With sunny skies on Sunday came nearly a dozen camps and summer programs at Westfield Montgomery mall in Bethesda.
The 2023 Washington FAMILY Summer Camps & Activities Fair, which held its first session at Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Virginia, returned with both new and familiar faces to serve camp-seeking families in the Montgomery County and Washington, D.C. areas.
The mall was bustling with chemistry demos, impressive splits and flips from all-stars in dance and cheer and many things for kids of all ages to see, touch and take with them.
Camp fairs are an ideal time to put faces with the camp names parents have heard often in their communities—and be introduced to new camps and programs they might not be aware of in their region. Even long-running camps have new and noteworthy additions to their camp experiences in 2023.
Below, learn a bit about this year’s camp fair attendees, boasting activities of all kinds throughout the DMV.
Day and Overnight Camps
A beloved and traditional camp experience for many is the day or overnight camp.
Apart from having a wide number of day-to-day activities that appeal to a range of interests, some camps including Camp Shoresh, also provide religious or cultural connection with other campers.
The Jewish day camp in Frederick, Maryland is accessible to campers of all different walks of Judaism, whether they have gone to Jewish day school or never heard of Hebrew, says Ronit Miller, assistant director of the camp’s junior division.
Prayers groups, communal eating and Jewish music and trivia interspersed with daily social activities and outings to destinations such as Hershey Park blend camp fun with heritage in a program more than 40 years strong.
The DMV is strengthened by camps with longevity. Another is Camp Rim Rock, now in its 72nd year. The all-girls overnight camp just outside of Winchester, Virginia draws campers from all over the country, and even internationally. With a herd of more than 70 horses and hundreds of acres for trail rides, its riding offers a comprehensive learning experience.
Campers can still get a taste of riding in the general camp program, and first-time campers unsure of committing to two weeks can check out many of the camp’s offerings in a mini one-week session.
Learn more from Camp Director Joe Greitzer below.
New to the camp scene is Unity Dance and Movement, a hybrid experience that pairs dance with cultural learning in downtown Bethesda, academic enrichment and good ol’ fashioned summer fun.
Now in its second summer, the camp was born when 25-year dance instructor Jen Dobbins, who had to move her teaching online in 2020, transformed a former yoga studio into a dance space last June. Each week also includes a different academic enrichment component such as science, engineering, technology and math (STEM) and literary arts.
Art of Problem Solving Academy also tows the line between STEM and arts with camps in language arts and math that sometimes overlap. Language Arts Director Greg Crowe marveled at a 10-year-old in the math program who made a language arts story out of a math problem.
New this year at the camp is a Reader’s Theater in which campers will be reading, writing and performing plays.
Learn more about the AoPS visually-engaging math texts here:
Some families might be looking for camps that meet specific needs for their child.
Verbal Beginnings, with a new center in Rockville, caters to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Part of the Social Beginnings program, the six-week summer camp teaches social and communication skills with an individual approach, tailored to what each child has been working on during the year.
Community engagement manager Allie Barnes says Verbal Beginnings won her over because after 12 years working in autism services, she’s found summer-specific programs not dependent on services during the year are rare.
Learning during the summer is vital to avoid regression, especially for children with autism, and summer is the ideal time to make friends—which can be a struggle for children with ASD, she adds.
“I get joy hearing parents say, ‘Johnny had his first sleepover,’” Barnes says.
Camp Woodend, a camp from Nature Forward at a 40-acre sanctuary with a forest, meadows, pond and creek, is opening a program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing campers in first through fourth grades for the first time this summer.
The nature camp also has opportunities for young children, who can explore the property looking for salamanders and tadpoles, and older children, with focused programs on backpacking, cooking and nature photography.
Camp Director Denise Perez says she gets campers who are new to outdoor learning and little learners who are already nature-minded. “Sometimes they even know a little more than us,” she jokes.
The opportunity to exercise choice and plan and execute their own schedules can be very beneficial for kids. Independent Lake Camp is a sleepaway camp north of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and has everything from magic and role-playing games to digital and fine arts to extreme sports and fitness.
And kids can choose between all of these activities, switching them up from one day to the next. New this year at the camp are six courts for pickleball.
“We like to call it both traditional and cutting edge,” says Norman Miller, one of the camp’s head counselors.
Steve & Kate’s Camp, established nationally since the 1980s, has a similar mantra—letting kids build their days as they go. Locally, it has five locations, including two in the Washington, D.C. area, two in Northern Virginia and a new location this summer opening in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
The unique thing about Steve & Kate’s is the day passes, which can be redeemed at any location throughout the U.S. So, kids can swing a fun-filled day at camp even when on out of town on vacation with Mom and Dad.
Baking and sewing are some of the most popular activities, says Preshia Washington, director of the Capitol Hill location in D.C.
“They love creating dresses, headbands, stuffed animals to take home,” she says.
No matter where your child leans, there’s much to explore in the DMV. Three other camps were in attendance at the fair on Sunday. Click the link to watch fun videos and learn more about Mad Science of Washington, Glen Echo Park and Maryland Twisters MoCo.
In addition to these camps, families can find many other options in our online camp directory at washingtonfamily.com/summer-camp-guide.
If you are involved with a local summer camp and would like to participate in next year’s camp fair, please reach out at midatlanticmedia.com.