Although these 18 residential camps are relatively young (most wouldn’t even be old enough to drive!), they’ve quickly earned reputations as game-changers.
From state-of-the-art facilities to super-cool niche programming, these camps are pushing the envelope and quickly making names for themselves.
So without further ado, here are the up-and-comers to keep an eye on:
1. YEA Camp
Founded in 2009, Youth Empowered Action (or YEA, for short) Camp takes leadership training to the next level. The goal? Foster teens' passions for social change and empower the next generation of difference-makers. In addition to traditional activities, YEA campers take part in community service, in-depth leadership training, and social justice projects. As a next-wave camp, in just a few years YEA has expanded its reach to include three locations including California, Massachusetts, and New York.
In just three summers, 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy has developed a reputation as a premier STEM camp. Located in the Boston area, 6 Points offers students a summer of hands-on learning in areas like robotics, forensics, biology, and web development. What’s more: 6 Points doesn’t seem to be slowing down; next summer, they’re expanding to the West Coast.
3. Laurus Camp
Since launching in 2009, Laurus Summer Camp in Montreal has defined itself as a “lifestyle” camp. What does that mean, exactly? Laurus’s programming is designed to maximize fun and academics to empower campers to live well-balanced lives. Laurus campers choose a Specific Training Area, such as the arts, fitness, or language learning, and they focus on improving those specific skills each week.
Fox Mountain Adventures – which was founded in 2012 in San Diego – takes the idea of “traditional” summer camp and adds its own unique twist: Campers can participate in unique activities such as a floating movie festival or a spy adventure, as well as enjoy favorite camp activities and cabin life. We give Fox Mountain the 'purple cow' award for upending the idea of traditional programming.
5. Camp Zeke
At Camp Zeke in Lakewood, PA, campers are encouraged to celebrate and embrace a healthy and vibrant lifestyle. Throughout the summer, students learn all the skills for leading a more healthful life – from yoga, to organic cooking, to mindfulness. What’s more, the camp’s picturesque and quiet lakefront location is the ideal spot to relax.
Camp All-Star has been hard at work since 2002 earning a reputation as a leading sports camp in the U.S. Why is Camp All-Star ahead of the rest? The facilities, including its 50,000 square foot athletics center and NHL-sized ice rink, are - simply - out of this world. Plus, with over 30 different sports and activities campers can focus on, there’s a bit of something for everyone.
Camp Stomping Ground – founded in 2016 by a couple of long-time camp pros – is a sleepaway camp focused on fostering 'radical empathy.' At Camp Stomping Ground, you’ll find a number of traditional activities like lakefront swimming, archery, campfires, and games. But what makes the camp so special is that their programming is uniquely dedicated to promoting empathy, self-direction, and positivity among its campers. (How cool is that?!)
Does your child want to learn to speak French? Well, at Camp Tournesol in Mississauga, Canada, they have the chance to do that in a big way. The camp is a French immersion camp. In other words, campers learn to play and get to know each other by speaking French. No need to pack those English language skills!
Eden Village Camp, in Upstate New York, calls itself a “Jewish farm camp.” What does that mean? Well, in addition to learning about the Jewish faith, Eden Village empowers campers to get back to nature. Campers get to explore environmentalism through agriculture, with programs like wilderness adventure, organic farming, animal care and natural science on the programs menu.
Bytown Brigantine Tall Ships Adventure isn’t your average residential summer camp. In fact, "camp" might not be the right word to describe it. At Tall Ships, camp takes place aboard old-school (we mean really old school) sailing ships – including the 110-foot Fair Jeanne. During the co-ed adventure, campers learn teamwork and build their sailing skills, all while traveling up and down the East Coast.
Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, JCC Maccabi has become a leader in Jewish sports camps. At Maccabi, campers can choose from a menu of more than 15 programming options – including baseball, basketball, and girls lacrosse – and they’re taught new skills by a team of world-class coaches.
Who says camp is just for kids? Well, that’s exactly the philosophy at Camp No Counselors. The camp – which provides weekend-long camp experiences to adults – has helped spark and entire movement of adult summer camps. And if the name sounds familiar, it might just be. Camp No Counselors was featured on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”
The Ramah network has camps across the country, many of which have been established for 50+ years. But the newest Ramah addition – Ramah in the Rockies – offers a unique specialization. Located 90 minutes from Denver, Ramah provides campers the chance to enjoy a number of Colorado-focused excursions, from mining trips and forest restoration projects, to mountain biking and hiking.
14. GymRep Camp
At almost 20 years old, Canada’s GymRep Camp shouldn’t qualify as an up-and-comer. But in its (realtively) short history, the camp has quickly earned the reputation as North America’s preeminent gymnastics camp. What makes the camp’s programming so unique? From its state-of-the-art facilities to its world-class coaching staff, GymRep is the summer home of tomorrow’s Olympic gymnasts.
15. Camp Kesem
Camp professionals know that the camp experience can be transformative. And that’s something the folks at Camp Kesem have taken to heart. Since launching in 2000, Camp Kesem has grown into a network of dozens of camps that provide children whose parents are battling cancer a weeklong camp experience. In addition to traditional camp activities, Kesem campers also receive support from trained camp mentors.
16. Camp Phoenix
This Bay Area camp has made youth development its mission. How? Camp Phoenix provides low-income campers the opportunity to learn, grow, and gain the skills they need to become leaders within their communities. And the camp accomplishes this through a variety of innovative programming - like outdoor adventure learning and academics.
Since 2011, campers have learned the skills they need for athletic success at Bridgton Sports Camp. The camp’s lakefront Maine location couldn’t be more picturesque, and their approach is unique. Campers are encouraged to select a “major” including soccer, hockey, lacrosse, basketball, or baseball, as well as minors they’re interested in. It’s like the ultimate athletic training.
While Steve & Kate’s Camp isn’t a residential camp – (they operate day camps in eight states) – their unique programming and rapid expansion is worth taking note of. What’s so cool about Steve & Kate's? For starters, the camp pioneered individualized learning at camp – campers get to choose how and what they’re learning. Plus, the company is always looking to the future by introducing new and interesting programs every year.
Take These Innovative Approaches and Make Them Your Own
Whether you’re brainstorming programming ideas for next summer, or you’re dreaming about opening your own summer camp, take a look at these 18 camps. There’s a lot here that you can learn from them about programming, marketing, and camp management.
What are your favorite up-and-coming camps? Let us know in the comments!