growing your own fruits, veggies, and flowers all summer long. Don’t be afraid to ask for some help getting started if growing things is new for you.
Find a local Community Garden
Estimated price: $75-$300 per week.
4-H programs are available in many locations and offer a variety of themes and focuses. Some camps may require 4-H membership fees, but many are offered independently and do not require further involvement with the program.
Find a local 4-H Camp
Estimated price: $300 per program.
The YMCA is known for its many programs and camps in both rural and urban areas, and is a great place to check for local opportunities for your school-aged child. Daytime programs, sleep-away camps, and summer classes are all available depending on your location.
Find local YMCA programs
Estimated Cost: $700 per week (plus transportation).
Zombie Summer Camp
Thankfully, this summer camp doesn’t feature REAL zombies… it’s actually a STEM-based camp that encourages kids to learn skills like teamwork, critical thinking, and first aid. They welcome campers from all over the country, but you’ll be responsible for applying early and transporting your little zombie-enthusiast to Massachusetts for this sleep-away adventure camp.
Learn with the Undead
Estimated Cost: $1,000 per week.
Got a teenager that loves dinosaurs in all their forms? This summer program based in New Mexico pairs teens with professional paleontologists to explore dig sites and get a behind-the-scenes look at what a paleontologist and their team do. Make sure your teen is prepared to sleep in cabins AND in tents under the stars for this one!
Dig into Adventure
Estimated Cost: $1,460 per week.
Circus Smirkus Camp
Whether your child is already training to be a part of a circus, or they are just starting their career as an acrobat, they can find a space at the Circus Smirkus camps in Vermont. Camp sessions are offered by age group and skill range, but there’s no clowning around when it comes to the cost. This camp is an investment for kids willing to put in the hard work to have fun.
Tumble into Fun
Estimated Cost: $1,700 per week.
This astronomy camp based in Arizona is not for the casual star-gazer. With a heavy educational focus, older teens and even adults will spend time in a real observatory diving into the science of the stars with their science-minded peers.
Explore the Stars
Estimated Cost: $2,500 per week.
Thrill Coaster Teen Tour
This summer program is the furthest thing from a cabin in the woods… teens will stay in hotels as they tour amusement parks and ride coasters together. While air conditioned hotel rooms and daily theme park visits might sound like the perfect vacation for your teen, make sure to note the steep prices before committing to go on this particular ride.
Take a Thrill Ride
Estimated Cost: $4,500 per twelve-day program.
Snorkeling and Sailing Program
Got a middle schooler that craves more adventure than the local ropes course? How about sending them to the Caribbean to snorkel, sail, and make memories most adults only dream of? Just make sure you have enough money left over to buy yourself something nice when you see their photos and get jealous.
Sail Away, Sail Away
Estimated Cost: $10,500 per private camp session.
Advanced Swim Camp
These are not your average summer swim lessons at the YMCA. This is the swim camp for aspiring Olympic swimmers, and the prices reflect that goal. Whether you have a 5 year old with real talent or a teenager getting ready to head to the Olympics, this swim camp will train them to swim like champions. Parents must accompany minors, and funds must be paid up-front for this elite program.
In conclusion, while some of the examples above get pretty outrageous, there are many organizations working to make summer camp an affordable, accessible experience for as many children and families as possible. All kids should have the chance to have adventures, learn, and spend time with their friends and peers. The American Camp Association has written this article to help campers and their families find and utilize the resources available to them when it comes to making summer camp affordable.
Whether your family spends some intentional time in the local community garden or starts training to be the next Micheal Phelps… There is a camp and an opportunity for everyone to get outdoors, get moving, and make new memories this summer.