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Ethan Trex
Beyond Kickball: 10 Specialized Summer Camps
by Ethan Trex - July 20, 2010 - 11:40 AM

All a summer camp used to need to keep kids entertained throughout the warmer months was a good ball field and a place to go swimming. Now, though, campers can while away their summer days doing all sorts of specialized camping. Let’s take a look at some camps that appeal to kids with very specific interests.

1. Hollywood Stunt Camp

California’s Pali Overnight Adventures offers a number of camps for the show-biz hopeful, but their Hollywood Stunt Camp sounds like it would be particularly fun. Campers spend either one of two weeks working with real Hollywood stuntmen on topics like taking a high fall, simulating hand-to-hand combat, and sword fighting. (Seems like a good idea. Kids are inevitably going to sword fight, so you might as well make it safe.) The two-week program even culminates with campers taking a 32-foot fall and directing and choreographing their own stunt spectacular.

If heights and fights aren’t your thing, Pali also offers a Movie Makeup Academy where campers work with Hollywood makeup artists to replicate favorite movie characters and even turn themselves into gory ghouls.

2. Nudist Camp

Since the early 1990s, the American Association for Nude Recreation has offered summer Youth Leadership Camps at various resorts around the country in order to let young people ages 11 to 18 enjoy some nude summer camp fun. While the notion of a camp full of naked teenagers may strike non-nudists as a bit strange (or completely appalling), a 2003 New York Times profile detailed how the camps were perfectly legal because the nudity wasn’t of a lewd nature. (The camps go to great lengths to desexualize the nudity in an effort to combat the teens’ surging hormones.) The result: camps where teens go to enjoy mundane activities like sports and arts and crafts, all while in the buff. The clothes-free policy certainly must make packing for camp easier.

3. Wizards and Warriors Camp

Finally, there’s a solution for kids who don’t want to leave their role-playing games for a week at camp: a camp that is one big RPG. At Charlton, MA’s Wizards and Warriors Camp, campers create their own characters and then spend their days fighting together against villains and searching for treasure. The camp sounds like it integrates educational elements into the fun – a potions-making class provides real-world lessons on chemistry – all while giving children a valuable opportunity to mingle with trolls. Check out the camp’s promotional video:

4. Camp XChange

Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business offers an unusual opportunity for rising high school juniors and seniors to get some experience in the fast-paced world of securities trading. The weeklong Camp XChange lets students act as traders in the school’s electronic trading lab and learn the intricacies of the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, and other trading floors around the world.

5. Archaeology Camp

Have a kid who wants to become the next Indiana Jones? Send him to archaeology camp at Colorado’s Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. The center’s three-week Archaeology Field School gives high school students the opportunity to excavate dig sites alongside the pros and help analyze what they find. Campers also get the opportunity to try their hand at many of tasks of the Pueblo Indians they’re studying, including starting a fire by hand.

6. Firefighting Camp

Think your kid might want to be a firefighter? Here’s a great way to find out. Junior firefighting camps are available around the country for kids of all ages who want to learn the ins and outs of fighting and preventing fires. Some, like New Hampshire’s Camp Fully Involved, are even more extremely specialized; Camp Fully Involved teaches young women ages 14 to 20 about topics like ventilation, dumpster fires, and forcible entry.

7. Young Business Camps

Young Americans Center for Financial Education in Colorado offers a variety of day camp for the (very) young aspiring businessman. The center’s offerings include “Running Your Own Biz,” a camp for third or fourth graders who are interested in starting their own businesses, and “Be Your Own Boss,” which gives fifth and sixth graders the skinny on running their own businesses. Something’s telling us that Colorado’s lemonade stands are run more efficiently than those in surrounding states thanks to these camps.

8. Spy Camp

What kid doesn’t want to be a secret agent? Camp Lohikan in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains fills this niche by offering Spy Camp. Aspiring James Bonds learn evasive driving maneuvers for ATVs, martial arts, undercover tactics, and code breaking skills. At the end of the term, campers test their spying acumen by participating in a recon and rescue mission.

9. Magic Camp

The Wizard’s Workshop bills itself as the best magic camp in Maine, and since we’d rather not be sawed in half, we won’t challenge them. Professional magicians Phil Smith and Bernard Blais use their day camp to teach kids showmanship, misdirection, and the other tricks of the magic trade. At this camp, every arts and crafts section yields something useful; campers build their own props and then use them in a final show to cap off the week.

10. Civil Savvy Camp

If your main beef with summer camp was that it was just too much fun, the Charleston School of Protocol and Etiquette’s Civil Savvy Camp for Children will be right up your alley. Who needs kickball or arts and crafts when you can take part in a weeklong day camp with sessions with titles like, “Handshaking,” “Giving and Receiving Compliments,” “Posture,” and “Poise”? The goal of the camp is to “help children become more self-confident and courteous.” This year’s camp ended on July 2, but kids, it’s not too early to start pestering your parents to sign you up for next year!
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Did you or your kids attend a unique summer camp? Tell us about it in the comments.

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Comments (27)
  1. I sure hope the counselors at naked kiddie camp are put through some very thorough background checks…

  2. Don’t forget NASA’s Space Camp!

  3. Missouri University of Science and Technology has held an explosives camp for a couple years now.


  4. Clown Camp.

    I always wanted to go as a kid. You see, I grew up in Berkeley and went to school accross the street from Wavey Gravy’s house. He started this camp where kids could go and be clowns. For some reason my mom wasn’t too into the idea. It was off to CYO camp for me (which was awesome).

    It is still aorund i just checked. Called Camp Winnarainbow… cute.

  5. US Space Camp is right up there too. Ages 9 to 99 can spend a week there training like the astronauts do. Space Camp has camps in Canada, Turkey, and Belgium too!

  6. How funny. My son is at the Wizards and Warriors camp right now. He loves it.

  7. Explosives Camp at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Kids get to blow up stuff with dynamite and put on a commercial-grade fireworks show.

  8. When I was in high school I went to Rocket Camp! We learned all about rockets and how they work and why they work and at the end of the week we got to shoot off a rocket (one that we had been building all week). I remember it being really cool. There is an article about it under the link in my name.

  9. OMG!!! It would have been a dream to have gone to the Nudist Camp when I was a teenager.

    There is no frigging way to desexualize THAT! Being a teenage boy with RAGING hormones and NAKED GIRLS walking around… that would have just make my head explode (figuratively/literally… whatever). Bet they went through their fair share of saltpeter.

    Wouldn’t have been pitching a tent though, just a pole, I guess.

  10. I went to Camp Winnarainbow for years! Much more than clown camp, it teaches all circus skills. Juggling, unicycle, tightrope, clowning, improv, trapeze, cloud swing, spanish rope, trampoline, stilt walking, and on and on. Best camp ever!

  11. My two older sisters went to MDA Summer Camp when I was a kid. According to the website: “MDA camp is a magical place offering a wide range of activities specially designed for young people who have limited mobility or use wheelchairs. Although structured, camp programs are conducted in a relaxed atmosphere that gives campers an unmatched opportunity to develop lifelong friendships, share interests and build self-confidence.” Seemed like a really good time for everyone who went.

  12. I went to Sea Camp. Weeklong look at local marine life on the gulf coast complete with a trip out to the main barrier island and shrimp boat ride.

  13. Before I read the list, i was going to say that the Young Writers Workshop at UVa was the best summer camp ever!

    However, I find myself seriously jealous of spy camp! also, the wizards and warriors. (Though if I recall, the YWW contingent got some gaming in.)

  14. Gah I missed out on everything. I didn’t got to anything more unusual than girlscout day camp as a girl!

    1861 Athenaeum Girls’ School sounds pretty cool to me. 1 week long lessons in etiquette, penmanship, art, music, dance, side saddle, archery and culminating in a ball! Girls are expected to bring their own auntebellum dresses.

  15. My daughter went to Sea World Camp and had a fabulous time!

  16. “nudist camp”

    Ugh, could you imagine bug bites, sun burn and potential poison ivy/oak?


  17. I went to girls math camp (to help promote math amongst middle school girls and fight the high low numbers of girls who score better than 700 on the math SAT — I’m a success story)

    Please Note: the role-playing camp described here would better be described as a LARPing camp (Live Action Role Playing), as numerous RPGs don’t involve physical contact

  18. How could you miss Concordia Language Villages? I was a camper and later a counselor at Waldsee, the German language camp. You get a passport, go through customs, exchange your money to purchase European candy at the store and it’s a complete immersion experience. All the counselors speak the language of the camp all the time–only the nurse speaks English. Other languages include: French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Finnish, Swedish. Norwegian, Dutch, Arabic and English as a Second Language.

  19. I work for a diabetes camp! All of our campers have type 1 diabetes!

  20. I worked for a summer at Camp Sky Ranch in Blowing Rock, NC. It was a camp for people with special needs. We did everything a typical camp does only modified. The biggest difference was the age range of the campers- the youngest was 5 and the oldest was well into their 60s. They all had a fabulous time, though.

  21. I go to Knitting Camp in Wisconsin every July!

  22. I teach at CircusCamp.org, in Atlanta, Georgia. We’ve been teaching kids age 5+ how to do magic, trapeze, juggling, tightwire, web, silks, clowning, balloon sculpting and lots of other things for 18 years now. It’s the best job in the world!

  23. I really wish my son was older, I can’t wait to send him to one of these camps. I think I would have totally loved etiquette camp.

  24. Future Astronaut Training Program!

    and no space camp is not just for nerds :)

  25. Richard Stockton College in Pomona, NJ (near Atlantic City) offers “Stockton CSI Camp” at which campers, who must be high school age, find a murdered “body,” learn how crime scene investigators find evidence, visit a prison and medical examiner’s office, identify a “perp” and then have a trial — all in 5 days! My son’s there now, and he loves it!!

  26. there’s also hemophilia camp. lotsa little boys in the woods trying not bleed to death.

  27. “Hey, Johnny! It’s time to pick a summer camp! Would you like to go to Wizards and Warriors, or Spy Camp, or how about this– Learn how to be a CORPORATE STOCK TRADER!! Wooohoo!”

    Seriously? That sounds like the complete opposite of fun.


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