15 Unique Summer Camps for Kids in the U.S.

Ah, to be a kid again. Most of us would do anything to return to that more manageable, less stressful time when the only priority was having as much fun as possible. This is a great time to be a kid, and summer camps are jumping at the opportunity to give children of all ages the experience of a lifetime.

I’ve compiled a list of the hottest summer camps that will put you firmly in the running for Parent of the Year by your kid if you send them to any of these places. Let’s dive in and check everything out. 

1. Willowell Camps

Willowell camps
Image Credit: Willowell Foundation.

Nestled in the mountains of Vermont is Willowell Camps, also known as every kid’s dream come true. The world-renowned summer camp features an extensive list of programs, from traditional sports and outdoor-oriented camps to their famous Jedi Training and Ninja Training.

Where were these kinds of camps when I was a kid? Ten-year-old me would’ve given up an arm or a leg to attend ninja camp. 

2. Future Stars Circus Arts Camp

Image Credit: Future Star Cramps.

Located in New York, the Future Stars Circus Arts Camp is exactly what you think it is. It’s an unrivaled opportunity for your child to realize their circus-related dreams. Maybe your son wants to be an acrobat. Maybe your daughter aspires to be a fire-eater. No matter what they want to be when they grow up, they’ll have a blast at Future Stars.

I can’t imagine how much fun circus camp is. Are adults allowed to participate in a camp for the older crowd? 

3. Camp Lohikan 

Image Credit: American Camp Association.

Camp Lohikan has built its reputation as a camp catering to many children’s interests, but it’s arguably best known for its Spy Camp. Located in Lake Como, Pennsylvania, the camp offers overnight stays for “official” spy training, which includes learning the art of maneuvering without detection, decrypting codes, and more.

I’m at a loss, people. I thought circus camp was something I needed in my life, and now I realize that spy camp was the one thing my childhood was missing all along. 

4. Paleontology Camp

Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions
Image Credit: Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions.

Aspiring dinosaur hunters need to look no further for the camp of their dreams. The New Mexico-based Paleontology Trek, part of Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions, is an immersive, multi-week expedition. Campers will visit actual dig sites where they can experience the thrill of digging up fossils for themselves. Kids also learn about the excavation process and valuable artifact-processing techniques.

This is exactly the type of camp someone like Ross Gellar from Friends would attend, and let’s face it, any camp good enough for Ross is good enough for us.

5. Robotics Camp

Image Credit: Sylvan Learning Center Kahala & Hawaii Robotics.

Located in Honolulu, Hawaii, Robotics Camp is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for aspiring scientists to work alongside real robotics experts. How cool is that? It’s like a space camp, but better.

Parents also have a hidden benefit in signing their kids up for this specific summer camp. They get to enjoy the beauty of Honolulu while their child is stuck inside working on robots. If that’s not a parent’s dream, I don’t know what is. 

6. Camp Kern

Image Credit: SmugMug, Inc.

Naturally, there’s a Harry Potter-themed summer camp in Ohio. Why wouldn’t there be? Camp Kern is home to arguably the most popular Harry Potter-inspired camp in the United States, and the reviews tell parents everything they should know: kids absolutely love it. 

Although I’m not the biggest fan of the books or films, I certainly see the value in Harry Potter-loving counselors taking kids of all ages on a curated experience they’ll never forget. Fans would be ecstatic the entire time.

7. Pali Adventures

Image Credit: Pali Adventures.

California’s Pali Adventures features its Hollywood Stunt Camp, which happens when an organization decides that it needs to top the circus camp in the “most over-the-top camp possible” category. I’ve always dreamed of being a Hollywood stuntperson, and it warms my heart to know I may be able to live vicariously through my kids one day.

Of course, stunt camp isn’t for the faint of heart. Only the most fearless kids should sign up for something like this.

8. Surf Hatteras Surf Camp

Image Credit: Surf Hatteras.

As someone who never learned how to surf as a child and failed every time they tried to learn as an adult, I’m jealous of any kid who attends Surf Hatteras Surf Camp in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Surfing may be the coolest activity ever, and the experts at this camp won’t stop until your child is ready to dominate the water.

While the water in the Outer Banks isn’t the most formidable, it’s nevertheless the ideal proving ground for anyone who wants to try surfing. 

9. Camp Broadway

Image Credit: Camp Broadway.

Have you ever wondered how Broadway stars became the world-class performers they are? Well, every potential Broadway superstar has to start somewhere, and attending Camp Broadway in New York City is one of the best jumping-off points.

Kids who aspire to perform under the bright lights of the theater will thank any parent for signing them up for this fantastic summer camp (probably in the form of a song and dance). 

10. YMCA Camp Potawotami 

YMCA Camp Potawotami Star Wars
Image Credit: YMCA Camp Potawotami.

The Wolcottsville, Indiana-based YMCA Camp Potawotami offers an extensive camp programming schedule highlighted by one particular offering that will excite the nerd hiding inside your child: Star Wars Camp.

Lightsaber classes are a given, but campers will also recreate many classic scenes from the world-famous film franchise. If you’ve successfully introduced your child to the Star Wars universe, you owe it to them and yourself to make this camp happen as soon as possible. 

11. Zoo Camp

Queens Zoo Camp
Image Credit: Wildlife Conservation Society.

Located in the Queens Zoo in New York, Zoo Camp transports children into honorary zookeeper roles. Animal lovers won’t be able to hide their smiles as they feed endangered animals, help corral feisty furry friends, and be the best honorary zookeepers they can be.

I fed my first giraffe a few months ago at a small zoo in Denver. If Zoo Camp is half as impressive as that experience was, campers are in for a real treat.

12. Zombie Summer Camp

Image Credit: Guardian Adventures, Inc.

Burlington, Massachusetts, is home to this delightfully zany summer camp. Kids alternate between acting like zombies and killing zombies (via well-placed shots from Nerf guns). Every child with a wild imagination (and most adults, for that matter) has their own zombie apocalypse survival plan, and Zombie Summer Camp allows them to live their dreams.

However, don’t be surprised if your kids return from this summer camp far more prepared than you are for the zombie apocalypse. 

13. Space Camp

Image Credit: U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

Yes, Space Camp is still a thing in 2024. In fact, it’s in Huntsville, Alabama, at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Space Camp is open to children of all ages and skill levels. What kid hasn’t daydreamed about riding on the space shuttle? At Space Camp, they’ll be immersed in world-class simulations and activities that will scratch that itch.

I had no idea Hunstville was the place to be for a young, aspiring astronaut, but I’m glad I know now. 

14. Sea Turtle Camp

Image Credit: Surf Camp, Inc.

Let’s face it: not every parent wants to send their kid to a circus camp, stuntman school, or zombie survival camp. Not every child is cut out for that kind of thing; Sea Turtle Camp in Topsail Beach, North Carolina, offers an extensive overnight camp exclusively catering to young sea turtle lovers.

It’s the ideal low-stakes, low-risk camp experience that will naturally lead to some iconic photo opportunities. Even thrillseekers can’t help but admire sea turtles hatching on a beach.

15. ThrillCoaster Tours

Image Credit: ThrillCoaster Tours.

Although technically a weekslong summer camp experience, ThrillCoaster Tours foregoes the typical cabins and archery lessons for something far more wild: a nonstop tour de force of all the most fantastic theme parks in a specific region of the United States.

Located in cities throughout the country, ThrillCoaster Tours offers nonstop action for your teenager as the group leads the campers on endless rollercoaster rides across a few weeks. I officially found the most unique summer camp in the country.

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