Best summer camps for teens
The mecca of Manhattan sports provides a stellar experience for children of all ages looking to stay active during the summer months. Chelsea Piers' Urban Adventure camp for Teens ages 12 – 16 allows campers to tackle a wide variety of sports during its adventurous daily offerings, including kayaking, sailing, rock climbing, boxing, basketball and more. When it comes time to cool down after the face-offs, kids can enjoy their lunch as well as other daily recreational activities. Plus, Chelsea Piers also offers specified camp experiences for more than 16 sports. Ages 3-17.
Thanks to several unique offerings from the Intrepid Museum this summer, kids are sure to find a program they'll love! Many of the programs, including Spy Science (which focuses in on the concept of cracking codes like Sherlock Holmes) also offer camps at various age levels. This is the perfect place for scientists-in-the-making and junior history buffs. Ages 5–13.
Set on an idyllic mountainside with a spring-fed lake, the 25-acre camp pays particular attention to each camper’s stage of development. In addition to its main programming of sports, fine arts, performing arts, outdoor adventure, swimming and special events, Deer Mountain adds more classes and trips as participants advance. Kids can choose from electives such as wire art, Claymation, hip-hop dance and handball, to name a few. Ages 3–15.
Though this camp is just under two hours from NYC, the majestic Catskill Mountains couldn’t feel farther away from the bustle of Manhattan. Two hundred scenic acres are filled to the brim with activities! The options are endless: Soccer, lacrosse, basketball, softball, GaGa and tennis are just a few of the sports on offer, and kids will also get their fill of water sports such as sailing, swim team, banana boats and waterskiing. Lakota also caters to equestrians, gymnasts, artists and skateboard fanatics (the campground just got a new skateboard park!) Ages 6–16.
Your ball of energy can choose between a swim, sports or arts camp with expert instructors. Swimmers can tucker themselves out with endless pool time, young athletes will be in their element as they play baseball, tennis and other team sports and creatives can express themselves in many media, including the circus arts and film. Each program includes exciting weekly field trips that’ll appeal to all, such as a Mets game or rock climbing at the Cliffs in Queens. Ages 4.5–13.
Step right up and get ready to star in your own amazing three-ring circus. Young acrobats will swing on the trapeze, flip the day away on the trampoline and balance on a tightrope. They'll learn the techniques of real-life action hero (and Macarthur Grant winner) Elizabeth Streb, whose motion lexicon Pop Action combines stage and street performance art. Ages 6–13.
All skill levels are invited to spend their summer on the water, making friends with team members and learning the fundamentals of rowing. For those who take their water adventures seriously and have victory on their brains, there is a competitive camp (June 24–Aug 9) that will satisfy the urge to race. Time to grab the paddles and get moving, kids! Grades 7–12.
The 200-acre camp is perfect for exploring the great outdoors. Kids get their hands dirty roaming and working in the farmland, gardens, fields and ponds—plus they master valuable farm skills such as harvesting crops and taking care of cute little chickens. Art projects, noncompetitive sports, hiking, music and a hilarious storyteller further round out the experience. Farm and Garden Days offer your children even more opportunities to help with the harvest and animal work. Ages 4–16.
Whether your kids' creativity is focused in one area of the arts or if their passion for performing, creating and imagining cannot be contained, Usdan allows campers to curate a program that is right for them. From a variety of classes in music, dance, theater, creative writing and visual arts, children choose a major and minor to fill their days at the beautiful Wheatley Heights campus. Classes appeal to both traditionalists and contemporary performers, with options that include ballet or hip-hop for dancers or musical theater and game-heavy actor’s craft for thespians. For kids who want to work with their hands, classes in metalworking, archery, organic gardening and LEGO design keep their bodies and minds occupied. Ages 7–18.
Young New Yorkers who never cease to be amazed by skyscrapers can imagine and build their own models—after they’ve learned how to handle the design challenges of really tall structures. Similar five-day programs exist for treehouses and bridges, and other offerings allow future architects to study digital design using 3-D computer modeling or old-school freehand drawing. For the latter, campers explore the city to sketch various architectural wonders. In all sessions, participants take home the projects they create. Grades 3–12.
This inclusive program offers teens who are deaf and hard-of-hearing a chance to immerse themselves in theater. Participants will cover a wide range of areas—script writing, acting and improv, to name a few—in order to get a sense of how productions are brought to life. This year's offering will pay homage to the venue's location and include a downtown twist. Young actors need not have prior experience to apply. Ages 13–17.
True to its name, Independent Lake Camp is all about kids doing it their way, whether that means sticking with a close-knit group of friends for go-karting, a cappella or powerboating on the 100-acre lake. It could also mean breaking away from the herd to explore tagging graffiti, ride the rails in the state-of-the-art skate park or hold on tight on the giant swing. Activities even include magic sessions, digital arts like building your own computer or making your own game, and circus arts like trapeze and unicycle. The vibe here is relaxed but well supervised. Ages 6–17.
Professional songwriters, musicians and producers mentor burgeoning creatives at Smash Studio and Shelter Island Sound, where Rihanna and other celeb artists record. The focus is on empowerment through creation: Campers write and record original songs, and parents can attend open studios in the first week to listen to the tunes’ progress. Each session culminates with a performance at the Slipper Room, and kids take home a CD of their work. Ages 8–18.
Mathematics might get a bad rep in school, but MoMath makes the subject a whole lot more interesting, especially when there’s no homework or tests! Campers are divided by grade level: the Epsilons (first to third grade) and Deltas (fourth to sixth grade). Throughout the week, they tackle creative projects and interactive programs while exploring new and unfamiliar areas of the field that often aren’t taught at school—Perplexing Puzzles and Game Theory, to name a few. When it’s time to refuel, the groups venture across the street to Madison Square Park for lunch, weather permitting. Ages 6–12.
Thanks to the fantastic Wildlife Conservation Society-backed zoos (and aquarium) in NYC, families have the opportunity to see animals from across the globe without leaving the city. The Bronx Zoo—as well as the Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo and the New York Aquarium—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. Campers of all ages (starting at 12 mos) get to visit exhibits, solve animal mysteries and enjoy the fun. All ages.
Kids will hardly be able to control their excitement on the drive to Hi-Rock. Between the picturesque views, wooden cabins and myriad activities to try, it’s an idyllic camp setting. Gender- and age-specific cabins make for a slumber-party–style experience, plus everyone (boys and girls!) comes together for meals and activities. Whether your kiddos are busy scaling a high-ropes course, geocaching in the Berkshires, swimming in the pristine 90-acre lake or playing capture the flag, one thing’s certain: Every summer here is definitely one to remember. Ages 7–16.
The first step on the road to making it on the Great White Way is learning how to sing the notes and tap your toes, which is exactly what real working Broadway professionals teach the young performers at A Class Act NY’s all-levels-welcome Boot Camp. During the course, kids, tweens and teens master a variety of numbers that span musical theater’s history, from the lively show tunes of the Rodgers & Hammerstein–led golden age to the innovative works of today. To round out the experience, other workshops teach theater techniques like stage combat and improvisation. Camp ends with a children’s theater showcase, during which the future stars present their very best numbers. The offerings for 2019 include, The Performing Arts Experience, Broadway Bound Camp, Annie Kids Workshop Production and more. Learn about all of the programs here. Ages 7–18.
Camp Echo encompasses 200 acres of fields and trails and plenty for kids to enjoy, complete with art class, boating, horseback riding and traditional camp activities like roasting marshmallows and flag-raising/lowering! We especially love that every cabin comes up with a "Code of Living"—a set of rules created by bunkmates that everyone can agree to follow during their summer together. Did we mention there are also milk and cookies before bed? Ages 6–17.
Six activity sessions each day give campers every chance to pursue their passions. Three periods are taken up by “majors,” or concentrations that stay the same for a full three-week session, and these include classes as varied as learning an instrument or playing in a rock band, perfecting that pirouette in ballet, grasping the art of leather craft or woodworking—even disappearing in a magic class. The remaining periods are used for “minors,” which are chosen each morning. Kids always have the opportunity to try a different skill outside their wheelhouse, work more on their favorite subject or cut loose with waterfront activities like swimming, zip-lining or clowning around (literally, in a circus class). Ages 7–17.
Tucked away on a New England mountainside, this charming upstate camp invites boys and girls from around the world for an unforgettable summer. Adirondack Camp offers two-week sessions for seven, eight and nine-year-old first-timers, making it a great option for new campers (and, of course, there are full-summer session lengths for kids who just can't get enough). Families can also help their kids pick their daily itineraries, which means that each camper can either focus largely on their favorite activities (like arts and crafts) or try something new (like wakeboarding or archery) for their time at Adirondack. Ages 7–17.
The WriCampia program in the Poconos is perfect for those craving to pen the next great American novel. Buses transport campers from Manhattan and Westchester for a 12-day escape filled with intimate writing workshops and creative electives. Published authors and playwrights help kids learn the secrets to memoir writing, poetry and what makes a great novel, while campers also enjoy arts activities such as photography, ceramics, theater, zine-making and filmmaking. In the evening, everyone gathers around the campfire to swap stories or test their team-building skills in a scavenger hunt or “escape the room” challenge. Ages 7–18.
Nurture your little scientist with STEAM projects and topics during the summer at Marymount Manhattan. Kids can learn how science is an integral part of catching the bad guys during the CSI course or learn what surgeons deal with on a daily basis with the surgical technique course. There's a bit of everything for all interests: coding, biology, video animation, engineering and so much more. Field trips and swimming instruction are not included in science, engineer and design camps. Grades 4–8.
The active participants at Camp Awosting’s all-girls sister camp are sure to give the boys a run for their money when it comes time to compete. With everything from swimming to sailing, a water trampoline, on-land sports, dance, drama and gymnastics on the agendas, the campers rarely stand still, and they are encouraged to do it all! Mornings and afternoons are packed with exciting happenings, and when the sun goes down, there are coed dances (complete with DJs), movie nights and more to keep everyone entertained. Adventurous campers will love the chance to venture out for a weekly overnight camping trip to Litchfield Hills for campfires complete with ghost stories, plus visits to their brother camp just five miles away. Ages 6–16.
Set on the shores of Lake Bantam in Connecticut, this family-run camp for boys ditches electronics and phones in favor of fun outdoor pursuits. The daily schedule features three morning activities and two afternoon electives; campers can pursue aquatics, sports, the arts, science, boating and more, although Awosting throws in “extreme” options, like motocross and mountain-boarding. The boys sometimes join the girls from nearby sister camp Chinqueka for joint activities, dances and off-camp trips. Ages 6–16.
Before daring kiddos vie for the top prize in KoKo NYC’s Derby race, they have to build their own cars from the ground up during the Soap-Box Workshop. After gathering materials, making calculations and building their speed machines, tech-savvy campers will test their inventions before the big race, learning STEM fundamentals along the way. On your mark, get set, go! Ages 7–14.
Nothing is off limits for young girls with big dreams, and this summer program proves it. Curious Jane, the masterminds behind the eponymous DIY magazine, offers pint-size artists in the third through sixth grades the opportunity to select a theme for a weeklong program. “Kitchen Chemistry,” “Stop Motion,” “Sew Fun” and “Spy Science” are just a few of the offerings on the menu. Chances are, once the first session wraps up, your little camper will request a return ticket. Extended hours and discounts for families with multiple enrollments are available. Ages 7–12.
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. Ages 7–13.
Your thespians will get an in-depth theater experience in which participants create an entire play all by themselves—from the script and music to the sets and props—under the mentorship of seasoned artists. They’ll also see professional productions of the “Victory Dance” showcase and experiment with different art forms. Ages 7–12.
At this camp, kids will get a taste of college life a few years ahead of schedule. Manhattan College opens up its quaint campus to youngsters looking to explore new areas that might not necessarily be on their school’s syllabus. Educators across the Bronx gather for the summer to help campers tackle coding, moviemaking, photo editing and many more exciting subjects. For those who have science on the brain, prepare for a day filled with interactive experiments that will make kids better understand the scientific thinking and the fundamentals of different areas. Ages 6–12.
This Bayside camp is all about sports and friendly competition! Kids do fun drills to improve basic techniques, then compe in intramural games among their peers. All participants get a taste of basketball, baseball, soccer, kickball and football. The program also includes swimming and field trips to destinations such as Madame Tussauds and Yankee Stadium. Ages 4–15.
Energetic tykes and teens can run wild at Brooklyn’s wide-open Floyd Bennett Field, where counselors supervise a daily rotation of five activities that meet Department of Education standards—not to mention a weekly field trip (three- to five-year- olds excluded). After swimming, dancing, STEM courses, theater, relay races and music, your young’un is sure to be mentally stimulated and physically exhausted. Ages 3–14.
If your kid insists on being in a rock & roll band, you can at least ensure they play their instrument well. In these two-week camps, experts coach mini musicians to create a concert that they’ll eventually perform in an NYC club—all with lights and sound. Programs are split into three age groups, and it’s recommended that beginner instrumentalists take the Guitar Boot Camp first. Ages 8–17.
For young environmentalists looking to make a difference this summer, SALT is the perfect option. The week-long program allows teens to participate in environmental science field work, help restore the Jamaica Bay and Rockaway shoreline alongside various organizations and learn how to kayak and surf in their downtime. Ages 15–18.