Summer Camp: An Investment in the Future

Above: Top summer camps still challenge, inspire and reward youths like these at Teton Valley Ranch Camp near Jackson, Wyoming.


Here’s a great — maybe mandatory — alternative to your children lounging around the house all summer, playing video games: camp.

Get out and breathe some really fresh air. Hike some really big mountains — the Grand Tetons. And catch some really big fish, once you’ve mastered the intricacies of fly fishing as taught to 11-to-16-year-olds at Teton Valley Ranch Camp in Wyoming.

Teton Valley (current tuition is $6,900) and thousands of other camps await your child this summer. There are weekend affairs to summerlong programs. Kids as young as 7 and as old as 18 are welcome at camps tailored to girls, boys or coed campers. There are camps that focus on music, academics, religion, science or special needs. (Iowans take note: shows there even are farm camps.) They can sail off the coast of California, or hike those Wyoming mountains. While at camp, Teton Valley marketing director Whitney Oppenhuizen says kids also participate in a rodeo, climb rocks and spend time rappelling. Older kids spend overnights in the mountains, pitching tents and tasting campfire cooking.

New England is studded with forests, lakes and camps. Tripp Lake Camp ($13,400) has been hosting girls since 1911 at its compound in Poland, Maine. Near enough to Canada to include a side trip to Montreal, Maine’s Camp Androscoggin ($13,300) is a boys-only affair that focuses on the outdoors and athletics. In New Hampshire, at Camp Walt Whitman ($12,900), youngsters can bring their tennis game into top shape on any of 11 courts, overseen by a coach who has won multiple national collegiate championships.

Jed Dorfman, who along with his wife, Carolyn, runs 71-year-old Walt Whitman, said the camp strives to help kids “be what kind of person you ought to be,” as it encourages volunteering and giving of one’s self. The 230 staffers help the 425 campers develop from a kid to a young adult, stepping up to a number of endeavors.

“We have some kids who are phenomenal athletes,” said Dorfman. “We have other kids who love to be in the ceramics tent.”

Some of these camps have shorter, lower-priced versions available to younger or first-year campers. All welcome visits. For some Central Iowa camping options, check out this list as assembled by Des Moines Parent: Whether it’s a local camp for a week or a longer camp for all of July, your child will get more out of camp than from a video game.

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