DuJour Navigation

The 11 Craziest Summer Camps

Give your kids excellent material for their “How I Spent My Summer” essays

Summer is just around the corner, with its long, hot days of nothing for your children to do but look at you reproachfully. Coloring books? Already colored. Legos? Two are lodged in a sibling’s nose. Video games? I-Pads? Too much screen time. Books to read? Finished. Bike ride? Neighborhood is old news. Your kids are so boooored.

Not to worry—there are camps offering experiences to intrigue and involve even the most jaded children, like Princess Camp, Shark Camp or Ted Nugent’s Kamp for Kids. Here’s a list at some of the most outrageous, unusual summer camps around:

Thrill Coaster Tours 
Parents, rejoice! You can now pay someone else to stand in line in the broiling sun, drive hours to Sandusky, Ohio, and take your child on nauseating roller coasters—over and over again! Thrill Coaster Tours is a camp for 12-16 year olds that is dedicated to riding coasters. The 8-day ‘Get to the Point Tour’ heads to Cedar Point, the self-proclaimed “roller coaster capital of the world” and the 9-day “Southern Studios Tour” includes two days at Disney World; both tours make stops at other amusement parks along the way. While this camp may not enrich your children’s high-school transcripts, the steeliness of stomach developed on the Thrill Coaster Tours should serve them well at college.
Fee: $1875 for Get to the Point Tour; $2025 for Southern Studios tour

The TASIS Summer Programs 
For those children who prefer “summering” rather than “camping,” The American School in Switzerland has programs for children of 6-18. No splintery lodges or cabins here: TASIS’ four European programs—a mix of academics, arts, sports and travel—take place in mansions. There’s the Surrey at The England Campus, two Switzerland campuses (Lugano and Chateau-d’Oex) or the South of France campus, Les Tapies. At the England Campus, your darlings will lay their heads to rest in an 18th century mansion and better themselves (and their test scores) across the street in a late Georgian mansion. The Lugano campus uses a 17th century mansion previously owned by an Italian Ambassador, as its schoolhouse, dorm and cafeteria (festively decorated with suits of armor and weapons). In the South of France, Les Tapies has a specialized program for Art and Architecture lovers. Nestled in a 17th century hamlet among the mountains of the Massif Central, Les Tapies certainly has a stunning view but fewer mansions. The choice is yours.
Fee: $6,688-$7,772 per 3 week session

IMG Bollettierei Accelerated Tennis Camp, The International Riding Camp’s Equestrian Teen Tour of Europe, Somax Aadvanced Swim Camp
For the tennis pro: With over 50 courts and alumni like Andre Aggasi and the Williams sisters, the IMG Bollettieri Tennis program is a standout in the tennis world. They provide weekly camps for ages 8 and up and 3-5 week options for the 11-19 set.
Fee: $3,099 per week

For the equestrian: A brief jaunt to Joseph Stalin’s old place-now turned-four-star- resort? On horseback? At The International Riding Camp, weeklong teen tour of Russia provides equestrians the opportunity to experience the country’s culture and ride Russian horses.
Fee: $8500 per week (including airfare)

For the swimmer: Nothing compares to the Somax Advanced swim camp for the aspiring Missy Franklin’s and Michael Phelps’ of the world. Somax grads have won 43 Gold Medals and set 11 World Records in international competition. The camps are five days long, for ages 5-19 and all levels.
Fee: A private five-day camp for swimmers of the same family or team is $10,500

Circus Smirkus
Does your little carnie need work on his or her balloon animals? Did the slapstick bit fall a little short at Thanksgiving this year? Circus Smirkus is the answer. All levels of circus skill are welcome at this Vermont camp that offers two-week sessions for children ages 8-18. Underneath European-style big top tents, kids practice for five hours in the mornings, honing acrobatics, balance, aerial and other skills (like the best pie-throwing technique). Afternoons are spent playing sports, arts and crafting, or doing other traditional camp activities. Advanced campers get to take their show on the road to local nursing homes and childcare centers. Bonus for those who love playing dress-up: Every dinner has a theme, and prizes are awarded for best costume.
Fee: $1,125 per week

Ted Nugent’s Kamp for Kids 
Who better to teach your child hunting, the Ten Commandments, and all the words to “Cat Scratch Fever” than the one-and-only Ted Nugent? The Detroit rocker, gun activist and staunch conservative founded his volunteer-staffed, nonprofit Kamp for Kids in 1990. For two weekends each summer, Lil’ Nugies aged 11-16 are taught “basic lessons in life,” like International Bow Education, hunter safety and law, the Golden Rule, and the Ten Commandments. Although only BB guns are used at the Kamp, Nugent “personally gives a heartfelt lecture about gun ownership rights, the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and the power of octane-fueled rock,” as well as a musical performance. The Kamp’s three-day weekends offer outdoor, hands-on classes that urge children to get “out of the malls and off the streets” and get in touch with nature (by, er, shooting at it).
Fee: unknown

Israel Challenge Experience Army Camp
Do you look back on your own camp days and think, “Why didn’t my parents love me enough to send me to Israel to fight in a simulated war”? Well, now you can give your child everything you never had, thanks to the Israel Challenge Experience Army Camp. In an undisclosed location near the Mediterranean and with access to 29 shooting ranges and 100 acres of Israeli training ground, this week long camp teaches covert military training, like special ops, anti-terror tactics, and how to fire M16s, Mini-Uzis, and CZ75s on full automatic. The training culminates in a final challenge, War Night, where the troops fight in a simulated battle. While your child will not become a certified Israeli solider, he or she will get bragging rights in the form of a certificate of completion. B.Y.O. Combat Boots.
Fee: $3,650 per week

Princess Prep
Will your daughter not take off her tiara? Does she own a boa? Well, it’s time to teach her the essential life skills for royalty, like curtseying and polite waving. At Princess Prep, 8-11 year old girls spend a week in London learning how to be princesses. According to the camp’s website, “Princess Prep channels girls’ natural princess obsession into experiences that are fun, educational and inspirational.” Mini etiquette lessons are given daily to the would-be royals, along with outings such as horseback riding in Hyde Park, afternoon tea at Kensington Palace, and a visit to the Crown Jewels and Buckingham Palace. Each meal has a predetermined princess (real or fictional) as a discussion topic to teach the qualities they will undoubtedly need in their careers. Some of these qualities include: Philanthropy & Selflessness, Kindness & Compassion, Hard Work & Self-Belief, Generosity & Gratitude, Leadership & Diplomacy, Manners, Grace & Poise, and Inner Beauty & Strength.
Fee: $3,995 per princess (not including airfare)

Pali Adventures
Your child is obviously special, and exceling at capture the flag will neither highlight their unique skills nor make them famous. Cue Pali Adventures, a series of camps for every interest for children from 9-16. Its DJ Camp teaches the fundamentals of rhythm and timing, matching beats, dropping songs, and various scratching techniques (such as baby scratching, scribble and tear—you know, the usuals) and encourages campers to develop their own DJ personas. Movie Make Up Camp has a different theme every day, instructing campers in general movie make-up tips, zombie and alien make-up application, creating gashes and wounds, and applying bald caps and prosthetics. For the more active camper who wants to learn how to fall off building and fight with swords, there’s The Hollywood Stunt Camp. If kids get bored falling off buildings, they can choose from over 50 electives, like Aussie cooking or ATVs.
Fee: $1,775 per week

Fiji Shark Studies
Do you love your child and worry about him or her succeeding in the cold, cruel world? Why not give them a head start by letting them swim with sharks? At the Shark Reef Marine Reserve in Fiji, campers 15 and older can see bull, lemon and tiger sharks—all in one dive. The 24-day-long course is a survey of the natural history, biology, behavior, ecological and social importance, threats, and conservation of sharks. (It will also give them coolness points for the rest of their lives.) During their 24+ dives, campers can receive certifications like PADI Advanced Open Water Diver, PADI Underwater Naturalist, and AWARE Fish Identification as well as three college credits and the best cocktail party stories ever.
Fee: $5,980 for 24 days

Nerf Zombie Camp
The Nerf Zombie Camp in Reading, MA, is exactly as glorious as it sounds. For one week, campers blast zombies and monsters with Nerf guns on adventures in mazes and haunted houses. Counselors and CITs play the monsters and zombies, so if things get a little too spooky mid-blast, a camper can ask for help. Is your kid less a fighter and more a helper? The camp offers additional roles—like negotiator, historian, and medic, among others—to engage kids on a less scary level. There’s also an option to stay another week for the Wizards and Warriors camp held on the same grounds.
Fee: $1,095 per week

Plantation Farm Camp
Do you despair of separating your child from his iPod? Does her diet consist only of food that can be microwaved? At Plantation Farm Camp in northern California, kids aged 8-17 spend three-and-a-half-weeks unplugged and outdoors. The only time they’ll hear music that they’re not making themselves will be at the barn dance. Campers and staff live without electricity and help run a farm by tending the animals or cultivating the organic garden. Plantation strives to cultivate a tight-knit community by not separating campers by age—save for living quarters—and requiring everyone stay for the entire session. Some of Plantation’s non-farm activites include bareback horse riding, arts and crafts, swimming (both pool and lake), and making an i-Phone out of bark (the last one isn’t true—at least for now).
Fee: $4,500 per session