Happy Campers: Florida Summer Kids' Camps

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Don't expect any homesick letters from your kids this summer. Florida summer camps can get your kids swimming with dolphins, walking a tightrope or navigating a space shuttle.

Every family dreams of a relaxing summer vacation. Often, however, no matter how idealistic we are, summer vacations can be a bit stressful with siblings arguing and parents trying to entertain everyone during the dog days of summer. To lessen what I call the effects of an “aggra-vacation,” try one of Florida’s many kids’ camps offered throughout the summer.

Supervised kids camps are the way to go so both the kids and parents are happily occupied and entertained. And whether you’re a Florida resident or just visiting for a week, you’ll find a program that fits your schedule.

This list of Florida kids camps includes everything from traditional tennis, golf and basketball camps to creative, more unconventional programs like Space Camp or Circus Camp. (Keep in mind, many of the same destinations offer Spring Break camps mid-year as well.)

 
Get Lost in Space

What: Camp Kennedy Space Center
Where: Titusville
Who: Kids grades 2-9

Tomorrow’s astronauts will fuel their dreams of space exploration during Camp Kennedy Space Center(KSC) at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Camp KSC takes campers through the history of America's space program from the early days of the Mercury program to today's Space Shuttle launches and the future of traveling to the Moon and beyond.

Campers discover the sights and sounds of a space shuttle launch on the new launch simulator, the Shuttle Launch Experience. Classroom activities include training on realistic motion-based space simulators and performing a simulated space shuttle mission aboard a full-scale replica of an orbiter and simulated mission control. Former NASA astronauts will be on hand to share the impact the space program has on everyday life.

Discounts are available for multi-child households. Included with the program, campers receive a lunches and afternoon snacks, Official Camp KSC T-shirt, Camp KSC graduation ceremony and certificate of completion.

For more information and registration details, call (321) 449-4400.


Close to Nature: Florida’s Wildlife and Nature Camps

What: Nature and wildlife camps
Where: Statewide
Who: Variety of ages, depending on the camp

If you ask my children what their favorite trips around Florida have been, they will tell you they love the vacations where we have the chance to get up close to nature. We have enjoyed finding shark’s teeth, kayaking through sea marshes and swimming with dolphins Meanwhile, I’ve slipped in important life lessons about taking care of the environment.

Now is your chance to give your kids similar experiences in Florida – all led by qualified instructors at Florida’s resorts. (Room rates are often lower in the summer too, so it’s a great time to hit the Florida coastlines and teach the kids what it means to be “green.”)

If you are particularly interested in a certain region, I suggest picking your destination and calling the local attractions for day camp offerings.

In addition to family-friendly resorts and hotels, most of Florida’s zoos, museums, performing arts centers and aquariums offer day camps, as do the larger attractions like Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay’s Adventure Camps or Marineland’s camps in St. Augustine.

At Marineland, your scientists-to-be (ages 7-12) can join the nation’s first oceanarium’s staff at Sea Eco-Adventures” (S.E.A. Camp) to discover the intracoastal hammock eco-system. The last day of camp includes a grand finale dolphin encounter.

The Miami Seaquarium and Tampa’s Florida Aquarium offer camps to teach kids about sea life and marine biology as well. For instance, Seaquarium Camp includes an opportunity to see a marine mammal show and daily animal interactions. The camps are geared to different age groups. The list of activities can also be found on the website.

AquaCamps at The Florida Aquarium have themed weeks for a variety of ages that include exciting field trips to other Florida attractions, hands-on activities and up-close animal encounters that will leave campers captivated all summer.  

Even when they stay on the property, resort camps have proved to be so successful with visitors during the year that resorts are now opening summer enrollment for locals as well as property guests. 

The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, for example, offers summer camp programs to locals as well as hotel guests, such as the Nature’s Wonders program for kids ages 5 and up. The camp includes everything from critter feedings, snorkeling adventures and Gulf of Mexico trips to see dolphins. Call (239) 598-3300 for reservations or more information.

The naturalists of Amelia Island Plantation encourage families visiting northeast Florida to discover local wildlife in their natural habitats. Beach exploration, seining, marsh walks, nature crafts, games and more have been part of the resort's camp programs in the past. Visit the website for details on upcoming programs.

Sports Camps

What: Tennis, golf and more
Where: Orlando
Who: Variety of ages depending on the camp

If your child enjoys sports, the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress has just the right idea. The Grand Cypress Racquet Club offers a summer tennis academy for children of all ages. The academy includes about 12 hours of on-court instruction, video analysis and supervised match play. Call (407) 239-1944 for more information.

If your kids want to hit the links, the Grand Cypress Academy of Golf provides a junior program for any skill level, as well as an advanced junior golf school. Call 800-790-7377 to register.


Time-Outs for Mom and Dad: Endless Summer Nights

What: Night camps
Where: Orlando
Who: Variety of ages

If you’re among the many who will visit an Orlando resort this summer, don’t neglect to ask about “Evening Camps” in addition to “Day Camps.” The resort just may be equipped for mom and dad to have a night to themselves.

At Camp Lil’ Rock at the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort, kids of hotel guests, ages 4-14, can take a break from the grown-ups in a contemporary clubhouse. The fun includes a big screen TV, an outside play area and a host of activities including karaoke, electric keyboard, arts and crafts, board games, video games, movies, computers and more in a monitored environment.

This program is offered year round. Advance registration is recommended, but not required, and can be made by calling (407) 503-2236.

At The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, young guests are treated like royalty as part of the Ritz Kids program. Kids ages 5-12 participate in an evening of arts and crafts, story-telling, theme parties, outdoor water play and much more. Reservations are required 24 hours in advance and can be made by calling (407) 393-4977.

The kids may learn how to walk a tightrope, swim with dolphins or launch a space mission. But surely after a summer in Florida, they’ll impress their teachers with the fall assignment on “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” And, you can send them back to school feeling rested yourself.

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