Summer camps

Kids used to return home from summer camp with little more than bug spray and lanyard keychains in their duffel bags. But the experience has grown more refined with the years. Most camps now boast themes: drama, dinosaurs, printmaking, robotics. In fact, those who attend the vastly eclectic array of Asheville-area camps will be curating insects (see UNCA’s Bug Camp), not avoiding them—and learning printmaking instead of the once de-rigueur potholder-weaving (see Asheville Art Museum’s sophisticated offerings). Check out these options:

Science and nature

• Starting in May and running through early August, The North Carolina Arboretum offers a wealth of nature-centric day camps as vast and varied as the biodiversity they explore. The week-long programs—bearing such awesome titles as “Gone Buggy,” “Advanced Eco Detectives,” “Teeth, Tails and Talons,” “My First Garden” and “A Natural Artist”—are geared for kids as young as age 2, through 7th graders. For full info, visit, go under Youth Education Programs and click on Summer Camps. 665-2492.

• The 2008 Wild Weeks Summer Camp at the Western North Carolina Nature Center is, well, wildly popular. This eco-minded day camp, designed for kids from age 2 through rising 6th graders, comes in week-long segments including “Pioneer Living,” “Staying Found” (i.e., how not to get lost in the woods!) and “Reptiles and Amphibians: Fact and Fiction”). Camp runs June 2-Aug. 1. Find complete info at

• Appalachia School of Holistic Herbalism offers their Earth Sprouts Summer Camp in two sessions, July 21-25 and July 28-Aug. 1. “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 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 June 16-Aug. 8, participants will do everything from discover alternative energy sources to build their own rockets. There’s even an all-girl “Science Sisters” camp running July 21-25. Find a brochure at

The Health Adventure, celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2008, is a kid-oriented health and science museum that offers learning programs year-round. In addition to its regular schedule, the Health Adventure also hosts a Discover Science Summer Camp series in June and July for 1st graders through rising 8th graders. Programs include “Family Robotics Workshop,” “Pack Place Potpourri,” “GIRLS Quest (Girls Investigating Real Life Science),” “Young Adventurers Around the World,” “Young Adventurers Make a Splash,” “Design Challenge” and “Mystery Science.” Info and registration at (Spaces fill up quickly.)

Spring Into Wellness is a week-long (June 15-21) overnight camp for rising 7th and 8th 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. A $10 application fee notwithstanding, this camp is free. See for registration forms, or call 251-6558.

• Another free overnight camp sponsored by UNCA, the irresistibly named Bug Camp (for rising 6th through 8th graders) happens in two sessions spanning June 15-20 and June 22-27. “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 forms, or call 251-6558.

• Presented by NC State Engineering Programs at UNCA, Mechatronics Engineering Workshop I (June 16-20) and II (July 14-18) introduce riding 9th through 12th graders to the fundamentals of robotics, microprocessor programming and mechatronics.  Participants build, program and modify a Parallax SumoBot, culminating in a SumoBot competition. Some experience recommended. See for registration forms, or call 251-6558.


Young, aspiring authors can hone their craft at a series of fun Summer Writing Camps. Affordable half-day programs run June 2 through Aug. 8 for different interests and ages, rising 4th graders through rising 8th graders. Camp is led by a local writer with a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and lots of experience working with young people (the program has received great references from area teachers, parents and former students). Centrally located in Kenilworth. Call Janet at 215-9002 or check out

Art, drama and music

The Asheville Arts Center is dedicated to inspiring kids year-round, and that means two full months of summer programs for a wide range of ages, including preschoolers. This year’s camps include the very popular musical programs Kindermusik and Rock Band Camp. “Tot-Hollywood” and “Irish Dance” are other intriguingly named programs, but the list of offerings is long, so see for the full lowdown.

Flat Rock Playhouse hosts a comprehensive selection of summer programs in acting and stagecraft—even musical theater—through their YouTheatre division. Week-long day camps are intended for rising 1st through 12th graders, and a boarding camp is offered for rising 8th through 12th graders. Check for postings on this year’s themes, dates and rates. (Scholarships are available.)

• SART Guild Youth Theatre, the kids’ division of Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre in Mars Hill, boasts its Summer Stage Drama Camp for kids 8-18, which includes instruction in all aspects of the art (including playwriting) and comes with lots of perks. Not least of all, kids in all sessions get to take home a DVD of their end-of-camp recital. Camps run in week-long segments in June and July. Details about this year’s classes haven’t been announced yet, but check for new postings. (Scholarships are available.)

Asheville Art Museum offers morning, afternoon and all-day programs for rising kindergarteners through 12th graders, including a Summer Art Camp series starting in June. Kids learn printmaking, cartooning and 3-D art—for a start. Classes are held in the spacious studio of the Museum’s WNC Art Resource Center, and include regular visits to AAM’s various galleries. This popular program fills up fast; pre-registration is required. Info at 253-3227, ext. 122, or e-mail Sharon McRorie at

John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown isn’t just a great place for adults to find their traditional roots. Their summer kids’ programs, the Little Folk School (for rising 2nd graders through rising 6th graders) and Middle Folk School (rising 7th graders 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 15-21. 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 258-9264.

Transylvania Community Arts Council will host a Summer Art Camp June 23-27 at the Transylvania Community Arts Center in Brevard, offered mornings or afternoons for kids 5-12. Admission is reasonable and includes a snack. See for registration info.

Asheville Community Theatre hosts many youth-oriented theater programs each year, but this summer they’ll again combine forces with North Carolina Stage Company to offer more classes for a wider range of ages, including instruction in acting, improvisation and set design. Their summer camp, Backstage Pass, runs in three sessions from June 9-July 18. Each ends with a performance showcase, allowing kids to experience acting on the local stage. Info at

Gwynn Valley near Brevard gives kids a varied summer experience through an assortment of overnight and day-camp programs, and that includes a heavy emphasis on the arts. In addition to learning about theater, music and dance, Gwynn Valley also allows kids to contribute to the Tajar Times—their daily camp newspaper—and a CD, Tajar Tracks. Sessions, running June 6-Aug. 10, are tooled for rising kindergarteners through 8th graders. Info at

• UNCA hosts the 3rd Annual Western North Carolina Summer Music Camp for middle- and high-school students. Dates are June 22-27. See, or call 251-6558 for more information.

Up the mountain and around the world

• One of the most affordable—and popular—camps in the area, 188-acre Eliada Adventure Camp emphasizes outdoor mountain adventure (hiking, whitewater rafting) and nature (gardening), plus visual art, crafts, mini-bike riding and more. Oh, and let’s not forget the heated outdoor pool! Camp is geared for kids ages 6-12. See, or call Denise West at 254-5356, ext. 224, to check out summer dates and rates. But be quick! Spaces are at a premium.

• Carolina Day School offers a worldly Summer Quest camp for pre-kindergarteners through rising 9th graders that includes experiential pretend sojourns to Italy and Africa, among other surprises. Arts- and science-themed programs run in week-long segments; swimming runs the full six weeks. June 16-Aug. 1. Lots of outdoor mountain fun is part of the mix. 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, and instruction in Jewish values and concepts. Camps begin in June and run through July, plus there’s a “Mini Camp” in August. The various programs are fashioned for rising 1st graders through rising 8th graders. See for details.

• Although their curricula go well beyond the arts, it’s worth considering sending your kid to either Camp Merri-Mac for girls ( or Camp Timberlake for boys ( Both have substantial visual arts, performance and music programs. The Christian-oriented camps are located in Black Mountain.

Camp Celo, a 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. Sessions (June 8-Aug. 9) are tooled for kids age 7 through 12. A 1:3 counselor-to-camper ratio is a hallmark of Camp Celo. Info at

• Scenic Camp Wayfarer, a Christian overnight camp for boys and girls in Flat Rock, offers the typical summer camp experience, as well as classes in crafts, chorus, dance, guitar, drama and puppetry—and an emphasis on good nutrition and confidence-building. Info at

Camp Rockmont, a Christian overnight camp for boys in Black Mountain, is perhaps better known as the site of the biannual Lake Eden Arts Festival. A particularly gorgeous setting is the hallmark here; activities are geared toward boys age 6 to16. Info at

Camp Ton-a-Wandah for girls is located in a scenic cove in Flat Rock, also home to the Flat Rock Music Festival. Camp runs June through August for girls age 6 to 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 archery, horseback riding and canoeing) are emphasized. Find full info at

Mix and match

YMCA of Western North Carolina facilitates more summer-camp programs than perhaps any other local venue. That’s not surprising—as a passage on the local Web site points out, the Y has been doing summer camp for more than a century! Soon to have three locations in the Asheville area, the Y has offerings for kids as young as age 3, up through high school. Choose from sports camps, adventure camps and theme-week camps such as “Where the Wild Things Are,” “A Blast From the Past” and “Back in the Saddle.” Registration just started for the June-through-August season, and these camps are popular, so don’t delay in checking out for registration info.

YWCA’s Summer Camp (kindergarten through sixth grade) is heavy on field trips. Programs include gardening, science, dance, fitness and other culturally enriching classes. Local Terpsicorps Ballet Company will be in residence this summer. See for more, or call CiCi Weston at 254-7206, ext. 111, for dates and rates. SPIRIT Camp (ages 12-16) is geared toward community involvement and exploring career options, though swimming,  camping and wilderness adventure are also part of the fun. Call Holly Gillespie at 254-7206, ext. 203.

• Emmanuel Lutheran School in Asheville has all the bases—and ages—covered with its Summer Rocks! series of day camps running June to August: Programs are targeted for infants through rising 9th graders. Highlights include a Tae Kwon Do series, a Nascar series and a drama series culminating in a performance of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. For details, see, or call 281-8182.

• The first inaugural Super Summer Camp at UNCA happens June 16-20 for rising 3rd through 6th graders. Grounded in the fine arts, technology and concepts of community, programs are designed “to stimulate the imagination and develop [campers’] critical-thinking skills.” Information and registration forms are available at, or call 251-6558.

• The New Classical Academy offers four weeks of themed day-camp experiences, each with a unique take on the arts, such as “Pirates on Parade,” which includes hunting for buried treasure and choosing one’s own pirate name, and “Knights and Queens.” Sessions run June 9-July 4. Info at

Asheville Parks and Recreation offers several summer programs for kids and teens, including Summer Playground, a drop-in program for kids age 6 through 12. Activities range from science and nature to drama and crafts. Info at 251-4081.

Waynesville Parks and Recreation will offer a new “Fun in the Sun” Summer Camp that’s big on nature-themed and educational field trips (including excursions to the Cradle of Forestry, Water Rock Knob and Cherokee), special theme days—how does “Waynesville Idol” grab you?—and too much more to list. Two divisions, for kids age 5-7 and 8-11, are offered; camp runs June 9-Aug. 15. Space is tight: Register now by calling 456-2030, or e-mail Waynesville Parks and Rec also offers a spring-break day camp April 14-18.

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