Gone are the days when all summer camps adhered to the same general outline of archery, canoeing, and sitting around the campfire. Those can certainly be great mini vacations for kids, but many children would much rather find dinosaur bones or learn about space exploration. New York Family reported that niche camps are one of the biggest trends for 2015, and it’s likely that there are plenty in your area. We’ve picked five of our favorites that will ensure you don’t just end up with happy campers, but ecstatic campers.
1. Gorman Heritage Farm Camp (Evendale, Ohio)
Folks who grew up on farms know that it can be a lot of hard work, but don’t tell that to the kids. In recent years, farm camps have gained a lot of popularity with little ones. All campers at Gorman Heritage Farm’s summer program get to enjoy activities like hiking, crafts, and interacting with different farm animals, and there are a number of more specific camps devoted to kids who go crazy for cooking or love science. Bon Appétit named the chef-themed outing one of their top-ten cooking camps in America.
This is a great choice for families with kids of different ages, because the farm has offerings designed for kids as young as 4 years old all the way to teenagers up to 15. The week-long programs start in June and run through the end of August. Costs run between $100 and $240, but there are opportunities for scholarships as well. Keep in mind that camp only runs from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m every day, so plan your transportation needs accordingly.
2. Cape Cod Sea Camps (Brewster, Massachusetts)
Nothing says summer fun like spending some time on the water. Kids interested in outdoor activities will love Cape Cod Sea Camps, which has everything from archery to tennis to swimming. One of the biggest draws that sets this camp apart from the rest is the fact that its sailing program accepts kids of all levels. As they become more proficient in their skill sets, they move up through different levels. Children who are 13 and older are also eligible for the racing team, which has regular competitions throughout the summer.
Sessions can be quite long, spanning a month or more. Those choices can be costly, though. Many first-timers and those anxious about overnight camps will enjoy the Days A-Way program that spans five days and four nights. If a child ends up having so much fun that he or she doesn’t want to leave, stays can be extended as long as space permits.
3. Dinosaur Ridge Summer Camp (Morrison, Colorado)
Some kids just love getting their hands dirty, and they’ll have even more fun if they get to uncover fossils or unfamiliar rocks while learning about prehistoric times. Dinosaur Ridge offers three different choices: Fossils and Fun Camp, Junior Paleontologists Camp, and Junior Geologists Camp. The first is for ages 6 to 10, while the second two are geared toward 8- to 12-year-old kids. Whether your child wants to learn all about dinosaurs or how the land was built, they’ll get their fill of fun.
The five-day sessions start in June and run through the beginning of August. Each camp costs $275 for non-members, but there are scholarships and multi-camp discounts available for those who need financial assistance. Fill out an application to get started on planning a great summer getaway for your little one today.
4. Camp Lohikan Spy Camp (Lake Como, Pennsylvania)
Camp Lohikan offers plenty of summer fun for those who like traditional activities like horseback riding, swimming, and rock climbing. But their most unique choice is Spy Camp. Kids have the opportunity to engage in a variety of physical and mental activities that range from making a getaway on a jet ski to interrogating suspects. Best of all, it’s open to all ages. Only the paintball training requires children be at a 5th-grade level or higher. Parents even picked this program as one of their favorite unusual kids camps.
Tuition can be a little bit pricey, but keep in mind that there are some shorter sessions that last for just a few weeks; there’s also the Mini Camp option, which has reduced fees. While filling out a traditional application is an option, you can speed up the process by enrolling online instead. And if you’re unsure of whether you want to make the investment, consider visiting for a tour of the camp first.
5. Space Camps at Adler Planetarium (Chicago, Illinois)
Kids who dream of growing up to be an astronaut will love Adler Planetarium’s summer programs. Kids in 6th through 10th grade have the option to choose Mission Near-Space, a week-long camp that focuses on collecting data from space. At the end of the week, campers present their findings to their families. For younger kids, the Astro Juniors, Explorers, and Investigators Camps teach children from preschool through 4th grade all about space survival. This two-day session can be grouped on Monday and Tuesday or Wednesday and Thursday.
Even parents with 3- and 4-year olds have choices with the Young Scientist Summer Program. The sessions run for five consecutive mornings, but parents can enroll their kids more than once as the themes change each week. No matter which group your child fits into, you can be sure they’ll have a blast while learning tons of interesting facts about the solar system. Check online to find out about openings as well as wait lists.