Try these day camps for your kid's best summer camp experience ever! This lineup is dedicated to general day camps that really give your kids a taste of everything—including a good mix of arts & crafts, sports and outdoor activities, games and traditional camp activities like tie-dye and capture the flag!
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to summer camps in NYC
*Looking for more day camps in a specific category?* You'll want to see our dedicated day camp lists for sports camp, STEM and science camps, creative art camps, sleepaway camps, performing arts camps and family camp, to name a few. Visit the guide link above to see even more categories.
Best day camps in New York
The campus is vast (200 acres), and the number of campers is small—a winning combination for a program dedicated to exploring the great outdoors. Kids get their hands dirty roaming and working in the farmland, gardens, fields, swamp and ponds, plus they master valuable farm skills like how to harvest crops and take care of cute little chickens. Art projects, noncompetitive sports, hiking, music and a hilarious storyteller further round out the experience for all. Farm and Garden Days (August 14–25) offer your children even more opportunities to help with the harvest and work with animals, which includes milking a cow. Ages 4–16.
Thanks to the fantastic zoos in NYC, which are backed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, families have the opportunity to see animals from across the globe without ever leaving the city. The massive Bronx Zoo (one of the biggest in North America), as well as the Central Park, Prospect Park and Queens zoos, all invite kids to learn about numerous species through hands-on summer programs. Offerings are slightly different for each location, but youngsters are guaranteed to get up-close with all sorts of creatures, explore cool exhibits, conduct science experiments and learn from the zookeepers. Families love Coney Island for the rides, but after attending Wildlife Conservation Society’s summer program at the Aquarium, children will have a new favorite spot at America’s Playground. These weeklong sessions center around wacky aquatic themes: Preschoolers and kindergartners can play hide-and-“sea”k with the fish and other animals that easily blend into their environment, first- and second-graders yell “Ahoy!” and draw their own maps during Walk the Plank-Ton week, and big kids learn about the communication skills of marine mammals. Ages 3–13.
Supplied with their imaginations and a “junkyard” playground filled with discarded plastics, ropes, tires and other unwanted stuff, campers are given the freedom to play, create and build all day long at this new Governors Island camp. Children call on each other, as well as the dedicated, patient and artistic instructors, for help when stacking items and handcrafting unusual multimedia materials to finish projects that could be anything from a pirate ship to a martian evening gown. Ages 7 to 11.
Any little one who’s longing for a Girl Scout vest dotted with patches will feel like she’s earned her stripes after a weekend at Camp Kaufmann. Both members and nonaffiliated newcomers are welcome to choose from a mom and daughter trip or the mini sleepaway program, in which they are supervised by experienced staff. The girls are divided into groups based on age or program track (Daisies, Brownies, Juniors, etc.) and spend their days diving into classic camp offerings like archery, swimming, boating and ropes courses. The gorgeous rolling hills of Dutchess County are the perfect setting for nighttime hikes and evocative campfire gatherings, and special themed parties on Saturday nights make weekends especially memorable. Newbies will cherish time-honored traditions like friendship songs, the Trading Post and the flag ceremony. Ages 5–17.
This mega camp gives parents three Big Apple locations to choose from, and gives children days filled with art making, swimming lessons, movement and dance classes and more. The folks at Oasis have been hosting youth programs for the past 17 years, providing tykes with attentive, stress-free environments in which they can try new things and meet new friends—and have tons of fun! Ages 3 to 5. Locations: • 285 Delancey St at Cannon St (646-519-5058, oasischildren.com). • 180 Remsen St at Court St, Brooklyn (646-519-5069). • 32 W 92nd St at Central Park W (212-799-2534).
The overall focus at Camp Zeke is wellness, so campers learn the value of a healthy lifestyle that includes fitness and a nutritious diet during their stay. It’s structured with electives, meaning kids can choose from activities, such as Krav Maga, soccer or dance, or opt for more chill pastimes, like yoga, running or boating. Children interested in food can try the culinary-arts program, explore the teaching kitchen, compete in cooking competitions and learn recipes they can whip up at home. Campers often help prepare the wholesome dishes served in the dining hall, a.k.a. Cafe Zeke, using organic, locally sourced ingredients. There's plenty more, too—including dance and circus arts programs. Ages 7–17.
Is your child looking for a new habitat to investigate? Then let them get down in the mud in this program from New York Botanical Gardens. Local marshes, wetlands, ponds and rivers are breeding grounds for all sorts of animal and plant life with fascinating ecologies. Campers can “get their feet wet” (don’t worry, they wear special boots and rubber overalls when wading through algae and the like) collecting samples and making observations for scientific discoveries. Kids who prefer dry land can also check out the conservatory’s Forest Adventure Camp, which sticks to woodlands, and Plant Explorer Camp, during which plants are taken to the lab. Ages 4–10.
Every morning campers head to local parks and green spaces to decode the secrets of these natural habitats. The kiddo crew documents cool finds (like crawling critters, colorful birds and animal tracks) and researches its observations in the camp’s library. Extended-day camp, which includes an extra three hours of investigating the wetlands and trails around Snug Harbor, is available for an additional fee ($100 a week). Ages 8–13.
The big idea behind this flexible camp is to give children the power to structure their own learning. Kiddos can select from a wide variety of hands-on classes on topics like stop-motion animation, fashion, coding, breadmaking, sports, music and dance. Buy passes to use at any of the company's locations (there are four in NYC and 40 nationwide) and drop your kids off whenever you want—or maybe we should say whenever they want. Ages 4 and up. Carroll Gardens: June 26–Aug 25, 477 Court St (347-378-3014); Williamsburg: June 19–Aug 18, 299 North 7th St (347-227-0080); Kips Bay: June 19–Aug 18, 24-50 FDR Dr (347-486-5928); Upper East Side: June 19–Aug 18, 312 East 95th St (347-719-4497)