Leaving for summer camp

Best camps for kids

Despite your best efforts to keep your little hatchlings close to the nest, nothing can keep your kids from their firm desire to flex their independence and attend a sleep-away summer camp.

From sea to shining sea — and sometimes, even across that sea — here are 20 of the coolest summer camps for kids!

While you might not be able to fathom more than a night away from your child, you also know that a sleep-away camp and/or teen tour experience is a rite of passage your kid deserves — and needs — to experience, even if those weeks when she's gone will have you riddled with longing and anxiety until her safe return.

Top 20 summer camps

If you're a parent ready to let your child take the sleep-away-camp plunge, here are 20 camp and teen tour experiences that should be on your radar.


Cheley Colorado Camp, Colorado

Cheley Colorado Camp

Located at the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, Cheley Colorado Camp is an amazing summer camp for kids that offers a number of activities from horseback riding and hiking to archery and riflery. If your kids love adventure and the outdoors, this is a terrific option.


Four Winds Westward Ho camp, Washington State

Situated on Orcas Island near Seattle, Washington, Four Winds Westward Ho is a place where kids can get away from technology and modern comforts and discover new friendships and interests in the great outdoors.


Virginia State Parks YCC, Virginia

For something completely different, consider sending your kids to the Virginia State Parks Youth Conservation Corps. This three-week residential program allows kids to live and work in the state park, preparing meals, performing chores and enjoying nature.


Camp Wicosuta, New Hampshire

This all-girls camp in New Hampshire is located just south of the White Mountains on Newfound Lake. Girls enjoy water sports, creative arts, horseback riding and other outdoor adventures at Camp Wicosuta.


Thrill Coaster Tours

Not your traditional camp, this teen program is all about roller coasters. Thrill Coaster Tours allows kids to visit various amusement parks and try out different roller coasters all over the country. The "campers" travel by luxury bus and stay at Marriott hotels as they go from city to city.


Sanborn Western Camps, Colorado

Sanborn Western Camp

Located on 6,000 acres of aspen, spruce, Douglas-fir, and ponderosa pine-filled forests, an hour west of Colorado Springs, Sanborn Western Camps provide the perfect place for kids to do everything from fly-fishing to horseback riding and community service to science projects.


Camp Chief Ouray, Colorado

With picturesque views of the Continental Divide and an amazing program that develops core values in its campers, Camp Chief Ouray is a spectacular choice for your kids. From archery to riflery and nature studies to teambuilding challenges, your kids will love every day at this YMCA camp.


New York Film Academy Camps — Worldwide

So your kid wants to be in the movies? With the Film Academy Camps around the world, tweens and teens can learn about filmmaking, animation, acting and more. From the Universal Studios back lot to locations in Paris, these premiere camps are top-notch.


Camp in Medomak, Maine

Located in mid-coast Maine on more than 200 acres, Camp in Medomak is unique because it's a secular camp for the whole family. It can host up to a dozen families at a time and there are activities for adults and children alike. Each family gets their own cabin, while the food and activities are preplanned to ensure a relaxing and fun environment.


Rockin' C Ranch, Texas

A real working ranch, campers at Rockin' C Ranch endure a lot of physical activity while also learning how to love and appreciate their surroundings. Unique activities include cattle driving, woodworking and egg collecting. Not only will campers have a memorable time, they will build character along the way.

Next up: 10 more awesome summer camps

Continue »


Recommended for you


Comments on "Top 20 summer camps in the U.S."

Eilert November 24, 2013 | 9:52 PM

Would love to know the criteria used for selecting these camps.

Jessica November 18, 2013 | 10:18 AM

For four summers I worked at iD Tech Camps and Academies. First of all, it is a great company to work for. But, also I know that if I ever have kids - I definitely want to send them to one of the iD Tech programs. Kids and teens get a chance to take classes on topics such as computer programming, game design, movie making, and photography - while also having fun! They have camps held at universities all over the U.S.

Louis Vuitton Outlet October 30, 2013 | 5:26 PM

Louis Vuitton Outlet

Charlie Ovens August 13, 2013 | 12:17 PM

i just got home from Cheley Colorado Camps and it is my 2nd home. not only do you do riflery, tech climbing, backpacking, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, archery, wood working, and more, but (at least for the boys) the brotherhood you create is the best experience of all time. I will never ever go to any other summer camp and i am dying to work there. the camp is run by the Cheley family and you actually talk to them and create a friendship with them. All the staff is trained in wilderness first aid, and then in whatever direct program they are overseeing. The older boys also help run the camp. Those that are voted for being the most positive and encouraging kids that year will become CILTS, or Campers In Leadership Training. Overall this is a 10 out of 10 camp and I love it. Cheley is a dream come true

Ginny June 16, 2013 | 12:03 PM


Sylvia June 02, 2013 | 1:10 PM

I am proud to be a Cheley camper! There is no better place in the world then Cheley.....

Shawn Ryan May 31, 2013 | 10:59 AM

Hey Melissa, LOVED this article! We run The Young Actors' Theatre Camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains and would love to have you take a look at our camp for future inclusion. This summer some of our teachers include DARREN CRISS from GLEE< SUTTON FOSTER from BROADWAY, and so many more! We have a blast and love what you are doing for the arts! Thank you! Shawn Ryan The Young Actors' Theatre Camp www.CampYATC

Jim May 08, 2013 | 9:39 AM

My boys have gone to Camp Skylemar in Maine for several years now. It's been an amazing experience for them that they look forward to every summer. The staff there is outstanding! HIGHLY recommended. Lots of info on their Web site: http://skylemar

Hannah March 04, 2013 | 10:20 AM

Long Lake Camp for the arts is an AMAZING camp that I've been going to for a year now! I'm coming this year and it has everything, 20 fine arts studios, music, theater, drama, waterfront, sports, and even a bunch of movie making and rock bands! I loved it, and think it's just as good as frenchwoods looks. Check it out it's FANTASTIC!!!!

Keegan January 17, 2013 | 7:15 PM

I'd check out Kennolyn Camps. Located in the Santa Cruz mountains in Santa Cruz California! I went there for 10 years and loved every minute of it. www.kennolyncamps

Amy January 16, 2013 | 8:36 PM

I just heard about this new sleepaway camp in Massachusetts called Oasis Pines. My kids have attended Oasis day camp for years and we LOVE Oasis. It is going to be on the campus of Smith College and its beautiful! Oasis has the best staff and my kids always loved the spirit of the camp. They would come home and tell us amazing stories of all the activities and awesome stuff they did. We completely trust Oasis and we know that sleepaway is going to be fantatic! We are excited for our kids to be a part of the start of Oasis Pines!!!

camp friendship January 13, 2013 | 9:07 AM

i'd also look at Camp Friendship in Virginia www.campfriendship..

Seth January 10, 2013 | 3:43 PM

Don't forget to include Flying Moose Lodge in East Orland, ME! I attended this canoeing, hiking, camping, and wilderness based camp for boys for 5 years and wouldn't be who I am today were it not for those wonderful summers. Flying Moose really concentrates on building woods skills such as white water canoeing, and low impact camping. They have tetherball, canoe building, ping pong, skit night, sing-alongs, and weekly trips to places like Acadia National Park, the Appalacian Trail, and many of the area's fine waterways like the Allagash and the St Croix. There are a number of different sessions available, but after my first summer, I had to go for the whole seven weeks from then on. Check them out! Your boys will thank you!

Matt December 24, 2012 | 5:34 PM

I'd also throw Longacre Leadership up there, although I'm not surprised it didn't make the list, it's small.

Greg Howes December 12, 2012 | 5:47 AM

Totally agree with the comments from Dave Friedman (and Marc). If you are using this article to somehow narrow down camps... you are making a mistake. Contact the American Camping Association for a free and UNBIASED consultation. They visit and accredit camps and are the ONLY unbiased source to be trusted.

Ken Herz December 04, 2012 | 4:04 PM

It is obvious why you missed Pok-o-MacCready Camps. Your list is the best camps in the U.S. Pok-o-MacCready is commonly known as "The Greatest Camp in the Universe".

Emmy July 19, 2012 | 7:16 PM

I am shocked that Teton Valley Ranch Camp is not on this list...it most definitely gives Cheley a run for their money.

Mom to three boys April 25, 2012 | 11:20 AM

Camp Skylemar in Maine is great, I only have sons and it is a boys camp, but the directors are caring people and they put an amazing effort into finding great counselors who can teach all levels of sports, from my beginner son, to older son who thinks he is an expert. Awesome camp

Doe January 24, 2012 | 8:40 PM


Dana January 24, 2012 | 7:04 PM

I have been a camper at JCC Camp Chi for 5 years, and my sisters for 2. It is an amazing camp full of fun activities, great facilities, and amazing counselors. Chi has so many programs available from normal sleepaway camp to teen trips across the country. Camp has become a part of my life, and I have made so many great friends and tried so many new activities. Camp Chi has truly made me who I am today, and I was so happy to find Camp Chi on this list.

+ Add Comment

(required - not published)