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Summer Camp Guide

Camp Value

You'll get a lot for your buck at these overnight offerings.

By Janice O'Leary
February 8, 2009

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New England is home to the nation's first summer camp, the Gunnery Camp in Connecticut, begun in 1861. It's also the site of some of the country's most expensive. According to the American Camp Association, the median price for a sleepover camp in the region is $780 per week (compared with $434 in the mid-Atlantic states and $325 in the Midwest). But that doesn't mean deals can't be had. With ever-tightening budgets in mind, we picked out some favorites. Most offer a session whose cost per week comes out below that median weekly figure. Others with higher price tags were included because you still get a lot for what you pay. The price ranges listed throughout are total costs. Some of the best deals are on multi-week sessions, and "camperships" -- need-based financial aid -- are available throughout the region.

MASSACHUSETTS

Camp Favorite A Girl Scout camp where attendees plan programs with their counselors around swimming, boating, outdoor living skills, arts and crafts, and environmental science. Campers sleep in platform tents with flush-toilet facilities nearby. In longer sessions, campers can specialize in sailing, surfing, or bike riding. You do not have to be in the Girls Scouts to attend. One-, two-, and three-week sessions. First session: June 28. $400-$900; Brewster, 617-350-8335, girlscoutseasternmass.org

Camp Rotary Located on the shores of Stiles Pond, this traditional coed camp offers one- and two-week sessions. Activities include kayaking, field sports, a ropes challenge course, and racing on the BMX bike track. Every session offers at least one field trip to a water or amusement park, aquarium, or IMAX theater. First session: June 28. $585-$1,170; Boxford, 978-352-9952, camprotary.org

Holy Cross Girls Soccer Camp Early in the five-day camp, coaches stress fundamentals such as dribbling, passing, ball control, and shooting, then progress to small groups and the speed and pressure of games. There's also swimming and nightly games. July 12 to 16. $395 (a coed soccer camp and other sports camps also available); Worcester, 508-793-3624, goholycross.cstv.com/camps/holy-camps.html

P.L.A.Y., Inc. At this academic-prep and basketball camp for boys at Mount Holyoke College -- the acronym stands for Planned Learning Achievement for Youth -- disadvantaged teens participate in intense skills clinics with professional area coaches. They also receive SAT instruction and learn life skills for off the court. The camp also provides a fall SAT refresher course and follow-ups at least twice a year over five years. July 5 to 19. Free (call for an application); South Hadley, 413-585-0549, theplayacademy.org

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Adventure Camp Boston University runs these one- and two-week sessions (with longer ones for counselors in training) at the Sargent Center, a 700-acre woodland property with a pond and beach. Activities include rock climbing, summiting nearby Mount Monadnock, sea kayaking, overnight camping trips, and an Iron Chef campfire cooking challenge. First session: June 28. $665-$1,930; Hancock, 603-525-3311, bu.edu/outdoor/adventure

Camp Merrowvista Located in the Ossipee Mountains on pristine Dan Hole Pond. Operated by the American Youth Foundation, Merrowvista places a special emphasis on personal development and self-confidence. Activities include sailing, fishing, Frisbee, a climbing wall, pottery, yoga, and overnight excursions off-site. One- to four-week sessions. First session: June 28. $750-$3,585; Center Tuftonboro, 603-539-6607, ayf.com

Wildwood Perfect for the blossoming naturalist, this Mass Audubon camp teaches children about the flora and fauna of the nearby Hubbard Pond and forest. Kids can participate in animal tracking, organic gardening, birding, and astronomy, as well as more traditional camp activities such as sailing, crafts, and archery. One- and two-week sessions. First session: June 28. $875-$1,595 members, $950-$1,670 nonmembers (family memberships are $58); Rindge, 866-627-2267, wildwoodcamp.org

RHODE ISLAND

Alton Jones Camp

Affiliated with the University of Rhode Island, these one-week sessions allow children to select areas of focus such as marine biology, crime-scene forensics, and caring for farm animals. The Animal Safari session takes campers on an overnight stay at Southwick's Zoo, where they can ride an elephant. The Night Owls Camp session teaches kids about nocturnal animals and astronomy during night hikes and observation. Special teen-only weeks also offered. First session: June 28. $585-$1,895; West Greenwich, 401-397-3304, ext. 6043, altonjonescamp.org

Mike Noonan Brown Soccer Camp: Boys High School week Boys spend an intense five days learning technical and tactical skills. Campers also learn about playing on club and college teams during a special panel discussion. A four-day elite program is also offered to high school juniors and seniors. Instructors include members of the US National Team and the New England Revolution. July 28 to August 1, elite program July 18 to 21. $625-$700 (camps for girls, as well as younger boys, also available); Portsmouth and Providence, 401-854-6828, eteamz.com/MikeNoonanBrownSoccer

YMCA Camp FULLER Campers can design their own programs over one, two, and four weeks from among the usual activities (soccer, crafts) and the less typical (chess, photography). And during one week in August, boys and girls can choose a specialty program focused on scuba diving, sailing, or skateboarding, among others. First session: June 28. $565-$2,200; Wakefield, 401-783-5359, ymcacampfuller.org

VERMONT

Camp Billings Splash contests, tug of war, pie eating, and the "Billings Idol" competition pepper the weeks of traditional activities at this century-old camp. Evening programs include a kangaroo court, casino and movie nights, square dancing, and a musical. Two-, four-, six-, and eight-week sessions. First session: June 28. $935 per two-week session; Fairlee, 717-627-7475, campbillings.org

CONNECTICUT

Camp Hazen YMCA Campers can enjoy a traditional two-week session throughout the summer or attend a six-day special session where they can focus on sailing, drama, skateboarding, or other areas. First traditional session: June 28, specialty camp runs August 23 to 28. $750-$1,360; Chester, 800-248-8244, camphazenymca.org

Hoop Moun-

tain New England Girls Basketball Camp Girls can prepare for playing at the junior high, high school, and college levels. It's basketball nine hours per day, with three games daily, skill clinics, and drills designed especially for each player. Staff includes coaches from area high schools and colleges. Five- and six-day sessions, July 11 to 16 and 12 to 16. $515-$695; Pomfret, 203-269-4554, hoopmountain.com/negirls n

MAINE

West End House Camp Around for more than 100 years, this camp understands what boys want out of their summer. Activities include tubing, water-skiing, archery, mountain biking, and model rocketry. Boys compete against other camps in field and court sports, and evening programs include a talent show, karaoke, elections, and super Monopoly. Sessions range from two to eight weeks. First session: June 28. $1,725-$4,995; East Parsonsfield, 617-783-2267, westendhousecamp.org

Tanglewood 4-H Camp Kids hone independence and self-confidence at this traditional summer program with an environmental education edge. Campers spend a half, one, or two weeks learning about sustainability, music, global arts, and leadership and enjoy swimming on the Ducktrap River. Older youths can go on backpacking and canoeing trips. Meals focus on local foods as much as possible. First session: June 21. $225-$1,425; Lincolnville, 207-789-5868, tanglewood4h.org

Janice O'Leary is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

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