Summer brings a lifetime of camper memories

by Leisha Shaffer
Posted 2/15/24

Just about every movie ever made about summer sleepaway camp includes a scene with tears. Somehow, though, things always seem to work out.

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Summer brings a lifetime of camper memories


Just about every movie ever made about summer sleepaway camp includes a scene with one common element: tears.

The distraught child who wants to go home within hours of arriving at camp. Or parents who put on a big smile when they drop their child off, but as they drive away the realization settles in that they just launched their child's first step toward independence and end up pulling off the side of the road and succumbing to their choked-back tears.

Somehow, though, things always seem to work out. Both parents and children survive, and the unhappy camper goes on to become a camp counselor when they are older.

While overnight or resident camps are still part of the summer camp experience for many, camp options have come a long way from canoeing on the lake, pitching tents, and making s'mores at the campfire. The proliferation of day camps now allows children and parents to have the "camp experience" without the drama of separation anxiety.

Northwest Philadelphia and the surrounding suburban communities offer almost endless camp opportunities. Both the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania offer options for both resident and day camps. Nearly every private school and college in the area hosts some type of summer camp program, including traditional day camps and specialized camps. Various organizations host specialty camps that cater to interest areas ranging from the arts, sciences, and sports to academics, life skills, and fantasy camps.

Where to Start

The first thing you should do when choosing a camp is involve your child in the process. Camp should be a fun and challenging experience, and your child should be your guide as to what type of experience they will enjoy.

Next, determine whether an overnight camp or day camp best suits your child and your family situation. Both can offer specialization in specific interest areas.

The big question is whether to pursue the traditional camp experience, where your child will be exposed to a variety of topics and activities, or a specialty camp where your child can focus on immersing themselves in a specific area of interest. Larger day camp programs, such as the ones found at the area’s private schools, will offer a wide range of programs, allowing you the flexibility of crafting a multi-week plan combining both traditional day camp and specialty camp options at the same location.

Once you have narrowed down some of the options, it’s time to get to the practical aspects of summer camp planning – availability and pricing. It’s best to start considering camp locations now. Enrollments are still open for most camps, but smaller and more specialized camps have already begun to sell out. Find the pricing that fits your budget and keep in mind that some camps will offer financial aid and scholarships.

Types of Camps Available

Overnight or resident camps: The Girl Scouts ( and Boy Scouts ( both offer overnight camp options. In addition, there are independent camps located throughout the Poconos, South Jersey, and Chester County. Some overnight camps offer specialized options.

Traditional day camps: The following local camps offer traditional camps featuring a cross-section of activities with themed weeks and programs. They include ESF Camps at Norwood-Fontbonne Academy (preschool to 10th grade), Awbury Adventure Camps focusing on outdoor and nature activities (ages 5-17), Seedlings Camp at Plymouth Meeting Friends School (ages 3-7), and Miquon Day Camp (ages 4-11).

Traditional/specialty hybrid day camps: There are quite a few local camps that offer traditional day camp programs along with sports camps and a curriculum of specialty camps in the arts, STEM, nature, and more. They include Penn Charter Summer Camps (ages 3-14), Germantown Friends School Summer Camps (pre-K to grade 12), Summerside Camps at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (pre-K to 9th grade), Germantown Academy Summer Camps (ages 4-15), and Future Stars Camp at LaSalle College High School (ages 5-13). Summer at the Mount at Mount St. Joseph's High School, which is open to middle school girls (grades 5-9), focuses on STEM, the arts, and athletics.

Specialty camps – Arts: Area camps with a single focus on the arts include Allens Lane Arts Center Summer Art Camp (ages 5-16) with programs in the visual and performing arts, Quintessence Theatre Camp featuring performing arts (ages 7-17), Snyder School of Singing (grades K-8) spotlighting musical theatre, Burn Brae Camp of Creative Arts (ages 3-15), and Summer Circus camp at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts (ages 4-15). Traveling outside of the immediate area, parents can opt for the summer youth and children's programs offered by the Philadelphia Ballet (ages 3-12).

Specialty camps – Sports: In addition to the multi-sport camps and single sport options available at school-based camps in the area, a few others to consider are summer camp at Northwestern Stables (ages 7-13), Jr. 76ers basketball camps (ages 6-17) held at multiple locations including Roxborough, Blue Bell, King of Prussia, and Wayne, and Philadelphia Union's Youth Soccer Camp (ages 6-14) with camp locations in Conshohocken, Lafayette Hill, Wyndmoor, Roxborough, and Roslyn.

Specialty camps – Fantasy: Wizarding camps are very popular. Brandywine School of Wizardry offers camps at Chestnut Hill College, Arcadia University, and Robbins Park in Upper Dublin for ages 6-15. Germantown Friends School also offers a wizardry camp (grades 2-5), and Summerside at SCH features a Dungeons and Dragons-themed fantasy camp for grades 5-8.

Specialty camps - STEM: STEM camps are widely available with topics ranging from coding and robotics to rocket science (literally!). Chestnut Hill College offers a CSI series of camps for grades 5-9 including physical forensic science as well as digital forensics and cybersecurity.

Specialty camps – Culinary: Awbury Adventure Summer Camps, Germantown Academy, Germantown Friends, Penn Charter, and Summerside at SCH all offer culinary camps with a focus on topics from cooking to farming to the science of food.

Specialty camps – Nature, adventure, and the Wissahickon woods: The Wissahickon woods provide the perfect backdrop for campers to connect with nature. Most area camps offer some type of nature or adventure camp, with activities including geocaching, hiking, rock climbing, environmental learning, and wilderness training.

Specialty camps – Life skills: Topics for these camps range from educational enrichment programs at the AIM Academy in Conshohocken (grades 1-12), to developing dog savvy skills at Brighten Up Pup (ages 8 and up) to the basics of finance and investing at Summerside at SCH (grades 4-6).