By Amy Ahlberg
How many parents have dropped the kids off at sleep-away camp, surveyed the wide grassy fields, a glittering lake, and cozy cabins, and thought, "I wish I could go there"? Well, family camps assuage such envy: A happy hybrid of an old-school family vacation (think "Dirty Dancing," minus the class warfare) and classic summer camp, family camps offer bonding time as well as lots of new people to meet. Here is a selection of possibilities; just be sure to reserve early -- many of these camps get fully booked.
Each family stays in a single-room cabin (all with lighting, some with electrical outlets) at this camp in California's Eldorado National Forest. Kids can get creative with nature journals, tie-dyeing, lanyards, and other traditional arts and crafts. Sports include archery (like all good camps) but kids will especially like the family kickball games. There are three cafeteria-style meals daily, plus a nighttime treat, such as ice cream sundaes or brownies, around the campfire.
From $135/week for children, $561/week for adults (5 nights)
18880 Highway 50, Twin Bridges, CA
This camp in the Plumas National Forest in northern California specializes in themed family weeks -- whether it's folk-dancing, music, astronomy, storytelling, or something else. Recreation leaders are available for children's hikes, arts and crafts lessons, and other adventures. Explore the camp's extensive trails or take a dip in the lifeguard-supervised swimming hole, then bunk down in platform tents or cabins, some with electricity. The camp serves three family-style meals daily which include vegetarian options.
From $45/night for children, $72/night for adults
5469 Oakland Camp Road, Quincy, CA
Owned by the Appalachian Mountain Club, this waterfront camp on Mount Desert Island is geared just as much to adults as it is to kids. Daily organized hikes and nature walks are mainstays, along with kayaking, canoeing, sailing, and swimming (yes, the water is brisk!). After evening activities such as bingo and square dancing, guests go to sleep in canvas-sided platform tents equipped with cots and bedding. The dining hall serves three meals daily.
From $384/week for children, $589/week for adults (7 nights)
1479 Main Street, Mount Desert, ME
This camp's wooded, lakeside setting is home to both counselor-led activities for kids -- including archery, jewelry making, photography, field games, boating, and hikes -- and adult endeavors such as yoga, cheese making, and (for an extra charge) massage. Three meals plus snacks are served daily; the camp grows its own herbs and vegetables. Snuggle up in single-room cabins with electricity (and bathrooms).
From $695/week for children, $845/week for adults (6 nights)
178 Liberty Road, Washington, ME
This camp sits on a peninsula, and, as such, is ideal for all kinds of water sports (bring multiple bathing suits): You'll swim, sail, water ski, canoe, and kayak. Landlubbers, meanwhile, can ride horses or hike easy trails (on predominantly flat terrain). The rustic cabins have electricity and single beds, and meals are served family-style, with homemade desserts and a nighttime snack.
From $100/week for children, $450/week for adults (6 nights)
3782 South Triangle Trail, Fremont, MI
847-475-7400 ext. 236
At this family camp on Burntside Lake in Minnesota's Northwoods, you can canoe, sail, swim, hike, or do the wilderness program with the staff naturalist. Or take a sauna. When kids aren't playing on the waterfront, they can do nature-related crafts like making fairy houses with bark. Lodging options include both newer cabins as well as more rustic ones; all have lighting, some have electricity, kitchens, and bathrooms. There are several meal plan options available for an extra fee, and meal plans must be reserved in advance.
From $1,495/week for a family cabin (7 nights)
3606 North Arm Road, Ely, MN
Lodge rooms at this camp in the hilly Ozarks all have balconies with lake views; the family cabins have electricity, bathrooms, refrigerators, and wood-burning stone fireplaces. The camp's horse ranch has 40 horses, and you can arrange for trail rides or even a staff-led horseback overnight getaway to a campsite (both cost extra). Also, archery, astronomy programs, jewelry making, and ceramics are all offered, as well as canoeing and fishing on Sunnen Lake. The dining room in the lodge serves three buffet-style meals daily.
From $49/night for children, $149/night for adults
13528 State Highway AA, Potosi, MO
Another Appalacian Mountain Club operation, this lodge has a Family Adventure Camp that includes hiking, wildlife tracking, kids' crafts, and a guided overnight trip to a backcountry hut. Bunkhouse accommodations are available, as well as lodge rooms with bathrooms. The program provides a buffet breakfast, trail lunch, and family-style dinner. You can borrow equipment like fleece jackets and hiking boots from the lodge's L.L. Bean gear room.
From $282.50/week for children, $517.50/week for adults (4 nights)
4384 Route 302, Bretton Woods, NH
Pull up a sit-upon and join the conversation -- this camp nurtures discussions of cultural and environmental issues. Kids aren't quite up to speed on the hot topics? They can partake in guided nature-oriented activities and crafts at this woodsy lakeside camp in the shadow of Mount Chocura. (Adults can take programs like writing workshops.) Outdoor fun includes organized hikes, bike rides, and boating on the lake, and Friday night's known for the talent show. Sleep in one of the main lodge's rooms or in four other lodging houses, and feast on three family-style meals daily that feature produce from the camp's extensive organic garden.
From $131.04/week for children, $327.60/week for adults (7 nights)
368 Drake Hill Road, Albany, NH
All of the old-fashioned cabins at this island camp are situated right on Lake Winnepesaukee, with both waterfront and mountain views. Activities are old school as well, with lots of family dances and games like relay races and capture the flag. In addition to tennis, swimming, and waterskiing, adults love the craft workshop where they can partake in silverworking, leatherworking, beading, and batiking. Some cabins have bathrooms; all have electricity and single beds. Three meals are served daily, and vegetarian options are available.
From $370/week for children, $760/week for adults (7 nights)
144 Governor Wentworth Highway, Sandy Island, Meredith, NH
This Appalachian Mountain Club camp is situated in hiking heaven, between two mountain ridges in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Nestled in the hardwood forest are small hostel-style buildings and cabins -- some with bathrooms, and some with kitchens. Many guided hikes originate from the Mohican Outdoor Center, and you can enjoy sit-down deli lunches at the center or order trail lunches to go. Bring along food to cook your own dinners in the common area's kitchen. The pond has canoes and kayaks to rent.
From $26.75/night for children, $29.96/night for adults
50 Camp Road, Blairstown, NJ
Perched on Mount Davis, the highest peak in Pennsylvania (and just north of the Maryland panhandle), this camp's housing options include lodge rooms, cabins, and cottages (all with electricity and some with bathrooms). Try hiking, archery, and field sports on land, or sail, canoe, windsurf, or take a pontoon boat ride on the 125-acre lake. Cafe night features a staff variety show, and a craft shop means you can try your hand at leatherwork, beading, pottery, and more. Three family-style meals are served daily.
From $281/week for children, $568/week for adults (7 nights)
254 Deer Valley Drive, Fort Hill, PA
The eclectic cabins at this camp are made from repurposed materials, and some have electricity and bathrooms (there's also a residential eco-lodge). Activities on offer are glass beadmaking, watercolor, weaving, nature exploration, and sports including relay races and tennis. Campers can learn a musical instrument or sign up for a yoga session; there's also a swimming pond and hiking trails through 700 acres. The three meals served buffet-style (plus snacks) are mostly organic and locally sourced, and a highlight is brick oven pizza night.
From $450/week for children, $675/week for adults (6 nights)
473 Tatro Road, Starksboro, VT
This family camp operated by the Aloha Foundation sits on a hill overlooking Lake Fairlee. The wood-framed cabins are rustic in style but have electricity, bathrooms, and full kitchens (and the dining hall offers three daily meals as well). The camp's van makes hourly trips down to the waterfront for swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and sailing; you can try hiking, tennis, nature talks, basket making, stained glass, woodworking, bread baking and contra dancing (a version of folk dancing).
From $2,430/week for a family cabin (7 nights)
341 Quinibeck Road, Fairlee, VT
Set in acres of forest on the Lac du Flambeau Chippewa reservation in the north part of Wisconsin, this camp offers outdoor activities such as a water carnival and movie night on the beach -- plus a triathlon, if you're feeling more ambitious. You can boat to a special breakfast on a nearby peninsula where counselors cook over an open fire. Stay in a range of cabins and buildings, all with kitchens and some with bathrooms. Food isn't provided, but this camp is located just 15 miles from a town with several grocery stores; if you choose, you can offer up your family's signature dish at the weekly potluck dinner.
From $708/week for a family cabin (7 nights)
13400 Camp Nawakwa Lane, Lac du Flambeau, WI
To explore Yellowstone's forested and high desert terrain, sign up for this four-day program run by the Yellowstone Association Institute. Families learn together -- and kids can earn the National Park Service Junior Ranger patch. Go on wildlife-spotting excursions in the park and watch water cascade down the limestone Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. Most families stay in duplex cabins (with electricity and bathrooms) at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins. Although the program includes breakfast and a daily trail lunch, families are on their own for dinner -- you can bring a grill and a cooler for your stay, or plan on dining out in the evening.
From $712.30/week for children, $760/week for adults (4 nights)
1 Grand Loop, Yellowstone National Park, WY
866-439-7375, option 4