Summer Camp Guide

Everything Under the Sun

Twelve local day camps where kids can discover skills, thrills, and more.

By Larry Lindner
February 8, 2009

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You don't want to spring for sleep-away camp. Or perhaps you're not ready for your kid to be sprung loose overnight (or she or he is not ready to be sprung from you). What about day camp? Boston and the suburbs are loaded with options ranging from traditional day camps to summer arts programs, sailing lessons, farms, science courses, nature explorations, and more. Here are a dozen reasonably priced choices. Some offer a sliding price scale based on ability to pay, and most have, at moderate cost, early drop-off and late pickup options. A few even have free bus service from surrounding towns.


Boston Nature Center Summer Camp

Think "nature" by way of explorations, gardening, and games in a noncompetitive atmosphere. Operated on 67 acres in Mattapan by Mass Audubon, this camp has weekly themes for children 5 to 14 such as Sing, Sculpt, Splatter! Weekly sessions run June 22 to August 21, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. $50 to $250 per week for Mass Audubon members, $90 to $290 for nonmembers (all fees based on household income). 500 Walk Hill Street, Mattapan, 617-983-8500,

Allandale Farm Outdoor Summer Program This working farm offers gardening, composting, bird and plant identification, farm animals, and outdoor games for children 4 to 10. Weekly sessions run June 29 to August 7, 8:45 a.m. to noon. $375 for one week, $600 for two, $850 for three. 259 Allandale Road, Brookline, 617-524-1531,

Museum of Science Summer Courses Being a nerd has never been cooler. Weekly courses like Volcanic Explosions, Light and Laser Lab, and Cooking Is Chemistry fill up fast. Weekly morning, afternoon, or full-day sessions are available to kids entering grades

1 to 9. Sessions run July 9 to August 14, half days 9 a.m. to noon or 1 to 4 p.m., full days 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. $275 per week for half day, $575 for full (lunch provided). Hitch: You have to be a museum member for your child to register. But you can become one for as little as $70.

1 Science Park, Boston, 617-723-2500,


Charles River Creative Arts Program

At this Dover camp, your 8- to 15-year-old selects from more than 130 offerings, including dance, drama, filmmaking, gymnastics, music, photography, textiles, creative writing, and sports. Guest artists at the program have included Tracy Chapman, William Hurt, and Yo-Yo Ma. Two four-week sessions, starting June 24 and July 22, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. $2,250 per session, including daily hot lunch entree. Old Meadow Road, Dover, 508-785-8250,

Hale Day Camp Swimming, hiking, rope and rock climbing, crafts, and all-around fun for

4- to 15-year-olds on the 1,100-acre Hale Reservation, replete with woodlands and trails. Two-week sessions run June 29 to August 21, 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. $625 to $865 per session; one-week session August 24 to 28 is $325; four-day session June 23 to 26, $300. 80 Carby Street, Westwood, 781-326-1770,

Orchard Hill Equestrian Center Summer Riding Program Less expensive than riding camps typically run, Orchard Hill emphasizes beginners ages 7 to 13, who learn riding, grooming, show preparation, and equine healthcare, including how to take a horse's temperature (yikes!). Only 16 kids per weekly session. Runs June 22 to August 14, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. $395 per week. 224 Sawyer Hill Road, Berlin, 781-915-7533,


ArtWorks at Waring The Waring School in Beverly offers a well-run program that mixes the arts and sciences with more traditional camp activities. In the mornings, 5- to 14-year-olds choose offerings like visual arts, musical theater, or science. Afternoons (ages 7 to 14) consist of games and sports, plus "electives" like hip-hop and sculpture. Four-week session runs July 6 to 30, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. $985. 35 Standley Street, Beverly, 978-927-8793,

Pingree Experience Day Camp Archery, tennis, boating, digital music production, model rocketry, dance -- these are among the activities for kids age 4 up through those entering sixth grade at this camp at the Pingree School. Four two-week sessions run June 22 to August 14, 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. $660 per session. 537 Highland Street, South Hamilton, 978- 468-5121,

SummerQuest at the Crane Estate

Seacoast Safari and Shipwreck Sleuths are just a couple of the nature-based treasure hunts for children entering grades 3 through 6 at this camp, run jointly by the Trustees of Reservations and the Y. Seven one-week sessions run July 6 to August 21, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. $300 for Trustees or Y members, $325 for nonmembers; two-week session August 3 to 14 for kids entering grades 7 or 8, $400 members, $425 nonmembers. 295 Argilla Road, Ipswich, 978-921-1944,


YMCA Camp Metacomet

This terrific Y camp in Dartmouth offers all the traditional activities for kids 4 to 16, plus archery, rope courses, and gardening. One- or two-week sessions, June 22 to August 21, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. $193 for one week for members ($238 nonmembers), $373 for two weeks ($420 nonmembers). 276 Gulf Road, Dartmouth, 508-993-3361,

Duxbury Bay Maritime School Kids 8 to 18 can learn sailing, windsurfing, and rowing (some age restrictions apply), from beginner to advanced. There are also hands-on marine ecology classes for kids ages 3 to 10. Instruction accommodates children with special needs. One- to three-week sessions run June 22 to August 21, 2 .5 to 3.5 hours per day. $137 to $525 per session (financial aid is available, and no one is turned away). All kids must pass a swimming test where appropriate. 457 Washington Street, Duxbury, 781-934-7555,

Meadowcroft Day Camp Kids from 4 years of age to sixth-graders get swimming lessons, woodworking, day trips, and much more. Two three-week sessions run June 29 to August 7; one two-week session runs August 10 to 21, 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. $305 per week. 260 Bowker Street, Norwell, 781-659-2362, n

Larry Lindner is a freelance writer in Hingham. Send comments to

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