Remember the movie Dirty Dancing? It was set at a camp in the Catskills where people went to relax and have fun as a family. Baby spent her days taking dance lessons from Johnny Castle while others in her family golfed, took craft classes, or prepared for the end of the season talent show.
Family camps are not a thing of the past. The American Camp Association says that multi-generational camps are growing in popularity. Family camp is a great way to ease your child into the camp experience, especially if he isn’t ready to attend overnight camp by himself.
Ohana Family Camp, located in Post Mills, Vermont, is one such place where parents and children can experience camp together.
“A lot of the families that visit us come from cities and aren’t used to having their kids more than 20 feet away,” says Ohana Camp Director Vanessa Riegler. “However, by Day 3 or 4, I’ll ask parents, ‘Where is so-and-so?’ and the mom will say, ‘I have no idea.’” And the parents are happy about that! Riegler says kids love the camp, especially the teens, because they can run free in a safe place without parents asking them to check in throughout the day.
Be Your Best Self
The Ohana Foundation, a 110-year-old organization, runs six different camps for children, including the family camp. “We provide opportunities for people throughout life,” Riegler says. “We also get a lot of grandparents who take their grandkids to camp without the parents. It’s a great way for grandparents and grandchildren to spend time together in a fun environment.”
The camp is an all-inclusive summer camp, just like the one you may remember attending as a kid. Campers have full access to 120 acres and can enjoy staff-led activities and nature programs, as well as unscheduled time to enjoy the waterfront. Riegler says she loves watching families connect not just with each other but also with other families: “It’s not uncommon to see a pick-up game of soccer happen in the middle of the day with kids and adults.”
Ohana connects families in a deep way, Riegler says. Its motto is “Be Your Best Self” and that means being the best family, too. “You can always tell during the first few days of camp which parent works more because the first few nights at dinner they don’t know what to say to their kids. By the end of the week you can really see them connecting with their family,” Riegler says. She adds that the connection is something that stays with — and binds — families. Families report that their time at Ohana doesn’t end when they leave because it’s something they talk about all year long, until they return, she notes.
Cell service is minimal and they do not offer Wi-Fi, but there are computers onsite for those who need them. With so many activities, such as canoeing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding and golf, Riegler says campers don’t miss Wi-Fi. People do have withdrawals from their electronics at first, she notes, but after a few days everyone says how nice it is to be unplugged, even the teens.
Maybe you want a different type of camp experience — without the kids — perhaps a getaway with friends or one just for you and your spouse. According to GrownUpCamps.com there are more than 800 camps for adults in the U.S. With offerings including everything from adventure-based camps to writing camps to music camps to CIA training camps, the list is endless. The American Camp Association’s 2013 Spring Enrollment survey indicated that 11% of ACA camps saw an increase in adults attending camp: “We estimate over 1 million adults have an organized camp experience annually.”
Club Getaway in Kent, Conn., is a 300-acre all-inclusive adventure camp for adults. Originally, it was run as a summer camp for children but when the owner came back from a stay at Club Med, he decided to change the camp into one for adults. Now it caters to adults of all ages: working professionals, singles, couples, and groups of friends. Some weekends have themes such as Sports, Fun and Adventure, Boomers 50+, Millennials, and more.
“Everyone is yearning for a sense of community and we offer that,” says Club Getaway’s Chief Adventure Officer David Schreiber, who purchased the camp three years ago. “Three hundred people show up on Friday as strangers and by the end of the weekend they are leaving as friends for life.”
For about $400 per person, campers get lodging, meals, wine, and activities with pro instruction, nightly entertainment, and use of sports equipment. Club Getaway offers much nicer accommodations than what you remember from your camp days. The camp has air-conditioned cabins with private bathrooms and daily housekeeping. Meals are served communally. Schreiber says that while he offers Wi-Fi, hardly anyone uses it: “I can track who logs into my network and 90% of the traffic on my network is my staff.” There is simply so much to do that people don’t need their phones.
According to Schreiber, Club Getaway offers adults a way to relive childhood memories but also a way to let loose and relax in a great atmosphere. “We offer everything from great activities, fantastic food, and, yes, good parties, but it’s really up to each camper how they want to spend their day,” he says. You can spend your morning kayaking, zip lining or hiking, then use the afternoon for water sports, yoga, color wars, wine tasting, or a game of volleyball. At 5 p.m. daily, campers gather at the boathouse for a live band and a barbecue. At night, campers can go dancing at the club, sit by the late-night campfire, or turn in early.
Club Getaway also offers a family camp a few times throughout the summer (June and August). The family program is a good way for kids to experience camp, develop new friends and a sense of independence while their parents also make friends and have some old-fashioned fun, too.