Now that summer is in full swing, we’re trying to make the absolute best of the warm weather — taking extra care to get outside as much as possible. But, to really kick the seasonal experience into high gear, it’s a good idea to map out some activities for you, your family, and/or your friends. Then again, sometimes it’s better to let someone else do all the planning.
Rather than taking on the task yourself or waiting on your best buds to plan a trip, you can always let someone else do all the hard work so you can all enjoy some adventures without any stress — just like when you went to summer camp as a kid. As it turns out, childhood doesn’t have to be the end of your sleepaway experience. That’s because, all around the country, there are a number of multi-day adventure retreats geared specifically toward adults. We’ve rounded up the best of the best in the following collection of the best summer camps for grown-ups.
What Is Adult Summer Camp?
A Quick Primer
If you were lucky enough as a kid to go to summer camp, you probably have a pretty good idea what goes into the makings of an excellent adult summer camp. After all, the best ones modeled themselves after those very camps the creators’ went to when they were children. For our purposes, however, we wanted to make sure we outlined a few specifics as to what makes for an excellent grown-up summer camp. These parameters are outlined in the following:
Guided Activities: There are a lot of excellent retreats that offer a wide variety of optional adventures — like Wandawega Camp Resort — such as kayaking, archery, hiking, and other things you might expect from a summer camp. However, for our purposes, these self-guided activities don’t quite rank. Rather, it is our expectation that there must be some measure of guidance in said activities from a dedicated staff, just like camp counselors do at kid-friendly camps. The reason for this is simple: you can go to just about any resort and put together your own itinerary of fun things to do. By contrast, summer camps are all about bringing people together in guided groups to help build character, friendships, skills, etc. — which is more easily managed if you don’t have to do all the planning yourself.
The Sleepaway Element: Some folks may be familiar with day camps — like those offered by the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club. However, we hope to highlight camps that offer sleepaway-style accommodations in tents, cabins, or otherwise. Like counselor-guided activities, we believe the “sleepaway element” helps in crafting an all-inclusive experience for all parties involved. That being said, we believe there is a healthy blend on our list of summer camps that offer community-style housing, campgrounds, and even some with private lodging.
Inclusivity: One of the major points of kids’ summer camps is that they serve to create a sense of community amongst the attendees. This is fostered through a number of factors including on-site lodging, group immersion, group activities, cafeteria-style meals, and more. We are firm believers that the best adult sleepaway camp experiences also bring people together by integrating them into large groups — unlike other camp-style resorts that let you go off and do strictly solo activities.
Childlike Wonderment: Most certainly the most ill-defined of our factors, but no less an abundantly important one, the best adult summer camps are not those that make you feel like an adult, but rather help bring out the kid in you. A big part of this can definitely be accounted for in the guided activities — especially if those include childhood games like capture the flag or a water balloon toss — but there’s also an intangibility to this factor that is built not just by the types of activities, but the overall styling, locale, inclusion, community, and even the appearance of the camp accommodations and amenities themselves.
No Kids Allowed: Lastly and, for some, most importantly, the cherry on top of a grown-up summer camp is a lack of children. It’s not that we’re against the idea of kids, but this guide is geared toward vacationing for adults. With that in mind, we’re trying to focus on camps that are, at the very least, primarily for grown-ups and either outlaw the inclusion of children altogether or only allow families on a limited basis. If you have kids, think of this as a vacation from the responsibilities of parenthood. If you’re not, you need not worry about awkwardly intermingling with families.
Adult Space Academy
Just as true now as it was when we were kids, outdoor adventures aren’t for everyone. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get the full sleepaway experience. If you’re fond of astronomy, astrophysics, or just engineering, you can actually participate in an adult-friendly version of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s famous Space Camp. Over the course of three days and two nights, you’ll get to construct and launch your own rocket, take a spin in the Multi-Axis Trainer, design a protective heat shield, perform a simulated space mission, and so much more. If you ever dreamed of being a NASA astronaut but never followed that path, this is the summer camp for you.
Location: Huntsville, Alabama
Length: 3 Days
Price Range: $549
Belcampo Meat Camps
One of our favorite thing about summer and the warm weather is that it spells plenty of time for outdoor cooking — especially barbecue. Of course, not everyone is an expert when it comes to open-flame grilling out in the yard. Lucky for you, that’s an easily remedied problem — so long as you can find the time and money required to attend one of Belcampo’s multi-day Meat Camps. Including beautiful frontier-style sleeping accommodations — like roomy shared tents — these experiences are like sleepaway camp for fans of brisket, ribs, sirloin, and more. Whether you want to learn general grilling and dressing skills or something a bit more focused — like Traeger-specific grilling or making the perfect burger — there’s something here for you.
Location: Mt. Shasta, California
Length: 2-4 Days
Price Range: $700-$3,500
Colorado Dude Ranch Week
Admittedly, this one is a slight stretch, as this is more of a working dude ranch (ala City Slickers) than a more-typical summer camp. That being said, they still offer guided activities, on-site lodging, group meals, and more that we’d expect from a similar sleepaway camp. As such, we’re giving it a pass. The biggest benefit to this week-long adventure is that it will let you live out your Old West cowboy fantasies — including riding on horseback, cattle driving, outdoor BBQ fireside meals, whitewater rafting, shooting, dancing, and so much more. As you can see, this is a good deal more comprehensive than your average dude ranch — garnering it a well-deserved spot on our list.
Location: McCoy, Colorado
Length: 7 Days
Price Range: $2,650-$3,050
Headquartered out of the wilderness surrounding Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Camp Bonfire is the first on our list that falls into a traditional summer camp format — with wilderness-focused activities, cabin lodging, and woodland isolation (meaning you’re not in direct eyeshot of civilization). If you live in the Northeastern United States, this is probably your best bet for a summer camp if nostalgia is high on your list of summer camp desires. It’s also worth noting that the list of available activities in which you can participate during your 3-day getaway is exceedingly long. Highlights include archery, foam sword capture-the-flag, a giant swing, rock climbing, kickball, canoeing, and so much more.
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Length: 3 Days
Price Range: $400-$950
Like Camp Bonfire, Camp Halcyon is directly influenced by kid-friendly summer camps — except without the kids. In this case, the camp is in the woods of Wisconsin and runs a bit longer than those offered by Bonfire. All told, these camps — which occur a number of times per year — last four days and include a wealth of activities that range from archery to volleyball and so much more. One of the biggest features of Halcyon, however, is that drinking isn’t just incorporated into the getaway — it’s encouraged. Whether you’re interested in taking part in a liquor tasting, toasting to new friends, playing beer pong, or just having a brew around the campfire, you can do it at Halcyon. Of course, if you’re not a big drinker, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy without making you feel left out.
Location: Wautoma, Wisconsin
Length: 4 Days
Price Range: $459
Camp No Counselors
Inarguably the most famous of the adult summer camps on our list, Camp No Counselors is hugely popular and is certainly the best bet for anyone looking to be surrounded by people and make a few friends along the way. In spite of the camp’s name, there is plenty of staff to help you out along the way from the breakfast table to the bonfire. There’s also another benefit to attending this camp as opposed to others on our list: this one is bi-coastal. Not only are there multiple dates each year, but they’re also offered in both the Los Angeles and New York areas. Along with a long list of activities, this camp also incorporates drinking into the fun — including evening happy hours where you can have some drinks and make connections with your fellow campers. The one downside: this camp is very popular and sells out quickly, despite its availability.
Location: New York & Los Angeles
Length: 4 Days
Price Range: $500+
Another Northeastern-based adult summer camp, Club Getaway is headquartered in Connecticut. Similarly, this one has a huge number of activities in which anyone can participate. They include but aren’t limited to, stand-up paddleboarding, wakeboarding, yoga, a ropes course, slip ‘n’ slide, archery tag (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like), and they even have a fully-featured inflatable waterborne playground. And yes, the adult-focused camp does include plenty of alcohol, as well. As a side note, Club Getaway also offers family camp, a summer camp for kids, weddings, and even caters to private events.
Location: Kent, Connecticut
Length: 3-4 Days
Price Range: $479-$539
The Outbound Collective Pursuit Series
Like many of the other options on this list, The Outbound Collective’s Pursuit Series summer camps offer a huge number of activities to help bring out the kid in you. However, this one has some unique ones that are scarce elsewhere — including some very handy real-world skill-based classes. For instance, there are classes offered on backcountry first aid, basecamp cooking, trailside mountain bike repairs, map and compass navigation, night photography, and so much more. If you’re hoping to get a bit more enrichment out of your summer camp experience — outside of just letting loose and having fun, of course — this offering is probably the best of the bunch.
Location: Northern California, North Carolina, & Utah
Length: 1-3 Days
Price Range: $225-$399
The 12 Best Survival Schools
If you’re looking for something a little more focused and challenging for your outdoor adventures, these summer camps probably aren’t going to cut it. But you could certainly whet your teeth and learn a thing or two at one of our picks for the best survival schools.