We doubt that anyone thinks of New York City as a summer camp mecca—but by most standards, it really is. Consider all the children’s activity centers and enrichment programs that the city is blessed with. Some go on hiatus and some slow down in the summertime, offering the same programming but less of it. But many others take what they do best and build wonderful day camps around their core offerings.
If you tally all of the day camps in the city along with all of the day camps within an hour’s drive, you have an extraordinary menu of summer experiences. From traditional day camps that offer a mix of sports, crafts and field trips, to camps that devote more of their day to culture, science, music and other specialties—chances are, you can find a camp that’s a good fit for your child depending on their age and interests.
If you have a child who is four years old or younger, who may not be ready for a full day of camp much less a full summer, day camps typically offer scheduling options, including camp sessions that are just a few hours a day and one or two weeks long. If you have an older child, they might be ready (and you might be, too) to put them on a bus in the morning to a camp outside of city, so they can have camp fun in a more rural setting—and perhaps take the first step in the direction of a sleepaway camp experience.
Whatever you decide is right for your child, there is one standard where you should not compromise: Camp should be fun, and your child should feel like he or she is making friends. If that’s not happening, it ain’t the right camp—keep looking!
GENERAL INTEREST DAY CAMPS OUTSIDE THE CITY
Quintessentially summer, Woodmont Day Camp offers performing arts, athletics, and arts and crafts for each of its age-appropriate “villages”. Looking for a nurturing Jewish environment? The Neil Klatskin Day Camp will take your kiddo boating, hiking and even host a few carnivals. If your child is ready to unleash their creative side, don’t miss Gate Hill Day Camp for jewelry-making, tie-dye and ceramics. North Shore Day Camp also provides woodworking and leather arts. For something off-the-wall, Buckley Country Day Camp offers special events such as a camp-wide talent show, Olympics Week and pony rides.
Can’t get your fish out of the water? Pierce Country Day Camp has their very own sprayground and water park with below ground geysers and fountains, and also offers water ballet and volleyball lessons. Only 35 minutes from Manhattan, The JCC’s Day Camp @ Pearl River offers twice-a-day swimming with a slide just for the big kids.
Future farmers should check out The Nature Place Day Camp, which houses a chicken coop, bee hives and composting piles. Located in White Plains, Mohawk Day Camp (pictured) has an onsite farm with chickens, cows and peacocks alongside gardens and an apple orchard. If petting zoos, gardening and fishing is more your child’s forte, check out Spring Lake Day Camp. For the athletic-minded, Deer Mountain Day Camp provides all-things fencing, archery, rugby, cricket and GaGa. In New Rochelle, Mount Tom Day Camp features a menu of more traditional sports such as kickball, football, golf and tennis. The New York YMCA Camp offers adventurous outdoor adrenaline rushes on their ropes courses, with some fast-flung archery in between. And the 92YCamps not only offer soccer, a mini-zipline and skateboarding activities—but the fun is a mere 20-minute bus ride away.
GENERAL INTEREST DAY CAMPS INSIDE THE CITY
It’s important to keep kids active when school’s out for the summer. The Summer Breeze Day Camp by Gymtime Rhythm & Glues and York Avenue Preschool is a perfect choice, letting young campers tuck & roll in a state-of-the-art gym while cooking and enjoying library time. And with a new facility in Battery Park City, Summer Day Camp at Asphalt Green has everything from t-ball to martial arts, with weekly trips to popular venues like the Bronx Zoo and Liberty Science Center.
Speaking of animals, The Art Farm in The City (pictured) is a diamond in the rough for city kids, with its on-site petting zoo and specialization in animal care. They organize the summer by themes like Tropical Excursion, Circus Mania and Wild Wild West. Special days like pajama and BBQ day dot The Mandell School’s Explorer Camp schedule, where all of the counselors are experiences teachers. Or you can give your tot a head start on the camp experience with Poppyseed Pre-Nursery. This mini-camp allows you to join your toddler for picnics, singing and painting.
For an all-around summer camp experience, look no further than Bank Street Summer Camp. Depending on their age, kids can partake in swimming, fishing, Spanish immersion and cabaret. A summer at Camp Léman features woodworking, silly science experiments and a rooftop playground. With multi-borough locations, Oasis Day Camp spotlights field trips and special guests. Plus, kids can get pumped up every morning with cheers and a song—classic camp-style. Thespians and dance aficionados ages 5-10 will love the Babes on Broadway camp by Discovery Programs whereas the LIU Children’s Academy Summer Camp leads children in a different direction, offering robotics, fashion design, cinema and comic book creation.
SPECIALTY DAY CAMPS
A haven for children ages 3 to 4—camp apple seeds engages kids in activities like cooking and dramatic play according to weekly themes such as American Road Trip and Make Believe. Running for 11 weeks, the Summer Days Camp at 74th St. MAGIC provides a plush, private rooftop for outdoor play—a boon for Growing In The Garden week. At Kidville, we’re especially tickled by the Fairy Princess and Superhero Training camps which let storybook heroes and heroines come to life for little ones. And then it’s all about the sea and stars at Camp Intrepid, where campers ages 5 to 13 can curate their own exhibits, speak like a swashbuckler and explore the next frontier.
With low coach-to-camper ratios,
your budding athlete (of any sport) is sure to succeed in the age-divided Kids In Sports summer sessions, which
also feature storytime and arts & crafts. Or join the Sports Academy at Chelsea Piers for a roster that includes
volleyball and European team handball, among the usual sporty suspects. At Corbin’s Crusaders Day Camp—located a mere 25 minutes from the
city—ultimate Frisbee, archery, GaGa, and Go-Kart fun will fill the hours.
Dust off those racquets! The Advantage Sea & Sports Camp gives your athlete a chance to play on the beautiful Maritime College waterfront and provides your child with 4-6 hours of instruction and practice, with an optional swim time. Another great option is the 2012 Excel Summer Camp by the John McEnroe Tennis Academy and SPORTIME Randall’s Island. Along with intensive instruction and technique development, campers can also participate in tennis-specific cross-training like soccer and ultimate Frisbee.
Just in time for Euro 2012, Super Soccer Stars offers various camps, depending on your little kicker’s age and skill set. Summer camp at the Carlos Oliveira Soccer Academy focuses on both individual skills and fundamentals of team play. This Brazilian-style soccer camp on the Upper West Side is available for half or full days.
Boost your slugger’s sense of sportsmanship and teamwork with The Baseball Center NYC‘s summer program—which includes both indoor and outdoor segments of pitching, hitting, fielding and base running. And develop a real love for the game through On Deck NY with skill-building drills and daily competitions in Central Park.
Tiny tumblers should somersault their way to Jodi’s Gym (pictured) for parachute play and hands-on art fun for a summer camp where music usually reigns at the beginning of each day. And with two locations, NYC Elite offers families a full or half day option to experience a world of swimming, balance beams and storytime.
Keep your kiddo’s mind fresh this August with the academic day camp offered by Drake Bennett Summer Schools. Divided into two sessions and housed at The Epiphany School, 1st-6th graders can brush up with lessons in literacy, math and science while chess and drama pepper the afternoon hours. Or join Mathnasium for their Summer Re-Boot Camp. Specifically for 2nd-8th graders, this half-day camp is filled with math-centric games and activities.
Set your kid on the fast track to becoming bilingual. Collina Italiana is offering Italian Summer in the City Camp which includes Italian-infused music, theater, movies, cartoons and museum outings. Children as young as three can start learning bonjour and merci at the French Institute Alliance Francaise—culture and language will be taught through stories and workshops. The Language Workshop for Children is a great tool to get your child speaking like a native. Offering summer camps in Spanish, French and Mandarin Chinese, immersion activities include costume days, arts & crafts, baking and birthday celebrations.
It’s never too soon to get your child prepared for the “real world”. She could be the next Donna Karan thanks to SewHo‘s summer camp, which teaches a variety of both hand and machine sewing skills through projects like pillows, hand bags and American Girl doll apparel. The Textile Arts Center (main photo) of Manhattan is offering two camps this sun-filled season—one concentrated on weaving and another on the surface design of textiles, which includes printing and dyeing. Worth every penny, the non-profit organization World of Money offers a three-week Youth Financial Literacy Training Institute program for campers ages 7-18 and teaches necessary financial skills such as budgeting, investing and money management.
Culminating in a Friday family performance, the Joffrey Ballet School‘s Summer Dance Camp lets its youngest dancers recreate the greatest stage stories of all time with basic movement concepts and DIY costumes. The Explore Dance program at The School at Steps caters to those who love the entire spectrum of movement—from hip hop to tap—and lets them mix and match the styles they like into an ideal schedule. For dancers ages 6-12 years old, Peridance Capezio Center is offering an August Dance Camp combining jazz, ballet and salsa, as well as elements of dance history and choreography. And for those who already have at least a year of classical ballet training under their belt, the New York Theatre Ballet offers its Summer Dance Camp complete with field trips to break up the intensive training. Prospective campers must be between the ages of 7-10 years and must audition in order to attend. program for campers ages 9-18 and teaches necessary financial skills such as budgeting, investing and money management.
Applause NYC’s week-long Musical Theater Intensives give your kids the chance to learn stage techniques, song placement and costume design in the presence of a Broadway star. If your little one’s interest lies more in the arena of choreography, Vital Theatre’s Junior Performance Camp gives your child a chance to work one-on-one with a professional choreographer and learn all the right moves. A guaranteed good time, the Kids Weeks at The New Victory Theater (pictured) range from circus tricks to puppetry to playwriting. Performers ages 6-15 get the bonus swank of a major concert hall by attending the Summer Musical Theater Workshop by the Lucy Moses School. And at TADA! Youth Theater, the themed weeks (we’re especially intrigued by Broadway Bieber) culminate in an original camper composition.
Unique in its location, we think Children’s Museum of the Arts’ Summer Art Colony on Governors Island is an escape all in its own. Kids can explore an NYC treasure while creating a few artistic keepsakes to take home. At HiArt’s Culture Bugs Surreal Summer Camp creative types are introduced to the world of surrealism and bookmaking. Escape the heat and head to Kids at Art for 1/2-day workshops offering up the best in mask-making, clay molding and paper mache technique. And Make Meaning‘s Creative Escapes program lets campers go on an artistic staycation, drawing inspiration from global cultures and test tubes.
Future video game creators will love the options of Summer Media Camp through Museum of the Moving Image where campers get to flex their software muscles learning animation, live action video and more. Or send your wannabe MTV VJ to New York Film Academy’s one-week Music Video Camp, designed for kids with little or no knowledge (but a passion) for the industry. And let’s not forget about summer camp at Take Two Film Academy, which will show your budding director the ins and outs of production, acting and editing. Each student gets to keep an online and DVD copy of their final products to show off to friends and family!
Addicted to The Food Network? With 13 delectable themes, Taste Buds is offering a new Iron Chef Camp this summer where young gourmands will learn how to whip up treats and compete with their fellow campers. If you’re looking to instill a sense of food responsibility in your child, consider Butter Beans Food and Garden Camp so they can explore farmers markets, create their own sweet jam and write a cookbook utilizing a farm-to-table philosophy. Home Cooking New York‘s summer camp in Chelsea is a stellar introduction to kitchen basics as well as to cuisines from all around the globe.
Wonder about wildlife? Kids ages 8-12 can get friendly with hyenas and lions at the Bronx Zoo’s Animal Kingdom Camp (pictured) where they will observe creatures up close and learn how to best protect an animal’s habitat. Taking full advantage of Prospect Park, the Park Explorers’ Camp Explorers program is ideal for the elementary school set. Be prepared to get a little dirty as this camp takes a hands-on approach to Mother Nature—think sprinklers, hill-rolling and a host of field trips. And regardless of where you live, an awesome camp adventure awaits with NYC Parks Experience Summer Camp. With locations in every borough, this uber-affordable camp provides structured hiking, swimming and sports.
Stationed in Chelsea, the Kids at Work summer camp offers up an awesome blend of age- appropriate music and artistic activities for your groovy kiddos to engage in. Perfect for preschoolers, The Diller-Quaile School of Music is offering an Early Childhood Preschool Music and Art Program this June. Take in summertime music, engage in creative play and catch special concerts all before heading home. If you have more of a rocker on your hands, Day Jams lets rhythmic children learn and perfect their skills on guitar, bass, drums vocals and keyboard under the tutelage of a music pro.
Inquisitive young minds will love the American Museum of Natural History’s Fossils and DNA Camp where they can explore the evolutionary timeline. If your elementary school-age child is more into constructing and electronic, the range of camp choices at Launch Math give him or her the chance to build rockets and robots or design video games. And budding scientists can use the city as their laboratory with the SciTech Kids Summer Camp. In Central Park, campers build solar ovens, learn about gravity thanks to the thrills of Victorian Gardens and make a few insect friends.
ATTEND A VIRTUAL DAY CAMP
A one-stop shop, New York Family‘s new website, therightcamp.com, is an online resource devoted to help parents find the perfect camp for their child. Use it to generate a custom-made list of camps—day or sleepaway. It’s like attending a virtual camp fair right at home. Also, if you’re looking for great info geared towards preparing for those ever-so-close camp days, check out our 2012 Ultimate Guide To Summer Camp on newyorkfamilycamps.com.