Family Camp Has Its Days in the Sun

By Gregory Keer

When my wife first dragged us all to family camp a few years ago, I had mixed emotions. I recalled my own overnight camp experiences of painful shyness around other kids, fear of mountain lions that might randomly attack me, and general cluelessness about campfire song lyrics.

Four years later, I'm itching to get back for our fourth annual week at the UCLA Bruin Woods family camp up in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. Maybe it has to do with the way my sons pal around with their fellow campers; hike, fish and swim fearlessly; and scream out silly songs so the whole facility can hear them. And maybe it has to do with the grown-up activities of inner-tube water polo, high-wire walking on the ropes course, and after-dark games of "mafia."

Family Camp

Apparently, my love of the family-camp experience is not unique. This kind of vacation has grown increasingly popular as adults learn that camper bonding, lanyard-making and lakeside overnights are not just for kids anymore. The American Camp Association (ACA), which accredits camps according to certain quality standards and represents about a quarter of the industry, notes an increase in family camps of 24 percent over the last four years. This means there are plenty of options, in every part of the country.

Like a rustic version of an all-inclusive Caribbean vacation, family camps' appeal seems to stem from Americans' desire to stay domestic and, in the case of some camps, save some money. These camps offer numerous features, including groups for the kids, prepared meals, comfortable accommodations and enough sports, arts-and-crafts and outdoor recreation to make adults feel young again.

Reasons to Go to Family Camp

Aside from having all the play opportunities, family camp is a unique chance for parents and children to deepen their bonds. In an environment far from the hustle and responsibilities of home and work, families can focus on each other.

They can try new things together, such as waterskiing and archery. At the camp my family attends, we've gone on counselor-led parent-child overnights under the stars and giggled through campwide picnic games. Though I haven't gotten the guts to do it yet, lots of parents perform with their kids in a talent show as well.

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