As you flip through your kid’s summer camp catalog a thought occurs to you—that looks incredible! Whether it’s horseback riding through snow-capped mountains, performing on center stage or taking an old school canoe out for a paddle around a serene lake, you want in. So consider a vacation at a summer camp where everyone (including parents!) is welcome. Scroll down to see our top picks.

photo: Auey Santos

Caz NW—Longbranch, WA

If you and the kids have ever wanted to make like the von Trapps (minus the scary stuff), Caz NW is the camp for you. It’s a place where performers of all ages come together to practice, play and perform over the 4th of July week. Pick your passion for morning and afternoon classes (four in total). Then gather as a family for awesome evening activities like a whole-camp dance or bonfire celebration. And those who want to avoid the spotlight can find yoga, nature walks, sports and water activities to participate in too. Our favorite part is Kids City—the arts-focused childcare program for kids ages 2.5-5, so you can drop your tiniest tots off to play while you do the same. 

Write home about: Being on the ground floor. This summer will be Caz NW’s inaugural season in the Pacific Northwest (psst … check out Caz CA to find out about the camp’s 30-plus year history on the West Coast.)

Online: cazfamilycamp.org/nw

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photo: Kristina Moy

Tanque Verde Ranch — Tucson, AZ

Pack up for an all-inclusive stay at Tanque Verde Ranch this summer. It’s a dude ranch that doubles as a luxe resort, catering to families that love trying a little bit of everything. Bring the kids along on your horseback riding, poolside sitting, tennis playing adventures. Or drop them at the Kids Club (ages 4-12) so they can play zorb ball, challenge other campers during lawn games or ride around the ranch on her own, while you and your better half mosey over to the spa, take a dip in the pool or find a desert adventure. We’ve got the full scoop here.

Write home about: The new horsemanship skills you and your little wrangler learned along the dusty trail.

Online: tanqueverderanch.com

YMCA of the Rockies, Snow Mountain Ranch – Granby, CO

Snow Mountain Ranch, just outside Rocky Mountain National Park, is a camp experience families piece together themselves. You choose from a smorgasbord of scheduled classes and programs that run from sun up to sun down. Want to play gaga ball or soccer golf? How about signing up for a weird science or glass fusion class? Or do you prefer a more traditional hiking, biking, skating or even skiing expedition? Sign up along with the kids or let everyone find their own adventures for the day, before meeting up again around the nightly campfire. Just like the programming here, families pick their lodging preference too, from tricked-out vacation homes to cozy yurts. Our favorite part? This camp is year round so you can find adventure whenever your schedule allows.

Write home about: The great time you had with your besties. The mix-and-match programming, plus housing options for up to 32 people make this an easy multi-fam camp experience.

Online: snowmountainranch.org

 

photo: courtesy Space Camp

Family Space Camp - Huntsville, AL

Join the Mars Generation at Space Camp this summer. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles can join their little explorers as they spend a quick Friday through Sunday extended weekend exploring the galaxy at Space Camp or blasting off into our own atmosphere at the Aviation Challenge Camp. Whichever you choose, expect plenty of STEM-focused activities, like rocket building, simulator training experience and IMAX presentations about your favorite aerial explorations. It’s like nothing else on Earth!

Write home about: The Scout badges your camper can earn during your stay. 

Online: spacecamp.com/space/family

photo: courtesy Callaway Resort & Gardens

Callaway Gardens – Pine Mountains, GA

The Summer Family Adventure at Callaway Gardens is the point where the typical family vacation and the traditional summer camp intersect. The summer camp side means kids (ages 3 & up) enjoy counselor-led crafts, swimming, mini golf, water skiing and more, while parents kick back at the pool or enjoy scheduled programming of their own (think golf, tennis, and nature walks), knowing their kids are close by. The vacay side lies in the posh cottages and villas that have full kitchens, screened in porches and even WiFi. It’s the perfect balance! 

Write home about: The nightly performances under the Big Top with Florida State University’s Flying High Circus. It’s an unexpected twist that’ll have everyone cheering.

Online: callawaygardens.com/summer-family-adventure

photo: Concordia Language Villages

Concordia Language Villages – Bemidji, MN

That international vacay you’ve been dreaming about with the kids? Consider this language camp to be the perfect stepping stone. At Concordia, families spend a week fully immersed in the culture they’ve chosen: Chinese, German and even Finnish! It’s in the food you'll eat, the games you'll play, the traditions you'll learn about, and of course, the language you'll hear throughout your stay. The mini-campers craft and play under counselor supervision while parents take classes and learn alongside other adults in the community. Everyone comes together for meals and evening programs, so there’s plenty of time to debrief and share daily highlights.

Write home about: All the learning that happens while everyone is too busy having a blast to notice! 

Online: concordialanguagevillages.org/family-programs

photo: Basin Harbor

Kids Camp at Basin Harbor—Vergennes, VT

A lux vacay meets family camp at Basin Harbor’s 700-acre resort on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont. We love that Basin Harbor strikes the right balance between together and doing your own thing during the week, while weekends are set aside for families. With three different kids programs to choose from (based on age), and a teen camp too, your crew will stay busy crafting, golfing, playing a pickup game of soccer or testing their casting skills during the weekly fishing tournament. Meanwhile, mom and dad can do everything from visiting a local vineyard to hoping on an extended bike tour or booking a couples massage at the on-site Blue Chair Spa. Just be sure to fit it all in before 4:30 when the bell rings, bringing everyone back together again for dinner, boat rides and lazy beach time.

Write home about: The private babysitting that’s available all the time—just call the concierge to get it set up!

Online: basinharbor.com/kids/kids-camp

photo: courtesy Medomak Camp

Medomak Family Camp – Washington, ME

Since hosting its first group of family campers in 1995, this quintessential New England summer camp has prided itself on the number of families who return each year. Guests enjoy round-robin morning activities separated for parents and kids, followed by afternoons on the lake: Mom or dad can kick back and read a good book, or don life vests to paddle around the lake with their crew. Locally-sourced meals are served in the farmhouse dining room (look for a lobster feast at least once!), cabins are sweet and simple, and the camp’s small size (12 families per session) makes getting to know other guests easy.

Write home about: The specialty weeks, like Astronomy Week, that add something special to your stay.

Online: medomakcamp.com/family_camp

photo: Catalina Island Camps

Jean-Michel Cousteau Family Camp – Two Harbors, CA

Ocean lovers of all ages won’t want to miss this weeklong camp (outside of Los Angeles) hosted by the Catalina Island Camps and the Ocean Futures Society. Each year, 20 families spend five days in beachfront cabins on Catalina Island snorkeling, kayaking, hiking and more. Each day also has a special time set aside for three-to-five-year-olds to play together under a caregiver’s watchful eye, so parents and older sibs can try their hand at some of the more challenging programs. When night falls, it’s time to stargaze, take a hike, or cozy up around the campfire before settling in. No wonder those 20 slots fill up so fast!

Write home about: The snorkeling trip to Emerald Bay with Jean-Michel Cousteau and Dick Murphy that each family takes during their stay. 

Online: catalinaislandcamps.com

photo: Wolf Ridge ELC

Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center – Finland, MN

Each day at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center (a 2,000-acre camp outside of Duluth, Mn) is different. Families will test their mettle on the ropes course, they’ll learn navigation techniques during Orienteering, and they'll canoe all over Wolf Lake before heading off to a family folk dance. In the mornings, kids break off and explore with a naturalist while parents find adventures of their own (or not!) before reuniting with the kids for afternoon antics. Guest call the East Dorm home, and take meals at the Lake Superior Dining Room, where the chef sources ingredients directly from the new organic farm on the property. This is one unforgettable learning experience!

Write home about: The Grand Summer Adventure program that’s just for kids … and grandparents! 

Online: wolf-ridge.org/camp/family-camps

Montecito Sequoia Lodge – Kings Canyon National Park, CA

Just east of Fresno, in the Sequoia National Forest, you’ll find the Montecito Sequoia Lodge. Summer camp here is everything you remember and love about camp as a kid. It’s horseback riding, tennis tournaments and belly flop contests at the lake, with parent-approved modern twists like forest-yoga and lakeside massages. The kids hang with counselors for about six hours a day, while parents relax, spend time together or join in on the programming fun. Evenings are filled with skits and campfires before everyone heads back to the rustic cabins that serve as a home away from home for the week. There’s no phone or TV here, but the kids won’t notice the lack of technology with all the good clean fun going on around them! 

Write home about: The group overnights for kids ages 7 & up. Sure, they’re just across the lake but … they’re across the lake!

Online: mslodge.com/family-camp

Camp Echo – Freemont, MI

Timeless traditions are what make the family camp weeks at Camp Echo a Midwest fave. Days here start when the flag makes its way to the top of the pole, and the morning bell alerts all campers to the fun that’s in store. Spend the morning canoeing or playing sports and the afternoon at the ropes course or taking a nature hike. Each day is different, and there are plenty of time-tested camp activities to keep kids (and you!) on the move. The cabins have everything you need to be comfortable, and the Dining Hall staff serves up healthy, hearty food worthy enough to be considered camp fare. Oh, and those traditions we mentioned? Be on the lookout for moose kisses and lake throws! 

Write home about: The shorter Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend family camps that let families dip their toes in the lake without taking the plunge.

Online: mcgawymca.org

photo: Paul Schultz via flickr

Camp Seafarer – Arapahoe, NC

Ahoy, matey! As its name suggests, the family week at Camp Seafarer is all about the water. Power boating, sailing, fishing and canoeing are just a tasty sampling of the maritime activities that await families at this YMCA camp situated on the North Carolina coastline. Families can also participate in landlubbing programs too, like tennis, ziplining and pottery. Whatever the days at Camp Seafarer have in store, nights are spent enjoying Dining Hall meals, after-meal skits and plenty of campfire time, before crashing in breezy, open-air cabins. Can you say all hands on deck for a memorable time?

Write home about: The protected inlet along the Neuse River that makes sailing and powerboating with your kidlet a breeze.

Online: seagull-seafarer.org/sessions/fall-spring-sessions/family-camp-week

Do you have a favorite family camp we missed? Let us know about it in a comment.

—Allison Sutcliffe

 

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Feature photo: Camp Pinewood via Flickr

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