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Photograph: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

The best summer camps NYC kids love

Looking for summer camps NYC parents? We're here to help your kids have an amazing summer with these selections.

By Paulina Jayne Isaac

One of the many joys of being a kid is that when school’s out, you get about three months of freedom. As adults, we know that three consecutive months of vacation are rare even if you’re a teacher (lesson plans, anyone?). However, kids can use that time to play sports, paint, and explore. If you put your kid in a summer camp, then they have even more activities to choose from.

New York City has a lot to offer. There are benefits to living in the most populous city in the country. It leaves you with a lot of options when it schools, after-school programs, and summer camps. We did our best to narrow down the array of camps into this diverse, fun, and balanced list. After looking at these camp offerings, you’ll be longer for the days when you were a kid.

Be sure to also have a look at our favorite day camps for kids, sleepaway camps and family camps if you want to get in on the action, too!

It's time to make summer 2021 one for the books!

Summer camps NYC kids love

 New York Aquarium
Photograph: Courtesy New York Aquarium

1. New York Aquarium Summer Camp

Things to do Camps Brooklyn

The in-person New York Aquarium Camp is back this year and offering weekly aqua-based activities for campers from 9am to 3pm. Kids in first and second grade can enjoy Aqua Science where they’ll learn about marine life, explore beaches, and have up-close animal encounters. Third, fourth, and fight-graders get an equally cool experience. Those campers will learn not just about the animals, but also their habitats. They’ll use hands-on projects, exhibits, and more to understand how marine life has adapted over the years. Ages 5–10.

Photograph: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

2. Bronx Zoo Summer Camp

Things to do Camps The Bronx

If you’re a parent to a young animal lover then you can’t go wrong with the Bronx Zoo Summer Camp option. The camp accepts first to eighth-graders to join an educational and fun experience. The campers are split up into three age-appropriate groups: Animal Survivor, Animal Architects, and Wildlife Protectors. The 10-day camp lets the children explore the 265-acre zoo and 8,000 animals. The camp is also taking safety COVID-19 safety precautions, including requiring campers to provide a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to the first day, or a rapid test taken within 6 hours before arriving. Grades 1-8.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

3. MoMath Summer Camp

Things to do Camps Chelsea

If a summer full of sports or arts and crafts doesn’t seem like the right fit for your kid, then try the National Museum of Mathematics’ MoMath Summer Camp. Don’t worry, the campers don’t just work on math problems all day. It’s just as fun as any other camp. The Epsilons (first through third graders) focus on nurturing a love for math. The Deltas (fourth through sixth graders) let campers explore their individual interests within math and The Gammas (rising seventh through ninth graders) tackle advanced math knowledge and skills. The camp is currently online but is planning to offer additional in-person activities if COVID-19 recommendations allow. Ages 6–12.

Photograph: Courtesy Asphalt Green

4. Asphalt Green Summer Day Camp

Things to do Camps Upper East Side

When it comes to Asphalt Green’s summer day camps, there are two locations to choose from. The Upper East Side and Battery Park City locations will provide an abundance of activities that will surely satisfy any camper. If a day camp isn’t the right fit, mini-camps, sports camps, and soccer camps are also offered. The usual overnight and day trips are suspended for the 2021 season due to COVID, but the campers can still take part in fencing, theater, painting and more. Ages 4.5-13.


5. Downtown United Soccer Club

Things to do Camps West Village

Great soccer players aren’t born—they’re made. Even Cristiano Ronaldo and Megan Rapino had to start somewhere, right? If you spot greatness in your kid (or if they just really like kicking a ball around), Downtown United Soccer Club is a place where they’ll thrive. The day camp offers a full-day option for older campers and a half-day option for younger campers. Having been around for more than 25 years means that they know how to teach kids skill work, ball mastery, coordination, and movement. Ages 5 to 14.

Courtesy Chelsea Piers/Scott McDermott Photography

6. Chelsea Piers Ninja & Parkour Camp

Things to do Camps Chelsea

For those youngsters who can’t resist an American Ninja Warrior marathon, this offering is a kid-friendly version of the reality show, complete with fun obstacles in a safe environment. Campers will take breathers during the day to enjoy lunch and recreational activities before embarking on an athletic challenge. Kiddie not interested in parkour? You can check out the rest of Chelsea Pier's options here. One aspect that sets Chelsea Piers Summer Camp apart from the rest is that they’re offering a promotion to any family who registers more than one child. During the month of April, you’ll automatically receive $100 off the camp tuition for each additional child registered. Ages 7–13. 

Photograph: Courtesy Queen's Botanical Garden

7. Queens Botanical Garden Camp

Things to do Camps Queens

Your child will learn first-hand about nature at Queen’s Botanical Garden Camp. Living in New York doesn’t always offer a lot of greenery, so this is a chance for your child to learn about planting, playing, and observing in what’s dubbed an “urban oasis,” where people, plants, and a variety of cultures are celebrated through gardens and educational programs. Your camper will come home from camp knowing more about the natural world than when they started at the beginning of the season. Ages 2–15.

City Sail
Photograph: Courtesy City Sail

8. City Sail Summer Camp

Safety is paramount during the pandemic. One of the best ways to stay safe when you’re around other people is to meet outdoors. City Sail has successfully incorporated CDC, American Camp Association, and US Sailing COVID-19 safety protocols to censure camper safety. The kids will set sail in small groups and maintain social distancing while sailing on the Hudson River. The summer program runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in Chelsea and 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Inwood. In both locations, campers will learn new skills and build sailing knowledge. Ages 9–16. 


9. Mill Basin Day Camp

When it comes to Mill Basin Day Camp, the options are endless. The camp offers five different programs: Pioneers for the youngest campers, Adventures, Stars, Explorers, and Teen Quest. Kids are split up into age-appropriate groups and led by multiple teachers and counselors, depending on the specific group’s needs. Mill Basin prides itself on offering innovative programming and careful staff selection to make sure that your child has the best possible summer experience. Grades Pre-K-9.

10. Play:groundNYC Camp

If your little camper is looking to get their hands dirty, then send them to Play:ground. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to reimagining urban life as a place where children can freely explore, play, and create. “The Yard” is a place where kids play in the hidden nooks, muddy paths, and on the kid-built structures. There’s a place for kids to work with tools, building materials, and fine art. This is the camp for kids who like to get their hands dirty. Ages 6–12.

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