It might seem early to be planning for summer, but now is the time to register your kids for overnight camp and make it their best school offseason ever. Just picture it: the cookouts, the singalongs, the games, the friendships. And (bonus) the extra free time for you! Here are four places where your kids can make some of the fondest memories of their lives.
Tradition is alive at “Camp O,” which borders the Shawnee National Forest in Ozark, Ill. Kids have been coming here for 57 years to sharpen their skills in canoeing, archery, riflery, horseback riding and the like, at night watching Native American ceremonies or roasting marshmallows over the campfire. Accommodations include rustic treehouses set in the forested hills surrounding scenic Lake St. Isaac. Summer camp programs are available for children ages 8 to 17. ondessonk.com/summer-camp/
Camp Taum Sauk
Spanning 150 acres along the Black River in the Missouri Ozarks — where rafting and canoeing are abundant — this camp offers a wide array of additional activities, including rock climbing, hiking and its famous High Ropes Challenge Course. But that only scratches the surface. There’s yoga, dance, theater, radio and television production, baseball, tennis and more. Day trips to nearby Johnson Shut-ins, Elephant Rocks and Mina Sauk Falls encourage exploration. Sessions run from one to eight weeks, for ages 8 to 15. taumsauk.com
Beautiful Staenberg Peninsula at Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., is home to this Jewish resident camp, which began in 1938. More than 3 miles of private waterfront include two coves with swimming areas, a water-ski area and a large fleet of sailboats, kayaks, paddleboards, canoes and water toys. The grounds also feature a large pool, extensive athletic fields, lighted tennis courts, and several volleyball and basketball courts. Two sessions of four weeks each are open to children ages 8 to 16. campsabra.com
Just 90 miles from St. Louis, this YMCA camp consists of a 360-acre lake and 5,200 acres of tree-lined hills, caves and creeks, providing countless opportunities for connecting with nature. Experiential learning activities include swimming, archery, hiking, horseback riding, zip lining, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, cookouts and more. Sessions run from four days to three weeks, for ages 6 to 17, with camp counselors from all over the world providing insight to other cultures. ymcaoftheozarks.org
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