Ah, summertime. Barbecues by the beach. Backyard pool parties. And weeks on end with the kids out of school. If you’re looking for a way to keep both you and your offspring happy during the lazy and, let’s face it, long days of summer, don’t forget Florida. The state holds plenty of options, including sleep-away camps where kids learn to sail and play tennis, as well as niche camps that teach circus skills and astronaut training basics — to ensure summer vacation flies right on by.
“This one time, at Circus Camp …” That’s how your child just might start every sentence after learning how to juggle, fly through the air on a trapeze and maintain a show-stealing grin through it all at this day camp. Held on Florida State University’s campus in Tallahassee, the camp is run by a staff of FSU students who double as circus performers for the university’s Flying High Circus, a production team that stages circus performances throughout the school year. During the course of 4 weeklong sessions in July and August, the day camp offers lessons in acrobatics and balance techniques for kids ages 7 to 17. Safety is always a top consideration; all techniques are practiced with spotters and ropes, as well as trampoline-style equipment to ensure any fall is broken softly.
A short ride south of Orlando in the lush oak groves of Lake Wales, this quintessential, sleep-away camp is geared toward boys and girls ages 6 to 18. Even if your child hasn’t always wanted to be a cowboy or cowgirl, they’ll be in hog heaven at this authentic ranch with Western-themed cabins and enthusiastic college kids for counselors. The 500-acre property has a big lake and stables with 65 horses. In addition to horseback riding, campers can partake in various sports activities such as tennis, rock climbing, zip lining and sailing. There’s also an onsite skate park with ramps and rails for kids to practice their skills on wheels. Daytrips to Orlando attractions, including theme parks, are built into the schedule.
Send your kids to the hometown of 10-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater to learn how to ride summer waves. Cocoa Beach is also famous for the Ron Jon Surf Shop, a massive souvenir mecca that runs a summer surfing camp on the nearby beach. During the summer months, the warm and gently curling waves are ideal for beginners to hone basic surfing skills. Five-day sessions take place from late May through early August and are open to kids ages 7 to 17. Instructors are local shredders, and the instructor to student ratio is right around 1 to 4. Surfboards, rash guards and board wax are included.
Who hasn’t dreamed of being an astronaut at one point? Any kid can have part of that fantasy fulfilled at NASA’s home base in Cape Canaveral, FL. A day camp offers weeklong sessions from mid-June to mid-August and is open to kids ages 8 to 14. Your child will experience space flight on motion simulators. They’ll also meet and talk with a real live astronaut. And ride the Shuttle Launch Experience, which offers a taste of what lift-off feels like. Team-building activities offer kids the chance to perform a space shuttle mission simulation and brainstorm ideas for future space travel.
This day camp at The Ritz-Carlton Naples’ eco-themed center, Nature’s Wonders, in Naples, puts the focus on Florida’s natural wonders. Campers learn about the need to preserve the state’s beauty through conservation lessons packed with plenty of fun activities. Certified naturalists lead explorations in the mangroves, shelling walks along Naples Beach and lessons on Florida’s fresh and saltwater environments. The facility itself has 11 aquariums that house native Florida species including baby alligators and turtles. Weeklong sessions run from late-June to late-July.
So send your kids off to a Florida summer camp and relax knowing they are having the time of their lives. Just don’t expect a letter home while they’re away!
Based in Cocoa Beach, FL, Terry Ward holds informal surf camps nearly every weekend with her 4 nieces, one of whom is sure to be Florida’s next big surfing star.