While winter weather may still linger in the mid-Atlantic region, now is a perfect time to look ahead to summer. Warmer temperatures and sunny skies will soon welcome children as they flock to summer camps for fun and relaxation.
But while we may often think of summer camps as something exclusively for kids, many experiences exist for families.
Elizabeth Shreckhise, director of Camp Alleghany in Caldwell, West Virginia, says its family camp provides a similar experience. Families can enjoy activities together while immersed in nature. The camp, which costs $85 per night for an adult and $42.50 per night for children, has evening activities every night that range from a movie night to a scavenger hunt or a similar activity.
Shreckhise says that these family camps allow families to opt out of any activities they want and try a plethora of different offerings. Attendees can enjoy leisure time in the camp’s river all afternoon if they want, or they can pick up a new skill by trying archery or arts and crafts.
“The family camp is really designed to be a family experience,” Shreckhise says, “like a vacation with your family.”
Families at Camp Alleghany sleep in tents accommodating up to five people.
“There’s a combination of getting this beautiful outdoor experience of tent living, but your meals are provided for you, and there are activities around to do,” she says.
Camp Blue Ridge
Camp Blue Ridge calls Montebello, Virginia, home. Associate director Julie Minnick says their camp, organized by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, consists of four individual weeks, from check-in on Sunday to checkout Friday morning.
During this week, campers can participate in family worship in the mornings. The camp provides a pastor who leads the worship services and a themed worship book. Afterward, families are welcome to participate in several hours of open activities, including canoeing, swimming, and paddleboarding. Evenings at Camp Blue Ridge typically consist of a group family activity, such as water Olympics.
Minnick says that Camp Blue Ridge is suited for a family experience and staff are very passionate about providing families opportunities to play and worship together “in a beautiful environment” while trying to promote family unity, playing together and enjoying the outdoors.
The family camp option offers families a large amount of flexibility, she says. Parents can spend time with their children at camp, but they can still choose to do their desired activities from time to time.
“Maybe mom and dad want to go on a hike, but the kids want to go swimming,” Minnick says. “That’s totally fine. It’s great because the families don’t have to feel pressured to be with their kids the entire time.”
What makes Camp Blue Ridge unique, Minnick says, is the setting in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The camp, priced at $168 for those 13 years or older and $142 for ages 5 through 12, doesn’t have cell service, which Minnick said helps to hone in on the camp’s “be still and know” theme.
“We are very passionate about immersing our guests in creation,” Minnick says, “and that’s what we have to offer here. It’s just absolutely gorgeous property. We’re surrounded by the beauty of creation.”
Family Camps at Chincoteague Bay Field Station
The family camps at Chincoteague Bay Field Station on the eastern shore of Virginia offer families the opportunity to explore aquatic wildlife. Education director Anne Self says that the unique part of CBFS is its location.
“Barrier islands are a super unique ecosystem that offer anything from a bayside to an oceanside to a forest environment,” she says. “We have a diverse group of programs that we’re able to offer because of the environment that we’re in.”
Self says that CBFS is home to many species of fish and crabs, including blue crab and spider crab. Campers can also see many diamondback terrapins turtles and the occasional shark.
Campers can participate in different aquatic activities such as otter trawling, which involves pulling a big net behind a boat, and seine netting, which consists of dragging a long net through the water.
Self says her favorite part of the camp is seeing families find their love for nature.
“They might know that they like nature,” she says, “but I really love seeing that moment as soon as they find their first organism or as soon as they touch the mud for the first time. I feel like we get so many of those lightbulb moments of this genuine wonder and excitement about the natural world. It is so fulfilling to see.”