For many kids, sleepaway camp — swimming in lakes and roasting marshmallows around a bonfire — is how summer is spent.
And then you grow up.
But you can recapture the spirit of those activity-packed, fun-focused days. Inspired by those carefree weeks in the woods, summer camps are making a comeback across the country — this time, for adults.
Their premise is straightforward and nostalgia-tinged: sleeping in tents, eating hot dogs (gourmet ones, of course) at communal picnic tables and making new friends. It's a trend that speaks to travelers' growing desire for engaging vacations — ones that lead to self-discovery or a deeper connection to nature — as opposed to just posting up poolside.
Today's travelers place value on things like pursuing a hobby or enhancing their relationships, and adult camps certainly tick those boxes.
Many adult camps also offer niche, immersive learning experiences like acrylic painting and grilling. For busy professionals and parents, a weekend away with a focus on fun can be rare — but it's important to carve out time for just that.
Whether you're a high-octane hiker or an ornithology enthusiast, here are five camp-like experiences to help you reconnect to those feelings of lightheartedness and joy you felt when you still fit comfortably in the top bunk.
Belcampo Farms is a 10,000-acre estate that raises sheep, goats, pigs and cattle in the idyllic Shasta Valley of Northern California. This is where curious home chefs escape to for one of the three-day "Meat Camps" every summer, where guests learn skills like knife sharpening, butchering, sausage making and open-fire grilling.
It's a unique opportunity for the groups of 25 campers to connect with the source of their food, and to have a bit of fun along the way. Aside from lessons about sustainable farming and hands-on cookery, the retreat includes mountain hikes, picnic lunches, sunset cocktails and family-style dinners. And, after a day of cooking and hiking, campers turn in for the night with a bunkmate in luxury tents (plush beds, butterfly lounge chairs, animal pelt rugs) designed by Shelter Co. dotted throughout the farm's orchard.
Billed as an "elevated" camp experience, Adventure Aurora is a four-day getaway meant to highlight nature in New York's Finger Lakes region. Campers' activities include bird watching, journal-making workshops, lakeside yoga and meditation, a lunchtime cruise on Cayuga Lake, guided hikes through nature trails and wine pairing dinners.
While this package requires a group booking (minimum 14 people), anyone staying at the Inns of Aurora can participate in the array of weekly communal activities, including tea-blending sessions hosted by the lodging's "Director of Serenity." During this class, guests gather around a table to learn about the flavor profiles and healing properties of various herbs, then create and brew their own blends.
Choose your own camp adventure in the red-rock canyons of Southern Utah from the adventure, health and wellness retreats dreamed up by the curation team at Red Mountain Resorts in St. George. Always wanted to pick up an instrument? Learn to pluck like a pro in all-levels ukulele lessons. Scramble over sand, lava and Navajo sandstone formations on a guided hike. Brush up on astronomy with an evening of stargazing and learn how to sleep better in a class geared to help improve bedtime routines.
No matter how you fill your days (or nights), the all-inclusive experience includes three healthy meals per day (dig in to an organic quinoa breakfast bowl or a pepita-crusted lamb with purple potatoes for dinner), wellness workshops and access to one of Utah's top-rated spas. And, if you showed up at camp solo, meet fellow campers by making a dinner reservation for one of the nightly seatings at the restaurant's Community Table.
Those seeking a summer adventure that could also include the kids can head to Vail Mountain's Epic Discovery program, designed for visitors to "learn through play" with experiential outdoor activities linked to environmental education. In partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service, Epic Discovery has set up a mountaintop wonderland.
"Fly" above the treetops on a sled on the alpine roller coaster, glide along a thousand-foot-long zipline with postcard-perfect views of the Rocky Mountain's Gore Range, scramble up a rock-climbing wall with 16 routes to the top, or hike an interactive forest trail dotted with installations about the local flora and fauna. And, in the summer, the ski runs at Vail Mountain become myriad hiking and biking trails. As for the après-adventure scene, there are several lodging options, including slope-side resorts and lodges with apartment-style units.
The rugged desert landscape of Marfa, a small town in West Texas that evolved into a hub for avant-garde art installations, helps set the quirky, holistic vibe at El Cosmico. Created by hotelier Liz Lambert, founder and chief creative officer of Bunkhouse which runs El Cosmico, this characterful lodging is spread over a series of stylishly decorated vintage trailers (think: 1950s Vagabond Camper outfitted with a comfy queen bed, AC and a wooden deck), along with a handful of yurts and safari tents.
Throughout the year, this campground for adults fosters a sense of community with nightly campfires and communal meals. And El Cosmico also hosts a series of festivals and events designed to "elevate the mind, body and creative spirit," including a ceramics workshop, water marbling with a textile artist and artisanal sourdough bread baking class.
These unplugged and interactive summer adventures are the perfect antidote to our busy, tech-driven lives. They say everything old is new again, and when it comes to reinvigorating our bodies and minds, the aphorism rings true.
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