Summer Camp for All (That Means Parents, Too!)
Ever wish you could spend a week with your kids and learn how to surf or speak a foreign language? After a stay at any of these 20 specialty camps for families (which start at $880), you'll come away with bragging rights, along with one of those classic lanyard key chains.
Timing Sessions usually last five or six nights; some camps offer weekend activities. Others organize special family programs, often just for a weekend, throughout the year.
Pricing Rates depend on the number and age of children. Where possible, the prices we list in this article are based on a family of four with two adults and two kids ages 7 and 13. Unless otherwise noted, each of the mentioned fees is for a weeklong stay and covers all meals, activities, and the least expensive non-tent-camping accommodations.
Sleeping Cabins are almost always single-family. "Dorm" rooms indicate a shared bath. Not all camps provide linens and towels, so it's best to ask in advance.
Trusting Camps that are accredited by the American Camp Association (acacamps.org) meet 31 mandatory health and safety standards and are usually handicap accessible.
The Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
On a 170-acre campus modeled after a Pueblo farmstead, campers start out in a lab, learning to identify pottery, stone, and animal-bone artifacts, and then put their know-how to use, excavating alongside Crow Canyon archaeologists in nearby Hovenweep National Monument. Possible find: a 13th-century mano or metate, used to grind corn. The program finale is a tour of Mesa Verde National Park. Lodging: Log cabins sleep six on four beds and one bunk; shared bathrooms. Food: Three buffet-style meals daily. Info: 800/422-8975; crowcanyon.org/archaeology; $4,900; June 28–July 4, Aug. 2–8; kids ages 10 and up.
HOWLANDS LANDING, CALIF.
Jean-Michel Cousteau Family Camp
A Catalina Island cove is the setting for this immersion in marine biology. Oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau (son of Jacques) and his scientists at the Ocean Futures Society lead snorkel trips and talk about their expeditions. Campers go sailing along the coast; at night there's top-notch stargazing. Lodging: Cabins sleep up to 12 on bunks; shared bathrooms. Food: Three buffet-style meals daily. Info: 800/696-2267, catalinaislandcamps.com, $3,200, Aug. 19–23, ACA accredited, no minimum age.
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At the 88-acre U.S. Space & Rocket Center, parents and kids train like astronauts from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., building and launching single-engine rockets, seeing what it's like to walk on the moon with gravity chairs used by Apollo astronauts, and simulating shuttle missions in an orbiter. Lodging: Dorms sleep five to seven on bunks; shared bathrooms. Food: Three cafeteria-style meals daily. Info: 800/637-7223, spacecamp.com, $1,248, three-day weekends May 22–Sept. 6, ACA accredited, kids ages 7–12.
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CANOE ISLAND, WASH.
Canoe Island French Camp
This 47-acre island in the San Juan archipelago provides a stunning backdrop for lessons in all things French. Mornings begin with language classes taught by fluent instructors. Then it's time for a Gallic activity—say, baking baguettes—with bilingual directions. Afternoons are spent doing tir à l'arc (archery) or sailing on Puget Sound. Lodging: Tepees on platforms with electricity sleep five on cots; shared bathrooms. Food: Three family-style meals in a dining hall dubbed Maxim's, where French is spoken. Lunch might be a croque monsieur; dinner, bistro classics like bouillabaisse (using local mussels and crabs partially harvested by families), beef bourguignonne, and crème brûlée. Info: 360/468-2329; canoeisland.org; $920; May 22–25, Aug. 29–Sept. 1, Sept. 4–7; ACA accredited; no minimum age.
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Concordia Language Villages
Even though these language-immersion programs are in the North Woods of Minnesota, campers feel worlds away; Concordia's "villages" are modeled after different cultures' traditional architecture. The German settlement looks like a street in Germany, with a café serving linzer torte pastries. (Chinese and Arabic sessions, however, are in regular camp or lodge facilities.) Families are challenged to speak the language of their camp all day—labels everywhere supply vocabulary, and counselors, many of whom are native speakers, are ready to help. While parents are in conversation classes, kids learn songs, play games, and do crafts from countries that share that foreign tongue. Lodging: Cabins sleep 10 on bunks; private bath. Food: Three family-style meals daily of a country's cuisine, taken with instructors who encourage you to say, for example, "die Butter, bitte" (butter, please) when the Brot (bread) is served. Info: 800/222-4750, concordialanguagevillages.org, $2,360, 18 six-day sessions focusing on one of seven languages June 15–Sept. 5, ACA accredited, no minimum age.