50 All-Star Family Camps: The 2005 List

It only takes a week to make memories that'll last a lifetime

What you'll find in this story: family travel, family camps, summer family adventures, favorite family trips, family outdoors activities, travel with children

Family summer camps are the best way to experience the great outdoors without having to worry that your kids will fall off a cliff or get fatally bored. There's fly-fishing, horseback riding, campfire singing, and a million other crowd-pleasing activities. And camps are a super value, with some costing less than $1,000 per family of four for an entire week, and none costing more than $1,000 per adult per week. Why waste a ton of money when what's important is that you're all together--at a place where you can also safely spend time apart!

How to read these listings

Minimum stay is usually a week (six days and five or six nights). We've included the opening and closing dates for each camp's summer season. Many offer family programs during the rest of the year.

Unless noted, fees are for a weeklong stay and cover activities, meals, and the least expensive non-tent-camping accommodations. (You'll probably need to bring sleeping bags and towels, and you'll want to ask if there's a camp store.) Prices may vary depending on the number and age of children. These rates are based on a family of four with two adults and two kids ages 7 and 13. Financial aid, sometimes referred to as a "campership," is often available.

The American Camping Association has more than 300 health and safety standards, which go beyond the minimum federal and state regulations. ACA-accredited camps are also usually handicapped-accessible.

California

Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp, Stanislaus National Forest On the south fork of the Tuolumne River in Stanislaus National Forest. Watercolor and pottery workshops for adults; stilt-walking and magic classes for kids. Themed staff performance on Saturday nights. Lodging 76 wood-frame or canvas-covered cabins, all with cots and shared bathhouse; campsites. Food Family-style meals with table service in dining hall. Dates June 25-Aug. 28, no minimum stay, fills quickly. Price $1,614 ($1,542 Berkeley residents). 510/981-5140, berkeleycamps.com.

Camp Concord, South Lake Tahoe Surrounded by the Eldorado National Forest. Eighteen families at a time, age 4 and up. Hike seven minutes to Falling Leaf Lake for canoeing and swimming. Majority of staff are lifeguard-trained. Weekly shuttles to Nevada casinos. Babysitting available. ACA accredited. Lodging Private cabins that sleep six to eight in bunks and queen-size beds. Shared bathhouse. Food Three meals a day, including beach barbecues and bag lunches. Weekly cookouts and champagne breakfast. Dates June 19-Aug. 6, three-night minimum. Price $1,260 ($1,140 Concord residents). 925/671-3273, cityofconcord.org.

Camp Sacramento, Twin Bridges The South Fork American River runs beside the camp. Catch a fish and the chef will cook it. Camper/counselor softball, tie-dyeing, and a weekly staff performance (this year's theme is Pirates of the Caribbean). Lodging 61 private cabins that sleep two to six with double beds, electricity, and shared bathhouse. Food Three cafeteria-style meals daily. Bag lunches available for all-day hikes. Dates June 19-Aug. 13. Price $1,368 ($1,088 Sacramento residents). 916/277-6098, cityofsacramento.org/parksandrecreation/campsac.

Cazadero Performing Arts Camp, Cazadero In Sonoma's Russian River Valley, five miles from the ocean. Emphasis on the arts: salsa dancing, African drumming, jazz ensemble, chamber music, circus arts, drama. For all abilities. Lodging Tent cabins with decks on raised platforms, with two to eight cots; most have electricity. Food Three buffets daily in the dining hall. Dates Aug. 8-21. Price $2,420 (plus $40 registration fee). 510/527-7500, cazadero.org.

Emandal--A Farm on a River, Willits A working farm on 1,000 acres. Bordering Mendocino National Forest, redwoods, and wine country. Milk a cow, gather eggs, harvest vegetables, make bread. Three-and-a-half miles of riverfront. Lodging Wooden cabins with queen bed, bunks, cold running springwater, and electricity. Shared bathhouse. A few farmhouse rooms with private baths. Linens provided. Food Three family-style meals daily. Bread and pizza baked in brick oven. Organic produce from on-site garden. Dates July 24-Aug. 28. Price $2,600. 707/459-5439, emandal.com.


Watch the family camps video
Did you see BT on the Today show? Watch Editor Erik Torkells discuss the list of the best family camps with host Ann Curry. If you don't already have it, you will need MSN Video Player, a free (and easy!) plug-in, to watch the video
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    Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
     

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