Summer may feel far away but before you know it, that last school bell will ring and the kids will look at you, asking “what’s next?” If you want to have your kids attend one LA’s most coveted camps, deadlines start now. Many of the coolest summer camps fill up before you can say even say “spring break” not to mention there are some super savings with early bird discounts. So get your credit cards ready to buy yourself some peace of mind and secure your kid’s spots at making marvelous summer memories.
photo: Aloha Beach Camp
Aloha Beach Camp
This camp is like totally awesome for your beach loving brood, bro! There’s no better way to wile away the precious summer hours that being at the beach. Activities at Paradise Cove in Malibu, Zuma Beach and other nearby locales (depending on age and the day’s schedule) range from painting sea shells, building sandcastles, sand crab races and having a lobster luau to more “gnarly” adventures such as jet skiing on Lake Castaic, ocean kayaking and cosmic water slides. This beachside camp offers three programs by age (Keiki Camp 4-7, Kahuna Camp 8-11, High Action Camp 12-15). There’s one more reason we LOVE this camp: they pick your kids up at one of 17 locations around town, so you never have to brave beach traffic.
Sign up today, because: There’s limited availability and spots fill up quicker than you can say “aloha.” Plus, you can snag the early bird discount rates through March 4.
Need to know more before you sign your kid’s up? There is a free open house but get tickets as even those informational spots fill up quickly.
For Campers Ages: 4-15
Pick-up locations are all over town; the camps take place at Paradise Cove and Zuma Beach.
photo: Tom Sawyer Camp
Tom Sawyer Camp
The great outdoors beckon at Hahamonga Watershed Park, above Devil’s Gate Dam in the Arroyo Seco of Altadena. While Tom Sawyer had the Mississippi River, young campers here have horses to ride (and paint), mud balls to make and circus tricks to learn, all in a safe and nurturing environment en plein air, with no video game in sight. The four Tom Sawyer summer camps on offer are divided by age groups, starting at 3 years old and going up to 9th grade.
Sign up today, because: Enrollment is happening now! By the time you’re on spring break and you realize you need kiddo coverage again in summer, this camp will be totally full.
For Campers Ages: 3-14
4550 Oak Grove Dr.
photo: Tina Ly
UC Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center
How about getting away with the kids that simultaneously offers the opportunity to get away from the kids? This all-inclusive vacation center offers week-long summer sessions that allow Mom and/or Dad to do their own thing while the little ones are entertained via tennis or surf lessons, arts and crafts, field trips, pool time and much more. Adult options range from wine tours to painting, while family time brings everyone back together for campfires, rock climbing or “disco bingo.” Campers are grouped by age, from infants to teens. Accommodations are an apartment-style-suite on the UCSB Campus. Meals are all-you-can-eat, buffet-style, but there are plenty of outdoor picnics and BBQs. Read all about why we love this camp, and get the inside scoop here.
Sign up today, because: Registration has already started, and some weeks for summer 2018 are already sold out. Must be all that disco bingo!
For Campers Ages: infant to adult
San Rafael Hall
photo: LA Zoo
Even if you have all walked up and down the LA Zoo a million times, little campers will still go ape over a chance to meet the zoo’s residents (1,100 animals representing 250 different species; many rare or endangered) with VIP behind-the-scene-access. A typical day mixes indoor activities like awesome crafts and arts (for example, making stuffed cattails and wearing them home at the end of the day) with animal encounters and lots of learning about the zoo’s inhabitants. Kids are divided by age, and each week has a theme as does each day; for example, Sense-sational Safari and Animal ABC’s.
Sign up today, because: Right now they only have registration for spring camp but summer will be here in a flash. Keep checking their site for updates or better yet, get on their mailing list to be alerted first!
For Campers Ages: 4-12
5333 Zoo Dr.
photo: Camp Shi’Ini
Bear hunting, making totem poles or searching for American Indian “artifacts” like the Gold of El Dorado… Immerse your little ones in an extravaganza of Native American themed adventures involving awesome feather headdresses, teepees, and tom-tom drums. The little darlings are divided into tribes by age, and activities are age appropriate, whether canoeing, archery, horseback riding, swimming or crafts. This coveted camp has a vintage date of 1947 and keeps on giving.
Sign up today, because: The early arrow catches the worm! Enrollment for summer at Shi’ini (pronounced “Shee-nee” and meaning “Summer People” in Najavo) is now open and fills fast.
For Campers Ages: 4-13
La Casita Del Arroyo
177 South Arroyo Blvd.
photo: Sand Sisters
Here’s a simple recipe for a successful plan for the hot season: Sandy Toes + Salty Hair + Summer = sweet SoCal Livin.’ The Sisters parts of the name refer to Tedi and Sonya, the two sisters/elementary level teachers who founded this creative adventure. Boys are totally welcome at the co-ed beach camp. Bona fide water rats and those still getting their piggies wet learn to connect with the ocean with fun water activities like surfing and paddle boarding, while kids’ health and wellness is also promoted via other activities like sand games (prisoner, spud), crafts (dream catchers, wind chimes) and team building exercises.
Sign up today, because: Summer is months away, but guarantee your little beach bums’ place in the sun now. Registration is now open, and with limited spots, this camp quickly fills.
For Campers Ages: 5-12
Lifeguard Stand #42
Playa Del Rey
photo: Tumbleweed Day Camp
Tumbleweed Day Camp
A medley of summer fun is to be had in Brentwood, with a wide range of activities intended to teach kids “creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.” While the camp accommodates PK to 8th grade, a typical day for the littles campers (pre-school to second grade) might include archery, swimming, nature studies, themed days, tetherball, music and much more—five different activities per day. Special events range from playing wizards to superheroes to detectives.
Sign up today, because: This clever camp is a favorite among kids and parents and spaces fill up fast.
Still on the fence? They have a few open houses coming up in March so RSVP here to secure your informational spot.
For Campers Ages: 4-14
1024 Hanley Ave.
photo: Garden School Foundation
Class is in session in the garden! But this “class” has no ABC’s and 123’s. Instead, your little seedlings will learn how to make garden sushi and rainbow crackers via seed-to-table cooking, get their green thumbs dirty with garden and science activities such as compost critters and prune paratrooper, make arts and crafts, and also get physically active with fun games, all on the beautiful two-acre garden space of Campus of Crown Preparatory Academy and 24th Street Elementary School.
Sign up today, because: Registration is now open but hurry! Their early bird discount ends Mar. 3.
For Campers Ages: 5-13
Campus of Crown Preparatory Academy and 24th Street Elementary School
2055 W. 24th St.
Historic West Adams
photo: Meghan Rose
Dodger Baseball Fantasy Camp
They only take 100 kids for each of the two weeks, so there’s some fierce competition to get one of these spots. The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation offers boys and girls of all abilities the ultimate Dodger experience: the Dodgers Youth Baseball Camp. Four days of camp at Dodger Stadium will feature daily instruction by members of the Dodgers Major League coaching staff and Dodger alumni with special guest appearances by current Dodger players. Kids also get a full Dodgers uniform including hat, jersey, pants, socks & belt, 4 tickets to a game and an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be down on the field playing games, in the Dodgers batting cage take BP, in the Dodger Bullpen learning how to throw and sitting in the Dodger Dugout learning the game of baseball.
Sign up today, because: Registration begins Mar. 1 and sells out instantly every year. Put this one on your calendar and circle it in red, if you’ve got a baseball fan in the family!
For Campers Ages: 7-12
Do you have a hot tip for tough-to-get-in summer camps? We’d love to know!
—Sylvie Greil & Andie Huber