Summer Camp in the City: Putting an Urban Twist on a Seasonal Tradition


For many families, summer camp is a multigenerational rite of passage that involves heading to the countryside for a couple of months of bonfires, nature hikes, canoe trips and bunking in crowded cabins.

That’s the traditional vision, anyway. But for some young urbanites, summer camp doesn’t involve trekking out to the wilderness at all.

For some young urbanites, summer camp doesn’t involve trekking out to the wilderness at all.

The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, for instance, runs summer camps for local kids where designated Urban Park Rangers lead activities like bird watching, canoeing, fishing and hiking. And while the Big Apple might seem like an odd site for these sorts of outdoor pursuits, the city is actually home to a wide variety of landscapes and ecosystems that intrepid residents can explore.

New York isn’t alone in offering such experiences to urban residents. Similar summer camps can be found in cities around the globe. In Madrid, Los Pinos Kids Camps give children ages 3-7 a chance to take part in traditional camp activities like swimming, sports, nature walks, and arts and crafts without ever leaving the Spanish capital. The summer camp is just one of several run by the city’s Centro Educativo Internacional El Jarama, which also runs Madrid-based camps for older kids that offer activities like horseback riding, beekeeping and archery.

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The Maison de la Pêche et de Nature offers fishing camps on the River Seine.

Parisian children, meanwhile, can explore their surroundings at camps run by local institutions like the Maison de la Pêche et de Nature. The organization offers nature and fishing camps that let kids learn about the environment around them, including the various creatures they might find swimming in the Seine.

And while Hong Kong might not be considered a global surfing destination, kids can spend their summers riding waves at Pui O Beach, where the Treasure Island Group runs one of the largest surf camps in China. The firm offers beginner and intermediate surf lessons for kids ages 9-12, as well as a summer adventure camp where older kids can take part in activities like rock climbing, rappelling and gorging, along with overnight expeditions where they can build their own cooking fires and shelters for sleeping.

And then there’s Singapore where, even if you wanted to head out to the countryside for summer camp, you’d have no place to go. The island nation takes up just 278 square miles, but that’s still plenty of space for summer camp activities. Organizations like Camp Asia run camps offering traditional fare like swimming lessons and arts and crafts, along with more specialized programs focused on interests like math, computer programming and robotics.

In addition to their many perks, there’s one major upside to these local summer camps: If kids start to get homesick, their parents are just a short ride away.


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