It may seem like it’s early to be thinking about summer camp 2020, but smart NYC parents know, now is the time! That’s especially the case for affordable or free summer camps, because (surprise!) registration dates are upon us and those camps fill up fast! (This is also the time to snag early-bird rates.) We’ve rounded up some of the more affordable summer camps in NYC, including favorite camps in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. Some camps are free, others offering a sliding scale, and still more have prices not as sky high as so many other camps around NYC. Read on to find the affordable NYC summer camp for your kid!

photo: iStock

Summer Academy

Summer in the City offers a variety of free Summer Academy programs for students as young as first grade, as well high schoolers. Summer Academy programs include hands-on STEM projects and field trips to museums, parks, and other cultural sites. The program provides transportation and students enrolled in programming will receive a free, healthy breakfast, and lunch. Programs are held throughout the city. 

Applications just opened March 10! Log on to see dates for the different programs and if your child is eligible. To apply, contact your school’s Principal or Parent Coordinator to register. (Find both on the school's web site.)



Henry Street Settlement Camps

Starting at age 5, campers at the Henry Street Settlement can enjoy art, music, drama, sports and swimming, as well as field trips to cultural institutions like New York Hall of Science, Queens County Farm, and art museums. This year's theme is "Past, Present and Future" and sessions run from July 6 to August 5. The weekly rate is $355, which includes after-care, but in addition to discounts for returning campers, campers' siblings, and those who refer a friend, they also offer tuition assistance on a first-come, first-served basis. Click here for info on tuition assistance. Henry Street has a commitment to working with anyone to make camp an affordable experience. Registration for returning campers is underway; registration opens to the public February 20.


photo: NIA Brooklyn

Boys' Club of New York

Unfortunately, like the name indicates, it's for boys only (ages 7 and up). But, on the other hand, their six-week long summer program encompassing swimming, athletics, music, arts, and a game room only costs $25 for one member, $35 for a family of several sons, with breakfast and lunch included (trips to museums, baseball stadiums, state parks and amusement parks will cost extra). Registration is first come, first-served, with priority to boys who are already members of a clubhouse. Contact individual clubhouses for Summer 2020 info. 


photo: NYC Parks Department

NYC Parks Summer Camp

Mark your calendar! These popular city-sponsored camps are $500 for seven weeks (regular day), and $575 for seven weeks (extended day). Admission is by lottery, with registration happening from March 6 to March 15; click here for more info on the lottery process.  (Camp runs July 6 to August 21 for summer of 2020.) The camps, available in all five boroughs at various locations, are open for  kids ages 6 to13.

Campers engage in sports, fitness, and outdoor adventures, while taking part in many of New York City’s rich cultural and educational opportunities. Activities include canoeing and fishing with the Urban Park Rangers, tennis and golf hosted by City Parks Foundation, Learn to Swim classes with Aquatics instructors, and fun STEAM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics). Specific activities, dates, and trip destinations will depend upon the camp location.


photo: NIA

NIA Community Services Network


Brooklyn's NIA Community Services Network operates two free K-5 camps at P.S. 247 in Bensonhurst and P.S. 179 in Kensington. Typically elementary summer camps run Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. tp 6 p.m. and include free breakfast and lunch. NIA also offers several free middle school camps, as well as a fee-based camp at P.S. 30 in Bay Ridge. Programming and dates are contingent on city funding, which will be solidified this spring. Sign up here (scroll to the bottom of the page) to get notification of camp and registration info. You can check out last year’s info here.


photo: iStock

Children's Aid Summer Camp

Dates and are still being finalized for summer 2020, but Children's Aid typically provides an enriching and fun summer experience for around 3,000 campers each year. Camps in Harlem, Washington Heights, the Bronx, and Staten Island are free, thanks to a partnership with the Department of Youth and Community Development. The camps incorporate fitness, nutrition, literacy, and cultural engagement, with arts and science activities, swim lessons, and trips to the city’s cultural institutions. There's an emphasis on preventing "summer slide." You can see last year's dates and locations here. Details for 2020 should be finalized by March. Check back at the web site or call 212-949-4925.

Children's Aid also operates fee-based camp Wagon Road in Chappaqua, New York. Pricing is TBD for 2020.


photo: iStock

Good Shepherd Services

Located at various community centers and public schools in the Bronx and Brooklyn, once school is out for the summer, Good Shepherd becomes a free, all-day camp with arts & crafts, dance, sports and more. Contact each, individual center for hours and programming details.


photo: Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Brooklyn Cultural Adventures Camp

Brooklyn Cultural Adventures Camp offers summer programs for youth based on a collaboration of six cultural institutions in the heart of Brooklyn: Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Children's Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Prospect Park Alliance and Prospect Park Zoo, plus an new partner each year—for 2020, it's the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Campers visit two institutions in Cultural Campus each day, where they explore an annual theme through games, experiments, creative arts, and exploration. This year's theme is "Live From Brooklyn!" The camp runs  three, two-week sessions from July 6 to August 14; campers may only participate in one session. Rates are $725 per session; financial aid is available on a sliding scale for 50 percent of campers. Click here for information on financial aid.


photo: YMCA

YMCA Camps

Chances are, there's a YMCA Camp near you. The non-profit organization has more than 70 summer camps throughout the five boroughs, including camps for little ones (four and five year-olds), overnight camps, and  specialty camps dedicated to all kids of activities, including dance, swimming, science, and sports. General camp activities include swimming, sports, themed days, games and more, along with special field trips to area attractions, and the Y also runs inclusion camps. Rates vary depending on the type of camp, but standard day camp is $560 per two-week session for members, and $665 per session for non-members. There's a 10 percent sibling discount, and if you register before April 18, you also get a 10 percent discount. Finally, financial assistance is also available. You can download an application for aid here. The Y is holding information sessions for camp over the next few weeks. Click here to see specific dates and times. 


Lehman College Summer Camp

Held on the 37-acre, tree-lined campus of Lehman College in the Bronx, this summer camp operates two, three-week sessions for kids ages six to 12. Activities are designed the goal of developing children’s academic, social and athletic skills and include everything from water safety, self-defense and arts and crafts, to sports, math games and dance. Full-day and half-day sessions are available in July and August with early bird discounts and payment plan options. Rates are $1528 per session for full-day, and $764 per session for half-day. Free breakfast and lunch are provided for all campers. Registration is open now.


Trail Blazers

Now in its 134th year (!), Trail Blazers' tag line is "Building Values for Life."  Both a day camp, held in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, and an overnight camp (in Montague, New Jersey) Trail Blazers is all about unplugging, learning and playing. (You can read about some of the camp's core beliefs here.)  Each week has a theme with related skill instruction (orienteering, yoga, textiles) and kids spend the entire day in the park, only heading inside if the weather gets really unforgiving. Trail Blazers also holds a Farmstead overnight camp at which kids live and work on the Stony Creek Farmstead in the Catskills. Base rate for day camp is $625, but families pay on a self-reporting, sliding scale according to income. Scholarships are also available. 


– Alina Adams & Mimi O’Connor


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