How to choose a summer sleepaway camp (for 2022)?
June 11, 2021 6:33 AM   Subscribe

I'd love my 9 year old kid to go to sleepaway camp next summer and I've heard good ones often book up fast. Besides word of mouth, is there a good place to research? What should I be looking out for? Is there one that you're particularly fond of, esp. if it's a girls camp on the US East Coast? Thank you!
posted by heavenknows to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My kids went to Chimney Corners Camp in Becket, MA. I can't say enough good things about the camp. When my friend told me about it she said that the camp is really for the teenage years when you want your kid to be doing something productive, and it's true. But you have to have them their from the start in order to do the teen programs. The camp is all girls, and there is a boys camp called Becket next door. Initially they have a two week session for 8 and 9 year olds, and then it is a full month. There is no electricity in the cabins, and kids can't bring any electronics or phones to camp. There is a pond that they swim and boat in. They have a contest each session- there are two each summer, where each cabin creates a performance. They have every kind of activity you would want at a camp including a ropes course, horseback riding (though this is extra). They even have specialty cabins, a construction cabin where campers help build the new cabins, and a horseback riding cabin. It is all about being a strong woman, and building relationships with other girls.

For the teenage years they have summer abroad programs all over the world- these are co-ed. They also US based service programs. All of these programs have a leadership aspect to them, and after they do them they qualify for a camp aid program, and then can be full camp counselors. My older daughter liked camp just fine, and went to Uruguay as her summer abroad. My younger daughter is a camp fanatic, and went all the way through all the programs, doing a summer abroad in China, and then a US based program in the Dakotas where she did service on a number of Native American Reservations. The have alumni relations, and connect campers with all sorts of other alumni for career development.

Another thing that is amazing about the camp, and one reason it is more expensive than other camps is that they have a full time staff who has been there for decades. Shannon is the camp director, and is amazing at the job she does. I know that they have visiting days in the summer, and yes, you must get signed up in the fall. Additionally they have a very strong financial aid program, which we got for a number of years until we could afford the full tuition on our own. Reach out to me directly if you want more information. It really was the best camp for my kids.

The one negative for me was that it is a Y camp, and so holds Judaic/Christian values including weekly services on Sunday. But it isn't super religious, and I just let go of that part of it. My kids did not come home seeking religion.
posted by momochan at 6:54 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]

The American Camping Association is the entity that the camp I went to as a kid (co-ed, MN, historically Catholic--my obnoxious teenage atheism was fine even though notionally Catholics were expected to go to mass weekly) belonged to. I remember my parents got a bunch of leaflets from... somewhere, but I don't know where. (I almost want to say they phoned up some posh private school consultant.)
posted by hoyland at 6:56 AM on June 11

My kids loved the YMCA Camp Tockwogh on Maryland's Eastern Shore. I haven't researched it lately, but the camp was set up in 2 week sessions, and you could add a second 2 week session. There is a focus on water sports - they have a beach and a couple of speed boats for water skiing. They also have horses. It's a big property and the season is extended by hosting family camp stays at either end of the season. Twenty years ago, anyway, the cabins were pretty rustic. It's in a pretty rural area of Maryland, the closest reasonably large town in Chestertown. We drove year after year through miles of cornfields to find it, but it was magical to the kids. Careful of speedtraps near the camp! My daughter can't wait till her kids are old enough to go, and she herself, outgoing and fearless, started attending at about age 6. Our son was hesitant until he was about 8, but he loved it too.

Because it's run by a non-profit it's a little less pricey than for-profit overnight camps (what I've always heard these camps referred to on the east coast) but it's still a lot more than day camps. Your kids are more likely to experience a diversity of backgrounds among the other campers, as there are YMCA scholarship programs some kids are awarded.
posted by citygirl at 8:37 AM on June 11

Plugging Eagle Island Camp. The camp has a long history--it was a private vacation island until the 1930s, and has some fantastic Adirondack architecture from that period. The owner gifted it to a Girl Scout council in the 1930s. The Council ran it as a camp, but abandoned it after the 2008 financial crisis; a group of alumni rescued it from being sold to private individual, and have reopened it as a camp. It's a fantastic place to spend a summer (you get to live on an island!)

(Full disclosure--I am a former camper, and know a lot of folks involved with the reopening, because, well, we went to camp together.)

It looks like they're sold out for the summer, but they do have a waitlist, and I would definitely keep it mind for next summer, especially since they might be looking to extend the operating dates for longer sessions.
posted by damayanti at 9:55 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

If you are in NYC, I can't say enough good things about the Fresh Air Fund. I was a Friendly Town kid for 8 summers. They aren't doing the Friendly Town program this year because of COVID but their other programs are accepting registrations.
posted by simonelikenina at 11:02 AM on June 11

Take a look at some of the Girl Scout camps as well - I know Camp Favorite in Brewster, MA has a sailing/biking program that is supposed to be excellent. You're not required to be registered as a Girl Scout to camp with them, although they may offer a discounted rate that is less than the registration fee.
posted by neilbert at 11:06 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]

This is northern MN, but the Concordia Language Villages are sleep away camps that do language immersion for kids. Many of the language options are in camps with buildings built in the appropriate architecture for the language, they eat cultural food, and also do regular camp activities. Normally they offer 1-week, 2-week and monthlong options, I think.
posted by past unusual at 12:54 PM on June 11

These are both previously mentioned Minnesota camps but I had an issue with one of them I want to mention. I attended Concordia Language Villages and loved it every time. I attended Camp Foley at thirteen, having attended Concordia Language Villages before therefore knowing what camp was supposed to be like. My cabin at Foley was me, two other kids, and a group of eight that already knew each other. One of the other two got along with the eight but me and the other were totally left out (and didn’t really get along with each other either- my one friend was in another cabin). I enjoyed the activities alright but thirteen year old me was Not Amused by the poor cabin sorting. On the other hand my brother loved it and went back many years.
posted by azalea_chant at 3:39 PM on June 11

CampRatingz is a very helpful resource. My daughter has been going to a camp in New England since she was 9 and I found the camp on that site. We are in California, but I've generally found that New England has the best summer camp culture and the most choices of camps. Why wait until next summer...go this summer!
posted by Dansaman at 10:31 PM on June 11

Before my daughter started summer camp, we did family camp for three years. By year four she was totally ready to do camp on her own. She did two weeks that first summer but could have done four weeks. I think family camp is typically the last one or two weeks of summer camp season (except for camps that are dedicated family camps), so you could potentially do family camp this summer and then she (and you) will be totally ready for her to do summer camp next year. Family camp and summer camp are awesome. They create a lifetime of memories. Feel free to message me if you have any questions.
posted by Dansaman at 10:39 PM on June 11

My daughter went to Camp Mont Shenandoah in Virginia for several years and loved it. It is an all girls camp and the owner went to college with her mother so there was an extra comfort level there for us. It is in the middle of nowhere, so if you’re looking for a bucolic setting it fits the bill. If you are willing to consider a co-ed camp, I grew up going to Camp Kanuga in Hendersonville, NC and my niece goes there now. They are affiliated with the Episcopal church, but don’t go overboard with religion. There is an associated conference center on the same 1400 acre property that opens up for family vacations during the summer (we have been getting together there for several years now) so you have the option of vacationing nearby before, during, or after your daughter’s stay at camp. This is what my sister does, although she only lives 45 minutes away to begin with.
posted by TedW at 10:50 AM on June 12

Nthing Girl Scout camps. They are wonderful and very much need support--many are a bit more ramshackle than their private camp counterparts but there also tends to be camperships available. Hell, my local girl scout camp still has availabilities for this year.

Plug for Camp Lou Henry Hoover in Sussex Co, NJ, but they're all generally pretty dang wonderful.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:18 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

My direct experience is probably out of date, but here are some things that can help differentiate camps from one another.

-You should be aware that summer camps can be incredibly stratified by socioeconomic status, religion, race, etc. For instance, I didn't realize until I was an adult that one of the reasons that I had trouble fitting in at camp (besides being generally a weird kid) was that I was not the sort that that went to an East Coast boarding school. As another example, one camp I know about gives campers the option to get a discount on tuition in exchange for serving tables during meal times. In comparison, another camp has all of the older campers rotate through this position.
-Camps have different use-of-technology policies. IMHO a huge reason to go to summer camp is to get away from screens and electronic devices, but that is my personal opinion, and YYMV.
-Bathroom and shower facilities (and policies) vary widely. One camp I know about had scheduled 3 minute showers twice a week, while another was a free for all. The "free for option" meant that campers could have a long wait. In addition, not all camps have private stalls for showers.
-A camp's evening activities and special events can change the camp experience. For instance, some camps host or attend social or sporting events with neighboring camps. Also different structures of evening activities may be more or less friendly to introverts or extroverts.
-In precovid times at least, it was common for camp families to host local "meet the camp director" gatherings.
posted by oceano at 4:48 PM on June 13

Response by poster: This is all hugely helpful -- thank you! So much I haven't thought of. (We are definitely not boarding school types!) Thank you all for taking the time.
posted by heavenknows at 2:36 AM on June 14

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