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8 min read

How Adults Do Summer Camp

Wanderlust can be limiting if there’s no one to travel with. Exploring in nature, meeting new people, learning a new skill – there’s potential for all when summer rolls around. But the fun may be missed out on if you’re not up for going it alone.

From the department of 'It’s About Time!' arrive summer camps for adults. Want to learn archery? Paddle a canoe? Sing around a campfire in between bites of s’mores - all with new faces along on the journey? Now springing up around the country: there’s a camp for that.

Nostalgia may be part of it. The smell of a bonfire wafting on the breeze or the sound of wind rustling pines can randomly recall the adventure of day or sleepaway camp. Over time, the experience may have drifted to a fond, albeit hazy, memory, but is never entirely forgotten. What adult wouldn’t want a way to relive the joy of that time?

Although adult wellness and empowerment retreats have been around for decades, the idea of grown-ups getting out in nature for an extended stay and playing like they did as kids is just taking off. From New England to Florida, the Mid-Atlantic to the Midwest, and Colorado to the coast, there’s a camp for every interest. And one great feature is that since adult fun isn’t necessarily confined by summer vacation dates, several have programs running in the off-season.

Here we present to you 11 potential “camp” experiences, as well as ways to get a sense of summer camp if you're staying home.

Trapper of Colorado vintage photo ski jumper black t-shirt worn by a young woman holding a tennis racket

Adult Summer Camps for Traditional Fun

Camp Bonfire, Lake Owego, Poconos, PA

Self-described as “one of the only summer camps for adults that is just focused on fun,” Camp Bonfire strives for diversity across the board. They welcome campers from all backgrounds, races, religions, and gender identities. With space for 175 campers at each weekend session, they keep it close-knit. Above the “Activities” section of the website, they boldly state: “You’re A Grown Ass Adult, Do What You Want”, and then display a broad range of options from canoeing, cardprinting, ping pong, poetry, survival skills, wood burning and more. It’s pretty cool, and we’d totally love to attend. Unfortunately they took a covid hiatus. We’re just hoping that they’ll be back for 2022.

Camp Grounded, Mendocino, CA

This is the camp born out of a need to unplug. With activities as unique as stilt-walking, AcroYoga, creative writing on typewriters, a murder mystery in the woods, and stargazing, Camp Grounded understands that adults need to pair intellectual stimulation with physical activity. Three nights of lodging in an all-inclusive price just under $1K make this camp more of a high ticket recharge. Still - the ability to unplug and enjoy is worth a lot these days. Their website states: “Campers from over 30 states and 8+ countries have traded in their computers, cell phones, emails, Instagrams, clocks, schedules, work-jargon and networking for an off-the-grid weekend of pure unadulterated fun. Together we create a community where money and titles are worth little...and individuality, self-expression, friendship, memories and the great outdoors are valued most. Ages range from 18-75.” Although cancelled due to covid, we’re hoping they’ll soon make a comeback.

Trapper of Colorado California Ski Girls vintage photo t-shirt worn by a young woman bouncing a volleyball with a tennis racket

Camps Where Drinking Plays A Part in Fun

Club Getaway, Kent, CT

Closer to Club Med in style, with activities like mixology classes, paint & sip, as well as some specifically aimed at “Party Animals,” Club Getaway offers multiple themed weekends running between early June and Labor Day, all in the $400-$550 range. They describe the experience as “...an escape for your inner child. Leave life behind and arrive to a place where the only schedule you follow is one where adventure is planned after breakfast, and evening parties are definitely on the agenda.”

Camp Halcyon, Wautoma, WI

Camp Halcyon may be the food and drink connoisseur’s summer camp. Open to adults over 21, this camp offers a nightly cocktail bar, and Mimosas and a Bloody Mary bar at breakfast. Featured activities include wine tasting, beermaking, pie making and CBD 101. Their culinary offerings as described on their website: “In a word – kickass...In addition to having vegan/vegetarian options, we put together some fantastic menus that take your favorite childhood camp foods to the next level.” We’ll bet the s’mores bar at the bonfire exceeds expectations. At $499 for 4 all-inclusive days, we think this is a pretty great deal.

Camp No Counselors, locations close to NYC, LA and in Central FL

Fully embracing the “adult” side of summer camp, Camp No Counselors invites you to indulge in a variety of group and solo activities, including a ropes course, zipline and yoga “with a drink in your hand.” Their 2021 events are happening over Labor Day Weekend for the near New York location, and in early October for southern California.
In their own words: “It’s all about having fun. At CNC you can enjoy a wide range of camp activities each day and awesome socials every night. These socials often have themes and might involve live bands, campfires, foam parties, pool parties & DJs.” They may be the only summer camp to have competed on the show Shark Tank.

A young woman balances standing on the back of a park bench while holding a tennis racket

Special Focus Summer Camps

‘Camp’ Camp, Portland, ME

The activities at 'Camp' Camp are plentiful, varied, and sound freaking awesome! Under “Art” alone there are ten separate offerings, ranging from block printing and collage to mandalas. We love that this camp takes pride in being LGBTQ oriented since 1997. There is just so much going on here! Other activities listed include a “Talent/No Talent Show,” evening movie, night paddle, canoeing or a morning swim. Their website provides a list of “10 reasons to come” as polled from their campers. With “LYFAO!” as reason number three, we know it’s a good time. Plus it’s in Maine – a wonderful place to stay in summer. They’re still operating virtually because of covid, with a full week of day camp happening in August. We’re sure they’ll be back in 2022.

Camp Chief Ouray, Granby, CO - Women's Adventure Camp

Camp Chief Ouray is operated by the YMCA of the Rockies, located on their Snow Mountain Ranch property, just southwest of Rocky Mountain National Park in the town of Granby. Later in the summer they offer several adult camp programs. The Women’s Adventure Camp is open to women 18+ and claims the intent is “teaching outdoor adventure skills and playing in the outdoors.” With that in mind, they offer a climbing wall, mountain biking, a zipline, canoeing, miniature golf, yoga, and an outdoor survival presentation, among many other things. All at $325 for three days.

Epic Nerd Camp, Camp Ramblewood, Darlington, MD (by the NJ & PA borders)

The 2021 ENC is 5 days/4 nights in early October – just when you need a post-summer pick-me-up. In true nerd style, activities range from Quidditch (in and out of the pool – move over, Marco Polo) to mermaid-ing with monofins, to tabeltop games and an escape room. There’s also swords & light sabers, battle games and a variety of LARPs. (That’s "Live Action Role Playing.") They point out in the FAQ section on the home page that they are absolutely LGBTQ friendly, and meals include options for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, Keto and diabetic diets. Cabins are self-contained with full bathrooms and Tempurpedic mattresses, and you can bunk in all-male, all-female or mixed-gender cabins. Epic Nerd Camp has thought of everything!

Camp Wandawega, Elkhorn, WI

This is more of a getaway camp, with cabins and a bunkhouse listed on AirBnB. Partake in a la carte, counselor-led programs like knot tying, fire building and racoon ropin’ (they’re serious.) Excursions can take you to a tap room or distillery, local farms, as well as on bike, horseback or wooden boat rides. This camp was established in the 1920s, and looks cute as a button in its current incantation
After all, its resurrection was designed by current and former Ogilvy & Mather creative directors. Expect a perfected vintage, “Wes Anderson” look here.

Wolf Camp & School of Natural Science, Blue Skye Farm, Puyallup, WA

Though their adult summer camp has been suspended due to covid, adults can still attend some incredible workshops this summer, take a recorded online class, or do an independent study course. Workshops on their website include field guide instruction in wildlife safety and tracking, backcountry navigation – including first aid, risk management and navigation challenges, and hands-on harvesting and cooking of wild edible and medicinal plants. At $95 for one workshop and $90 for each additional, Wolf Camp provides an affordable way to gain knowledge of the great outdoors.

Hands balance a small rock on top of other rocks to make a cairna woman presents her balanced rock cairn

Resort-Style Camp

Black Mountain Ranch, McCoy, CO

If you’d prefer an experience more “glampy” than “campy,” with private lodging and ranch-style gourmet meals, Black Mountain Ranch may be your style. At a higher pricepoint, this dude ranch provides a full week, all-inclusive, authentic western experience. Activities unique to Black Mountain Ranch include horseback riding, a cattle drive and skeet shooting, not to mention whitewater rafting and hiking in the Colorado Rockies. According to their website, they ring the bell for breakfast, and have different activities every day – which visitors may partake in, or not.

Camp Kasbah, Aspen, CO

Yet to be unveiled, we’re hearing buzz about the new Camp Kasbah on Aspen’s Buttermilk Mountain. Mosaic tiles, a glass solarium, orange trees and bougainvillea complement hand-carved Moroccan daybeds and canopy beds made to look like Berber tents. With only seven themed, luxury suites, this spa retreat is way pricey. Camp Kasbah’s hosts refer to themselves as “camp rangers,” leading “campers” through activities like champagne sabering lessons or dressing up for themed dinners with costumes borrowed from the well stocked costume closet. Of course there’s skiing off the property, but Camp Kasbah is perfect if you’re in a group where not everyone in attendance is there for the snow.

How to “Summer Camp” If You Can’t Get Away

  • Unplug it all – give yourself an allotted time away from your devices and stick with it. Take as long or as little time as you want. Maybe set aside the same time over a period of several days.
  • Take an online craft class that you might have taken at summer camp, such as soap or candle-making
  • Pick up some gourmet chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers and make grown up s'mores in a toaster oven
  • Listen to REI's Camp Monsters podcast, now in the 3rd season. Tales of American outdoor legends that'll make you look over your shoulder in the dark (we love these - they're really good!)
  • Paint or draw a picture
  • Pick dandelions; clean the greens and include in a salad, a stir-fry, or tossed with caramelized onions in pasta
  • Pick wildflowers & press between pages of a favorite book
  • Get your camp vibe on with decorating. Our Boulder friends Wildflower Nation Supply have got this camp-at-home thing figured out. They’ve been hunting down camp/cabin style blankets and quilts from around the country, cleaning and meticulously restoring them, and adding adorable Canadian 'Girl Scout' patches that say “Be Prepared” – a motto you always want to take with you when heading off to camp. They’ve also got their own custom camp stools made in Montana. And soon they’ll be stocking pennant flags honoring Boulder’s '5 Sister' peaks: Bear Peak, Flagstaff, Green Mountain, Sanitas and South Boulder. Decorative arrows are also on the way.

Photos courtesy of Wildflower Nation Supply 
a vintage red and white checked cotton quilt and green, red yellow striped wool blanket displayed on a rock with vintage thermoses

Close Up of a Canadian Girl Scout 'Be Prepared' Patch