Nostalgia is calling at these sleep-away camps.
By Rebecca Norris
Imagine a place where the modern fast-paced world is left behind and your child has the chance to embrace the natural world and an experience you yourself looked forward to every year. That’s right—we’re talking about sleep-away camp and all that it entails. If you went to sleep-away camp, you probably remember the excitement that accompanied registering for camp and the anticipation associated with packing and counting down the days to your departure from home, homework and your parents and arrival at camp—and ultimately, summer. These days, intense camps focused on everything from air and space to video-game assembly fill the pages of Google making it difficult to find a camp that brings kids back to the basics. This year we’ve put together a list of some of the best sleep away camps that the area has to offer.
Living Earth School
101 Rocky Bottom Lane, Afton; 540-456-7339; livingearthva.com
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville, and voted a top summer camp by Charlottesville Family Magazine for four years straight, The Living Earth School is a nature-based week long sleep away camp dedicated to renewing connections with the earth while building healthy relationships with nature, self and community. This one-of-a-kind, co-ed sleep away nature camp offers campers (ages 8-17) the chance to become more conscientious about nature through activities such as shelter building, friction fire making, carving, spoon making, cooking over a fire, tracking animals and so much more.
“Campers return year after year for the family type feeling and quality crafted experience that fills each day,” Kate Knott, one of the founders of LES explains. “From this knowledge comes a greater sense of being connected to place and ultimately connected to life and to each other. Our week is about undoing from the busy going of today’s world and creating meaning from living simply, connecting with the beauty of nature, and making new friends and deepening relations with old friends. Something beautiful comes out of sitting around your own fire that you make by rubbing sticks together, seeing the night lit up by stars, cooking over a fire, swimming in a river … a new found reverence for life and the beauty of the world is felt.”
Campers can enjoy any of several week-long sessions offered July through August. Program costs average $600.
P.O. Box 2552, Columbus, OH 43216; 614-441-9534; campquest.org
At this secular overnight camp located in Upper Marlboro, Md., campers (ages 8-15) are provided with an educational adventure shaped by fun, friends and free-thought, featuring science, natural wonder and humanist values—regardless of faith. Camp Quest Chesapeake envisions a world in which children grow up exploring, thinking for themselves, connecting with their communities, and acting to make the most of life for themselves and others.
The camp offers campers the common sleep away camp experience of hiking, swimming, canoeing, archery, campfires and teambuilding through challenges such as team games, cabin challenges, water wars, cooperation course and talent shows. Alongside these typical camp activities, Camp Quest Chesapeake also fosters education including astronomy, ecology, fossil hunting, critical thinking puzzles, ethics activities and world religions.
And, Camp Quest Chesapeake offers activities unique to their camp, such as the Socrates Café, which is a daily event where campers interact with counselors equipped with PhD’s in philosophy and are prompted to engage in thought experiments and embracing their imagination.
To gain an experience of a lifetime, be sure to register soon because Camp Quest Chesapeake is offered for only one week per summer and space is limited to between 70-100 campers.
The program costs $550 for first camper; $525 for each additional camper from the same family. Early bird discount of $50 if your registration with deposit is in by April 30.
Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital
4301 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC, 20008; 202-274-3308; gscnc.org/camping
The Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital offers an array of camps for girls grades K-11, including four sleep away camps that make for an adventurous and memorable summer.
Located near Leesburg, Camp Potomac Woods is a perfect choice for first time campers. Equipped with all of the traditional camp activities, girls get to engage in everything from hiking and swimming to s’mores and bedtime stories. Camp Coles Trip in Stafford, located on Aquia Creek, focuses on aquatic activities and exploration. Sailing, windsurfing and kayaking are just a few of the activities unique to Camp Coles Trip. Slightly outside the area, in the George Washington National Forest, Camp May Flather offers campers (grades 4-11) traditional camp activities with modern day challenges. A climbing tower and challenge course helps girls work as a team, build confidence and gain problem solving skills. Campers can engage in arts and crafts activities in the Historic Stone Lodge. Older girls have the opportunity to participate in activities such as archery. The GSCNC also offers camp opportunities in Maryland at Camp Winona.
Registration opened on January 23 and remains open until summer. Prices start at $350.
Adventure Links at Camp Hemlock
13220 Yates Ford Road, Clifton; 571-281-3556; adventurelinks.net
Located at Camp Hemlock in Clifton, Adventure Links—started in 1997 by Anna and Austin Birch, who have a combined experience of 30 years in education and counseling—offers campers a variety of experiences with nature to foster a sense of adventure throughout the summer.
The Appalachian Adventure Overnight is a week-long camp that provides the perfect stage for self-discovery, group development and fun. Campers (ages 11-14) enrolled in this camp travel around Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania to get involved with activities centered on enjoying the outdoors and gaining a new sense of nature. Highlights of this trip include climbing on the shady cliffs of Cooper’s Rock State Park and spending a day in the natural water slides and waterfalls of Ohiopyle, Pa. The program costs $850.
The Blue Ridge Odyssey Overnight gives campers (ages 12-15) the opportunity to experience an overnight canoe and camping adventure on Lake Moomaw and go white water rafting and caving. This particular camp is geared towards return campers who have a bit of experience in adventure and costs $850 as well.
Lastly, the Residential Adventure Camp allows campers (ages 10-13) to participate in the traditional Adventure Links fun at Camp Hemlock. From sleeping in cozy cabins and rock climbing to caving and zipping down the zip line, campers foster friendships and experience character growth while being involved in team building and group challenges. “Our kids enjoyed every day of their Adventure Links Camp,” a 2012 camp parent exclaimed. “From canoeing to climbing to spelunking! They’ve already started asking if they can go next summer!”
Campers can choose from any of several camps from June 10 through August 30. Registration is currently open and remains open through summer; however, most camps fill up before then.
3163 Parsleys Mill Road, Mechanicsville; 804-779-3056; camphanover.org
Camp Hanover’s mission is to provide a place apart for renewal and growth in an environment of Christian hospitality. While you do not have to be a Presbyterian to be enrolled at Camp Hanover— fully-accredited member of the American Camp Association—the camp primarily serves 112 Presbyterian churches in the greater Richmond area.
The goals of the camp are to prompt campers to develop outdoor living skills, engage in outdoor challenges, and have safe fun while growing in the Christian faith. Programs are available for boys and girls entering 2nd through 12th grade.
Tucked away on nearly 600 acres of wooded forests and expansive meadows, Camp Hanover’s programs are designed to foster small group experiences. Two counselors and 10 to 12 coed campers live in “Family Groups” where they plan, play, laugh, worship and grow together.
If your son or daughter would like a chance to grow spiritually while engaging in field games, service projects, caring for farm animals, canoeing, fishing, sitting around the campfire and so much more, then Camp Hanover is a great option for their summertime activities.
Depending on the age of the camper, two- and three-night or one- and two-week camps are available with rates starting at $180 and maxing out at $800. Registration opens in January and remains open until all camps are full.
To visit the camp before enrolling, call or email to set up an appointment with the camp director.
Camp Mont Shenandoah
218 Mont Shenandoah Lane, Millboro Springs; 540-997-5994; campmontshenandoah.com
Located in the Bath County, Camp Mont Shenandoah is an all-girls, 60-acre camp equipped with fields, woods with hiking trails, and waterfront access to a pristine mountain river. Since its inception in 1927, the five virtues of love, loyalty, friendship, sportsmanship and spiritual awareness have served as the guiding principles of Camp Mont Shenandoah.
Through cabin living, team and individual sports, challenging activities, traditions and relationships between campers and staff, campers are introduced to a fun opportunity that prompts growth—physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. Not only do campers experience the tradional summer camp actitvities, they also work on drama and music, cooking and arts.
Something that sets this camp apart is their equestrian program available to campers for an additional fee. “We often tell other parents that second to the impact of our family, camp has been and is the most important experience of our daughter’s life,” a camper’s parent from Hampton explains. “The opportunity for independence and adventure, the camp standards for not complaining or speaking unkindly of others, and the peace and acceptance for each girl remain with her throughout the year.”
Camp Mont Shenandoah offers one-week, three-week and six-week sessions with respective prices from $1,000 to roughly $5,000.
6498 Dry Hollow Road, Salem; 540-387-6114; roanokecountyva.gov
Camp Roanoke is an affordable, adventure-based, co-ed residential camp operated by Roanoke County Parks, Recreation and Tourism. With week-long camps available for rising 3rd through 11th graders, Camp Roanoke has adventurous learning opportunities for every summertime camper.
While younger campers stay on the campsite and engage in typical camp activities such as archery, climbing, zip lines and more; older campers go on day excursions to foster adventurous exploration.
The Explorer Camp, for rising 3rd and 4th graders, focuses on canoeing, hiking, rock-climbing, field games, arts and crafts, environmental learning and more. Tuition includes meals, lodging and activities and is $400; $425 after April 8.
The Pioneer Camp is open to rising 5th and 6th graders with a passion for environmental science and a hands on approach to learning and fun. Campers get the opportunity to experience the latest in green technology with the on-site learning lab and learn about the natural world with an emphasis on environmental sustainability. Campers engage in canoeing, crafts, field games, archery, the low ropes course and more. The camp costs $410; $435 after April 8.
The Voyager Camp, open to rising 6th and 7th graders, features creeking, hiking, mountain boarding, along with the typical camp activities. The camp costs $430; $455 after April 8.
The Adventure Camp is for rising 8th and 9th graders who get to explore the high and low ropes course, tent camping, hiking and more. They also travel to West Virginia for a three-day, two-night camping excursion. The camp costs $460; $485 after April 8.
On top of the aforementioned camps, Camp Roanoke offers Trek camps where campers go to West Virginia’s New River Gorge for white water rafting and camping or to the beaches of Virginia and North Carolina for sea kayaking, surfing and camping on the beach. The cost of Trek camps range from $550 to $600.
Camp Roanoke offers each of the camp options multiple times throughout the summer.
Camp Hidden Meadows
HC77 Box 117, Bartow, WV 24920; 304-456-4184; camphiddenmeadows.com
Located in the Allegheny Mountains among 250 acres of field, woodland, pond, trout stream and farmland, this co-ed camp offers campers (ages 7-16) the perfect landscape to become one with nature and create memories that will last forever.
The design of each of Camp Hidden Meadow’s programs is based on the belief that learning comes most naturally in a fun, supportive and non-competitive environment. Campers are involved in activities that require their participation both physically and mentally.
Surrounded by the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests, Camp Hidden Meadows’ location offers campers memorable experiences and the opportunity to engage in activities outside of the immediate camp sphere. From white-water rafting and mountain biking to campfires and astronomy observations, campers experience the best the great outdoors has to offer.
One- through six-week traditional camp sessions are available June 16 through August 17. Rates begin at $795.
8122 Greystone Circle E, Richmond; 804-285-1767; campvirginia.com
Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, and a winner of Virginia Living’s Best of Virginia 2012 “Best Summer Camp,” Camp Virginia offers boys (ages 8- 15) the chance to enjoy the outdoors, engage in athletics, games and an array of the traditional camp activities while building character and developing team work skills and so much more.
Every day has an agenda with every possible opportunity for fun, leaving no time for boredom or creating every possible opportunity for fun. And, Camp Virginia offers special programs, such as dances with near-by, all-girls Camp Mont Shenandoah (see pg. 48), The Camp Virginia Games, Decade Club Party, Archery Camper-CIT Tournament, Sports Clinics and much more, that break up the day-to-day activities.
Sessions open on June 21 and end August 2. Each session is just shy of a month long, unless of course you choose to register for the option where your son will be able to attend both sessions. Each individual session costs $3,375 (June 21 through July 12 or July 12 through August 2); however, if you register for both sessions then the price comes in at $4,750 (June 21 through August 2).
Chanco on the James
394 Floods Drive, Spring Grove; 757-294-3126; chanco.org
Located in Surry County, outside of Richmond, Camp Chanco is surrounded by wildlife along the James River; perfect for a summer of fun for your child.
Accredited by the American Camping Association, Camp Chanco, which opened more than 40 years ago, has enjoyed a long trusted reputation as one of the most successful youth camping programs in Virginia, and was voted “Best Summer Camp” by Virginia Living Magazine in its May 2012 “Best Of” edition.
Boys and girls will stay in rustic cabins in the woods and enjoy activities such as swimming in the pool and the James River, tackling the high and low ropes course, tubing, archery, arts and crafts, canoeing and kayaking, zip lines, sailing, skits and games. Native American lore (the camp is named after a Native American boy who saved the Virginia colony), a chaplain program and nature education are also a part of the summer program. And, campers can also enjoy some off-site trips rock climbing, white water rafting and horseback riding.
All groups, denominations and organizations are welcome, despite being an outdoor ministry supported by the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia.
Camp Chanco offers a variety of programs to campers ages 8-16. Session 1 is a one-week session geared towards 8-11 year old campers, while Sessions 2, 3 and 4 are two-week sessions open to a range of ages. The groups are then categorized by age and gender and have specific schedules based on age.