The Best Adult Summer Camps
For many of us, our fondest childhood memories are from summer camp. Thanks to a growing trend of adults-only summer camps, it is possible to relive those days — if only for a weekend.
Club Getaway, Various dates, Kent, Conn.
Now in its 40th year, Club Getaway was one of the first to tap into the adult summer camp market. Set on 300 acres in the bucolic Berkshire Mountains, the camp runs (often sold-out) weekends from Memorial Day to Oct. 7, and offers more activities than one can realistically do without needing another vacation. Choose from nostalgic favorites like archery, canoeing and arts and crafts, or trendier additions such as stand-up paddleboard, trapeze and hip hop dance classes. Luckily campers aren’t restricted to a formal schedule, so if the organized options seem overwhelming, simply opt out and head to the lake, loaded with a water trampoline, slide and kayaks, or wander over to the zip line section. The requisite color war is part of every weekend experience too, but again, participation is optional. Since this is also a party camp, evenings bring happy hour (flip cup beer pong, anyone?), themed dance parties, s’mores and guitar playing around a campfire. There’s no official lights out, and everyone bunks in same-sex, air-conditioned rustic cabins that are a step up from childhood. Elevated comfort food is also infinitely better than many childhood camps of yore. Think indulgent breakfast and lunch buffet spreads, and a sit-down, family-style dinner with wine aplenty.
Camp Grounded, Various dates and locations
The emphasis at Camp Grounded is on detox. There’s digital detox, which means stepping away from your phone, laptop, e-reader, Fitbit, etc. This means no watches either, nor will you find any clocks on the campgrounds. (However, sundials are ok.) Then there’s social convention detox: It’s actually against camp rules to ask someone their age, what they do for a living (or to speak about work at all) or use real names (only nicknames are allowed). The detox extends to no drugs or alcohol, and we’ll go out on a limb to declare that this might be the only camp to maintain a no glowstick or glitter policy. Despite all the rules, what is allowed is the opportunity to be yourself.
What started in California has recently expanded to New York, North Carolina and Texas, and attracts people from around the world. Each location offers more than 25 optional activities, with an emphasis on the less conventional, such as pickling, improv, ukulele 101, stilt walking and mask making. There’s an equal emphasis on wellness and nutrition, and dining hall eats are healthy versions of camp classics. Another same but different aspect is that campers are divided into gender-specific villages, and each village is represented by an animal that becomes your temporary tribe. Cabins are basic, but equipped with bathrooms. For a true back-to-nature experience, California and North Carolina also offer tent camping.
Soul Camp, Aug. 24-28, Warrensburg, N.Y. and Oct. 25-29, Sanger, Calif.
Soul Camp is best described as a hybrid between a traditional and transformational camp. As the name implies, it focuses on the mind/body/spirit/community connection, but within a more traditional camp context. For example, structured days are broken down into periods, from early morning reveille to mess hall meals to flagpole lineup. Some aspects are mandatory, such as an initial bunk meeting the first day of arrival, but everything else is at campers’ discretion. That said, every period offers a myriad of choices, led by experts from their respective fields. Activities skew toward mind/body, such as yoga, inspirational talks and dreamcatcher making, interspersed with cardio fitness and arts and crafts. Toss in a talent show, color war and late-night dance parties for an updated experience that successfully melds both worlds.
Fortunately, Soul Camp currently runs sessions on both coasts. The East Coast version commandeers Camp Echo Lake in New York’s Adirondacks, while the West Coast edition rolls into Wonder Valley, situated at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains (and close to three national parks). Accommodations at both are a do-over of your childhood experience: Camp Echo Lake sleeps up to 15 per rustic-chic cabin, complete with comfortable beds, bathrooms and electricity, plus earplugs and melatonin to boot. Wonder Valley’s lodging is more diverse, ranging from comfortable dorms to private cottages. Camp food is also a far cry from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Enjoy farm-to-table cuisine with options for the gluten- and dairy-free, vegans and vegetarians. Free healthy snacks (kale chips, coconut water) are also available anytime from the canteen. Finally, cell phone use is discouraged, but there’s no Wi-Fi and limited service anyway. Oh, and there’s a no-alcohol policy, but it won’t be missed with all the fun to be had.
Camp Wandawega, Elkhorn, Wisc.
Ok, so you want to relive your summer camp nostalgia, but without the forced fun and games, a long list of rules, packed schedule or alcohol-soaked environment? In that case, Camp Wandawega provides a true throwback experience. It started life as a speakeasy hotel in 1925, and the grounds haven’t changed much since then. Cabin accommodations are advertised as “no frills,” meaning no heat or air conditioning, a separate showerhouse, and the possibility of creepy crawlies on your pillow. No food is provided either, so prepare to bring your own provisions, along with pots, pans, dishes, etc. On the plus side, cabins are equipped with a kitchen with vintage appliances, and barbeque grills are available on the grounds. (Restaurants are also nearby.) In case there’s any doubt of Wandawega’s authenticity, be sure to read its Manifesto of Low Expectations beforehand. However, don’t let all the disclaimers be a deterrent: despite all the warnings, the camp is clean and comfortable and exactly how you imagined camp should be. In fact, the current owners restored and redecorated the rundown camp with flea market finds, creating a vintage shabby chic vibe throughout. Not least of all are the DIY camp activities, including a private lake for swimming, fishing and canoeing, complete with an old-fashioned rope swing. There’s also archery, shuffleboard and retro Schwinn bikes on hand. Platform tents, teepees and a bona-fide treehouse are also available to hang out in during the day. Nights are meant for s’mores around the campfire, which, yes, you build yourself. Firewood is provided.
Campowerment, Honesdale, Pa., Sept. 22-25 and Malibu, Calif., Nov. 17-20
Think of this as the adult version of the girls-only camp you attended as a kid. Founded by an Emmy-winning former television show producer, the camp allows women to tap into their true selves while in a supportive camp environment. Expect good ol’ fashioned female bonding with team-building exercises, and find new empowerment by creating vision boards, stepping out of your comfort zone, and taking classes called “Learn to Say 'No'” and “Mojo Reboot.” In between try fitness classes or camp classics like archery. Although activities are scheduled throughout the day, nothing is required, and retreating to your bunk is always an option. Since retreats are held at actual camps, lodging entails bunk bed cabins that sleep up to 12, and you’ll have to bring a sleeping bag, pillow and blanket. Linens and towels are available to rent. Meals are healthier than the camp meals you remember, but this isn’t a detox camp. Healthy meals are balanced with happy hours and evening s’mores. Even better, not only is it fine to spend the entire weekend in yoga pants or sweatpants — it’s actually required. If there’s any doubt about Campowerment’s effectiveness, just know that at least 40 percent are return campers.
Camp No Counselors, Various dates and locations
If you yearn to recreate your childhood camp experience, just sans counselors and a lot more alcohol, then Camp No Counselors was made for you. It’s currently offered in ten locations across North America, including Miami, Chicago and San Francisco, and dates tend to sell out. New this year is a 45-and-older option, which will be launching this fall in San Francisco. The only real difference is that campers get to stay in a private room that has all your creature comforts covered. Otherwise, accommodations generally involve comfortable cabins and bunk beds, but the exact nature varies since each location is held at an actual camp. Specific activities also differ based on the locale, but some of the universal offerings include making friendship bracelets, tubing and tie-dying. And yes, there’s a color war, talent show and all-out themed dance parties. Meanwhile, hearty camp fare (bacon and eggs, barbeque, corn on the cob) fuels activity-packed days. It also helps to absorb all the alcohol that flows freely, from breakfast mimosas, to wine and beer at lunch, to open bar from happy hour until whenever the dance party ends.
From seasoned road tripper Mike Shubic to founder and CEO of RoadTrippers.com James Fisher, meet the panel of advisors behind Travel’s Best Road Trips 2015.