Who says sleep away camp is just for kids? Water skiing, archery, nature walks, every color punch you can think of, bug bites and Friday night pizza doesn't just have to be for the eighth grader in the family. Now mom, dad and even grandma can join in on the fun of endless activities, movies in the mess hall and head counselors as many major nature organizations and small private camps offer a wide variety of family summer camp excursions.
The Sierra Club (tel. 415/977-5500; www.sierraclub.org) offers a host of family trips that focus on canoeing, backpacking, rafting and other outdoor activities. For groups with toddlers to college-age children, these trips cater to the family who likes to spend time together, learn together and see the wilderness. A weeklong jaunt to the Sierra Mountains, a three-hour drive from San Francisco, called "Tots at Tamarack Lodge" costs $495 for adults and $395 per child (minimum age of two) includes all lodging and all meals on the trip. You'll stay at the Tamarack Lodge, a family-oriented lodge sitting at 7,000 feet above sea level equipped with stroller walkways and plenty of rocks to scale and trees to climb. This trip takes place June 19 to June 24, 2005. See the website's Family Trip page (http://whistler.sierraclub.org/TripSearch/TripDisplay.jsp?triptype=FM) for details on this trip and the other 37 family camp outdoor excursions taking place over this coming summer. The beauty of taking a Sierra Club trip is the high quality of the trip leaders or guides. Many are trained outdoor professionals with experience in the Girl Scouts and Eagle Scouts with vast knowledge regarding the workings of the wilderness.
Another family camp option is the Young Men's Christian Association (www.ymca.com). The YMCA runs an extensive Family Camp system every summer. These are community-based programs designed to strengthen the family bond and link relationships to the local environment. Focusing on athletics, crafts and general health-related fitness issues, each YMCA tailors its activities to its surrounding and promotes diversity. Contact your local branch for more information. You can get the phone number from the easy-to-use search engine on the home page of the Y's site. Prices are slightly less expensive if you're a member of the YMCA and they vary from branch to branch. But in keeping with the YMCAs benevolent philosophy, Family Camp prices are affordable.
In addition to the Family Camp options from national organizations, some private summer camps gear themselves to the ultimate family experience. The Wonder Valley Family Camp (tel. 800/821-2801; www.wondervalleyfamilycamp.com) located in the foothills of California's Sierra Mountains has two one-week sessions running August 7 to 13, 2005, that promises all the excitement of sleep-away camp life. The costs for the week run $989 for adults 18 or older and go down based on age to $259 for children from zero to two years old. Most rooms accommodate up to 6 people with additional fees tacked on for bigger rooms for up to eight. The camp is equipped with an equestrian ring, an aquatic center where you can learn to sail, basketball courts, tennis courts, volleyball courts, tetherball, baseball and football fields, and a brand new Skateboard Park. One thing's for sure, the sprawling buffets served in the big lodge at Wonderland sure beat sleep away camp chow. Hope they still make that multi-colored bug juice.
Have you taken the whole family to a summer camp? We'd love to read your stories on our Family Travel Message Boards.