Walden West Outdoor School in Saratoga
10. Walden West—More traditional types can find an authentic summer-camp experience at Walden West Outdoor School. Already a popular sleepaway science camp for local school districts, Walden West holds summer day camp sessions which include one overnight stay and all of the idyllic memories. Summer sessions are broken up by age range and involve ultra-traditional camp activities like archery, hiking, and swimming, and less-traditional diversions like gardening. For older kids, Walden West also includes an LIT —that’s Leader In Training—program for ages 13-15, perfect for students looking to score some community service hours for future college apps, or who are thinking ahead to the hiring process for camp counselors and are looking to get a leg up on the competition.
9. CMTSJ Summer Camp—It’s gone by many names in its lifetime, but the drama-oriented day camp run by Children’s Musical Theater of San Jose, like the organization itself, offers some of the best training for kids who live and breathe the theatre. Offering classes for preschoolers all the way up through teens, CMT’s summer camps take place on local school campuses and culminate in a show-off performance.
8. Camp Campbell – operated by the Y, Camp Campbell in Boulder Creek offers an authentic summer-camp experience just like in the movies. Sing-alongs, games, and maybe even a bonfire or two are to be expected during a week at Camp Campbell.
7. YMCA Day Camp—the Silicon Valley YMCA’s day camps are a quick fix for busy parents. With 11 locations across the valley and all except one offering a day camp program during normal school hours, kids can never complain that they’re bored. Staff keeps them busy with field trips, park outings, games and crafts.
6. San Jose Jazz Summer Jazz Camp – No, band camp wasn’t just a vehicle for a bawdy one-liner that far outlived the teen comedy it was spawned from. Band camp really does exist, and it’s serious business for those who attend. For the more musically-inclined kid, the more-than-well-respected San Jose Jazz organization offers a month of training sessions and instruction from well-credentialed instructors in the finer points of jazz musicianship.
5. Sacred Heart Community Service’s Academic Summer Day Camp – The name’s a mouthful, but the Academic Summer Day Camp is one of Sacred Heart’s standout services. Each summer, the community service organization runs a day camp for kids from lower-income families that aims to put them ahead of the curve. Attendees get to get a leg up on the next school year in a more relaxed setting, and also indulge in the usual lazy-days activities like field trips, games, and afternoon snacks. Not only does it provide opportunities for kids, Sacred Heart also seeks out volunteer counselors for the camp, which can provide essential work experience for teens in those sticky ages of 13-15: too young to obtain both a worker’s and driver’s permit, which could otherwise doom them to a summer indoors.
4. Skylark Ranch – Scouting’s gotten away from its roughing-it roots in recent years, but if your girl can sell cookies, you can ship her off to the Santa Cruz mountains for a week for an authentic summer-camp experience. Skylark Ranch gives girls a place to ride horses, sleep in real canvas tents or under the stars, and explore the true wilderness that’s just a short drive south of us.
3. Tech Museum summer programs – Organized by the learning-oriented Camp Galileo, the Tech Museum’s summer camp programs are structured for older kids. The Tech offers tons of classes with a science and technology lean during the summer, where campers can sink their incisors into everything from claymation to eco-friendly design to basic anatomy and biology.
2. Lego camps—Legos aren’t just for pediatricians’ offices and jamming up the vacuum cleaner. There are entire summer camps built around them now, and some of them are right here in the Bay Area. Tech Know-How camp hosts sessions devoted entirely to Lego construction, going beyond the green pegboard and moving up to full-scale robotic models.
1. Steve and Kate’s – Steve and Kate’s Camp prides itself on being a “summer camp for the modern era”, and has made good on that mission statement. Steve and Kate’s turns the structure and day-to-day drudgery of most day camps on its organized head by letting kids roam free in between different “studios” that cater to a range of interests, digital recording, fashion design and the culinary arts among them.