Hudson Valley Summer Camps

Warmer weather may not arrive until a few months from now, but sign-up for summer camp is well underway. Before you pack up the kids, check out these noteworthy Valley camps

Yes, we’re aware that it is freezing outside right now. But before you know it, the weather will warm up, the school year will end, and your little ones will be clamoring for something to do. Now is the ideal time to plan for a perfect summer camp experience. There are hundreds of day and sleep-away camps — ranging from one week to all summer — to choose from in our region. So whether your child longs to sail the seven seas, shoot baskets, sing on stage — or pretty much any other activity you can conjure up — there is a camp just for him or her.


tivoli sailing campPhotographs courtesy of Tivoli Sailing Company

Adventure Sailing School

Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few years, you’ve surely noticed that pirates are all the rage with kids big and small.

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So what child wouldn’t be psyched to hoist a flag and set sail across the open water during summer vacation? The Tivoli Sailing Company’s Adventure Sailing School gives them a chance to do that, and much more.

The company was founded five years ago by Capt. Jerome Crandall-Hollick, who says that sailing saved him from the pain of a childhood learning disability. Although he came from a long line of sailors and had been on boats since he was an infant, initially, Crandall-Hollick thought sailing was a “fuddy-duddy, grandpa thing.” Only after being diagnosed with dyslexia at age seven did he have the opportunity to really fall in love with the sport. At a special school for language-based learning disabilities he was encouraged to participate in a sport that would build his gross motor skills, as well as his confidence. Sailing was the natural choice. “My dad started to try to get me into it through my imagination, with Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series,” says Crandall-Hollick. “Then my grandfather got me a Sunfish, and after that I never stopped.” Eventually Crandall-Hollick was phased back into a mainstream school, but he continued to sail as a teenager, racing at Hyannisport on Cape Cod and even sailing with the Kennedys. “Every summer I sailed all day, every day. It was my escape.”

After graduating from Bard College in 1997, Crandall-Hollick returned to Boston, where he worked as a sailing instructor. He found himself traveling to the Hudson Valley nearly every weekend to sail, and by 2007 he moved back to the area full-time. He received his captain’s license and saved enough money to buy a 24-foot sailboat, which he used for charters and lessons. “The sailing part is one thing,” he states. “Running a business is another.” Between the fickle weather and an even more fickle economy, Crandall-Hollick found his new business venture struggling to stay afloat. Then a friend asked him to take her daughter out sailing for a day. “I asked her if she could find some more kids to go, too, to make it more worth the trip.” He ended up with eight kids, and the Adventure Sailing School was conceived. “It was a lot of fun — I got to teach the kids something real and useful, and share something I love. I thought, ‘This could be the basis for my business.’ ”

tivoli sailing

At first, Crandall-Hollick admits, he had no idea what he was doing: “I had no curriculum, no rain plans — I just took the kids out to places on the boat.” But through trial and error, and the acquisition of some enthusiastic staff, the Adventure Sailing School’s curriculum tightened up. Today, the camp is the company’s main focus. While Crandall-Hollick still offers charters and lessons on the weekends, the bulk of his prime season is dedicated to the kids; the 10-week program starts the first Monday after school lets out in June and runs through the end of August. The recent acquisition of a second boat this year (and another licensed captain on staff) allows the camp to accept up to 22 kids per week (an increase from last year’s eight).

“Hudson River conditions aren’t the best — you can only sail 60 to 70 percent of the time — so we have to have a diverse curriculum, and an indoor curriculum for rainy days,” Crandall-Hollick explains. (During inclement weather, the camp takes place at the American Legion in Tivoli.) As you would expect, the camp features a thorough and somewhat rigorous syllabus of sailing skills, where the techniques learned one week are expounded upon the next. Kids learn to navigate and sail the boat themselves (under supervision), and are given lessons in science and ecology, knot tying, river safety, teamwork, and boat mechanics. In an attempt to emphasize history and social studies education along with the sciences, each week of the 2011 season will be dedicated to a different pirate. Crandall-Hollick plans to focus not only on the buccaneer and his misadventures, but also on the social and political times in which he lived and the history of naval warfare. Kids can make their own pirate flags, and each week culminates with a staged naval battle — i.e., a water balloon fight — on the Hudson (using biodegradable balloons).

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“My mother always said: ‘Be proactive, not reactive.’ So that’s my motto,” Crandall-Hollick states. This plays out at Adventure Sailing School: Each member of the crew is lifeguard-certified, though that precaution is not mandated anywhere. The campers all wear life jackets in and on the water. And to ensure that the kids stay present and engaged, Captain Jerome collects all cell phones at the start of the day, locking them away in a waterproof bag below deck. After disclosing this rule, he is quick to add that iPods — for shared listening purposes — are okay. Pirates need tunes, right?

Quick Stats:
Schedule: Mon.-Fri., June through August (10 weeks)
Session length: One week; educational curriculum organized in two four-week modules
Pick-up/drop-off: Saugerties, 8:30 a.m.-4:40 p.m.; Tivoli, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Ages: 6-16 (average age 8-12)
Staff-to-camper ratio: 1:3
Cost: $320 per week; discounts offered to campers registering for four or more sessions
Web site:
Contact: 845-901-2697 or


ecology day campPhotograph courtesy of Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Ecology Day Camp

Located on 1,924 acres in Millbrook, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies provides one of the most exciting venues in the Valley for budding young scientists to get their feet wet — literally. For more than a decade the renowned eco-science research and educational facility’s Ecology Day Camp has offered curious kiddos from second through seventh grade the opportunity to spend a week learning about watersheds, climate change, soil, and the water cycle through hands-on exploration and experimentation. “We try to use what makes the Cary Institute special,” says Ecology Education Specialist and camp organizer Megan McLean. “It’s the work of our scientists, our visiting scientist each week, and the use of our land, most of which can’t be accessed by the general public.”

Ecology Day Camp runs for nine weeks, with enrollment limited to 12 children per week (the curriculum repeats every week so multiple-week registration is not encouraged). “We get a really amazing set of young scientists,” McLean enthuses. “The campers tend to be kids generally interested in looking in a microscope, poking around in leaf litter. Some absolutely shock me with their intelligence.” Two counselors head each group — one from Cary’s own education staff, and the other a New York State certified teacher with a science background — as well as a volunteer from Cary’s Junior Counselor Youth Leadership Program. Each group also enjoys a visit from one of the institute’s working scientists.

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This summer’s theme will be wetlands; the details of the curriculum have yet to be decided. For last year’s theme, Invasive Species, activities included a series of investigative studies including a crayfish hunt and a mini-replication of an experiment done by resident freshwater ecologist Dr. David Strayer. “The activities were all selected around understanding invasive species and what they are. The emphasis is on inquiry-based scientific research — ‘Are they all bad?’ for example,” McLean explains. “Our ecosystem science approach can challenge us to come up with innovative lesson planning. There’s lots to investigate on the grounds — 90 percent of the time is spent outside, getting our hands dirty.”

Quick Stats:
Schedule: Mon.-Fri., July-August
Session length: One week
Pick-up/drop-off: Grades 2-4: 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Grades 5-7: 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Age: Kids entering grades two through seven
Staff-to-camper ratio: 1:4
Cost: Grades 2-4, $210/week; grades 5-7, $250/week
Web site:
Contact: Megan McLean 845-677-7600, ext. 190 or


catskill animal sanctuaryPhotographs courtesy of Catskill Animal Sanctuary

Camp Kindness

Tucked away on 80 quiet acres in Saugerties is the Catskill Animal Sanctuary (CAS), home to more than 1,700 abused, neglected, and abandoned farm animals since it opened 10 years ago. Founded by Kathy Stevens and Jesse Moore, the sanctuary’s mission is to provide a loving abode to mistreated horses, cows, chickens, pigs, sheep, and others, and to educate the public about the hardships many farm animals endure and why. Part of that mission — fostering lifelong respect and compassion for all living creatures — led to the development of Camp Kindness in 2010. As they gear up for their second year, camp cofounder and CAS Education Director Betsy Messenger looks forward to another highly successful summer. “We had a waiting list last year, and I’m already getting calls for this year,” she states proudly. “We had a very positive year; we’re just so excited.”

When Messenger and her colleagues — Melissa Bamford and Dawn Hubbell — sat down to envision the camp in January of 2010, they started by identifying the goals of the program. They were able to narrow it down to three: facilitating animal interaction, fostering compassion, and educating about the issues surrounding the factory farming industry today. “There’s so much talk these days about organic, free range, et cetera, but in truth less than one percent of farms are organic. We see a lot of it in the Hudson Valley, but we’re in a pocket, we’re lucky,” Messenger explains. “We wanted to get kids looking at animals differently, to understand that they feel happiness, sadness, anxiety, impatience. To see that this is what they do in nature, but in factory farms this is what they’re subjected to, confined to.”

catskill animal sanctuary

To put the goals into action, Messenger, Bamford, and Hubbell — who all have education backgrounds — planned a curriculum including arts and crafts, lessons and discussions, cooking, and lots of time with the animals. Each day of the weeklong session spotlighted a different animal; on pig day, for instance, the kids gave the pigs a spa treatment, rubbing them down with mineral oil to keep their skin soft and supple. Campers made rounds with the animal care director on another day. One afternoon was spent in the garden with on-site chef Kevin Archer learning about plants, compost, and cooking animal-free (but kid-friendly) meals. Each day the kids prepared a vegan lunch, such as black bean burgers or no-chicken salad. “The kids literally picked their lunch from the garden, made it, and ate it. It was so cool, they loved it.”

Messenger points out that most of the children who attended camp were not vegan or from vegan families — they’d just attended for the animal interaction — but a lot of them went home and wanted to change their habits based on what they learned. “The parents knew we’d be having age-appropriate talks about factory farming and that we’d do a vegan lunch,” Messenger explains. “A lot called afterwards and said ‘I need to know how to support my child in making these changes.’ They were enlightened; it made them think about their choices. Many parents said they wanted an adult Camp Kindness!”

Though plans for 2011 hadn’t been solidified by press time, given the success of the camp’s first year it’s safe to say that there won’t be too many revisions to its structure, although Messenger says they’ll offer more than four sessions, and probably won’t accept any children under seven this year. “Animal interaction is such a huge part of the program, and it’s just more appropriate for older kids,” she says.

Quick Stats:
Schedule: Mon.-Fri., July through August
Session length: One week
Pick-up/drop-off: 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Ages: 8-13
Staff-to-camper ratio: 1:3
Cost: $275 per week; scholarships available
Web site:
Contact: Betsy Messenger 845-336-8447 or


dutchess art campPhotographs courtesy of Mill Street Loft

Dutchess Arts Camp

When artist Carol Wolf moved to the Hudson Valley from New York City in 1972, she was shocked to find the area so lacking in creative summer activities for kids. What she started 10 years later in her Poughkeepsie loft with 19 kids has now grown to be the area’s most comprehensive summer arts program. (The camp later expanded to become the Mill Street Loft, a year-round arts educational center.) This year marks the camp’s 30th summer, and they’re celebrating by collaborating with the environmental group Scenic Hudson to create a scenic arts center on the Beacon waterfront offering year-round sessions.

“This is not an arts and crafts camp — we’re an education program,” states Wolf, the center’s executive director. “Our philosophy is to get the kids involved in a meaningful way, in a noncompetitive environment. We are building self-esteem while learning through the arts.” The program provides kids ages four through 14 a chance to “explore, discover, and create” through visual and literary arts, music, drama, and dance. Kids are grouped according to age into classes of 10 campers. Each group is supervised by a teacher’s assistant — often an art or education major from a local college — who takes them from lesson to lesson.

Classes include filmmaking, drawing, casting, painting, stained-glass making, set design, puppetry, drumming and much more. Each week has a theme, which acts as a springboard for different creative ideas, such as “Arts Around the World.” Wolf says there is a lot of collaboration among teachers, who are all qualified teaching artists. “They are really amazing professionals,” she says.

dutchess day camp

This year Dutchess Arts will offer camps in four locations: the Poughkeepsie Day School; Dutchess Day School in Millbrook; St. Paul’s Church in Red Hook; and the new River Center in Beacon.

Quick Stats:
Schedule: Mon.-Fri., July-August
Session length: One week
Pick-up/drop-off: Full day, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; half day, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Ages: 4-14
Staff-to-camper ratio: 1:5
Cost: Full day, $325/week; half day, $200/week (4-5 year olds only). Tuition assistance and scholarships available
Web site:
Contact: 845-471-7477


frost valley ymcaPhotographs courtesy of Frost Valley YMCA

Frost Valley YMCA

Summer sleep-away camp holds a special place in the hearts and imaginations of many Americans. Even those who never attended have surely gotten the gist from movies like The Parent Trap, Camp Nowhere, or Little Darlings. In between arts and crafts and toasting marshmallows, there’s a lot of growing up that happens at summer camp, while the hijinks and heartbreaks of bunk wars and first crushes make for one-of-a-kind memories. Deep in the heart of the Catskills, Frost Valley YMCA has been providing these experiences to kids from the tristate area and abroad for more than 100 years.

As a YMCA camp, Frost Valley is based on shared principles of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility, in addition to abiding by its own credo of community, diversity, inclusiveness, and stewardship. According to Director of Camping Services Dan Weir, besides hosting children from various socioeconomic, cultural, and educational backgrounds, the camp accepts those with developmental and learning disabilities, and with high-maintenance medical conditions. “We accept all kids,” he says, “and that creates a really nice environment.”

frost valley ymca

Roughly 2,300 kids passed through a Frost Valley summer program last year. Sessions offered include a girls-only equestrian camp, a residential farm camp, and a teen adventure program. The sleep-away camp — which entails separate programs for grades two through seven and grades eight through 10 — runs in four two-week sessions. “It can take several days to get adjusted, so two weeks allows three to five days to settle in and then the rest of the time just flies by,” says Weir. Despite the large number of campers, Frost Valley provides an intimate experience by separating kids into “villages” — communities of cabins which each house eight to 10 children and two counselors. “The cabin counselors do everything with the kids,” says Weir. “They are the mother, father, caretaker, best friend. This structure gives camp a family feel, and also makes sure the campers are being supervised adequately.”

Frost Valley offers a wide variety of activities, including animal-interaction lessons, trail building, kayaking, swimming, hiking, and other sports. “We have something for every type of child,” says Weir, noting that there are also special music or theater endeavors. “The power of the residential camp experience is that you get to be what you want to be. You may feel pigeonholed at home, but you can start from scratch at camp.”

More than 70 percent of both staff and campers return to Frost Valley year after year, a statistic Weir happily touts. “There are amazing social skills that happen here. Kids make really strong, lifelong friendships,” Weir says. And he surely knows what he’s talking about. After all, he says, “I met my wife here.”

Quick Stats:
Schedule: June 26-August 26
Session length: Two weeks; One-week “Try It” camp offered at beginning of summer
Pick-up/drop-off: n/a
Ages: 6-16
Staff-to-camper ratio: 1:4
Cost: $1,500/two-week session; scholarships and payment plans available
Web site:
Contact: 845-985-2291 or


More Camps:

The Albany Academies, Albany
This camp offers everything from learning enrichment programs, to fine and performing arts (and even culinary arts for your junior gourmet), sports and games, and adventure classes. Special junior camp for those as young as pre-K.

Animal-Related Camps

Green Heron Farm Summer Camp, Woodstock
Seven weeks, July-August; horse care, stable management, and riding skills. Full or half days.

Summer Riding Program at the Southlands Foundation, Rhinebeck
Five-seven weeks, June-August. Young Rider Camp: ages five and up for beginner riders, mounted and unmounted activities. Junior Riders Camp: ages eight and up who canter, mounted and unmounted activities. Three two-week sessions; dressage, cross country schooling lessons available, trail rides, and competition.

Sports Camps

J.Y. Moon Taekwondo Summer Camp, Croton-on-Hudson
Kids participate in all the regular fun of summer day camp — field trips, swimming, bowling, hiking — plus a rigorous Taekwondo program.

The following colleges host summer sport camps. All are day camps, unless otherwise indicated

Marist College
Camps offered include baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse, coed soccer, girl’s soccer, softball, volleyball (ovehurnight and day), and a swimming and diving program.

Vassar College
Camps offered: swimming (ages nine-18), boy’s/girl’s soccer (seven-12), advanced girl’s soccer (10-14), field hockey (five-12; overnight and day), and boy’s/girl’s basketball (seven-15).

Bard College
Camps offered: boy’s/girl’s basketball (five-14; half-days for eight and under), coed cross-country (11-17), boy’s/girl’s soccer (five-18; half-days for eight and under), boy’s/girl’s tennis (five-15; half-days for eight and under), girl’s volleyball (grades six-12).

Science/Nature Camps

Summer Nature Camp at Museum of the Hudson Highlands
Cornwall-on-Hudson ; 845-534-5506, ext. 204
June 27-Aug. 19, for kids four-12. Different theme each week, with a field trip or hike for children seven-12. Past themes include Sky Hunters, Fossils, Aquatic Adventures, and Bug Out! Half-days are available for kids ages four and five.

Sprout Creek Farm
Poughkeepsie; 845-485-8438
Seven one-week day camp sessions for ages six-11 offered June-August. Children experience a real working farm, participate in animal care, gardening, homestead crafts (such as bread baking and soapmaking) and environmental decision-making. Weeklong sleep-away camp for girls 10-12: Experience life as a farmer, waking up with the roosters and tending to the gardens and animals, milking cows, cooking, campfires, swimming. Four sessions, June-July.

Wild Earth
New Paltz. 845-256-9830
This community-run organization (formerly Red Fox Friends) offers nature-based education for all ages with a heavy emphasis on Native customs.

Space Explorers Summer Camp
The Lower Hudson Valley Challenger Center Ramapo. 845-357-3416
Campers learn about space and the technology that gets us there, experiencing space travel in the center’s own NASA-designed simulators.

Mad Science Summer Camp Program
For kindergartners through sixth grade. Camps offered across Dutchess, Ulster, Putnam, and Orange counties include Science Explorers,Fantastic Forces, Crazy ChemWorks, Nature Academy, NASA Journey into Outer Space, Rockin’ Robots, Secret Agent Lab, and Ancient Adventures and Buried Bones.

Theater/Arts/Music Camps

Renaissance Kids
Wappingers Falls ; 845-452-4225
Weeklong programs for ages four-16; from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. (extended hours available). Each week offers a different program for each age group (four-eight and nine-16) including music video production, digital photography, singing and music, puppet theater, music recording, and kids’ musical theater.

Highland Visual and Performing Arts Institute
Highland 845-691-9313
This one-week camp in July for grades one-10 is taught by professional artists. Activities include theater, improvisation, band, dance, West African drumming, voice, visual arts, meditation, and Tai Chi.

The Dance Emporium Middletown
This well-respected dance studio offers summer classes in everything from lyrical and ballet to hip hop, jazz, and acrobatics.

The Music School at Dutchess Community College Poughkeepsie
Formerly the Hudson Valley Philharmonic Music School; offers summer programs for piano and violin, Kindermusik, and the Suzuki method.

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