6 Great Family Summer Camps in the United States
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Did you know summer camps aren’t just for kids? A number of rustic (and not so rustic) retreats across the country encourage mom and dad to tag along for campfire sing-alongs, archery, canoeing and arts and crafts. Many of these camps are all about unplugging (some don’t even have electricity!) and do everything they can to foster family bonding. But don’t worry — kids and grown-ups will get time apart, too, giving parents a break and children the best summer they can remember. Best of all, the camps are all-inclusive, so you know exactly what you’re getting into when you make a reservation.
Here are six of our favorite camps that welcome families.
1. The Tyler Place Family Resort — Highgate Springs, Vermont
This camp is the most high-end of the bunch, offering an all-inclusive family resort retreat in rural, northern Vermont near the Canadian border. It features quaint cottages and suites with separate sleeping areas for children; differentiated, age-appropriate programming for infants through teens and a dizzying array of sports and recreational activities, from windsurfing, mini-golf and tennis to hayrides, volleyball and wakeboarding.
Typically, children hang out with same-aged pals in the morning at Tyler Place, with “family time” in the afternoon — options include swimming and boating in the lake or pools, and biking and hiking. You can also leave camp to explore the surrounding area (bring your passport — Quebec is a just a short drive away). In the evening, children are reunited with their friends and upbeat counselors, while grown-ups get kids-free time for cocktails followed by a candlelit dinner.
The 165-acre property, which sits on a mile of private lake shore, has been in the Tyler family for five generations and has welcomed guests since 1933. Lodging options range from studios to five-bedroom cottages.
All meals, lodging and activities are included in the price (nightly rates start at $132 for children and $178 for adults with a one-week stay as the standard for most of the summer). Vermont’s Burlington Airport (BTV) is about 45 minutes away, while New York’s Plattsburgh Airport (PBG) and Montreal-Trudeau Airport (YUL) are about an hour’s drive. Another option is Amtrak train service to St. Albans, Vermont, just 12 miles away. Taxi service is available from the airports and train station; you don’t need a car once you arrive at Tyler Place, unless you think you might want to explore sights nearby.
You can save a little by going to camp one of the less-peak weeks at the very beginning or very end of the summer.
2. Snow Mountain Ranch — Grand County, Colorado
Popular in the winter for its tubing, snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails, Snow Mountain Ranch, 12 miles north of Winter Park, transforms into a playground for all ages in the warm weather months. It boasts Colorado’s only summer tubing hill, plus horseback riding, zip lining and mountain biking. Indoors, you’ll find a pool, roller-skating rink and climbing wall, plus an impressive arts center, where the entire family might make tie-dye shirts or design jewelry. Free family programming includes yoga, dodgeball and s’mores at the campfire (other sports are fee-based, like archery, which costs $6 per person).
Accommodations are welcoming for multigenerational groups or multiple families, with two- to four-bedroom cabins and two- to five-bedroom vacation homes, each with a kitchen. You can also opt for simple lodge rooms, campsites or, if you’re game for something unusual, yurts, which sleep up to six people.
Rates range from $57 per night for a campsite to $99 for yurts to $569 for a five-bedroom vacation home. If you don’t feel like cooking, buffet dining in the large cafeteria is inexpensive and meals are offered three times a day (children under 5 are free, while pricing for older children and adults ranges from $7 to $15.50 per person).
Snow Mountain Ranch is affiliated with the YMCA of the Rockies, but you don’t have to be a YMCA member to stay here (though if you are, you get a discount). Fly into Denver International Airport (DEN) and rent a car if you’d like to check out the surrounding mountain communities during your stay or shop for groceries on the way. Otherwise, you can arrange for shuttle transportation.
3. Rockywold Deephaven Camps — Holderness, New Hampshire
Get away from it all at this rustic camp on Squam Lake, where multi-bedroom cottages feature screened-in porches, fireplaces and electricity but no heat, air conditioning, telephones or televisions. Activities naturally focus on the outdoors, with canoes, kayaks and sailboats available, as well as clay tennis courts and plenty of walking and hiking trails. Weekly events — from Monday night capture the flag to Friday night square dances — are long-standing traditions. Other activities might include guided hikes, mini-triathlons, bicycle tours, scavenger hunts, movies, parades and tie-dying.
All meals are in included in the nightly rate, and they are taken in a historic lodge (the camps date back to 1897) with vintage exposed beams. Rates for cottages start at $114 per person per night and $161 for a room in the lodge. Weekly cottage rates start at $3,560 for a two-person cottage. Fly into Boston’s Logan Airport (BOS), which is 2.5 hours away, or Manchester (MHT), an hour away. You don’t need a rental car once you arrive at Squam Lake (especially since all meals are included), unless you want to go off property to check out the area’s great hiking trails, for example. Private shuttle service is available from either airport.
4. Pinewoods — Plymouth, Massachusetts
If your family loves song and dance, then Pinewoods is the family summer camp for you. Operated by the Country Dance & Song Society, Pinewoods is a traditional English and Anglo-American dance and music camp nestled in a beautiful 25-acre pine and beech forest. The camp hosts two different family weeks, one in July and one in August (the one in August is called Campers’ Week).
A typical day at camp starts with morning song and dance classes that are enjoyed by age groupings, followed by lunch and swim time in one of the two lakes. Afternoon activities include harmony singing, dance band class, drama, instrument jam sessions and wood carving. This camp is more communal than most on the list: Twice a day, the whole camp gathers to enjoy performances, dancing, singing and stories led by the campers and staff.
The classic wooded property dates back to the 1930s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of the wood-sided cabins, as well as the open-air dining hall, are original, while the four dance pavilions, kitchen and the central camphouse have been enlarged and renovated and septic systems have replaced outhouses.
The closest airports are Boston’s Logan Airport, about one hour away, and Providence’s T.F. Green Airport (PVD), a little over one hour away. Private shuttles and taxis are available from the airport if you don’t bring a car. The rate for the week ranges from $64 for children under 2 years old to $915 for adults, with various prices in between depending on the age.
5. Timberlock — Indian Lake, New York
Owned by the Catlin family since 1963 when Dick Catlin purchased it after attending as a child, Timberlock actually dates back to 1899, making it one of the oldest family resorts in the Adirondacks. It is so popular that people often book a year in advance. Timberlock is perched on 63 acres of forest by Indian Lake and is surrounded by the Adirondack Mountains. Rustic cabins are heated by wood stoves and use gas lamps for light — that’s right, there’s no electricity in the cabins (there is electricity at the main camp, where charging outlets and basic internet are available).
All cabins have comfy beds, en suite bathrooms and sweeping lake views, while “tentlets” feature simple shelter with shared basic bathrooms. Meals, which are included, are hearty and tasty, and often use ingredients grown in the on-site gardens.
Here, families often spend most of the days together creating unforgettable memories. There are no formal activity sessions here: Guests can choose from various activities like hiking, fishing, horseback riding, biking, archery, golf, tennis and swimming, boating or water skiing on the lake and do them whenever they like. However, there is a separate children’s play lodge with games like Ping-Pong and foosball, as well as an adult lodge with a large stone fireplace.
Rates range from $99 a night for children ages 2 to 7 to $230 per night for adults. Weekly rates are also available. The nearest airports are Albany Airport (ALB), which is 1.5 hours away, and Burlington Airport (BTV), which is 2.5 hours away.
6. Camp Sacramento — Twin Bridges, California
This 14-acre camp in the Eldorado National Forest, about 90 miles from Sacramento, is actually leased from the US Forest Service by the city of Sacramento. There are 61 cabins of various sizes with basic electricity (read: no power outlets) scattered throughout the property. The cabins don’t have running water, but there are centrally located restrooms available with outlets. Activity sessions are announced daily and include archery, arts and crafts, softball, dancing, rock climbing on a climbing wall, fishing on the American River, hiking and horseback riding. The lodge has foosball and Ping-Pong tables as well as board games, and there is a playground for little ones.
Camp Sacramento offers eight Mini Camps (four days/three nights) and three weeklong (six days/five nights) sessions. Three meals a day and the full of roster of activities are included in the rate, which ranges from $129 for children age 3 to 5 (children 2 and under are free) to $619, with residents of Sacramento receiving discounted rates. The Sacramento International Airport (SMF) is two hours away and Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) is 1.5 hours away.
While airline miles can certainly help you get there, these camps can’t be booked with points from mainstream hotel programs. However, you can charge the stay to a credit card that allows you to use your points or cash back however you wish to offset a bit of the cost. For example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited gives an unlimited 1.5% cash back and the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express provides $250 back after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first three months and up to 6% cash back in select categories up to annual maximums.
However you book your stay, making priceless memories with your family is likely money (or points) well spent.
Looking for other fun summer vacations for the family? Here are some ideas:
- Before You Rent That Summer Beach House, Consider This
- Banff National Park: Planning the Perfect Summer Family Vacation
- Camp Mom and Dad: Extend Your Summer Vacation for Less than Day Camp
- From the Beach to the Mountains: 5 Hot Summer Family Vacation Destinations
Featured image courtesy of Rockywold Deephaven
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