Great Kids Camps
When you’re trying to land on summer camps for your kids, the decision can feel as big as helping them pick where they want to go to college. Here are some of the best summer sleepaway experiences in the U.S., along with a few international adventures. As a bonus, many of these allow trial runs, so you can pull the plug if your little one is too homesick to stick around.
Global Works1365 Forest Park Circle Ste. 201, Lafayette | 303.545.2202
Adventure meets community service at Global Works, where they take high school students on trips around the globe that have various do-good missions (earthquake relief in Nepal, environmental conservation projects in Puerto Rico, public health work in Nicaragua). The trips fall into three buckets: language immersions (Spanish, French, Mandarin); global action (i.e. surfing, snorkeling, and trekking adventures); and enrichment (for a meaningful experience centered around a single interest, e.g., marine biology, medicine, soccer).
High Mountain Institute531 County Rd. 5A, Leadville | 719.486.8200
HMI offers a variety of semester-long programs that combine academics and wilderness exploration for high school and college students. The summer term is based out of Leadville, Colorado and includes expeditions into the region that emphasize the importance of place, examine environmental ethics, teach wilderness travel skills (how to read a map, cook over a one-burner stove, camp in style), and require students to be both leaders and good team members. It's an experience that tends to stay with students well after summer is over.
Summer Language Academy23 Pond Lane, Middlebury | 888.216.0135
Middlebury Interactive Languages has taken principles of language study from Middlebury College and adapted them for a younger audience. They host a month-long, fully immersive Summer Language Academy for teens—students (beginners to advanced) take a pledge to speak in their language of study 24/7. The academy has two locations Stateside, both in Vermont: 8th to 12th graders can study Spanish, German, or Arabic at Green Mountain College; or Chinese and French at Saint Michael’s College. The study abroad programs are located in Beijing, Quebec City, and Granada; and are for high schoolers. Of course, actually traveling abroad adds an entirely different and dynamic cultural experience, but even without leaving the country, the Summer Language Academy provides a first-rate environment for teens looking to become more fluent in another tongue.
National Outdoor Leadership School284 Lincoln St., Lander | 307.332.5300
NOLS, as it's known, teaches leadership via remote wilderness explorations. Their courses range from 10 days long to a full academic year, for students as young as 14—and there is no maximum age. For younger students, most summer trips are Stateside: backpacking in Wyoming or through the Pacific Northwest, a salmon river adventure in Idaho, canoeing in the Adirondacks. For older high school and college-age students, there are more international offers, like sea kayaking in Scandinavia, or backpacking in Australia.
Outward Bound910 Jackson St., Golden | 866.467.7651
Outward Bound is an organization that values learning by doing. Their reach and range of classes and expeditions is extensive—in the U.S. alone (it's an international network), about 35,000 students are enrolled in programs each year, whether classroom- or wilderness-based. Their expeditions are for middle school, high school, college students, adults, and families. The classic Outward Bound wilderness expedition lasts for 15 days and brings students out into the wild where they partake in any number of exciting (yet challenging) activities from canyoneering to rock climbing, dog sledding, and river rafting. The trip locations are varied: Alaska, Appalachian Mountains, Outer Banks, Colorado Rockies, and so on. It's another summer experience that sticks.
SEASCape171 Woods Hole Rd., Woods Hole | 508.444.1910
The Sea Education Association is based in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in Cape Cod, an adorable seaside village that also happens to be home to some of the world's leading research institutes in the field of oceanography. Their programs for high schoolers are for kids with a strong academic interest in oceanography, as kids spend their days studying the chemistry, biology, geography, and sociology of the oceans both in and outside the classroom. On weekends and in the afternoons, kids are free to explore the gorgeous surroundings of Woods Hole, from picturesque beach days to afternoons throwing frisbees on SEA's classic-looking quad. Participants in these programs will also have preferred access to SEA's college programs, when students execute their research on board one of two sailing vessels on the open ocean.
With 65 years of experience, AFS offers international exchange programs in more than 40 countries around the world. Their summer programs take teens to places as far flung as Ireland, China, France, Turkey, Finland, Spain, Argentina, Italy. Some are home stays, some are dorms, some highlight language, community service, or specialized cultural immersion (i.e. a summer soccer program in Paraguay). AFS also runs semester- and year-long exchange programs; and, if interested, you can host an international high school student of your own.