Credit: Camp Zanika
Classic Summer Camp Experiences
Nowadays, kids are encouraged to specialize at an increasingly early age in order to “become more competitive.” That focus makes an old-fashioned summer camp experience centered on community and fun even more valuable. These classic camps give kids a week or even a whole summer to just be kids.
Camp Sealth (Vashon Island)
Lots of camps incorporate traditional (dare we say campy?) summer activities, such as campfire stories and canoeing, into their specialty programs. But Sealth’s Classic Camp does just what it says on the tin. During a typical week session, kids in Classic Camp sample each of the traditional activities — crafts, canoes, exploring nature, etc. — at least once, with options to return to their favorites during “Choice Time.”
Ages: Grades 1–11
YMCA Camp Colman (Longbranch) and YMCA Camp Orkila (Orcas Island) Traditional Camps
Camp Colman on the Key Peninsula, an hourlong trip from Seattle, offers a traditional overnight camp (either four days or week in length). Campers spend their days engaged in classic camp activities, ranging from arts and crafts to group sing-alongs. They stay in cabins grouped by age and gender (or just by age for Camp Colman’s all-gender camp) on the 100-acre waterfront property. Camp Colman also offers family camps, while Camp Orkila also has specialty camps for art and marine biology.
Black Diamond Camp (Black Diamond)
The faith-based Black Diamond Camp fills its weeklong day camps with traditional camp activities and modern games. The wide-ranging list of activities includes using slingshots and BB guns, indoor climbing and harnessed treetop adventures, swimming, and lots of group games, such as archery tag and blacklight dodgeball.
Boys & Girls Clubs (multiple locations)
Boys & Girls Clubs’ summer day camps are safe, inclusive, engaging and fun. Camps for participants in grades K–5 have a different theme each week, with a variety of activities and field trips. Sports-themed camps extend through grade 12, while the traditional camps for teens combine sports, art and volunteerism.
Camp Zanika (Wenatchee)
Operated by the Campfire organization, Camp Zanika isn’t just like the old-school summer camp experience — it is the old-school summer camp. Since 1932, kids have been traveling to Lake Wenatchee to learn new skills, have fun, and make friends and memories in the great outdoors. There’s something for everyone, from three-day mini camps for the youngest campers to a two-week leadership training, and with themes ranging from wacky science to Christmas in July.
Cost: $349–$1,549; add-ons available
Four Winds * Westward Ho (Orcas Island)
Monthlong tech-free camp sessions at the nonprofit Four Winds camp give older kids lots of experience with group living as well as activities and trips that include multiday excursions by canoe, kayak or hiking. A weeklong Junior Camp gives elementary students a chance to taste camp life without leaving home for a whole month.
Ages: 9–15 (7–10 Junior)
Cost: $7,200 ($1,800 Junior)
Camp Huston (Gold Bar)
At the Episcopal Camp Huston in Gold Bar, summer camp includes games, songs, hikes, team-building activities, campouts, archery, swimming, crafts, and chapel and reflection at the end of each day; there are also a campfire, variety show and dance every week. There are camps for adults and families, too.
Cost: TBA (check their website for summer 2023 info)
Camp Kalsman (Kirkland)
Camp Kalsman, located on 300 acres near Kirkland, practices active Jewish education, incorporating Judaism into activities as campers learn new skills in athletic, aquatic, artistic and nature programs. The adventure program is a four-week experience in Israel for teens. Sessions last from one to five weeks, focusing on different interests, such as a focus on kibbutz life, the arts, Hebrew immersion and outdoor challenges.
Cost: $1,695–$4,895 (counselor-in-training program, $5,995)
Girl Scouts of Western Washington (multiple locations)
In 2023, staff-led overnight camps will be held at Camp River Ranch, Camp St. Albans and Camp Robbinswold. Girl Scout volunteers will also host overnight community camps at Camp Lyle McLeod, Camp Towhee and across western Washington. Participants will get a traditional camp experience that includes boating, archery and arts-focused programs.
Fircreek Day Camp (Bellingham)
From swimming and boating on Lake Whatcom to sports, games, crafts, singing and silliness, summers at Fircreek’s nondenominational Christian camp are packed with fun in a picturesque wooded area within walking distance of the waterfront.
Sunset Lake (Mount Rainier)
Sunset Lake is a nonprofit summer camp and retreat center owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Set on 400 acres in the foothills of Mount Rainier, the center offers a classic summer camp experience with a horsemanship option. New this year is a $250 day camp designed for children who are too young or not ready for overnight camp. There will also be a family camp over Labor Day weekend.
Cost: $520 basic, $595 with horsemanship add-on
Up next: STEM + Learning Camps