The Coolest Summer Camps for Your Kids

Choose from among 10 well-travelled options that will quench their thirst for adventure. Or perhaps something a little closer to home.

Choose from among 10 well-travelled options that will quench their thirst for adventure. Or perhaps something a little closer to home.

It used to be that you went to camp until maybe around 14 or 15, leaving a cushion before to heading off to college. Since legal driving age is 16, those non-camp summers were spent working to save money for a car and gas. I These days, kids as old as 18 are getting off easy, with some pretty amazing far-away adventures to practically every corner of the world. This striking abundance of domestic and international travel camps offers a cornucopia of academic enrichment, community service, wilderness adventure and tropical fun in the sun while also providing campers with exciting opportunities. How about scuba diving in Mexico or Costa Rica, or studying marine biology in the Bahamas or Galapagos Islands? Such experiences allow kids to gain an appreciation for other cultures, learn a foreign language and socialize on a global scale—and most experts say sending your children to camp can only have a positive impact on the adults they’ll become. The programs compiled below will challenge your teens by pulling them out of their comfort zones, allowing them to develop confidence, social skills and a greater sense of responsibility—especially if they participate in the camp selection and registration processes (and don’t forget packing). Granted, life on the Main Line is good, but there’s a whole world out there for kids to sample and absorb—and hopefully they’ll leave a positive mark on it in the process. Now, if only we adults could coax our bosses into giving us the entire summer off.

Academic Treks/Broadreach
Designed for high school students looking to attain up to 55 hours of academic credit and gain community service experience, these programs combine experiential and service learning with wilderness adventure, international travel and cultural exchange. Trips include the Windward Island Expedition (Dominica, Guadeloupe); Adventure Peru; Amazon Expedition (Brazil); Wilderness and Traditional Medicine (Belize); Marine Science Adventures (sea turtle, dolphin and shark studies, Pacific whale treks, shipwreck archaeology, Caribbean marine reserves); and Language Immersion Adventures (Ecuador, Oaxaca, Costa Rica/Nicaragua, France, China).

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Location: Headquartered in Raleigh, N.C.; destinations include Central America, South America, the Caribbean, China and more.
Ages: grades 9-12
Dates: June 9-Aug. 17
Cost: $3,990-$6,180
Contact: (888) 833-1908;; 806 McCulloch St., Suite C, Raleigh, NC 27603

A host of adventure training programs, including sailing, scuba diving, community service, waterskiing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, hiking, trekking, snorkeling, island exploration and other adventure sports and activities. Accredited marine science, tropical marine biology and oceanography programs are also offered, as well as college-level programs for up to 13 credits. Sessions are co-ed, non-competitive and attract a global mix of campers. New this year: a 10-foot Mediterranean tour ship.

Location: Headquartered in Sarasota, Fla.; destinations include the British Virgin Islands, Leeward Islands, Australia and more.
Ages: 13-19
Dates: June 19-Aug. 19 (sessions run from one week up to a month or more)
Cost: $3,870-$4,870; mini-semester $391, 40-day trips $7,117
Contact: (800) 317-6789, (941) 924-6789;,; P.O. Box 5517, Sarasota, FL 34277

Broadreach Caribbean offers youngsters an incredible experience on and under the water through sailing and diving instruction. Campers live aboard catamarans in small groups to ensure optimum safety and attention, fostering a strong family bond. This also allows for flexibility in itineraries, so trips can be organized to accommodate campers’ interests and pace. Groups meet up for beach parties, sailing races and more. Other activities include kayaking and island exploration.

Location: Headquartered in Raleigh, N.C.; destinations include Australia, Baja, Honduras, Fiji, Costa Rica and more.
Ages: 13-18
Dates: June 9-Aug. 17 (sessions run 14-36 days, with an option to combine)
Cost: $3,190-$7,980
Contact: (888) 833-1907;; 806 McCulloch St., Suite 102, Raleigh, NC 27603

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Putney Student Travel
Putney offers educational summer programs with a focus on small groups, a sense of community, and intercultural and intense hands-on learning experiences. Past community service efforts have included a visit to Tanzania to build an addition on a local school, aid with local summer camps, teach English and make furniture. The Global Awareness & Action Program examines a challenge a country is facing—everything from healthcare in Africa to environmental issues in Madagascar. It begins at Yale University with a tutorial and ends there with a conference. There are 35 Putney programs in all.

Location: Headquartered in Putney, Vt.; destinations include Asia, Africa, India, Vietnam (homebuilding program) and more.
Ages: primarily high school students; a few programs for 7th and 8th graders
Dates: June-August (sessions run four to six weeks)
Cost: $4,000-$9,000 (all-inclusive, includes airfare and all meals); financial aid program available
Contact: Jeffrey Shumlin; (802) 387-5000;,; 345 Hickory Ridge Road, Putney, VT 05346

Riverbend Environmental Education Center
Pre-teens can enjoy the thrill of independence and discovery by camping and exploring natural destinations. The itinerary for this year’s Travelers Program starts with a look at watersheds and wetlands (June 18-22) at Trap Pond State Park in Delaware. Campers explore the natural beauty of a wetland forest at the northern most cypress swamp. Wildlife viewing in the Trap Pond wetland often includes surprise sightings of rare reptile and amphibian species. The next week (June 25-29), campers visit Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware to explore coastal ecology, studying a diverse mix of birds and invertebrates. The final week (Aug. 6-10), it’s off to Pennsylvania’s Ricketts Glenn State Park for some hiking and an up-close-and-personal look at the region’s old growth forest ecosystems. Complete with streams and waterfalls, the forests provide the perfect backdrop for learning about the amazing interconnectedness of this type of ecosystem.

Location: Riverbend Environmental Education Center, 1950 Spring Mill Road, Gladwyne; various locations around the region
Ages: 11-13
Dates: June 18-Aug. 10 (three one-week sessions)
Cost: $475/week
Contact: David Lowe; (610) 527-5234, ext. 106;; 1950 Spring Mill Road, Gladwyne, PA 19035

Rockwood Adventures Teen Travel
Kids arrive at camp on Monday morning (door-to-door bus service is available) and travel to several locations before returning on Friday. Far from roughing it, campers stay in comfortable accommodations while traveling to fun and interesting places. Highlights for this summer include trips to Hershey Park, Niagara Falls (Canada), West Point Military Academy (New York), Quincy Market (Boston), Six Flags New England, the Hockey Hall of Fame (Canada), Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, Churchill Downs (Kentucky), Lake Michigan and Washington, D.C. Each summer brings a new itinerary, as so many campers return year after year.

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Location: Headquartered in Blue Bell; mostly Northeast and Mid-Atlantic destinations
Ages: 12-14 (grades 7-9)
Dates: June 25-Aug. 17 (sessions run four seven or eight weeks; or go the first four weeks and last four weeks)
Cost: $3,370-$5,590
Contact: (610) 275-2267;; Box 385, Blue Bell, PA 19422

Travel for Teens
A language and cultural immersion program, Travel for Teens hosts excursions to more than 19 places around the world. Trips focus on gaining experience in community service, language, history, art, customs and more.

New this year: Honduras, Thailand, Ecuador, Peru, Germany, Mexico and the Spanish Language Immersion Program.
Location: Headquartered in Wayne;
international destinations include France, Spain/Portugal, Australia, Mexico, Ireland, Italy and more. Ages: 13-18
Dates: June 23-July 5, July 5-17, July 15-30, July 29-Aug. 10 (option of attending multiple sessions)
Cost: $2,385-$3,585 (doesn’t include airfare, souvenirs or snacks)
Contact: Ned Clark; (484) 802-7515, (888) 457-4534;; 900 West Valley Road, Suite 300, Wayne, PA 19087

Whale Camp
Billed as “all whales, all the time,” this unique, highly educational camp leaves kids enriched with knowledge through hands-on research in oceanography and marine science as they learn about the symbiotic relationship between humans and the environment. In addition to participating in “extreme” whale watching, campers could witness whale, porpoise and bald eagle rescue operations, or observe as scientists take blood samples and attach radio tags to porpoises for tracking purposes. In the rich habitat of Grand Manan Island, campers mingle with other marine animals, including seals and puffins. Exploration is by foot, kayak and 50-foot sailboats, where kids collect data, use oceanography equipment and study the basics of whale watching and research. Whale Camp also offers a three-week specialty program that teams authors, artists and campers. For this project, a few professionals tag along to create expository writing, painting, drawing and photographs. The collaboration is later published as a hard-bound book about the expedition.

Location: Headquartered in Cheyney;
programs held on Grand Manan Island off the coast of northern Maine
Ages: 10-17
Dates: June 24-Sept. 1 (one- to three-week sessions)
Cost: $1,220-$3,550
Contact: Dennis Bowen; (888) 549-4253;,; P.O. Box 63, Cheyney, PA 19319

Where There Be Dragons
In this program, campers have an opportunity to explore some of the more spectacular corners of the world in a rugged, multi-sensory fashion. Activities include wilderness exploration, treks to remote villages, lessons in philosophy and art, cultural studies, service projects, language training, and more. Locations include China, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Tibet, India, Mongolia, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia and Senegal.

Location: Headquartered in Colorado; various international destinations
Ages: 15 and older
Dates: Late June-early August
Cost: $5,000-$7,000
Contact: Chris Yager; (800) 982-9203;,; P.O. Box 4651, Boulder, CO 80306

Wilderness Ventures
The primary focus of this adventure travel camp is to develop teens’ self-confidence, independence and leadership skills while exploring some of the world’s most intriguing environs, including Jackson Hole, Wyo.; Alaska; Oregon; the Great Divide; Yellowstone National Park; Hawaii; and Utah. The program combines group living with outdoor and leadership skills training—all in a fun, non-competitive environment filled with natural wonder. There’s also a backpacking/kayaking trip to Alaska for college students, and community service programs afford participants the opportunity to obtain 60-80 hours of service while enjoying the great outdoors and engaging in challenging projects with 10-15 others. New this year: trips to Peru and Tahiti/Fiji/New Zealand; Southwest service trips designed to aid schools and homes and assist in environmental tasks.

Location: Based in Jackson, Wyo.; national and international destinations.
Ages: 13-18
Dates: June 23-Aug. 16
Cost: domestic $2,990 (not including airfare); international $6,690 (some not including airfare)
Contact: Trent Hultman; (307) 733-2122, (800) 533-2281;,; P.O. Box 2768, Jackson, WY 83002



Local Camps
The number of camps in the United States has grown by 90 percent over the last 20 years. And in our little corner of the universe, kids and parents are fortunate to have a myriad of choices. Between Downingtown and Center City, kids can fish, skateboard, rock climb, act, design computer and video games, play sports alongside professional players, engage in paintball combat, make jewelry, and more. The possibilities are endless. So there’s no dearth of fun—and most of the options are just a click away. We’d love to tell you they’re all free, but that would be false advertising. Instead, we offer a condensed list sure to give your family an enormous bang for the buck.

iD Gaming Academy
This three-week intensive study program teaches kids how to create their own videogames using software such as AutoDesk, Maya and Adobe Photoshop. Kids learn 3D graphics production and take away a personal portfolio of their animated models. Campers have a blast evaluating popular games and playing in tournaments—and everyone is broken up by age and skill level for optimum enjoyment and challenge. Week-long (day and overnight) iD Tech Camps are also offered for ages 7-17.

Location: Villanova University, 800 Lancaster Ave., Villanova
Dates: June 24-July 13, July 15–Aug. 3 (three-week sessions)
Ages: 13-17
Cost: $3,999 (includes room, board, instruction and some activities); optional weekend stay $600
Contact: (408) 871-2227, (888) 709-TECH;,; 42 W. Campbell Ave., Suite 301, Campbell, CA 95008

Julian Krinsky Camps & Programs
Model U.N.: This residential program takes politically minded students on an exploration of foreign policy, international relations and global politics through workshops, guest speakers, debates, public speaking, activities and research. Participants embark on field trips to Embassy Row in Washington, D.C., and the United Nations in New York.

Location: University of Pennsylvania, 3451 Walnut St., Philadelphia
Dates: July 1-28
Ages: 15-18
Cost: $5,000
Contact: (610) 265-9401;,

Internship Program: Teens sample different careers—from architecture and culinary arts to law, traditional and veterinarian medicine, education, print media, sports management and more—at cool local businesses like Milkboy Recording, World Café Live, the Philadelphia Soul and the Inquirer. Optional evening and Saturday activities include trips to Ocean City, Dorney Park and Hershey Park.

Location: University of Pennsylvania, 3451 Walnut St., Philadelphia; internships at various business locations
Dates: Beginning June 24 (three-, four- and seven-week sessions)
Ages: 15-18
Cost: $3,950, $5,200 and $9,150, depending on length of program (optional activities additional); $125/week stipend
Contact: (610) 265-9401;,

Nature Explorers
More than 600 acres of plants, trees, historical buildings, woodlands, wetlands and meadows await your “Young Explorer” or “Tiny Tracker” at one of the oldest arboreta in the United States. Kids get up close and personal with the insects, birds, animals, reptiles and amphibians living at Tyler. They’ll also learn about the Lenape Indians by examining ancient artifacts and clothing, playing games and visiting a replica of a wigwam. Hands-on gardening projects, hiking and crafts are also part of the program.

Location: Tyler Arboretum, 515 Painter Road, Media
Ages: 4-10
Dates: June 25-Aug. 3 (one-week half- and full-day sessions)
Cost: $90/members, $100/non-members (half day); $168/members, $180/non-members (full day)
Contact: (610) 566-9134, ext. 214;; Tyler Arboretum, 515 Painter Road, Media, PA 19063-4424

Penn Summer Science Academy
For high schoolers who are curious and thrive on challenges, this program may be their ticket to an exciting summer. For four weeks, students are actively engaged in the study of biomedical research, physics or forensic science. Completion of sophomore or junior year is required, along with grades of “B” or higher. Essays, transcripts, letters of recommendation, resumes and PSAT/SAT/ACT scores are also part of the enrollment process. Students applying to biomedical research or forensic science programs must have one year of biology or chemistry, while those interested in the physics program should have algebra experience.

Location: University of Pennsylvania, 3440 Market St., Philadelphia
Ages: 10th, 11th and 12th grades
Dates: June 30-July 28
Cost: $5,105 (resident), $3,045 (commuter)
Contact: Heather Hasley; (215) 898-7326;; Summer High School Programs, University of Pennsylvania, 3440 Market St., Suite 100, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3335

Sports Broadcasting Camp
If your kid loves sports and stats, and has an aptitude for off-the-cuff public speaking, he/she will have a blast hobnobbing with area athletes, coaches and broadcasters. In addition to learning the ropes of sports broadcasting and going live on the sidelines, campers make play-by-play, sports anchor and Pardon the Interruption audition tapes, participate in radio shows and more.

Location: Villanova University, 800 Lancaster Ave., Villanova
Dates: June 18-22 (day and overnight), Aug. 13-17 (day only)
Ages: 10-18
Cost: $450/day, $975/overnight
Contact: Jeremy Treetman; (215) 732-2044;; 1420 Walnut St., Suite 605, Philadelphia, PA 19102

Summer Music Programs
If your kids love to jam, then this camp will rock their summer. Campers immerse themselves in all aspects of making music, playing with a new band each week—and they even receive a DVD of their performances with custom graphics. Along with in-house concerts, young musicians have the opportunity to perform live in Philadelphia’s Love Park. Sessions limited to 25 students.

Location: Harcum College, 750 Montgomery Ave., Bryn Mawr
Dates: June 18-Aug. 10 (eight one-week sessions), July 8-Aug. 3 (overnight session)
Ages: 11-17
Cost: $525/week (day), $1,195/week (overnight)
Contact: (610) 526-6114;

Our Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs Party is July 25!