According to statistics by the National Camp Association, there are some 10,000 children's summer camps in the United States and over six million children attend these camps each summer. I'm not sure how many of those camps are located in Florida, but I'm sure it is a good number.
When school is out, camps across Florida fling open their doors to nearly every adventure imaginable. But, gone are the days of summer camp being limited to a few days "roughing it" in wilderness-style dorms. Instead of swimming, canoeing, volleyball and campfire sing-a-longs, many kids are undertaking adventures of a different sort, and some are in the most unlikely places... like your favorite theme parks!
Don't think that camps are just for fun either. Many camps nowadays are quite educational, but kids are just fine with that. They want to experience things first-hand, perhaps try a career interest or just do something a little different and exciting.
The featured camps on the following pages are some of the most unique and interesting located throughout the state. We am not recommending these camps, per se, as much as reporting what is available. Most are well-known and reputable, but always take the safety of your children seriously. Please check out How to Pick the Right Summer Camp for Kids, compiled by the Parenting.com, before deciding on a camp for your child.
- Animal Adventures I
- Animal Adventures II
- Sea-ing Life Differently I
- Sea-ing Life Differently II
- Sea & Surf Camps
- Mermaids & Belles
- Science Isn't Geeky
- Lights, Camera, Action!
- Up, Up & Away!
If you're in the Orlando area, About.com's ex-Orlando Guide, Theresa Johnston, has plenty of summer camp ideas for Orlando (art camps, Christian-based camps, gymnastic camps, computer camps, dance and modeling camps and more) to keep the kids busy this summer.
Animal Adventures I
Many zoos offer educational opportunities throughout the year, but zoos have also become the summer camp of choice for many children. Here are some of what Florida zoos have to offer:
While the Brevard Zoo offers "ed-ZOO-cation" opportunities year around, during spring and summer breaks special behind-the-scenes and hands-on activities keep kids occupied while they learn respect for the needs of animals.
Learning about wildlife through a variety of activities and experiences is what Holiday, Spring Break and Summer Camps are all about at the Jacksonville Zoo.
Lowry Park Zoo
Zoo School at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is headquarters for week-long camps where K-8th grade students can experience the "wild" side of summer. Kids can learn about nature, science and the animal kingdom while hiking through the zoo, exploring behind-the-scenes and cooling off in the zoo's water play areas. Adventure camps include animal encounters, keeper talks, educational shows, games, crafts and more.
Zoofari Camp programs for children (4-13 years old) are offered during spring break and summer and are designed to give children an appreciation for wildlife.
Animal Adventures II
So, if you're looking for something to tame the boring summer... look no further than Busch Gardens of Tampa Bay.
Camps run in two week sessions from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays. Lunch is included. Extended before and after care are available for an additional charge.
Sea-ing Life Differently I
DolphinCamp - Grassy Key - Ages 10-14
in Florida. You know they have to be popular because the Orlando theme park has expanded its "camp" program to include Adventure Camps, Resident Camps, Group Camps, Day Camps, Career Camps and even Sleepover Camps. The good news is that there are camps available for all ages — the tiniest tykes to the most tenacious teens — even parents get to tag along sometimes. The bad news is that all camps, except the seasonal sleepovers are pretty expensive.
Sea-ing Life Differently II
Clearwater Marine Aquarium - Kindergarten thru 9th Grade
Summer Camps includes snorkeling, indoor or kayaking and more! New this year is "build a camp" which allow for custom designed camps that can include morning camp, "Lunch Bunch" camp, afternoon camp or combinations to fit your schedule. Each camp is geared to specific ages and meets either a half day or full day with lots of different interest-related camps available.
Deering Estate Kids' Camp - Miami - Ages 6-14
Camps are held on teacher workdays, some holidays and during the summer. Day Kids' Camps include outdoor recreation, nature hikes, environmental projects that incorporate the use of scientific equipment and more.
The Florida Aquarium - Tampa - Grades K-5th
AquaCamps According to the folks at The Florida Aquarium, "When school is out... The Aquarium is in!" Each camp includes animal encounters, hikes through the Aquarium, crafts, science experiments and time at Explore-A-Shore (weather permitting). Camp is 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with free early drop-off and pickup.
Sea & Surf Camps
Sea Camp - Ages 12-17
Located on Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys, Seacamp offers marine science education and summer camp experiences. The summer camp programs include SCUBA, sailing, board sailing, lifesaving, photography and arts & crafts. Scheduled camp dates and associated costs are not published.
Mermaids & Belles
Mermaid Camp - Ages 7-14
Now your child can experience what it is like to be an underwater performer at Mermaid Camp. Week Wachee, home of the famous underwater Mermaid show, will train your child in underwater surface air techniques and the responsibilities of being a mermaid. At the end of the program, your child will participate in one mermaid show as a dry performer.
Camps are two-day weekend affairs where each child will receive two underwater training sessions per day, a "mermaid makeover" by their camp trainer and take home an autographed photo with her and a self-portrait in a mermaid tail.
Mermaid Camp dates for 2014 are:
- April 5-6 (ages 7-10)
- May 17-18 (ages 7-10)
- June 14-15 (ages 7-10)
- June 21-22 (ages 7-10) SOLD OUT
- June 28-29 (ages 7-10)
- July 5-6 (ages 7-10)
- July 12-13 (ages 7-10)
- July 26-27 (ages 26-27)
- August 9-10 (ages 11-14) SOLD OUT
- August 23-24 (ages 11-14)
The cost — $300 — includes lunch both days and passes good for two daily admissions on child's scheduled camp weekend.
Cypress Gardens is permanently closed and the property has been developed into LEGOLAND Florida.
Science Isn't Geeky
Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) - Tampa - Grades K-5
When School's Out, MOSI's In! Kids can't find a better way to spend the day off from school. Each day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (extended hours available for an additional charge per day/per program), campers create, do and experiment... and, that's just part of the fun! Children should bring two snacks and wear clothing that can get messy. Pre-registration is required. Members receive discounted rate.
Orlando Science Center
School Break Camps are available throughout the school year and during the summer with programs that challenge and entertain the kids.
iD Tech Camps - Miami & Orlando - Ages 7-17
iD Tech Camps offer week-long day and overnight summer technology programs for ages 7-17 in three Florida locations — the Rollins College in Winter Park; the University of South Florida in Tampa; and, the University of Miami in Coral Gables. Participants create video games, experience game modding, improve gaming skills, build robots, design websites, film and edit digital movies, create their own comic book, learn programming and more. An average of just five students per staff and one computer per student give campers plenty of attention.
Lights, Camera, Action!
Filmmaking Camp - Ages 14-17
The New York Film Academy Filmmaking Camp offers students a chance to write, direct, shoot and edit his or her own short films, or act in the filmmaking student films. The Central Florida locations at Disney/MGM Studios and Universal Orlando offers professional movie sets and realistic international environments allowing students a variety of "locales" to set their films.
Up, Up & Away!
Embry-Riddle Aerospace Camps
Although the programs at first seem expensive they do include supervised housing, on-campus meals, course fees for 3 college credits, classroom instruction, books, materials, and field trips.
Kennedy Space Center Camps - Ages 8-14
Classroom activities include training on realistic motion-based space simulators and performing a simulated Space Shuttle mission aboard a full-scale replica of an orbiter and simulated Mission Control. Campers learn teamwork as they perform hands-on, minds-on learning activities related to "Building our Future in Space," the theme of Camp KSC.
Weekly tuition for the day camp is $295 per child, per session with discounts available for multi-child households. Visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com for more information and to register.