Types of Family Camps

By Gregory Keer

Whatever your motivation is to try family camp, one of the biggest questions you'll face is what kind of camp to attend. With their long history of running day- and overnight-camps for kids, the YMCA has some of the most well-equipped facilities in the country. Their sites range from YMCA Camp Hi-Rock in the Berkshires of Massachusetts and Frost Valley YMCA Camp in the New York's Catskill Mountains to Camp Flaming Arrow in Hunt, Texas. Operated by the YMCA of Greater San Antonio, Camp Flaming Arrow plans three family camp dates for 2006; activities will include climbing, fishing, hiking, archery, horseback riding, swimming, arts and crafts, a ropes course and more.

mily: Verdana;">Universities run quite a few programs and some of them, including Bruin Woods and the University of California at Berkeley's Lair of the Bear, only accept families with at least one school alumnus. A number of camps, such as Colorado University's Family Camp, accept non-alumni campers as long as they pay a nominal alumni association fee.

mily: Verdana;">Religious-oriented camps are also popular as they combine spiritual elements with many of the recreational activities offered at secular programs. Pine Cove is a nondenominational Christian camp with locations in Tyler and Columbus, Texas. The Union for Reform Judaism operates the Greene Family Camp in Texas (north of Austin).

mily: Verdana;">Other camps can be more specialized, such as the meditative/yoga-themed Buddhist family camp at Shambhala Mountain in the Colorado Rockies, and the Cazadero Performing Arts Family Camp near San Francisco. At Cazadero, parents and kids learn theater, music and other arts skills before getting the chance to show what they've learned in camp shows.

mily: Verdana;">While many camps have day programs for the kids so the adults have time to play on their own, other camps offer the full-time family opportunity. Cheley Colorado Camps' family weeks ensure that parents and kids stay connected with Western riding, hiking and other outdoor activities they do together.

mily: Verdana;">Don Cheley, who owns and operates the camps with his wife, Carole, explains that this camp is "not a resort" - it's a traditional residential camp with adults thrown into the mix. The Cheley camps have been running for 85 years, and this will be the 22nd summer for the family program.

"It all started because every time we'd do our presentation for the kids' camps, parents would ask if they could get in on the fun, too," Cheley explains.

Not to go unmentioned are the winter and spring family camp weeks and weekends, which have proliferated in the wake of summer camp growth. Many of the facilities that currently run family camps have these off-season options.