America’s Best Summer Camps — For Grown-Ups
Live the dream.
For many young Americans, heading to a lakeside camp for the summer with other awkward teens is a rite of passage. Admit it; through movies and pop culture, summer camp seems like a blast.
If you thought that being a non-US citizen and all grown up now meant you’d never get the chance to live the American summer camp dream, then think again. Nowadays there are a heap of summer camps for adults across the US. Originally invented so grown-ups could relive their childhood summers of yore (without the awkward adolescent moments), these fun getaways also offer outsiders an opportunity to experience a niche piece of Americana. Here’s five of the best.
Camp Bonfire happens on the beautiful Lake Owego in the Poconos Mountains, Pennsylvania, about a two-and-a-half hour drive from both Philadelphia and New York. Camp Bonfire wants you to get back to basics; bringing technology is a no-go. The team want you to reconnect with your sense of adventure and establish friendships, and they feel mobile phones and laptops threaten to get in the way of that.
Booze is also prohibited. As they say on their website, “if you want to get wasted and play flip cup all day, this isn’t the camp for you”. But if you want to canoe, compete in a talent show and make some s’mores, then this is the camp for you.
Probably the most established place on the list, Camp Grounded helped set the standard for successful adult summer camps across the country. With three locations (Northern California, North Carolina and New York state) all situated in forest areas and near lakes, Camp Grounded is a genuine escape from both the rat race and typical adult responsibilities. It also has the most extensive list of activities, ranging from the classics one would normally associate with a summer camp (archery, hiking, canoeing) through to the more modern and obscure like hip-hop dancing, pickling, zine-making, and capoeira.
Camp Grounded also makes a point of being open to peoples from all walks of life, nationalities and ages (well those 18 or over anyway), priding itself on attracting campers from outside the US as well as from within it. It’s an alcohol-free venue and you can’t bring in any kind of digital technology – not even a watch. The food is also super nourishing, with an emphasis on organic and allergy-friendly goods.
If Soul Camp’s New York location looks familiar, then that’s probably because you’ve seen it in the comedy Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer. There’s no Government conspiracy or the like at Soul Camp though (well, none that we know of), just a ‘transformative’ camp for grown-ups.
They use the word ‘transformative’ because Soul Camp is not only about tapping into your inner child, but also about introducing guests to some more new-age activities and therapies. Sure there’s the obligatory canoeing and talent show, but there are also Tibetan singing bowl sessions, and yoga, breathing, and meditation classes. While Soul Camp is a bit more ‘mind, body, and spirit’ than the others, the locations (one in New York and one in California), dwellings and many of the activities are still quintessential American summer camp.
If you can afford to go a little more upmarket or you prefer something that sits between a summer camp and a bed and breakfast, then Camp Wandawega might just fit the bill.
Located just a short way outside of Chicago, Camp Wandawega has a beautiful lodge at its epicentre as well as an epic tree house to hang out in. Instead of slumming it in bunk beds in a draught cabin with upteen other people, you can book a private cabin, a tepee, or a fancy canvas tent to glamp it up in.
Camp Wandawega is definitely more about leisure activities than overly intensive ones. You can pass the afternoon playing tennis, going for a hike, playing pool or solving a jigsaw puzzle. One need only to exert themselves if they want to, so the pace is definitely slower. Despite the comfortable lodgings and leisurely pace, campers are still out and about in nature and the camp has plenty of rustic charm to go around. There’s heaps of history within the grounds too – at one point or another, the camp has been a speakeasy, the home of an organised crime racket, and a Latvian Church Camp.
Camp No Counselors
Perhaps the largest of all of the grown-up summer camps, Camp No Counselors shot to prominence after featuring on Shark Tank US and now runs camps in nine US states as well as in Toronto, Canada. What sets this camp apart is that it encourages guests to ‘play like a kid’ and ‘party like a grown-up’; whereas other camps frown upon alcohol and encourage attendees to reconnect with their childhood selves, Camp No Counselors has an open bar, which pretty much says it all.
That means no one will bat an eyelid if you have a Bloody Mary at breakfast, but you’re still expected to be lucid enough to engage in all of the traditional summer camp activities as well as some more thrill seeking ones like wakeboarding, water skiing, zip lining and water trampolining. The whole ‘no counsellors’ policy means guests are provided more free reign to enjoy themselves.
(Lead image: Camp Grounded)