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Summer day camp: Commuter camps for kids in NYC

Hop on a bus for a quick ride to these great summer day camps just outside the city.

Photograph: Melodie Kassman
Buckley Country Day Camp

When you're looking for a summer day camp for your city-dwelling child that has all the outdoor charm of a sleepaway camp, sign her up for a commuter camp. This kind of summer day camp lets your child experience all the things sleepaway camps offer—think sailing, canoeing, swimming and hiking, plus lots of fresh air and green grass—without having to leave one's family for weeks at a time. Not all commuter camps are alike either: Whether you're child is into creative arts like cartooning and jewelry making or farming the land and caring for animals, you'll find there's a camp on our list that fits the bill.

RECOMMENDED: Summer camps for kids

Blue Rill Day Camp

Campers roam on more than 20 acres of land boasting four heated pools, a fishing and boating pond, an adventure course, various athletic fields, an archery range and a ceramics studio. When they’re not trying out more traditional camp activities like swimming, rock climbing, and crafting, campers will compete in a Color War and play games at a camp-wide carnival. Older campers (entering 5th grade or above) can opt for the overnight program. 444 Saddle River Rd, Airmont NY (845-352-3521, bluerilldaycamp.com). Camp runs June 30–Aug 22, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm. Eight-week session $6,895, six-week session $6,370, four-week session $4,445, two-week session $2,455. Tuition includes door-to-door transportation and lunch. Ages 3 to 15.

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Buckley Day Camp

Campers rotate through various activities daily, among them swimming, art and music; older kids integrate personalized workshops—in subjects like creative arts, sports and sciences—into their schedule of more traditional, outdoorsy activities. Camp runs June 30–Aug 22, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm or 9am–1:30pm. Eight-week session $7,535 (full day), $6,265 (half day); four-week session $5,405 (full day), $4,475 (half day); two-week session $2,805 (full day), $2,240 (half day). Tuition includes bus transportation from Long Island, Manhattan's East Side or Queens. Ages 18 months to 15.

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Long Island

Deerkill Day Camp

Kids head to one of three pools to participate in a 40-minute swim session twice daily (one is instructional, the other recreational). On dry land, campers have access to a plethora of sports, ranging from the typical (baseball, tennis) to the more unusual (bocce, karate and pickleball), as well as classes in cooking, video production, woodworking and photography. New this year: a 28-ft climbing tower decked out with a 175-ft zip line. Camp runs June 30–Aug 22, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm. Eight-week session $7,175 (ages 7 and up) or $6,100 (children under 6); shorter sessions are available. Tuition includes door-to-door bus transportation from Manhattan, hot lunch, trips, shows and Deerkill's Family weekend pool club. Ages 3 to 15.

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Deer Mountain Day Camp

Intrepid tykes satisfy their thirst for adventure with kayaking, wall-climbing and mountain-biking courses. They can also participate in fine and performing arts courses taught by artists and trained professionals. Camp runs June 30–Aug 22, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm. Eight-week session $8,195, six-week session $7,370, four-week session $5,325. Tuition includes door-to-door, air-conditioned transportation from addresses in Manhattan. Ages 3 to 15.

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Gate Hill

Campers choose from myriad activities, among them zip-lining, tennis, soccer, climbing, go-karting and bumper boating. Youngsters are divided into age groups, and a special village for ages 3 to 5 keeps tots busy with their own instructors and facilities. Camp runs June 30–Aug 22, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm. Eight-week session $7,975, six-week session $6,900, five-week session $6,100, four-week session $5,275. Tuition includes door-to-door, air-conditioned transportation from addresses in Manhattan and hot lunch. Ages 3 to 15.

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JCC at Pearl River

Located just 35 minutes from Manhattan, the camp teaches everything from songwriting, graffiti, swimming and yoga, to nature appreciation, digital photography and music. Camp runs June 30–Aug 15, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm. Eight-week session $5,875 (ages 6 to 9) or $5,995 (ages 10 to 12), four-week session $3,800 (ages 6 to 9) or $3,950 (ages 10 to 12). Tuition includes transportation from the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side. Ages 5 to 12.

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Mount Tom

A typical day involves two swimming sessions, three physical activities (which may have kids maneuvering a challenge course or playing a team sport), and two cultural classes in music, drama, dance or art. This year, tots have the opportunity to take classes in Legos, gardening and cooking. In addition to taking advantage of the playground, theater, pools and multiple sports facilities, little ones dine on the patio of an early-20th-century mansion daily. Camp runs June 30–Aug 22, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm. Eight-week session $6,600, four-week session $4,200. Bus service available from Manhattan (additional $25 charge per week), the Bronx, Roosevelt Island, in Queens, Astoria, Long Island City, Woodside and Sunnyside, and in Brooklyn, Park Slope, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg. Ages 3 to 14.

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The Nature Place Day Camp

Along with more-traditional camp activities (think swimming lessons, skits and cooperative games), this non-competitive program gives kids a chance to take full advantage of their natural surroundings. Campers explore the camp's garden, then cook with fresh, locally grown ingredients. They can also interact with cows and sheep on the farm and create art from materials they find, such as clay from the stream. Hiking, canoeing and instruction in camping skills are on the roster as well. This year, the camp celebrates its 29th anniversary (a quirky alternative to the expected 30-year celebration) with a free family festival, open to the public, where there’ll be music, treats from the farm and vendor fare (July 26). Transportation is available from Manhattan. Camp runs June 30–Aug 8, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm. Six-week session $5,300, five-week session $5,00, four-week session $4,200, one-week session $1,050. Ages 4 to 16.

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The Nature Place Farm and Garden Days

Campers spend the session exploring the campground's farms and gardens. Little hands tackle gardening in the morning—composting, weeding, harvesting and tending the honeybees. They'll even have a chance to bake pizza in the camp's outdoor clay oven, taste herbs and learn about plant cycles. After lunch and a swim, youngsters head to the farm, where they'll help take care of cows and sheep, collect eggs, work with sheep wool and more. Transportation is available from Manhattan. Camp runs Aug 11–22, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm. Two-week session $2,100, one-week session $1,050. Ages 6 to 12.

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Hackley Hornets Program

Even kids who don’t attend this Tarrytown prep school can spend their summer taking advantage of its elite academics and gorgeous grounds. Campers choose two three-hour classes, taught by Hackley faculty, in everything from the arts to sports and ecology. (We love the quirky course titles, like Adventures in Inventing, where kids use 3-D printers and make wearable computers, Stage Combat and Extreme Acting, Three-Minute Filmmaking and Food for Thought, a creative cooking class.) Camp runs June 9–27 Mon–Fri 9am–4pm. One-week session $750, includes lunch. Transportation from Manhattan is available for an extra fee. Ages 4 to 14.

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Rolling River Day Camp

At this nautical-themed Nassau County camp, kids are divided into groups according to age: Skippers (ages 3-5), Mariners (ages 6-9), and Navigators (ages 9 to 13). Each day, campers dive into a schedule packed with athletics, crafts, performing arts and water sports on the five-acre riverside grounds, which feature three heated pools, an air-conditioned auditorium, a marina, and a hockey pavilion, plus an enrichment center that offers academic tutoring and therapeutic services. There's also a camp group for preschoolers with special needs and developmental delays, and a CIT program for fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds. Camp runs July 1–Aug 22, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm, 9am–2:15pm (ages 3 to 6) or 9am–1pm (ages 3 to 5). Eight-week session $4,200 (ages 3 to 4), $5,200 (age 5), $5,600 (ages 6 to 7 and 14 to 15), $5,800 (ages 8 to 9), $6,000 (ages 10 to 13); four-week session $2,700 (ages 3 to 4), $3,200 (age 5), $3,400 (ages 6 to 7 and 14 to 15), $3,500 (ages 8 to 9), $3,600 (ages 10 to 13). Tuition increases after April 5. Check website for more sessions and prices. Transportation to Manhattan $400-$600, to Brooklyn and Queens $300-$500. Ages 3 to 15.

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Long Island

92nd Street Y's Camp Yomi

The lineup at this 100-acre camp features cartooning, digital photography, swimming, ceramics, jewelry making and more. The sports program enlists the talents of instructors from city groups such as Super Soccer Stars, the Baseball Center NYC and Tennis Innovators. Camp runs June 30–Aug 19, Mon–Fri 8am–5:45pm. Eight-week session $6,100, six-week session $5,700, four-week session $4,600. Free round-trip bus transportation from various locations throughout NYC. Ages 4.5 to 9.

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Shorefront Y Day Camp

At this beachside camp, tots play on a rooftop playground, go on weekly trips to local art and science institutions, theme parks and zoos and receive swimming lessons daily. An added bonus: with the ocean right next door, trips to the beach are a given. Camp runs June 30–Aug 22 Mon–Fri 9am–5pm. Eight-week session $2,565 (ages 6 to 7), $2,665 (ages 8 to 9), $3,165 (ages 10 to 11) and $3,305 (ages 12 to 13). Ages 3 to 14.

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Spring Lake Day Camp

The 30-acre campground offers children five heated swimming pools, water slides, a lake for boating and fishing, a ropes course, a 500-foot zip line, plus a golf zone, recording studio and a new Legos class. Campers will also make use of facilities for soccer, ga ga, gymnastics, horseback riding, archery, tennis, volleyball and hockey as well as spaces for learning ceramics, theater and cooking. Kids entering grades 3 through 10 can opt into the travel program, which features trips to nearby amusement parks, Broadway shows and baseball games. Camp runs June 30–Aug 21, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm. Eight-week session $6,795, seven-week session $6,495, six-week session $6,195, five-week session $5,395, four-week session $4,295. Door-to-door transportation is provided from NYC. Ages 3 to 15.

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Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts

The venerable program has turned out a number of famous alums, including Mariah Carey and Natalie Portman, and offers more than 40 different courses of study spanning the performing and visual arts. Typically, campers spend part of the day focused on their primary interests and the rest of their time swimming and learning about another art form. Camp runs June 30–Aug 15, Mon–Fri 9:30am–3:30pm. Seven-week session $3,575–$4,075 (depending on the program), four-week session $2,925, three-week session $2,310. Air-conditioned bus service available from Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx for an additional fee. Ages 6 to 18.

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Upper East Side

Woodmont Day Camp

Kids are divided into six "villages" based on their age. Within each mini-community, campers sample an array of activities, ranging from go-karting and zip-lining to archery and farm animal care. This year, campers can also expect a new-and-improved water park to cool off in. Once a week children are treated to special events, such as magic shows, concerts, carnivals and the camp's "Woodlympics." Door-to-door, round-trip transportation is provided. Camp runs June 30–Aug 21, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm. $3,900–$7,600 depending on the number of weeks, with a three-week minimum. Ages 3 to 15.

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