6 Bay Area Summer Camps Your Kids Will Love

Spaulding Center Summer Camp

As a child, I went to Girl Scout overnight camp every summer. It was one of the highlights of my childhood and I find myself reliving the memory of it often. While camp was outwardly about establishing friendships, building fires from scratch and singing those goofy camp songs, it was was so much more than that.

There were times when it took me out of my comfort zone — to my benefit. I had to face homesickness head on,  a good thing, says psychologist Michael Thompson, author of Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow. Thompson argues that kids who spend some time away from home can mature in different and surprising ways.

I also credit my time at Girl Scout camp with nurturing my love and respect for nature and its bounty. It’s why for me, taking a hike is not just a luxury, it’s a necessity. It’s why I am passionate about environmental issues. And it is why I will always prefer a visit to the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone over a trip to Disneyland.

In the Bay Area, we are fortunate to have a plethora of day camps and overnight camps that are not only fun for kids, but can teach them skills and values that will benefit them throughout their lives. There really is a camp for every interest — karate, STEM, citizen science, sailing, foreign languages, swimming, art, theater, dance, and the list goes on.

Here are some of the coolest camps around, where not only will your kiddo have so much fun there will hardly be time for homesickness, but they just might return home a little further along their way to becoming smart, responsible, adventurous and knowledgeable adults.

Circus Center Camp

San Francisco

Not that we want to encourage our little ones to run away and join the circus, but there is some real fun to be had in learning how to soar on a flying trapeze, master an aerial hoop or walk on stilts. This camp offers all that and more.

Ages 7 to 13; 415.759.8123; circuscenter.org

Summer Camps: Circus Center San Francisco
Circus Center Camp

Camp Chrysalis

East Bay

This overnight camp lets kids explore the natural beauty of Northern California, with an emphasis on instilling a respect for and responsibility for nature. Camp sessions are held in Big Sur, Mendocino and the Sierra Nevada.

Ages 8 to 17; 510.843.6157; campchrysalis.com

Summer Camps: Camp Chrysalis
Camp Chrysalis

Vision Tech Camp

Multiple locations in the East Bay and South Bay

Kids interested in learning to code, designing video games, modding with Minecraft or even building their own PC can learn those skills and more at one of Vision Tech Camp’s seven locations in the East Bay and South Bay.

Ages 6 to 17; 408.647.4833; visiontechcamps.com


Cooking Round the World

Multiple locations in the East Bay and South Bay

This hands-on cooking program lets kids prepare and eat up to eight recipes daily, each from a different part of the globe. It’s a cultural experience as well as a cooking school and inlcudes one a benefit for busy parents — the potential for packing fewer lunches and snacks.

Ages 6 to 13; 510.593.5285; cookingroundtheworld.com

Cooking Around the World

Coastal Camp at NatureBridge


Based in the environmentally robust Marin Headlands, Coastal Camp at NatureBridge offers a plethora of nature- and ocean-themed activities for young citizen scientists, ranging from habitat exploration to hiking to learning about sharks. Some sessions include a one-night overnight stay.

Ages 5 to 14; 415.331.1548; coastalcamp.org 

Summer Camps

Spaulding Marine Center


Geared to slightly older kids, this camp is a two-week immersion experience centered around all things San Francisco Bay — including sailing lessons, how to build boats, a study of meteorology and astronomy, and a crash course in maritime history — culminating in a three-day sailing and camping trip to Angel Island.

Ages 11 to 15; 415.332.3179; spauldingcenter.org

Spaulding Center Summer Camp
Spaulding Marine Center

This article originally appeared as part of Marin Magazine’s summer camp guide.

Donna Berry Glass is the editor of the Bay Area Better Letter, and the online editor at Marin Magazine. When she’s not writing and editing, she enjoys spending time with her family exploring the natural beauty of Marin County, snuggling with her Cavalier King Charles and tackling her never-ending list of DIY home and garden projects. Donna is a supporter of the California Academy of Sciences, a world class science museum and research institution, and SF CASA, which provides court-appointed advocates for foster youth.



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