The average kid’s memory of summer camp brings fond images of bonfires, swimming, hiking, s’mores, and summertime besties. It also brings some not-so-fond memories of bug bites and hot summer nights. For rich kids, though, summer camp is far from average and ordinary. The rich kid camps are, self-evidently, not for everyone; these elite camps set mom and dad back $10,000 to $20,000 for the summer. Of course, even if grandma passed and left a hefty inheritance, you could still have trouble reserving a spot for the kids. Many elite camps come with a long history and with the history comes an “A” list of campers whose families have attended the camp throughout that history. Any remaining bunks go to the lucky children on the long waiting list. Much like NYC’s elite preschools, waiting lists for these camps start at conception.
Most camps are open for six to eight weeks, with some running close to the entire summer vacation. Not to worry, no one is complaining. Spacious cabins, plush blankets, air conditioning, and spa mini-vacations keep kids, tweens, and teens happy and safe. They won’t see a McDonald’s, Starbucks, or Sonic Drive-in anywhere nearby. Nonetheless, the spread they see for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks makes them forget about the modern conveniences. Not so average summer camps include not so average meals. Kids won’t find any mystery meat, grilled cheese, or dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets in the kitchens of these elite camps. Instead, even the pickiest eater is satisfied with salad bars, fresh-prepared omelets, organic meats, fruits, and salads, all prepared by top executive chefs. These are just some of the almost unreal benefits of attending one of these most prestigious, most exclusive summer camps in America.
9. Raquette Lake Camp, NY
Seated deep in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, the elite summer camp is so exclusive, they don’t even list 2014 rates. Business Insider lists the camp’s 2012 rate of $11,400 per kid. This covers the basics of the 7-week summer program. Additional expenses for day trips and the traditional 80-mile canoe trek across the lake and into neighboring Saranac Lake for campers 14 and older aren’t included in the complete summer rate.
This camp opened to the public in 1916 and today Raquette Lake Camp operates two separate camps on each side of the pristine lake for boys and girls. Not always separate, brothers and sisters at the camps enjoy lunch together each week. Tennis is the top sport on the girls’ side, with daily lessons and games daily. Horse riding in the beautiful wooded area is popular – many boys and girls bring their own horse with them for the summer, for a separate fee of course. For campers without their own horse, the school’s equestrian program is led by Olympic trainers and coaches. Camp plays are a serious matter, with weekly productions choreographed and directed with the help of Broadway directors, voice coaches, and costume designers.
8. Brant Lake Camp and Point O’Pines Camp, NY
Brant Lake Camp in New York runs a unique three mini-camp system for boys. The system creates three distinct camps with separate facilities for different age groups. Each mini-camp comes with the same price tag, $11,300 to start. Transportation to and from the camp via bus from NYC, any allowance allowed, and the two trips are not included. Trips outside the camp are weekly and seniors go on multi-day trips to Toronto, Boston, Montreal, Springfield, and Burlington. But the fun isn’t all for day trips and seniors – the camps facilities are top notch. Brant Lake offers 15 tennis courts, 3 baseball fields, 2 soccer fields, 8 basketball courts, a roller hockey rink, 2 volleyball courts, a climbing wall, an archery range, a putting green, and a large, multi-sport stadium.
Point O’Pines Camp on Brant Lake is a traditional summer camp for girls ages 6 to 15 years old. The sister camp, which costs the same as Brant Lake, begins interactions between the boy and girl campers for dances and other activities in fifth grade. Girls dine on all organic foods, with an organic garden on site where campers learn to care for a garden as part of their camping, outdoor experience. A daily fruit, salad, soup, and pasta bar is available in the dining area, along with an on-site bakery.
7. Camp Cedar, Casco, Maine and Camp Mataponi, Naples, Maine
Cedar Camp in Casco, Maine is an all-boys summer camp that costs $11,100 for its 8-week program. Keep in mind this price doesn’t include a summer full of personalized uniforms that display the camp’s logo. The camp’s online store shows collared polo shirts, sleeveless basketball jerseys, as well as specialized jerseys for lacrosse, soccer, baseball, and long-sleeve t-shirts for the chilly Maine nights. Campers have a list of items needed and it isn’t vague – it details everything down to the color of the monogrammed laundry bag. Cedar is located on Brandy Pond, a small lake connected to Sebago Lake.
Camp Mataponi hosts summer programs for girls ages 7 to 15, comparable to Cedar and at the same cost as the boys camp. Less restricted, Mataponi campers only need to wear a camp T-shirt on out-of-camp outings. Located on the beautiful Sebago Lake, each camper learns to water ski, participates in sailing regattas, and for out-of-the-water fun, the list of options seems infinite. There’s a 40-foot climbing wall, zip lines, and a full ropes course with 18 staff members dedicated to each campers safety while completing these challenges.
6. Camp Takajo, Naples, Maine and Tripp Lake Camp, Poland, Maine
For a mere $11,400 per summer, boys can enjoy their summer in Maine at Camp Takajo and the peaceful waterfront along Long Lake. Here campers swim, water ski, sail, and canoe their vacation away. Besides water sports, boys can improve their golf game, learn to rollerblade, or experienced bladers can join in-camp roller hockey leagues. Not all the fun stays in Maine, special trips are a part of the camping experience. The camp schedules over 100 off-site trips each summer. The Pioneering program takes boys backpacking, rock climbing, canoeing, and to White Mountains National Park a short distance from the grounds. Older campers head off to Utah, Nevada, and other more distant locations during their summer vacation.
Trip Lake Camp in nearby Poland, Maine is Camp Takajo’s sister camp. Girls entering grades 2 through 11 spend their summer in cozy cabins with no more than 6 other bunkmates. For $11,400, the camp has 18 tennis courts, 2 soccer fields, 3 basketball courts, a lacrosse field, a putting green, driving range, and a well-maintained beach volleyball area on the lake’s shoreline.
5. The Timber Lake Camps, Shandaken, NY
Not far from Kingston, nestled in the Catskill Mountains, are the Timber Lake Camps. The co-ed summer destination operates two separate facilities for the boys and girls at an all-inclusive price of $11,800. Each air-conditioned cabin has a shared bathroom that the camp’s professional housekeeping staff cleans daily. Timber Lake Camp spans 500 acres; campers enjoy exclusive access to two private lakes. Swimming isn’t limited to the lakes; Timber Lake has an Olympic size heated pool, perfect for getting in a few laps on a chilly morning. Rainy days aren’t a problem, a smaller, but still impressive heated indoor pool is available to ensure campers swim every day during their state at the Timber Lake Camps. Active kids need lots of fuel, each lunch and dinner includes a fresh salad bar, pasta bar, and sandwich station as well as the main hot entree served. At the end of the day, campers can work off that large dinner at the state-of-the-art fitness center. Along with the fitness center, there are spin classes, martial arts programs, yoga, and dance for campers to participate in.
4. High Cascade Camp, Oregon
Who says summer is all about sun and swimming? At High Cascade Camp, kids (and adults) get a full, 8-day snowboarding session on the slopes of Mt. Hood, Oregon. Boarders spend 6-hours a day practicing and learning from Olympics level coaches and trainers. Each all-inclusive session costs $1,795 to $2,095, depending on the accommodations. Campers bring their accessories, but can leave their board, bindings, and boots at home. Brand new demo boards, boots, and bindings are available to use from top brands in the winter sport. High Cascade’s sponsors include Adidas, Burton, Vans, Gatorade, DC, Oakley, Nike, Airblaster, and more. The winter themed summer camp is open to boys and girls of all experience levels. Snowboarders have a 1:2 camper to staff ratio with daily sessions limited to groups of 8 students. Oh, and snowboard camp allows smartphones, something most camps don’t allow!
3. Pali Adventures, Running Springs, California
Far away from the exclusive normal summer camps on the East Coast is Pali Adventures in California. The summer camp of all summer camps is located in the San Bernardino National Forest. Kids aged 9-to 16-years old choose from 18 different programs offered on a weekly and biweekly schedule. Each week at Pali is $1,865 all-inclusive, per camper. Sessions start June 15 and end August 16. What specialties do they offer? The 2014 list includes acting, culinary, dance, DJ, extreme action, fashion, film, flying trapeze, Hollywood stunts, motorsports, rock star, secret agent, wacky science, watersports and more. Wait, that’s just the mornings, there’s more to choose from after lunch. Electives include ropes courses, paintball, zip lines, laser tag, mountain biking, tubing, karaoke, skateboarding, jet skiing, cricket, dirt biking, riflery, rugby, or just taking a relaxing afternoon off. The accommodations are particularly comfortable at the camp – campers sleep in spacious cabins with radiant floor heating and a full bathroom complete with shower supplied with unlimited, refreshing mountain spring water.
2. Camp Laurel, Maine
Boys and girls ages 7 to 15 can’t wait to get to Camp Laurel in Maine for their summer vacation. The exclusive vacation destination is located on Echo Lake in the Belgrade Lakes Region 20-miles west of Augusta. The three, private miles of shoreline costs parents a starting tuition of $11,400 for the 8-week program. Additional charges for laundry service, day trips, personal expenses, an optional equestrian program, and extended trips for campers in grades 7 through 9 can extend that total by $3,000 or more each summer. Campgrounds include two regulation Little League fields, two regulation lighted soccer fields, regulation lacrosse and field hockey fields, five regulation basketball courts, a full-size, regulation, lighted roller hockey area, and a lighted beach volleyball court outside.
For rainy days, the camp includes a 3,000-foot gymnastics center, an 8,000-foot indoor field house, and a complete fitness center with a separate weight and cardio studio. The waterfront fun starts with separate docks for swimming, sailing, canoeing, waterskiing, and windsurfing. The camp has four Master Craft Competition Ski Boats, over 30 sail boats, 2 fishing pontoons, and dozens of kayaks and canoes, more than enough for 480 campers each summer.
1. Stagedoor Manor, Loch Sheldrake, NY
Topping the list is the summer camp that has produced the largest number of Hollywood stars. Stagedoor Manor is an exclusive acting camp in New York’s Catskill Mountains with alumni that includes Natalie Portman, Jon Cryer, Robert Downey Jr., Zach Braff, Lea Michele, and dozens of other successful entertainers. It’s no wonder this camp comes in as the most expensive on the list as well, with a price tag of $5,645 per session. Each session is three weeks long. Campers from ages 10 to 18 from all over the world attend Stagedoor to learn from award-winning coaches and professionals. The former summer resort has eight indoor and outdoor theaters where all campers participate in the performance of 14 full scale shows over each three-week session. Kids take a break from learning to enjoy the camp’s beautiful campus, complete with pool, tennis courts, a soccer field, and of course, the Open Mic Coffee House at night.
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