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Top 20 summer camps in the U.S.

Melissa Chapman and her brood of three live in the urban concrete jungle of NYC. She writes Kids in the City Kids in the City a weekly column and blog for the Staten Island Advance, contributes to SheKnows, Time Out NY Kids Time Out N...

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.

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.

Top 20 summer camps

1. 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.

2. Four Winds Westward Ho camp, Washington State

Four Winds Westward Ho Camp

Photo credit: Four Winds Westward Ho

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.

3. Virginia State Parks YCC, Virginia

Virginia State Parks Youth Conservation Corps

Photo credit: Virginia State Parks Youth Conservation Corps

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.

4. Camp Wicosuta, New Hampshire

Camp Wicosuta

Photo credit: Camp Wicosuta

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.

5. Thrill Coaster Tours

ThrillCoaster Tours

Photo credit: ThrillCoaster 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.

6. 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.

7. Camp Chief Ouray, Colorado

Camp Chief Ouray

Photo credit: Camp Chief Ouray

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.

8. New York Film Academy Camps — Worldwide

New York Film Academy

Photo credit: New York Film Academy

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.

9. Camp in Medomak, Maine

Medomak Family Camp

Photo credit: Medomak Family Camp

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.

10. Camp Friendship, Virginia

Camp Friendship
Photo credit: Camp Friendship

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, Camp Friendship has been offering amazing camp experiences for boys and girls since 1966. There are several options that embrace a couple different age groups, and you can choose traditional camping adventures or equestrian camping.

Next up: 10 more awesome summer camps

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