Mid-Atlantic summer camps
January 5, 2014 6:45 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend awesome summer sleepaway camps within some vague driving distance of Baltimore?

I told my 9-year-old son about the sleepaway camp I went to for a number of years (Camp Farley, a 4-H sleepaway camp on Cape Cod) and now he's very excited to go to sleepaway camp himself.

I'm looking for suggestions of camps around our area to check out for him. We're in Baltimore. Driving an hour is fine, driving 3 is just barely conceivable, so MD, DE, VA, PA are all possibilities, and closer to us is helpful. It would be nice if it's not super expensive, but we could scrape for something wonderful. I also like the idea of a slightly rougher-around-the-edges we-made-this-awesomeness feeling, rather than a more resorty feeling, though that may be more me than my son.

All the basic camp stuff is great. My son is very into swimming -- that one's mandatory. He's also quite into art (excellent drawing skills) and making stuff (esp legos these days), so good art instruction could be welcome. Other than that, I'll just nod to all the rest: archery, boating, run-around games, etc etc.

I'm going to look into 4H options around here, but in general, would you have suggestions for wonderful sleepaway camps to check out?

We're Jewish, by the way, and a Jewish camp is also an option. We also have a fondness for Quaker groups.

PS. Am I getting to be too late already for this year?! I just looked at one 4H site in Delaware and found they were already filled up.
posted by spbmp to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Jewish kids in the Baltimore/Washington area have been going to camps Airy/Louise for generations. I can't vouch for whether it's any good now, but my mother had wonderful stories about it.

I had Quaker friends growing up who went to Catoctin Camp and spoke with reverence about the hiking trip you get to go on when you are of age.

Many friends also went to Camp Friendship, and continued to go through the summer between junior and senior years of high school, as they have an "upper camp" for teens up through age 16 that is not junior-counselor-training, aka free labor.
posted by juniperesque at 7:29 PM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Camp Dark Waters is a wonderful, personal, all-around general old-fashioned Quaker-run but very diverse (religiously, racially, socioeconmically) summer camp in southern NJ. Camp Onas is another really similar one, in PA. Both are affordable and both have scholarship programs with individualized standards of need. Memail me if you'd like more info.
posted by Miko at 7:33 PM on January 5, 2014

My old roommates went to the above-mentioned Catoctin as kids, and then worked for years at Shiloh, in the same family of camps. I've visited Shiloh, and it felt like such a warm, loving place Also, I am continually impressed by the stories I hear about the hikes that Shiloh kids go on.
posted by ActionPopulated at 7:40 PM on January 5, 2014

We're Jewish, by the way, and a Jewish camp is also an option.

In that case, seconding juniperesque, he's got to go to Camp Airy. I went there as a kid, and so did my father, and his father before him (miss you, Zayde!). It's pretty much a rite of passage around these parts.

I don't know what's changed in the past 20+ years, but as I wasn't a particularly athletic youngster, I really enjoyed the theater program. We mounted surprisingly sophisticated productions of Little Shop of Horrors and Bugsy Malone with some really talented directors.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:37 PM on January 5, 2014

Many of my Jewish friends have sent kinds to Airy and Louise and they sound wonderful. A good friend from high school is married to someone she met there, with whom she reconnected at a camp reunion. I've also heard good things about Dark Waters.

We live in Baltimore and our son was 8 last summer. He spent his first week of sleepaway camp at Puh Tok. It was generally a good experience at a very nice camp, but he doesn't plan to return because he didn't know any of the other kids when he arrived. He's already looking forward to Cub Scout sleepaway camp this summer because he'll go with friends. Something to consider, perhaps, is your son's comfort with a camp where he might not know anyone else going in. I see pros and cons to that but it seems that camping with friends is a better approach for my son.
posted by cheapskatebay at 4:23 AM on January 6, 2014

My husband went to Habonim Dror's Camp Moshava as a kid and loved it and still talks about it all the time. I have no idea about your personal politics, but he still gets of a kick out of boasting that he went to "Zionist Socialist Summer Camp".
posted by hydropsyche at 5:07 AM on January 6, 2014

Cheapskatebay makes a good point. One thing about having friends at camp: some camps are better at integrating new kids than others. A smaller camp will generally be better at that. You can call and ask the director about that concern - what happens with kids who don't know anyone at the camp their first year? How do counselors and staff work to make sure they establish good friendships and feel included?

Some camps do seem to transport entire neighborhoods from home to the woods. Others are more about blending people from many communities. A good camp will have given this some thought. Starting at age 8-10 is a good time, because most of the kids in that age bracket will be in their first summer of sleepaway camp. Once kids get older it can be a little harder to integrate, because many of the kids at camp will have met each other when younger and be returning in groups to the same sessions, making the social dynamic a little trickier. But again, a camp with a value for inclusion (something I can say is true for most Quaker camps) will work at this. Call and talk about it. In general, any question you might have, a camp director should be happy to answer. They've heard everything!
posted by Miko at 6:21 AM on January 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

The best camping experience my kids ever had was at a sleep-away on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, so not far for you, which was sponsored by the YMCA of Delaware. It's about a half-hour north of Chestertown. http://www.ymcade.org/branches/tockwogh_2012/

In my kids' words it is THE BEST CAMP EVER!! They went year after year, from the time my daughter was about 6 to 16. Obviously a lot of water sports (there's a sailing camp and a water-ski camp for older campers. My daughter did the water-ski camp two years running. There's a nifty separate lodge [cabin is too mild a word for this gorgeous building] for the intensive water sports campers) but also plenty of all-around camping experiences. There's horseback riding for those that are interested, but for that there's an extra charge. It's been about 10 years for my kids, but when they were there some of the cabins were quite rustic, some renovated, and it was just the luck of the draw which cabin they got.

Since it's run by the Y, a non-profit, it's less expensive than many camps, but they do limit the number of weeks kids can attend. There are also some scholarships for families with lower income. There are 4 2-week sessions, and a camper can stay for a total of one month, at least when they went there. The last camping session in August, used to be for 10 days.
posted by citygirl at 7:35 AM on January 6, 2014

For Quaker Camps:
I would fully endorse Camp Dark Waters. I have heard good things about Catoctin and Onas as well which seems closer to you.

For Jewish Camps:
Please make sure that you are informed before choosing a Jewish camp. I have no personal experience, but I guess there are big differences between a Socialist Zionist summer camp and Shomer Shabbat Glatt Kosher summer camp.
posted by jazh at 3:53 AM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

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