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.
Heartland Hockey Camp
Set in the piney woods of Minnesota's lake country, this 80-acre spread run by former NHL left winger Steve Jensen and his wife, Sandra, finds families vacationing on ice—indoors, of course. Hockey players of all ages hit the rink together to learn odd-man rushes and watch themselves on a Jumbotron—and then join any non-skating family members down by the lake to swim, canoe, and cast for northern pike. Lodging: Dorm rooms—decked out with bunks, NHL team pennants, and autographs—sleep 2 to 10; shared baths. Eight 1- and 2-bedroom apartments with kitchenettes are ideal for families. Food: Three buffet-style meals daily and a concession stand at the rink. Info: 800/945-7465, heartlandhockey.com, from $3,550 (everyone skating), one- and two-week sessions June 14–Aug. 15, kids ages 3 and up.
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SAN DIEGO, CALIF.
Paskowitz Surf Camp
Families are divided into groups based on their skill level for twice-a-day lessons at Tourmaline Surfing Park, on the northern end of Pacific Beach. The school, started by "Doc" Paskowitz (subject of the 2007 documentary Surfwise), is now run by his children. Beginners are welcome, and boards are provided. A tent-and-tiki-hut compound inside a private campground on Mission Bay is where everyone chills after riding the waves. Lodging: Nylon or canvas tents that sleep two to six, with foam mats. Food: Three meals daily: a light breakfast before lessons, a deli-sandwich lunch, and a big dinner such as "beer-can" chicken. Info: 949/728-1000, paskowitz.com, $4,500, nine Sunday–Friday sessions June 14–Aug. 14, kids ages 6 and up.
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EQUESTRIAN AND RANCH CAMPS
Camp Trinity at the Bar 717 Ranch
At this program within Shasta-Trinity National Forest, campers learn English, Western, and bareback riding using the ranch's 2 rings, 25 horses, and 30 miles of trails. When they're not in the saddle, kids can collect eggs, milk the cows, bake blackberry pies, or go swimming in the river. Parental perk: a trail ride ending with a picnic of cheese and local wine. Lodging: Three-sided cabins, with bathrooms and a shared bathhouse, sleep 7 to 15 on cots; hotel-style rooms with private baths sleep two to six. Food: Three family-style meals daily highlight the ranch's own beef, pork, and vegetables. Info: 530/628-5992, bar717.com, $2,895, Aug. 9–16, ACA accredited, no minimum age.
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ESTES PARK, COLO.
Cheley Colorado Camps
Backcountry trails, covered wagons, and nightly campfires draw families year after year to this 1,600-acre Western-style camp in the Rocky Mountains. Each evening, staff members describe the next day's offerings, which, in addition to horseback riding, might include moviemaking, trout fishing, or a choice of hikes. The camp also brings in instructors to guide technical climbs on-site—at the top, climbers can see Rocky Mountain National Park and the Continental Divide. Lodging: Covered wagons, sleeping four, are modeled on those that pioneers used to explore the West, each with inner-spring mattresses on wood frames; shared bathrooms. Food: Three family-style meals daily; trail riders carry lunch fixings such as sausage, cheese, and peanut butter to wrap in tortillas. Info: 800/226-7386, cheley.com, $2,500, Aug. 11–16, ACA accredited, kids ages 4 and up.
Emandal—A Farm on a River
This Mendocino County farm has been welcoming overnight guests since the early 1900s—when the redwood barn, farmhouse, and cabins were built along the Eel River. Campers are free to pick raspberries, gather eggs, and milk cows—or not. Families can explore at their own pace, spending an afternoon hiking over wooded slopes, discovering swimming holes, or simply swinging in the hammocks under the fir, madrone, and oak trees. Lodging: Cabins sleep up to 10, with electricity, cold water, and ceiling fans; shared baths. Food: Three meals daily, including a Sunday dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and just-churned ice cream. Info: 707/459-5439, emandal.com, $2,349, July 19–Aug. 22, no minimum age.
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