By Kelsey Fox
Nothing says summertime like summer camp, and the South is known for its exciting, one-of-a-kind camps! From traditional overnight camps, to a high-flying circus camp, the 25 summer camps on this list are guaranteed to make campers’ summers — and lives — memorable. Though there are certainly more than 25 great summer camps located in the southern United States, the camps on this list were chosen based on a few special factors:
- All of these camps are located in the South — specifically, in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia
- They are all well-established, highly ranked, and well-respected
- Each camp has unique characteristics that make it an exciting option for anyone looking for a memorable summer experience
- Though some are day camps and others are overnighters, all of these camps offer sessions lasting at least one week
- Each of these camps is competitively priced to ensure they can be available to a wide variety of families (no $10,000 camps on this list!)
Adventure Camp at Camp Crystal Lake
Camp Crystal Lake’s Adventure Camp is a great option for adventurous older campers (rising 7th graders through 11th grade). At this unique summer camp, campers will spend a week canoeing and camping along the Suwannee River. They’ll find fun and adventurous diversions along the way, including rope swings, secret caves, and special games such as “Pete Ball” (a camp favorite!). A top-ranked adventure camp, Camp Crystal Lake is known for offering programs that are safe, fun, unique, and personally rewarding for each and every camper. 2021 rates begin at $545 for one week, and $1,075 for two weeks.
Altitude Camp at the Asbury Hills Camp & Retreat Center
Cleveland, South Carolina
For the most adventurous of campers, time spent on the ground might be too dull of a way to spend an entire week of summer! Enter Altitude Camp, a popular and exciting overnight camp offered by the Asbury Hills Camp & Retreat Center in Pendleton, South Carolina. Not only will campers spend their days participating in exhilarating arboreal activities such as zip-lining and tree climbing, they’ll get to sleep in a tree house! One week Junior and Senior sessions are available. 2021 rates are $520.
Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies Summer Camps
Capon Bridge, West Virginia
This 500-acre mountain wildlife sanctuary offers a Junior Program (for younger, first-time campers) and a Senior Program (for campers ages 11-15). Regardless of their level, campers will have a blast exploring the natural world through games, song, story, study, music, arts, hiking, and swimming. Overnight camping trips are always a huge hit, and offer plenty of opportunity for personal reflection and sense of wonder. Though the camp is located only 2 1/2 hours outside of Washington D.C., the spring-fed streams and ponds, abundant wildlife, and star-filled night sky will have nature lovers feeling they’re a million miles from civilization. The week-long Junior Program tuition is $1,055, while the two-week Senior Program costs $1,850.
Camp Coleman has been enriching the lives of young Jewish campers since 1964. Located in the beautiful mountains of northern Georgia, Camp Coleman offers a traditional overnight camp experience chock-full of fun activities, life-long friendships, and the great outdoors. Best of all, parents and campers alike can trust that Camp Coleman is dedicated to Jewish living and learning, including the core Jewish values of kavod (respect), kehillah (community), chesed (kindness), and shalom (peace). Two- and four-week sessions are available. 2021 rates begin at $2,795.
Aiken, South Carolina
Summer is a great time for a Christian child to focus on deepening his or her faith. South Carolina’s Camp Gravatt is a wonderful place where campers of all backgrounds and ages can make friends, learn responsibility, become leaders, and grow in their understanding of themselves, their community, and their God-given gifts. Campers can enjoy various recreational sports and activities on the lovely 260-acre grounds, where games are played purely for fun (as opposed to building up a particular skill). Carefully chosen and specially trained counselors also work with each camper to build faith and self-esteem. Camp lengths vary and multiple age groups are available. Be sure to check the website for 2021 dates and rates.
Alderson, West Virginia
Owned and operated by the same family since 1898, Camp Greenbrier is a traditional boys’ summer camp located in the Allegheny Mountains along the beautiful Greenbrier River. Boys ages 7-15 can spend their days taking part in a variety of traditional camp activities including archery and rifle, rock climbing, canoeing, swimming, woodcrafts, lacrosse, track, and many others. Older boys (ages 16-18) take part in the Leadership Academy, where they will receive instruction in areas such as time management, goal setting, and public speaking, while also discovering and improving their individual leadership skills through activities like rock climbing, AirSoft, canoeing, a challenge course, and white-water rafting. Two three-week sessions and one six-week session are available. Rates begin at $3,650.
Situated on the shores of Inks Lake in Burnet, Camp Longhorn has been the go-to choice of summer camp for generations of Texans and Southerners. The camp boasts myriad activities ranging from water skiing and blobs, to trolleys and rope courses. Through the camp’s “Attawaytogo” spirit, campers gain confidence over the course of either a two- or three-week term. Rates for 2021 begin at $3,755.
Sapphire, North Carolina
Established in 1919, Camp Merrie-Woode is a well-established, traditional sleep-away camp for girls. Located in North Carolina’s beautiful mountain setting, the camp aims to foster growth and instill self-confidence in its campers through group activities and outdoor adventures. Three-, five-, and two-week sessions are available, during which girls ages 7-17 can take part in activities such as backpacking, caving, rock climbing, ropes courses, kayaking, white-water rafting, sailing, horseback riding, tennis, drama, art, photography, and much more! Rates for 2021 begin at $3,150.
Camp Misty Mountain
Camp Misty Mountain in Armuchee, Georgia offers more than 60 sessions of summer camp fun for older Girl Scouts. The camp is known for its equestrian center and large lake for many exciting water sports. The air-conditioned cabins offer comfort for the year-round activities held at Camp Misty Mountain, including the Mountain Leadership Academy – Counselor and Wrangler in Training.
Set in the wide-open spaces of Trinity, Texas, the ACA-certified Camp Olympia offers children aged seven to 16 a real slice of the good life. The camp was set up in 1968 by All-American football stars Corby Robertson, Jr. and Chris Gilbert. It blends its rustic countryside surroundings with contemporary facilities and a packed activity program. The 336 kids are separated into Spartans and Athenians, and compete in daily activities, which Olympia believes “builds a spirit of friendly competition, teamwork and leadership.” Making full use of nearby tranquil Lake Livingston, Olympia’s waterfront line-up covers canoeing, diving, sailing, wakeboarding, and “blobbing,” a tradition that involves “jumping from a platform and landing on a large inflatable.” Meanwhile, back on land, options include horseback riding, an arts program and a junior golf academy. 2021 sessions range from 1-3 weeks. Prices begin at $1,925.
Camp of the Rising Son
French Camp, Mississippi
Camp of the Rising Son (CRS) is an overnight camp that combines fun activities, the great outdoors, and thoughtful Christian guidance for kids ages 7 to 12. Each camp week revolves around a different theme (popular weeks in the past have been Cowboys, Explorers, Spies, and Never Land!), making it an exciting and constantly changing place for kids to have fun. Uniquely, campers have the opportunity to to personalize their camp experience by choosing five favorite activities to participate in daily. Best of all, CRS promises that each camper is sure to grow in self-confidence, new skills, friendship, and faith. 2021 rates are $525 for each week-long session.
Camp Tall Timbers
Lantern Camps describes visiting Camp Tall Timbers as taking “a step back to a slower, simpler life.” Located in High View, West Virginia, Camp Tall Timbers is packed with amenities to “support its active camp agenda.” These facilities include a baseball diamond, driving range, gymnasium, riding stables, soccer fields, an art studio space, and a performance stage. Camp activities are geared towards developing campers’ “self-confidence while enhancing their individual talents.” 2021 sessions range from 1-3 weeks. Prices begin at $1,350.
Can’t decide which camp would best suit your well-rounded daughter? Camp Tanasi is a unique summer camp at which girls can tailor their camp experience to their preferences by choosing three programs in which to participate. Campers may choose to fill their daily schedules with horseback riding, culinary lessons, water sports, drama, animal-related service projects, science activities, and much more! Whatever a camper chooses, she is sure to have a blast while making life-long friends. Girl Scouts in the group also have the opportunity to earn badges from The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting. And if Camp Tanasi happens to be fully booked, Camp Wildwood and Camp Adahi are both similar and located nearby.
Camp Waldemar is an all-girls’ summer camp located in Hunt, Texas. Girls from 4th through 11th grade are invited to spend a month or more taking part in 30+ activities, traditional camp pastimes, and budding friendships. On the girls’ first night at camp, they draw sticks to choose tribes. One-week “short terms” are available for younger, new campers. Two 30-day full terms are also available in June and July. Please check the website for current tuition fees.
Camp Y.I. (Youth Inc.)
La Vergne, Tennessee
Since 1945, Tennessee’s Camp Y.I. has operated under the belief that outdoor recreation and education are a positive influence in a child’s life. No wonder families have been returning for generations! Campers can choose to spend their days participating in any number of traditional summer camp activities including horseback riding, water skiing, tubing, canoeing, swimming, ropes courses, archery, zip-lining, arts and crafts, and tons more. Evenings begin around the campfire and end in scavenger hunts, counselor hunts, dance parties, kangaroo courts, and more. Be sure to check the website for up-to-date dates and rates.
Circle F Dude Ranch Summer Camp
Lake Wales, Florida
For over sixty years, the Circle F Dude Ranch has offered an exciting summer sleep-away camp for children. Kids can choose to explore the ranch’s 500 acres on one of the camp’s 65 horses, or swim or sail the day away in the private 42-acre lake. Other popular activities to choose from include paintball, rock walls, skating at the private skate park, and wilderness and nature walks. Parents may also appreciate the unique element of Family Weekends, during which time parents and other family members can visit their children and enjoy the ranch’s many beautiful amenities. One-, two-, and three-week sessions are available. 2021 rates begin at $1,350.
Emagination Computer Camp
Emagination Computer Camp is a two-week (though campers can choose to stay longer), co-ed camp located in Atlanta, Georgia. To fill their days, campers choose three intensive workshops from a list that includes 3D Art, 3D Animation, Flash Animations, Minecraft, Digital Music, Video Game Design, Robotics, and iApps. Though plenty of time is spent immersing oneself in the digital world, parents need not worry about their teens spending their entire summer in front of a computer screen. Campers will unplug themselves to take part in fun outdoor games, swimming, a Super Saturday event, and more. Interested campers can also add on a separate visit to a game development studio. Tuition for the two-week, overnight camp is $2,645.
The FSU Flying High Circus Camp
Located on the Florida State University campus, The FSU Flying High Circus Camp is one of the best known — and highest ranked — day camps in the country. Throughout the week-long session (multiple weeks are available), campers will get to work on all of their favorite circus acts, including the flying trapeze, juggling, tight rope, balancing, cloud swing, and more! And don’t worry parents: every member of the camp staff is a current FSU Flying Circus performer who has been certified in CPR and First Aid.
The Marine Science Program at SeaCamp
Big Pine Key, Florida
Young scientists and aspiring marine biologists are sure to love SeaCamp’s Marine Science Program. Located in the beautiful Florida Keys and just minutes from the only living coral reef in the United States, SeaCamp’s one-of-a-kind programs are run by academically trained marine science instructors, biologists, geologists, and oceanographers. Each camper works at their own level or interest, and popular activities include several scuba diving courses (for qualified campers), scuba diving certification, sailing and windsurfing classes, and general science courses.
Riverview Camp for Girls
Perched atop Lookout Mountain is the Riverview Camp for Girls. This idyllic and popular summer camp caters to Christian campers ages 6-16. Fostering friendship is one of the camp’s main goals, and many girls return year after year to spend time with those who are sure to be lifelong friends. Activities include archery, swimming, arts and crafts, and canoeing. Unlike so many other camps, the Riverview Equestrian program is available to campers at no extra charge. One- and two-week sessions are available, though campers may also register for multiple sessions. 2021 rates begin at $2,175.
Ron Jon Surf School Summer Camp
Cocoa Beach, Florida
This summer, send your beach-loving kid to Cocoa Beach, hometown of surfing legend Kelly Slater and the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop. The warm waters and gently curling waves of Cocoa Beach are perfect for any kid — whether they surf every morning or have never stepped foot on a beach. The day camp is conveniently offered in 5-day sessions, and is instructed by trained local surfers. Surfboards, wax, and rash guards are all included. Both full-day ($380) and half-day ($250) sessions are available.
SeaWorld Adventure Camps
Orlando, Florida and Tampa Bay, Florida
Any budding zoologist or marine biologist is bound to love this week-long camp offered at SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Campers will spend the week learning how to feed, interact with, and care for the resident animals while working side-by-side with veterinarians, trainers, and other animal care experts. But SeaWorld Adventure Camp certainly isn’t all work! Campers will also have fun snorkeling, kayaking, and swimming at the nearby beaches. The unique experience is sure to end with many life-long friendships (and we’re not just talking about with belugas, manatees, giraffes, apes, and dolphins)! Check the website for up-to-date pricing information.
SOAR Adventure Summer Camp
SOAR – which is short for “Success Oriented Achievement Realized” – is a network of summer camps for kids aged between the ages of eight and 18. It specifically accommodates those with AD/HD and learning differences. SOAR’s origins trace back to 1975, and today it has camps in Wyoming, Florida, California, Costa Rica, Belize and Peru, as well as a “base camp” in Balsam, North Carolina. It uses outdoor adventure to develop campers’ “self-confidence, social skills, problem-solving techniques, willingness to attempt new challenges and… motivation.” The Balsam camp also includes activities such as llama trekking, canoeing, horseback riding, backpacking, an expedition course, and an “academic discovery” program. 2021 sessions range from three days to eight weeks. Prices begin at $3,600.
Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center
Kids are sure to have a blast at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s summer Space Camp! This week-long sleep-away camp is jam-packed with exciting hands-on activities dealing with various elements of science, technology, engineering, and math. Kids participate in two one-hour simulated space missions, explore the history and future of space travel, take a walk on the moon in the 1/6th gravity chair, and tumble and spin on the Multi-Axis Trainer! Kids who return year after year are invited to participate in more advanced programs, such as Space Academy and Advanced Space Academy. 2021 rates begin at $1,099.
Teen Entrepreneurship Summit at Camp Horseshoe
Parsons, West Virginia
Camp Horseshoe offers four unique summer camps, including the popular Teen Entrepreneurship Summit. Future MBAs will be able to focus on economic education, civic leadership, and service. Full days are spent practicing the principles of private enterprise, learning the basics of starting a business, and identifying and building the character qualities necessary for success. But this business-themed camp definitely isn’t without the traditional camp feel! Campers are given plenty of time for recreational activities such as sports, music, hiking, campfires, a talent show, and much more. Be sure to check the website for this year’s tuition costs.
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