Summer camps

Kids used to return home from summer camp with little more than mosquito bites and bad folk songs bouncing through their heads. But the experience has grown considerably more sophisticated. Many local camps emphasize themes: writing, herbalism, stagecraft, robotics. Kids who attend the vastly eclectic array of Asheville-area programs will be chasing after insects (see UNCA’s Bug Camp), not avoiding them—and learning symphony conducting (check out the Western North Carolina Summer Music Camp) instead of “Kumbaya.”

Backstage Pass Summer Camp at Asheville Community Theatre.

In this economy, it’s worth noting that many camps will negotiate financial assistance with parents—in fact, some, including Madison County’s First Stage Youth Theatre, have discounted their tuition rates for 2009.

Nature and science

Green River Preserve

• This scenic, eco-minded residential camp in Cedar Mountain (south of Brevard) assures parents that no kid leaves here with a “nature-deficit disorder.” Immersion in the outdoors is the name of the game, with one-, two- and three-week sessions designed for rising 2nd through rising 12th graders. Green River Preserve camps run June 12 through Aug. 8; at press time, some sessions already had waiting lists. Find out more at

• SB The North Carolina Arboretum offers a wealth of nature-centric day camps as vast and varied as the biodiversity they explore. The five-day programs run June 1 through Aug. 21, from two-hour excursions to all-day adventures bearing such awesome titles as “Gone Buggy,” “Advanced Eco Detectives” and “Boots, Paddles and Reels.” Outdoor activities are geared for kids as young as age 2, through 8th graders. For full info, visit, go under Youth Education Programs and follow the link to Summer Camps. (828) 665-2492.

Wild Weeks Summer Camp at the Western North Carolina Nature Center is, well, wildly popular. This series of day camps, designed for kids from age 2 through rising 7th graders, comes in week-long segments including “Pioneer Living,” where pre-teens will grind corn and make cheese from scratch; “Staying Found,” i.e., how not to get lost in the woods; and “Reptiles and Amphibians: Fact and Fiction,” where campers get up-close-and-personal with these misunderstood critters. (Every program, including the Pee-Wee Camp for preschoolers, emphasizes some interaction with the Nature Center’s resident animals.) Wild Weeks runs June 1 through Aug. 31. Find complete info at

• An aquatic adventure awaits rising 3rd through rising 8th graders who attend RiverLink’s French Broad Summer River Camps, a series of week-long day programs running in June and July. Environmental education (including river clean-up) and plenty of flotation fun (rafting, tubing) characterize this reasonably priced experience. For more information, contact Ashley Brown at 252-8474, ext. 111, or e-mail

YMCA offers a summer day camp.

• Asheville Parks & Recreation presents an ambitious series of Outdoor Adventure Camps aimed at kids 6 and up. The main, five-day program runs in three sessions and features such nontraditional adventures as caving, plus an overnight camp-out. Shorter, three-day “Eco Explorers” and “Teen Explorers” events focus on specific outdoor activities, including tubing, hiking and “stream investigation.” The fun peaks with the “Teen Canoe Camp,” an overnight odyssey for older kids with primitive camping and a 25-mile canoe trip down the New River in northern N.C. Programs run in June and July; rates vary. For more information, contact Christen McNamara at (828) 251-4029 or e-mail

• Appalachia School of Holistic Herbalism offers an Earth Sprouts! Summer Camp Aug. 3-7. “Soulflower Botanical Sanctuary,” for kids 5-12, teaches little ones how to identify helpful and harmful plants in the wild. Field trips depart from the ASHH campus via carpool. Call (828) 350-1221 or e-mail

• From deep inside the earth to way up in space, The Colburn Gem and Mineral Museum at Pack Place has the geosciences covered for kids age 5-11. In week-long sessions running in July and August, participants will build their own rockets and hunt their own fossils. There’s even a girls-only “Science Sisters” camp July 20-24. Find a brochure for this popular day-camp series at

The Health Adventure is a kid-oriented health and science museum that offers learning programs year-round. In addition to its regular schedule, the 40-year-old downtown institution also hosts a seven-week Discover Science Summer Camp series June through August, for rising 1st through rising 8th graders. This year’s themes include “Family Robotics Workshop,” “Surfin’ Safari,” “GIRLS Quest (Girls Investigating Real Life Science)” and “Alien or Not?” Info and registration at Spaces fill up quickly.

Spring Into Wellness is a week-long (June 14-20) overnight camp for rising 8th and rising 9th graders held on the campus of UNCA and administered by Mission Hospitals, UNCA and Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC). This program uses fun, interactive programs to show junior-high kids the various healthcare career paths and to promote their personal wellness. A $10 application fee notwithstanding, this camp is free. See for registration forms, or call (828) 251-6558.

• Another free overnight camp sponsored by UNCA, the irresistibly named Bug Camp (for rising 6th through rising 8th graders) happens in two sessions spanning June 14-19 and June 21-26. “Activities include [bug-]collecting field trips [and] identifying, curating and experimenting with insects to investigate biological principles,” according to a press statement. A reference from a teacher is required for enrollment. See for registration or call (828) 251-6558.

Asheville Art Museum’s Summer Art Camp 2008.

• At the Nature Explorers Camp at Hendersonville’s Bullington Center, campers will explore plants and wildlife found in fields, streams, gardens and forests through hands-on activity and daily quests. Led by
experienced teachers and outdoor experts. The camp is for rising 3rd through 6th graders. July 13-17, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost: $130. Registration inquiries: (828) 698-6104 or More info at


• Young, aspiring authors can hone their craft at a series of fun Summer Writing Camps held at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Site downtown. Affordable half-day programs run June 15 through Aug. 14 in small groups for rising 4th through rising 8th graders. Completing their experience, participants will share their poetry, fiction and nonfiction at a public reading. Camp is led by a local writer who has an MFA in Creative Writing and is experienced with young people. Call Janet Hurley at (828) 215-9002 or check out Register before March 31 and receive a 10 percent discount.

Visual and performing arts

Asheville Arts Center nurtures budding performers
year-round, and that means three full months—June 15 to Aug. 14—of high-wattage summer programs, everything from the coveted “Rock Band Camp” for teens to a “Send in the Clowns” circus camp for the preschool set. The “Asheville Idol” series (for kids age 8 and up) is sure to be a hit; also new for 2009 is a full stage production of Alice in Wonderland Jr. A varied menu of dance camps, including Irish, hip-hop and clogging, is available—but the full list of offerings is long, so see for dates, rates and the whole lowdown.

Asheville Community Theatre hosts many youth-oriented theater programs each year, including its well-known summer camp, “Backstage Pass.” The latter series will be held in three two-week sessions from June 15 through Aug. 14, targeted to kids age 5-15. Participants get to show off their new skills—ranging from acting to set design—with a program-capping performance showcase. Contact Jenny Bunn at (828) 254-2939, ext. 21, or e-mail

Flat Rock Playhouse, the state theater of North Carolina, hosts a comprehensive selection of summer-long programs in acting and stagecraft—check out “Clown Skills” and “Dance Boot Camp”—through their YouTheatre division, a four-decade-old institution. Morning and all-day camps are intended for kindergarteners through rising 9th graders, and a boarding camp if offered for rising 8th through rising 12th graders. Check for full postings on this year’s themes, dates and rates. (Scholarships are sometimes available.)

The First Stage Youth Theatre of Madison County presents its Summer Workshop Drama Camp for area kids age 8-18. A series of week-long programs that culminate in a Saturday-morning production and after-play picnic, the workshops run in June and July and emphasize “the skills of discipline, concentration and teamwork so prominent in the theater and in real life.” Students may participate in multiple sessions (tuition has been significantly reduced for 2009). See for details.

Asheville Art Museum offers morning, afternoon and all-day programs for rising kindergarteners through rising 12th graders, including a Summer Art Camp series running June 15 through Aug. 7. Kids learn printmaking, cartooning and 3-D art—for a start. Classes include regular visits to AAM’s various galleries. This popular program fills up fast. Info at (828) 253-3227, ext. 122, or e-mail
Sharon McRorie at

WNC Nature Center’s Wild Weeks Summer Pioneer Camp 2008.

John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N.C., isn’t just a great place for adults to find their traditional roots. Their summer kids’ programs, the Little Folk School (for rising 2nd through rising 6th graders) and Middle Folk School (rising 7th through rising 12th graders), aim to teach the next generation about Appalachian culture. Nearly 30 classes in dance and craft will be offered this year, running June 14-20. Info at

• The summer-long series of day camps at Rainbow Mountain Children’s School in West Asheville span themes you definitely won’t find anyplace else: Past sessions have focused on fairies, balloon art, yoga and much more. For the lowdown on this year’s offerings, contact or call (828) 258-9264.

Transylvania Community Arts Council will host a Summer Art Camp June 22-26 at the Transylvania Community Arts Center in Brevard, offered mornings or afternoons for kids age 5-12. Admission is reasonable and includes a snack. See or call (828) 884-2787 for registration info.

Gwynn Valley in Brevard gives kids a varied but noncompetitive summer-camp experience through an assortment of overnight (1-3 weeks) and day-camp programs that strongly emphasize art and nature. In addition to learning about theater, music and dance, Gwynn Valley also allows kids to contribute to a camp CD, Tajar Tracks. Sessions, running June 12 through Aug. 16, are tooled for rising kindergarteners through rising 8th graders. Info at (828) 885-2900 or at

• UNCA hosts the 4th Annual Western North Carolina Summer Music Camp for middle- and high-school students, with the addition this year of a Vocal Music Camp and a Piano Camp, running concurrently with the general program. Dates are June 21-26 and both commuters and residential students are welcome. Classes will emphasize jazz improvisation, electronic music and conducting, among other themes. For more information, see or call (828) 232-5125.

• Join the Blowing Rock Stage Company’s at the Mariam and Robert Hayes Performing Arts Center for summer camps taught by theatre professionals from all over the country. Enrolled students may attend a Blowing Rock Stage Company show for free. A nonrefundable deposit of $50 is required to reserve a space. Weeklong day sessions offered starting June 15 through July 31 and include topics from improvisation to technical theatre. To register or for more information, contact Kim Cozort Kay at (828) 295-9168 ext.3 or, or visit

• Aspiring rock stars should check out Summer Guitar Jam Camps at the Asheville Music School. Guitar students, ages 9 and older, beginner to intermediate, will explore rock, blues, jazz and folk music while playing with other students, as well as the history, development and sounds of different types of guitars, amps and effects. Led by Anne Coombs and William Withers. Five-day sessions run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday, June 15-19; June 29-July 3; July 13-17; July 27-31; August 10-14. Cost is $175 per session. For details contact Anne Coombs at or the school at (828) 252-6244.

Down home and around the world

• Boasting one of the most affordable—and popular—day-camp programs in the area, 188-acre Eliada Summer Camp offers field trips, golfing, horses, team-building exercises, dirt bikes (for age 10 and up) and swimming in a heated pool. Activities are geared for kids who’ve completed kindergarten, up through age 14. See, or call Denise West at (828) 254-5356, ext. 368, to check out summer dates and rates. But be quick! Registration already in process.

Carolina Day School presents a series of public, week-long day camps for pre-kindergarteners through rising 12th graders, divided by age group into “Quests,” “Explorations” and “Workshops.” Global excursions—including learning Italian cooking, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing and studying ancient Egypt—will be emphasized, although swimming and outdoor mountain fun are a big part of the mix. June 15 through July 31. Info at

Spiritual and/or gender-specific

• The Jewish Community Center’s Camp Ruach (Hebrew for “spirit”) combines traditional camp activities for boys and girls with art, nature, sports and instruction in Jewish values and concepts—including environmental stewardship and “taking care of one another.” The two-week sessions, designed for rising 1st graders through rising 8th graders, begin in June and run through early August; there’s also a one-week “Mini Camp” in mid-August. Camp Ruach offers a “Counselor in Training” program for rising 9th and rising 10th graders. See for details.

John C. Campbell Folk School

• Traditional overnight camps that emphasize visual arts, music and sports in a Christian atmosphere, Camp Merri-Mac for girls age 6-16 ( and Camp Timberlake for boys age 7-16 ( also boast low camper-to-counselor ratios and rugged wilderness trips. Sessions run June to August in programs ranging from 1-5 weeks. Both camps are located in Black Mountain; registration is available online.

Camp Celo, a scenic, noncompetitive overnight camp near Burnsville, seeks to teach boys and girls the Quaker values of nonviolence, simplicity and environmental awareness. The arts, including performance and traditional crafts, are a major element of the experience, as is animal stewardship: Campers often begin their day by milking goats or grooming horses. Sessions (June 15 through Aug. 15) are designed for kids age 7-12. A low counselor-to-camper ratio is a hallmark of Camp Celo. (Some scholarship assistance is available.) Info at

• Pretty Camp Wayfarer, a Christian overnight camp for boys and girls in Flat Rock, offers the typical summer-camp experience, including classes in such wide-ranging subjects as “pioneering” and puppetry—plus an emphasis on confidence-building. One- and two-week mini sessions are available for kids as young as kindergarten age, while main camp (for 1st through 10th graders) runs for six weeks, June 21 through July 30. Info at

Camp Rockmont, a Christian residential camp for boys in Black Mountain, is better known locally as the site of the biannual Lake Eden Arts Festival. Like the festival, the camp draws kids from all over the country and around the world. A particularly gorgeous setting is one hallmark, as is an ambitious roster of activities that includes homesteading, rocketry and lacrosse. Sessions run six days to a month, June 7 through Aug. 7, for boys age 6-16. Info at

Camp Ton-a-Wandah for girls is located in a cozy cove in Flat Rock, also home to the Flat Rock Music Festival. Camp runs June 7 through Aug. 7 in two- and three-week residential sessions, for girls age 6-16, who will be instructed in no less than 20 skills. Though arts is part of the curriculum, outdoor sports (including such camp classics as riflery, horseback riding and canoeing) are emphasized. Find full info at

Kidshine Performing Arts Day Camp for rising 3rd to 8th graders, July 13 to17. New Hope Presbyterian Church, 3070 Sweeten Creek Rd. Day camp hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, ending with the performance of a full musical at 7 p.m. on Friday evening. Activities include music, drama, dance, puppets, instruments, scenery painting and lots of fun!  Cost is $120 per child—scholarships are available. For registration information, call (828) 274-0191 or e-mail the church:

Mix and match

• Offering a unique day-camp experience that includes dressing up in historical costumes, Smith-McDowell House Museum will host two Hands-On History camps June 22-26 and July 27-31. Explorations in archaeology (including participating in a real dig), architecture and heritage crafts are the highlights. Campers from rising 2nd graders through rising 5th graders can even pick a favorite era to visit, including the Civil War, the heyday of pirates, and the 1960s. Camp runs Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Call (828) 253-9231 or e-mail Lisa Whitfield at for registration information.

YMCA of Western North Carolina facilitates a comprehensive selection of day-camp programs running June 8 through Aug. 17. Y camps are held at various area schools, and central pick-up and drop-off locations are available for parents’ convenience. This year’s theme-week programs look especially promising: “Grossology” and “Eternal Sunshine” are among the eclectic offerings. A new motif is “Go Green Days,” accenting environmental awareness. Registration just started for the June-through-August season and these camps are popular, so check out for registration info. Financial assistance is available. (828) 210-9021.

YWCA‘s Summer Day Camp, for kindergarteners through 6th graders, is heavy on field trips. Programs run 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. and include gardening, science, dance, fitness and other culturally enriching classes. Call CiCi Weston at (828) 254-7206, ext. 111. SPIRIT Camp for kids age 12-16 is geared toward outdoor service-learning projects, with plenty of detours to fun spots like water parks and museums; call Kenya Webster at (828) 254-7206, ext. 205. A new camp session, FutureVision, is designed for 9th and 10th graders who are at risk of dropping out of school. Team-building games, wilderness adventure and “hands-on career exploration” will be emphasized. Call FutureVision coordinator Rachel Herrick at (828) 254-7206, ext. 103. YWCA camps run at various times the whole summer; in some cases, students may sign up for more than one session. For details, including dates and rates, see

Writing Camps at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial site.

High Flight Gymnastics’ Summer Day Camp for kids age 5-13 naturally emphasizes fun physical activity. But storytelling, swimming, field trips, art and “games designed to teach emotional awareness, leadership and life skills” are embedded in the adventure. Camp runs 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and includes an afternoon snack. Special “counselor in training” positions are open for teens age 14-16. See for dates and rates, or call (828) 252-8746.

• Emmanuel Lutheran School in Asheville has all the bases—and ages—covered with its Summer Rocks! 2009 series of day camps running June 8 through Aug. 14. Programs, held on the school’s 8-acre campus, are targeted for preschoolers through rising 9th graders. Half- and full-day programs are available. Highlights include gymnastics, Tae Kwon Do and swimming; and, for older campers, a drama week culminating in a performance of Marcy Heisler’s Dear Edwina. For details on auditions for the play and general camp
information, see or call (828) 281-8182.

• In its 10-week day-camp program running June 8 through Aug. 14, Odyssey Community School in Montford promises “sheer fun and relaxation” along with soccer, ultimate frisbee, daily swim and other activities for kids age 5-12. Along with the general program, special theme weeks (exploring “extremely messy science,” mask-making, puppet theater, and more) will also be offered. (Kids may attend as many weeks as they wish.) Camps run 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.; before- and after-camp care is available. For rates and more information, call (828) 259-3653 or e-mail

• The second annual Super Summer Camp at UNCA happens June 15-19 for rising 3rd through rising 6th graders. Grounded in the fine arts, technology and concepts of community, the day-long programs are designed “to stimulate the imagination and develop [campers’] critical-thinking skills.” Information and registration forms are available at, or (828) 251-6558.

• The New Classical Academy in Weaverville facilitates four weeks of themed day-camp experiences for rising kindergarteners through rising 6th graders, each with a unique take on the arts: “Pirates on Parade,” “Knights and Princesses,” “Lights, Camera, Action!” and “Good Old-Fashioned Summertime.” Sessions run June 8 through July 3, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Info at

Waynesville Parks and Recreation will offer its second annual “Fun in the Sun” Summer Camp, a series of week-long day camps that run June 15 through Aug. 14 for rising 1st through rising 6th graders. Lots of outdoor sports and educational field trips are highlighted. For rates and registration info, contact Abby Batten at 456-2030 or e-mail

• The Appalachian Institute for Creative Learning offers a summer enrichment camp that focuses on the emotional and relationship development of kids. The camp is designed to help creative and curious young people pursue their questions, discover their gifts and make and deepen friendships. For rising 3rd through 12th graders. Located on the campus of Warren Wilson College. Two one-week sessions, or campers may stay for both. July 19 through July 25 and July 26 through Aug. 1. Tuition is $490 per week for residential campers or $250 per week for day campers. Info at (800) 951-7442 or


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