10 unique summer camps that will make you wish you were a kid again

Mar 7, 2016 at 3:00 p.m. ET

Sending your kid to summer camp is one of the best things you can do to further their social development. It also may help them find their passion in life, which may in turn direct them towards the perfect career.

As such, if you happen to have a kid who enjoys doing things off the beaten track, don't quell that uniqueness by sending them to a run-of-the-mill camp. That thing that makes them different is going to serve them well later in life, because it will make them stand out from the masses.

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So fan the fire of that weirdness by giving them a summer experience unlike any other. It will likely change their lives for the better, because they'll connect with peers who think like they do, and get to try things they'd probably never get to do at home. The only downside is they may not want to leave at the end of the summer.

1. Gorman Heritage Farm Camp (Evendale, Ohio)

While working on a farm for a summer might not sound fun to you, it would be ideal for your little animal lover. They'll get to learn everything there is to know about working with animals on a farm, as well as do regular camp activities like hiking, swimming and color war. There's also a top-notch cooking school associated with the camp. The cost runs $100 to $240 per week, depending on whether you do half or whole days (this is day camp only). They have programs for 4-year-olds up to 15-year-olds.

2. Cape Cod Sea Camps (Brewster, Massachusetts) 

If you can't tear your little one away from the ocean, this is their perfect summer camp. They specialize in sailing, and will work with anyone no matter their skill level. The sleep-away version is one to two months long, and runs up to $11,100. They do, however, have one-week trials for those new to sleep-away, which only run $3,475.

3. Dinosaur Ridge Summer Camp (Morrison, Colorado)

This is for the aspiring archaeologists out there. They can literally spend their summer digging up bones. This camp skews slightly younger — 6 to 10, or 8 to 12 — and the sessions are only one week long. Each session costs $275, but scholarships are available.

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4. Lohikan Spy Camp (Lake Como, Pennsylvania)

Who wouldn't want to try being a spy for a summer? Learn everything from interrogation skills to jumping on a moving jet ski (seriously). They have a junior camp version and a senior camp version (for the older teens), and your child can go for two weeks or all the way up to eight weeks. Prices range from $2,600 to $8,800, but it's worth it when you think about it. I mean, you're learning how to be a spy, for Pete's sake.

5. Space Camp at Adler Planetarium (Chicago, Illinois)

If you've ever seen Adler Planetarium, then you already know why this camp is so cool. If your kid's in sixth to tenth grade, they can spend a week learning all about space travel, and essentially how to be an astronaut. The camp does have a junior version for the little ones too — all the way down to preschool. Those programs only run two days. A one-week session for the older group runs $495.

6. Wizards & Warriors Camp (Burlington, Massachusetts)

Whose kids are into Harry Potter? Everyone's? OK, so this is a terrific camp option for them. It's essentially LARPing for kids, but instead of one or two days, it goes on all... summer... long. Cue the exaltation music! They have a day camp and a sleep-away version; the day camp is for six and up, and runs $330 per week. The overnight camp is for ages 7 to 15, and starts at $1,045 a week. Overnight is usually just two weeks, whereas the day camp runs from the end of June through Labor Day.

7. Circus Arts Camp (Ardsley, New York)

Does your kid talk about running away and joining the circus? Well, why not compromise on that dream, and send them here instead? They'll learn everything from juggling, to flying on aerial silks, to the awesome art of trapeze. There are two two-week sessions, but it is a day camp, so you'll need to live nearby. It's for ages 5 all the way up to 18, and costs $1,200 for two weeks, and $3,400 for the whole six-week experience.

8. Hollywood Stunt Camp (Running Springs, California)

If you've got a little daredevil on your hands, this might be their dream camp. They'll learn how to tumble, stage fight (including sword work) and jump off three-story buildings — under the strict guidance of trained movie-industry professionals, of course. This camp's all about safety, so know your kid will be in very good hands. By the end of summer, they'll actually get to shoot little movies, complete with wild stunt scenes. The camp is for ages 9 through 16, and runs June through August. One week comes to $2,045.

9. Camp Jam (Nationwide)

Got an aspiring rock star at home? Camp Jam will be their jam (pun intended). This place was designed for kids to rock out as singers, guitarist, drummers, piano players... really any musically related thing for which they have a passion. They can spend their summer playing in a band, writing songs, producing their own albums, making music videos... Man, now I really want to go! Since you can find them in most major cities, Camp Jams are super accessible, and open to a wide age range — from 7 to 17. They do day versions, extended days and overnights. A week can cost from $399 to $549, depending on the program.

10. Buck's Rock Performing and Creative Arts Camp (New Milford, Connecticut)

And finally, a shout out to the camp that shaped me into the awesome person I am today. Buck's Rock used to be called a socialist camp, but really it's a Montessori-style camp where campers make up their own schedule for the most part. It's arts-centered, but they offer everything from glass blowing to clown school. The theory is to let the kid decide what interests them in a no-pressure environment, so if it turns out not to be a perfect fit, they can simply move on to the next thing. It's a sleep-away camp for 9- to 16-year-olds, and they can choose to go for one four-week session or the entire summer. Prices range from $3,690 (two weeks for 9- and 10-year-olds) to $10,790 (full session). It's totally worth it. Trust me.

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