Best Summer Camps in California for Kids
Kids love summer. And why not? It's a great time to get outside, have fun and burn off energy. And if we're being honest, parents could use a few days without feeling guilty about giving them tablets and nine snacks a day.
To help kids pass the time in the summer and provide parents with a well-deserved break, these are the best summer camps in California for kids.
City: Idyllwild-Pine Cove
Summer camp cost: $1,700-$3,500
Bottom line: For space and science fans, this is one of the best summer camps in California. AstroCamp, a STEM-based program, is ACA accredited and encourages campers to take challenges head-on. With over 60 activities, kids 8-17 can enjoy everything from outdoor exploring to building and launching their own rockets.
2. Bar 717 Ranch/Camp Trinity
Summer camp cost: $3,580-$6,910
Bottom line: The Bar 717 Ranch is the oldest accredited coed summer camp in California. Children ages 8-16 can have the experience of a lifetime at this beautiful mountain ranch setting. Campers can move from mountains to meadows, and onto rivers and ponds for swimming, as well as creeks and miles of trails for day-long exploration. Through ranch-based activities, campers learn responsibility for themselves and others in a supportive atmosphere. Activities include gardening, animal care, river swimming, crafting, photography, blacksmithing, and music.
3. Camp Amplify for Girls
City: Santa Barbara
Summer camp cost: $1,950-$3,650
Bottom line: This girls-only summer camp for ages 11-17 allows girls of all skill sets to learn guitar, bass, drums, keys, vocals, and other instruments. This music-centric camp is an immersive experience where girls can form their own band, write an original song, and perform at the final showcase for friends and family. In addition, their other camp programs also include film and photography, music production/engineering, and journalism.
4. Camp Augusta
City: Nevada City
Summer camp cost: $1900 (1 week), $3600 (2 weeks)
Bottom line: Located in Nevada City, Camp Augusta has an incredible amount of activities for a single California summer camp. Activities include archery, ziplining, kayaking, wall and tree climbing, and equestrian sports. Camp Augusta creates a memorable experience for campers while also furthering children’s self-growth.
5. Camp Hollywoodland for Girls
Summer camp cost: $475-$525
Bottom line: This all-girls summer camp in California has been operating for 90 years. At Camp Hollywoodland, campers ages 6-14 learn leadership skills that focus on compassion and developing a keen spirit. A typical camp day schedule includes putting on comedy skits, swimming, dancing, field trips, archery, themed meals, and songs by the campfire.
6. Camp Ocean Pines
Summer camp cost: $2,700
Bottom line: At this multi-age, overnight summer camp, kids and teens can enjoy a natural retreat on the Pacific Ocean where campers build friendships and tap into their inner child. At Ocean Pines, they encourage participating kids to be just like nature: exactly as they are. Through activities, the camp also teaches children to appreciate nature and treat it with care as they get older.
7. Camp Wasewagan
City: Angelus Oaks
Summer camp cost: $1,450 (1 week), $2,750 (2 weeks)
Bottom line: Residing alongside the Santa Ana River, Camp Wasewagan is one of the best summer camps in California. It’s loads of fun for children ages 5-16. Rather than just having a set schedule for each kid to attend their daily activities, they can make the whole day an adventure. In addition to swimming, rock climbing, fencing, ziplining, paintball, and archery, group competitions throughout camp require team members to solve riddles and complete scavenger hunts.
8. Camp Woodcraft
City: Los Angeles
Summer camp cost: $1,185 per week
Bottom line: At Camp Woodcraft, children are put into appropriate age groups where they build strong friendships and work as a team. This affordable summer camp in California is a great option for children of all backgrounds to be inspired by the healing power of nature. Activities include swimming, ropes courses, and STEM projects. Woodcraft is taking every precaution for summer 2021 and following both the CDC and County Health Department’s guidelines.
9. Catalina Island Camp
City: Howlands Landing
Summer camp cost: $2,150
Bottom line: Catalina Island Camp is the traditional coed overnight camp for kids in grades 2-10. Here, campers can build new skills and friendships while enjoying a handful of nautical activities including snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, tubing, as well as some more land-based activities like high ropes courses, archery and riflery, gardening and composting, and outdoor cooking.
10. Catalina Sea Camp
City: Catalina Island
Summer camp cost: $2,250
Bottom line: Another Catalina adventure, Catalina Sea Camp is about everything ocean. Kids between the ages of 8 and 17 engage in hands-on activities to expand their knowledge of marine science and have fun while they do it. Athletic opportunities at this sweet California summer camp include diving, hiking and sailing, but there’s no shortage of relaxing activities, either. Campers can explore their photography skills, design jewelry and more.
11. Coppercreek Camp
Summer camp cost: $3300 (2 weeks), $5900 (4 weeks)
Bottom line: This cozy traditional sleepaway camp for ages 7-15 is located near the north shore of Lake Tahoe. It gives campers a variety of activities to choose from, including horse care, horse riding, wakeboarding, kayaking, drama, crafts, archery, riflery, golf and backpacking. Campers are encouraged through group activities to build confidence and improve their decision-making skills all while having fun.
12. Deer Crossing Camp
City: Redwood City (Office)
Summer camp cost: $3495
Bottom line: Deer Crossing Camp is all about teaching campers leadership skills and teamwork. It is the only lodge-based and roadless camp surrounded by acres of wilderness. Their waterfront, overnight summer camp for kids includes sailing, paddling, canoeing, rock climbing, orienteering and bouldering.
13. Designer Camp
City: Los Angeles
Summer camp cost: $995
Bottom line: Meet Southern California’s only comprehensive and collaborative design-based summer camp. Kids ages 11-17 can experience a unique one-week program led by renowned designers and brands. Designer Camp cultivates a community that promotes friendly competition and teamwork with a creative flair. This unique summer camp for kids is currently offering both in-person and virtual programs for summer 2021.
14. Dunn Summer Academy
City: Los Olivos
Summer camp cost: $8,500
Bottom line: Located in Santa Barbara County, this four-week academic summer camp for kids mixes school with adventure, as campers in grades 8-10 form teams and learn all there is to know about robotics, rocketry, genetics and space. Each week has a different guest speaker who specializes in a subject related to the camp and weekend trips provide a fun outing for campers to experience STEM firsthand. Dunn Academy has ensured adherence to CDC protocol throughout the summer camp session.
15. Endless Summer Surf Camp
City: San Clemente
Summer camp cost: $1,095 per week
Bottom line: Surf all day long at this Southern California summer camp located in San Onofre State Park. From 8 a.m to 4 p.m, kids of all ages can learn to surf and improve their skills with certified instructors, then chill by the campfire with newfound friends. This weeklong sleepaway camp includes all meals and sleeping accommodations.
16. Fitness by the Sea Day Camp
City: Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades
Summer camp cost: $455 (1 week), $430 (2-3 weeks), $405 (4+ weeks) — rates are per child, per week
Bottom line: Long, lazy summer days can get pretty, well, lazy. This Southern California summer camp for kids is designed to get them moving outside in the summer sun, but with plenty of choices. Over 50 different activities are included, with all kinds of sports and creative activities to try. Each camper can choose several activities for each activity period and move between them as they please. It’s a great way to test out different sports, socialize and stay active in a low-pressure format.
17. Griffith Park Boys Camp
City: Los Angeles
Summer camp cost: $400-$525
Bottom line: The best summer camps in California aren’t all crazy expensive. Griffith Park Boys Camp has been around since 1924, and it’s pretty affordable. The camp gives young boys ages 7-14 the opportunity to be one with nature and teach them about environmental care. Campers sleep in old-fashioned cabins and enjoy daily activities such as hiking, ziplining and cooking with nature.
18. Idyllwild Arts
Summer camp cost: $3,240-$3,960
Bottom line: No list of best summer camps in California would be complete without mentioning a premium art program. The Idyllwild Arts Summer Program offers intensive workshops for students ages 5-18 of all skill levels in film, songwriting, music, theatre, dance, visual arts and writing. They also offer adult workshops for those interested. As stated on their site, they will be offering in-person workshops while following CDC guidelines.
19. ID Tech Camp
City: Los Angeles
Summer camp cost: $579-$849
Bottom line: STEM is all the rage, and this is one of the best summer camps for kids that focuses on it. Kids from ages 7-17 will get the opportunity to learn STEM from professionals at ID Tech Camp, while also learning how to turn their tech-savvy hobbies into future professions. Campers get to code apps, design video games, mod with Minecraft, engineer robots, build websites, produce films, and much more. Currently, ID Tech is hosting both virtual and in-person, but participants will still be sure to have a fulfilling experience either way.
20. Kennolyn Camp
City: Santa Cruz County
Summer camp cost: Tuition starts $2,150
Bottom line: Kennolyn Camp includes grades 1 through 12 and focuses on personal discovery and long-lasting relationships with both people and personal passions. Summer camp activities include animal care, archery, carpentry, ceramics, robotics and nature exploring.
21. Lasting Adventures Yosemite High Country Adventure
City: Tuolumne Meadows
Summer camp cost: $1250
Bottom line: Landing a campground in the Yosemite area is nearly impossible. Reservations open up months in advance in an online lottery system, and they’re usually booked within minutes. Backpacking is a fun alternative, but visitors still need a permit and plenty of know-how to stay safe in the wilderness.
The Lasting Adventures Yosemite High Country Adventure backpacking expedition is designed for kids ages 13-18. For kids interested in learning survival skills, this is one of the best summer camps in California. No camping experience is required, with plenty of opportunities to hone skills on the go. Participants get to explore the pristine wilderness of Yosemite National Park next to lakes, rivers, waterfalls and some of the highest peaks in the state.
22. Mountain Meadow Ranch
Summer camp cost: $3,600-$6,500
Bottom line: For ages 7-16, campers can experience a summer they’ll cherish forever. This unique summer camp offers activities such as leadership programs, drama, fishing, horseback riding, fencing, and color wars, a team competition that continues throughout the summer session. Additionally, each California summer camp session is limited to 120 campers in an effort to create a family-like environment.
23. New York Film Academy Summer Camp
Summer camp cost: $5,580-$7,240
Bottom line: The New York Film Academy, located in Burbank, hosts a summer program each year for teens ages 13-17. During this epic summer camp in California, students write, shoot, direct, act and edit their own short film. Other summer programs also include acting and animation. In addition, special guest speakers are invited to discuss and answer questions about being in the film industry. The New York Film Academy is currently offering both in-person and online enrollment for summer 2021.
24. Pali Adventures
City: Los Angeles
Summer camp cost: $1,850
Bottom line: Pali Adventures is a California summer camp classic. It’s an overnight camp about an hour outside of downtown Los Angeles for ages 8-16, and it’s one of the most flexible summer camps in the area. Kids can choose from a menu of options for their morning programming, and the afternoon is left free for them to fill with the activities of their choosing. There are academic subjects like nature-based science experiments and stargazing, plus creative activities and plenty of options in the great outdoors. Want to try aerial arts or swing on a trapeze? Go for it!
25. River Way Ranch Camp
Summer camp cost: $4,425
Bottom line: If your kids love towering trees and lots of nature, this might be one of the best summer camps in California for them. In the foothills of Sequoia National Park, kids ages 7-16 can enjoy over 75 activities, including water skiing, horseback riding, biking, go-karts, wave runners, gymnastics, and rope courses. River Way helps your kids build confidence through learning new skills, while also making lasting memories.
26. Shaffer’s High Sierra Camp
Summer camp cost: $3,695
Bottom line: Located in Tahoe National Forest, this summer camp is great for ages 7-18 and with zero Wi-Fi connection, it helps unplug from the nonstop buzz of technology. The owners plan extensive backpacking and hiking trips throughout the summer and offer a variety of activities like whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and arts and crafts. Throughout the summer of 2021, they will be following CDC and County Health Department guidelines for both sleepaway and day camp.
27. Sierra Adventure Camp
City: Bass Lake
Summer camp cost: $1,800
Bottom line: Campers from ages 7-17 will get to experience classic camp living and this iconic summer camp in California. Along the pine-cone-lined shores of Bass Lake lies an outdoor living paradise where kids can experience sleeping in tents at night and learning survival skills during the day. Other activities campers can enjoy include storytelling, skits, and songs by the campfire.
28. Skylake Yosemite Camp
Summer camp cost: $3,975
Bottom line: Operating since 1945, Skylake Yosemite Camp has been a summer home to many returning campers. It’s one of the best summer camps in California by far. Kids of all ages get to experience life away from technology and instead build relationships and have fun with traditional camp activities. Activities include horseback riding, hiking, arts and crafts, canoeing, and swimming. Skylake was closed for the summer of 2020, but they plan to follow CDC guidelines in order to stay open for the summer of 2021.
29. SOCAPA School of Creative and Performing Arts Summer Intensive Camp
City: Los Angeles
Summer camp cost: $995-$6,595
Bottom line: Every summer, SOCAPA offers one to three weeks of summer camp for kids that immerses campers ages 13-19 in the world of filmmaking, acting, music, dance, photography and screenwriting. Campers will be put in informative situations within their chosen field that require focus and determination under the guidance of their top-of-the-line teachers. Participants leave a new sense of confidence, inspiration, and strong bonds. Additional activities include trips to Venice Beach and the Walk of Fame, as well as Q&As with guest speakers, karaoke nights, and much more.
30. WEBB Schools Junior Scholars Summer Camp
Summer camp cost: $2,650
Bottom line: This 10-day overnight summer camp in California for grades 7-9 gives campers the opportunity to experience in-depth programs about paleontology, science and engineering, digital arts, and global ethics. Campers will attend multiple art studios and museums. Here, students can make new friends while learning about and exploring their passions.
31. Academy by the Sea
Summer camp cost: $4,500
Bottom line: The Academy by the Sea summer camp in Carlsbad is run by the Army and Navy Academy, an elite college preparatory boarding school for boys that was established in 1930 on its current beachfront campus. The summer camp is co-ed and offers residential and day programs for youth entering 7th-12th grade.
Their two-week lineup offers youths the opportunity to live on their beachfront Carlsbad campus and choose from five different programs: aviation and sky drone piloting, aquaculture and underwater drone piloting, leadership accelerator based on the principals of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program, computer science and game design, and peak athletic performance.
If you're looking for a place where campers can learn, laugh, and lead, the Academy by the Sea is a great option.