10 Truly Unique Sleepaway Camps for Kids

Check out these far-flung camps that offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences for kids. Volcanos, roller coasters, chefs, circus performers, zombies and more!

By ActivityHero Staff

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How far are you willing to go to find the perfect camp for your children to explore? Let’s take a trip across the globe and “visit” 10 camps that parents absolutely must know about. Of course, camps that offer extraordinary things tend to come with extraordinary price tags. But, as the saying goes, you (or, to be more precise, your kids) only live once!

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1. Science Camps of America

When you read the camp description, you may be asking your teenager if you can go with them to explore volcanoes and learn about oceanography. This camp is on the Big Island of Hawaii, where Land & Sea campers will visit Kilauea, the world’s most active (and easily studied) volcano. There is also an Air & Space version where campers get to visit some famous observatories.

2. ThrillCoaster Tours

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Does your child have a need for speed? Believe it or not, ThrillCoaster Tours offers roller coasters all day, every day. Your teenager will travel the country on a first-class motor coach/van, hitting up theme parks on a daily basis. The counselor-to-kid ratio is 1 to 6, and the staff is as enthusiastic as the campers will be about testing the nation’s best coasters. Kids (ages 12 to 16) are grouped according to their tolerance for vertical spins, 120-mph whirls and upside-down action. They’ll stay in Marriott, Embassy Suites, and Hilton hotels (one teen per bed) to rest up for their daily dose of action. There are several sessions, and they’re a little costly, but let’s be honest: What’s it worth to have your little speed demon consider you the coolest parent on the planet?

3. Plantation Farm Camp

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Does your child prefer the peacefulness of nature? Plantation Farm Camp, on California’s beautiful Sonoma Coast, offers children the chance to temporarily swap their increasingly wired worlds for front-row seats on a working farm. Campers spend full days doing farm chores, swimming, tending campfires and more. It’s a lovely way for your child to take a break from technology and get in touch with nature. (Note: There’s a generous sibling discount.)

4. Equestrian Teen Tour of Russia: St. Petersburg and Moscow

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Sometimes “one of a kind” is a slight exaggeration. This is not one of those times. After all, how many programs put their campers up in Joseph Stalin’s former mansion? What horse-loving teen will ever forget a Equestrian Teen Tour of Russia: St. Petersburg and Moscow? Kids who experience this remarkable program stay at hotels with first-class equestrian centers and enjoy intimate (and English-speaking) horseback tours of Moscow, includes the Kremlin, museums, Red Square, the ballet, opera and some of Russia’s best restaurants. In the middle of the trip, your child will fly to St. Petersburg and stay in the gorgeous Astoria Hotel. The price tag of $13,500 in 2017 includes luxurious accommodations, gourmet food and flights to and from NYC.

5. Camp Winnarainbow

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Did you think we’d forget to include a circus performing arts camp? If so, you were wrong! Camp Winnarainbow in Berkeley, Calif., offers your child classes in circus arts, drama, multi-cultural dance and martial arts, play production, trapeze & aerials, tightrope, juggling, unicycling, stilt-walking, gymnastics, magic, music, clowning, art, and environmental awareness! The camp stresses an inclusive atmosphere that’s low on competition and high on support. One-week sessions are $925 and two-week sessions are $1,845 and include meals, lodging, and (of course) a final show for parents at the end.

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6. Teton Valley Ranch Camp

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For an authentic ranch experience with incredible scenery, look no further than Teton Valley Ranch Camp in Jackson, Wyo. Campers begin their mornings choosing from a list of adventures that changes daily, and they’ll wind down in the evening with a low-key activities and festive campfires. This is a real outdoor camp, including a full equestrian experience, and campers will need to bring a bunch of items, including rain layers, sleeping bags for different terrains, and roping gloves. Separate sessions are offered for boys and girls. Both month-long sessions run $6,600 (for 2017) and include food and lodging.

7. The Kids Culinary Academy of Florida

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The Kids Culinary Academy of Florida is a great choice for children who love to cook and want to go beyond cookies and grilled cheese sandwiches. Founded by Kelly Q. Dietrich in 1996 (in Vermont!), this Florida camp introduces kids to all things food, including kitchen equipment and safety, knife skills, cooking techniques, baking and cake decorating, basic sushi skills, and more. The one- or two-week session will culminate in a graduation luncheon where kids show off what they’ve learned. This is a career-making camp for serious little chefs. Visit their website for tuition and details. 

8. Zombie Summer Camp

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From the sublime to the … well, we aren’t prepared to call zombies ridiculous because, after all, you never know. The counselors at Zombie Summer Camp dress as (what else?) zombies, and the children get Nerf blasters to fend them off. (Nerf blasters are provided, but your child can bring his or her own.) Beyond battling zombies, activities include protecting the land, creating and executing team-based plans, foraging for supplies, problem solving, and learning life skills and basic first aid. The counselor to camper ratio is a terrific 1 to 5, and all have two-way radios to keep the plot going, zombies at bay, and campers safe. Zombie Summer Camp is offered by The Story School at Waltham, Mass. and starts at 1,570 for a one-week overnight stay (if you register by March 31st). There are also multi-week sessions, scholarships and other camp themes, such as Wizards & Warriors and Blackwatch Summer Camp.

9. Space Camp

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Located in Huntsville, Ala., Space Camp is known throughout the world as the premier destination for would-be astronauts to learn about and experience outer space. Kids from the age of 9 to adult will experience a gravity chair, build a rocket, plan a mission to Mars, learn the history of space exploration, and launch their rocket at the end. Teens aged 15 to 18 can even earn one hour of freshman-level general science credit from the nearby University of Alabama-Huntsville and. The five-night summer program is $999 in the summer of 2017, and scholarships are available.

10. Camp Jam

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Does your child appreciate Led Zeppelin? If not, shame on you, and rectify this oversight immediately by sending them to Camp Jam. Aspiring rockers start by learning how to tune their instruments and create beats and, throughout the week, they will enjoy performances and advice from local indie bands, create their own music video, perform at nightly open mics and, at week’s end, join their fellow campers to put on a show to remember. There are 10 locations throughout the U.S. to choose from. Check their website for details on locations and fees.

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About ActivityHero Team

The ActivityHero Team is based in California and includes staff members and bloggers who love to share what they know about parenting, keeping kids active, choosing just the right camps and classes, and running successful businesses for kids.