It may seem early, but it’s that time of year again! Time to start searching for the ultimate summer camp experience for your little explorer! Experienced parents will know that you need to get applications in very early – sometimes as early as December, to find a spot at the camp of your choice. I can remember poring over materials, checking out how much time was spent on high energy activities, time out for forming memories and developing friendships, and of course – reviews on the food!
Choosing the right camp experience isn’t just a simple matter of finding the camp that has the most thrilling activities and high-energy “go as hard as you can” action filled days and nights. That is so yesterday’s camp experience. These days, you can choose scenery that takes your breath away and combine that with camp staffs great at integrating the (sometimes homesick) children and giving them the time and opportunity to form bonds with other campers. Whatever your budget, whatever your child’s personality, there is something for just about everyone.
Many of today’s camps offer programs designed to inspire, encourage and help their campers overcome obstacles in their life. Some hire a very specialized, trained and qualified staff to ensure a great experience for each student. The focus of each of the following camps is unique. I hope to help you understand what to look for in a camp suited best for your child, and to give you a taste of what’s available!
In our area, there are several camps within just a few hours drive. Here are some of the Texas camps that I love.
This camp, located in the Texas Hill Country, has been around since 1939. They have a lot to do, with the emphasis on all things water. Thousands of campers attend each year, and they fill up fast, so check them out and get your application in early! To get a feel for a day in the life of your camper, click on the link above, go to the “About” section, and click on the link for “Life at Camp”. This camp offers a high energy experience, but they emphasize helping campers build confidence while forging lifelong friendships.
Located just outside Trinity, Texas, Camp Olympia is an easy drive from Houston or Dallas, and just 90 minutes from Bush Intercontinental Airport. Sitting on the shore of Lake Livingston, they offer a huge variety of water and other sports. Everything from wakeboarding and paddleboarding to golf and soccer. They were voted one of the top 50 Summer Camps in 2014, and boast an excellent safety record.
In the heart of the hill country, Camp Champions is located less than 10 miles outside Marble Falls, Texas. As you drive through Marble Falls to get here, you just might need to stop at the iconic Blue Bonnet Cafe’! Save room for pie!
Among the reasons they list for choosing this camp is that their counselors are diligent in helping every child succeed; building confidence and friendships. They are a tech-free zone, and don’t we all need a break from that sometimes? Situated on the shores of Lake LBJ, they offer just about every water sport your camper could want! Water skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, jet skis, even a hydrofly!
Far from being limited to water sports; when you’re ready for something a little more land-based, check out this interactive Activities Map! So much to do; how will you ever fit it all in?
For the camper who might want something a little simpler, more laid back with time to form bonds with new friends, Deer Creek Camp might be just the right fit. Located in the hill country near Medina, Texas, Deer Creek is a Christian-based camp with an emphasis on relationship. They have all the typical camp requirements – swimming, climbing, a zipline, a ropes course, team competitions and more. The food at Deer Creek Camp is delicious, according to one former camper! It’s homemade and makes you just a little less homesick.
Deer Creek might be especially good for the younger, first-year camper. Smaller, less hectic, and easier to acclimate. Also the counselors spend a lot of time each day with the campers in their cabin with a counselor:camper ratio of 1:4! If this sounds like a good fit, you should check them out!
Texas has a lot to offer, but if you or your child have your sights set on a change of scenery, you may want to check out some other options. Here are a few camp highlights from Colorado, North Carolina, Wyoming, and even one in the British Virgin Islands!
Colorado: Cheley Camps
This camp is unique in a lot of ways! The breathtaking views are sure to be the first thing you notice, but they offer so much more. Located in the Estes Park Valley at three sites, they offer programs for ages 7-17! The program for 7-8 year olds is a new 5-night camp experience in August. Cheley separates campers into 8 main units, grouped by age and gender.
Activities range from climbing and hiking to backpacking, rafting, team sports, horseback riding, fishing and even mountain biking! Although they offer a wide variety in the daily routine, they emphasize relationship, and offer time for free play every day.
Here is a must watch video if you’re considering Cheley. Space is limited, and they fill up fast. There is a waiting list if you find your session already full.
Situated in the deep green of the Western North Carolina mountains, Camp Mondamin and their sister camp, Camp Green Cove have been around for almost a century. Both camps are situated along the shores of beautiful Lake Summit, with 800 shared acres of wilderness, and access to Pisgah National Forest for even more adventure.
“Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with the earth.”
Activities at Mondamin range from swimming, canoeing, kayaking and sailing to mountain biking, hiking and rock climbing. Campers are not limited by age or cabin, and can choose to participate in any program offered. This is a non-competitive structure with the emphasis on learning to love adventure and the outdoors, and to learn to function within a community.
Likewise, Camp Green Cove puts an emphasis on letting each girl experience camp in her own way. There is no set schedule to follow, and every camper can choose to enjoy the activities she finds most stimulating, while still building a relationship with her counselor and other girls at camp. The ratio of counselors to campers for each of these two camps is 1:5.
Wyoming: Teton Valley Ranch Camp
Just 65 miles from Grand Teton National Park, lying within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Teton Valley Ranch Camp is 2,300 acres of wilderness, completely surrounded by National Park and BLM land. They offer programs for boys and girls ages 11-16. This camp offers programs designed to inspire a sense of adventure, and to encourage campers to reach outside their comfort zone. The experience is meant to help youth develop a deep sense of love for nature, the outdoors and to see the beauty in their surroundings.
Activities are plentiful, and include backpacking and horseback riding, fly fishing and swimming. Campers are divided into groups based on age and experience, goals and challenges. Here’s a link to the Parent Handbook.
If you are considering Teton Valley, but need some financial help, they do offer need based financial aid. The deadline to apply for 2019 is past, but you have plenty of time to get your application in for 2020. As with several other camps in this guide, Teton Valley Ranch has limited capacity, so if you’re thinking about applying for this year, you should be sure and get your application in right away.
British Virgin Islands/Windward Islands: Odyssey Expeditions
Odyssey Expeditions is a unique learning experience and is open to students aged 13-24. Each catamaran is limited to a tight age range, of both boys and girls. Depending on the voyage, students are eligible to receive 3-5 PADI SCUBA certifications. No prior SCUBA experience is required, all they ask is that you are comfortable in the water. Each voyage offers 15-32 dives, depending on whether your student attends the two-week or three-week session. Also, there is a lab on each vessel, and there will be opportunities to engage in marine science studies. The voyages offer 2 hours of college credit.
Activities include, (aside from the SCUBA dives), sailing, freediving, marine biology, photography and island exploration. The emphasis for Odyssey Expeditions is on teaching leadership, how to be a good steward of our oceans, and accomplishing goals you would never have believe you could achieve!
Wherever you and your child decide to explore and experience summer camp, I hope you find the door to a whole world of adventure! Happy Camping! — Kristine