SOME CONSIDER IT A RITE OF PASSAGE: venturing away from home for the first time to the wooded grounds of summer camp—complete with screened-in cabins, an A-frame rec hall and a fleet of canoes—and returning home a week later tanned, enlivened, full of camp stories and perhaps a brand-new nickname. Like Rocky, or Stitch, something earned along the way.

It’s an experience shared, according to the American Camp Association, by 11 million kids and adults each year. But organized camps have come a long way since their beginnings in the 1860s. Besides the classic wilderness campout, specific skill-set camps focusing on sports, science and the arts have grown increasingly popular, as have day camps, whose numbers have risen 90 percent in the last 20 years.

With so many options, and with the ACA reporting that more than 90 percent of kids say camp makes them feel good about themselves, you may be feeling the rush to register. So we pored over organizations statewide to compile the best camps for every kid into one essential handbook—consider it your guide to helping your child build self-esteem, develop expertise and create memories that will last a lifetime.

For memory makers as timeless as canoe races and songs around the campfire, start here.

The Classic Camps

CAMP NAMANU

503-224-7800
www.portlandcampfire.org

Length of Stay: Extended
Age Range of Campers: 6-17
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:8
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $535- 695

IF YOU’VE EVER read Ramona the Brave, you might recall that the Beverly Clearly character wore a Camp Namanu T-shirt, referencing the writer’s own days at the Sandy-based camp. Now with an active alumni association (if you’re not a third-generation Camp Fire kid yourself, you probably know someone who is) and more than 80 years in operation, Na-manu is a bona fide Portland tradition. Each year, weeklong camps offer more than 1,000 children the opportunity to race rowboats in the duck pond, sleep in a tepee, tackle the 40-foot climbing tower and get to know the camp elf, Mr. Skriggleboggle. Even if your family is new to Namanu, after visiting the 550-acre property below Mount Hood and hearing the staff talk about molding your little ones into compassionate leaders, you—like Ramona—will no doubt end up with a stash of Namanu tees in your wardrobe.

Construct a shelter for an overnight under the stars

CAMP COLLINS

503-663-5813
www.campcollins.org

Length of Stay: Extended
Age Range of Campers: 6-18
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:4
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $485-605

ONCE GRADUATED into the “Questors” tribe at YMCA Camp Collins near Ox-bow Regional Park in Gresham, your teen will spend the week mastering a skill the younger “Explorer” and “Pioneer” campers only dream about. Choices include mountain biking at Powell Butte Nature Park; climbing the 55-foot practice wall or a real rock crag at Lewis and Clark State Park; learning lifeguard skills before rafting down the Sandy River; even building a fire to cook a wilderness meal (note to Questors: marshmallows are not a survival food) and constructing a shelter for an overnight under the stars. Back at camp on the banks of the Sandy, kids settle into one of the six cabins—including the unique Treetops Village built among Douglas firs—and end each night with “embers,” a time for reflecting on the day’s events, such as an epic game of Capture the Flag. And according to executive director Willard Burks, most attendees end up capturing camp fever as well: 64 percent returned last year.

B’NAI B’RITH CAMP

503-452-3429
www.bbcamp.org

Length of Stay: Extended
Age Range of Campers: 6-16
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:8
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $955

ORIGINALLY PARTNERED WITH the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, this 89-year-old residential camp near Lincoln City invites kids of all denominations to spend a week splashing among the lake-side fleet of 18 paddle and motor boats. Also on deck: A gym donated by the Trail Blazers, a ceramics studio and field-trip options as diverse as rafting adventures and Shakespearean plays.

SUMMER AT DELPHI

800-626-6610
www.summeratdelphi.org

Length of Stay: Extended
Age Range of Campers: 8-18
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:3
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $5658-6122 for four weeks, $6814-7440 for six weeks

IF YOUR CHILD asks for brain teasers long after the bell rings, then you might consider a Summer at Delphi (which offers four- and six-week sessions), sponsored by Delphian boarding school in Sheridan. Here, indoor lesson plans on physics and other topics can be applied to outdoor activities like archery. (Fun Fact: The elastic energy of the bow is converted into kinetic energy once the arrow is released.)

CAMP SILVER CREEK

503-399-2759
www.salemymcacamps.com

Length of Stay: Extended
Age Range of Campers: 6-18
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:6
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $225

BUILD UP your first-time camper’s confidence with a three-night, four-day stay at this YMCA-sponsored camp set in the old-growth forest of Silver Falls Sate Park near Silverton. Your young camper can learn to set goals by pledging to earn his or her “blue rag,” the first of seven bandannas, as he or she rises through the YMCA ranks, braving longer stays each summer.

WHISPERING WINDS

800-522-2451
www.girlscoutsosw.org

Length of Stay: Extended
Age Range of Campers: 6-18
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:4
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $325-425

DON’T LET THE hushed name fool you: This weeklong camp outside Corvallis is all about girl power. From “Camp Chef,” where cooks create recipes for the open campfire, to horseback riding at “Horse Lover,” these Girl Scouts-affiliated programs are meant to build self-esteem and character—and possibly the budding career of a chef or a cowgirl.

FRIENDS OF TRYON CREEK NATURE DAY CAMP

503-636-4398
www.tryonfriends.org

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 4-13
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:5
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $123-295

FROM WILDERNESS hikes and nature crafts to sing-alongs and skits, your child can experience a typical week at summer camp—without nights spent missing Mom and Dad—inside one of the metro area’s few state parks, 645-acre Tryon. For those willing to venture farther afield, programs for middle schoolers include an overnight adventure on Mount Hood or along the Clackamas River.

Hypothesis: If ingenuity is related to curiosity, then these camps must be out of this world.

The Science Camps

ASTRONOMY CAMP

503-797-4662
www.omsi.edu/camps-classes

Length of Stay: Extended
Age Range of Campers: 8-18
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:5
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $555 for nonmembers

BLAST OFF TO OMSI’s Hancock Field Station for six days of space exploration at Astronomy Camp, but leave the space-suit behind: These astro-campers remain well grounded by participating in the Oregon Star Party at Indian Trail Spring. At base camp, they’ll learn why stars don’t really twinkle, navigate the sky from Orion to Ursa Major, travel to far-off galaxies in OMSI’s planetarium and study the sun while hiking through the Marslike high-desert terrain. At night, budding Neil Armstrongs and Sally Rides catch glimpses of quasars and meteors through high-powered telescopes before discussing the future of humans in space, the Big Bang Theory and other cosmic conundrums with staffers around the campfire. If your child is more of a Tesla or Curie, OMSI also offers camps in 15 other scientific fields.

MARINE BIOLOGY CAMPS

971-222-6120
www.audubonportland.org

Length of Stay: Extended
Age Range of Campers: 12-17
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:7
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $465-495

THE AUDUBON Society of Portland isn’t just for the birds. Thanks to three separate marine-biology-focused camping trips departing from the city this summer, teens can head for Washington’s San Juan Islands to gain a better understanding of our underwater world and its denizens. Spying on frolicking sea lions, observing orcas and tide-pooling amid crags allow campers to develop their inner Jacques Cousteaus, while beach camping makes the whole week a lesson in outdoor adventure. If, however, your child would rather stay on the dry side of sea level and prefers studying rodents to crustaceans, check out Audubon’s dozens of other programs, including one of the only herpatology camps in the United States and the popular wildlife veterinary camp.

CSI SCIENCE

503-230-8040
www.madscienceportland.com

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 9-13
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:12
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $230-260

PRIVATE EYES will have a hoot investigating a mock crime scene each week (such as the case of the elusive body) while honing their science skills along the way. In this offshoot of Mad Science Camp, counselors serve as double agents—they’re either science teachers or college science majors, as well as camp leaders—so your children will receive up-to-the-minute instruction as they unlock the secrets of everyday objects, from lemons to batteries (who knew a lemon could actually be a battery?). Other activities at the weeklong day or half-day camp include following the “_Organ_ Trail” through a model torso and throwing a “Cell-ebration of Science,” in which kids break out the petri dishes. Since Mad Science is offered at more than 14 area locations, you won’t have to sleuth for a camp nearby. Other programs include building rockets and engineering robots, so no matter what your little lab rats’ interests, Mad Science can entertain their inquisitive minds.

OREGON ZOO CAMP

503-220-2781
www.oregonzoo.org

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 4-13
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:10
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $136-379 for nonmembers

IF YOUR CHILDREN aspire to be the next Crocodile Hunter or want to bring home every stray in the neighborhood, let them unleash their wild side at the Oregon Zoo. Some weeklong day campers trek through an Amazon rain forest and an African savannah while learning how to feed hungry lorikeets or handle pint-size pygmy goats—all under the watchful eye of trained zoo staffers, of course.

PORTLAND ENVIRONMENTAL ENGAGEMENT PROGRAM

503-234-2383
www.portlandpeeps.org

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 10-13
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:7
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $200-250 (for overnight)

DEVELOPED BY the Northwest Service Academy and run by AmeriCorps members, the PEEP’s summer day camps usher their charges around the city in pursuit of community service and environmentally friendly adventures. Touring sustainably built facilities, learning the art of reuse and even tracking animals all teach kids that being green can be a blast.

CLUB MED: MEDICAL CAREERS

503-200-5880
www.saturdayacademy.org

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 14-17
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:18
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $395

TEEN MEDICS REPORT to this Saturday Academy camp each day of the week, stethoscope in hand, to play pre-med at Oregon Health & Science University. Here, your Doogie Howser will learn how to read MRI and CAT scans, treat a mannequin’s lacerations and stabilize patients on stretchers under the guidance of doctors and health care professionals straight from the ER.

CAMP INVENTION

800-968-4332
www.campinvention.org

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 6-11
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:8
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $210

CREATED BY THE National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation and offered in five area locations, this five-day camp teaches future innovators to take apart household items like an alarm clock and reassemble the pieces into creative innovations of their own—possibly a next-generation iPod. A lesson on patenting inventions is included, should your little genius create “the next big thing.”

From the clay court to the powdery slopes, sports camps are where the action heats up this summer.

The Sports Camps

HIGH CASCADE SNOWBOARD CAMP

800-334-4272
www.highcascade.com

Length of Stay: Extended
Age Range of Campers: 9-20
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:2
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $1,895-1,950

SUMMER SNOWBOARD camp might seem like an oxymoron if you lived anywhere other than near the Palmer Glacier of Mount Hood. One of the only sites in the country to offer lessons in July on its perpetual snows, it also becomes the perpetual playground of the High Cascade Snowboard Camp. With two halfpipes and two terrain parks, HCSC’s eight-day camps attract more than a thousand teens from around the globe—from those just beginning on the bunny hill to those who rip through the park like Danny Kass or Shaun “The Flying Tomato” White. Based at Government Camp, your boarder will learn from this summer’s guest instructors, Olympic halfpipe bronze medalist Scotty Lago and Olympic competitor Gretchen Bleiler. After long days of “shred time” pulling Ollies and Alley Oops, campers return to their chalet for some much-needed shut-eye right after catching a must-watch snowboarding flick with pals

NIKE TENNIS CAMP

800-645-3226
www.ussportscamps.com

Length of Stay: Extended
Age Range of Campers: 8-18
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:8
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $805

WHETHER YOUR KID still titters about “love” being a “score” or your little pro has already begun training for Wimbledon 2020, this six-day, five-night Nike-sponsored residential camp at Oregon State University’s Corvallis campus offers instruction according to skill level, with drills and match play led by OSU’s former assistant coach, Ross Duncan. In addition to improving the speed of their serves, the loft of their lobs and the accuracy of their backhands, the camp lets kids give the racquet a rest with other activities such as bowling, swimming, pizza and movie night, and even a camp dance. Housed in the Corvallis campus dorms less than 100 yards away from the hardcourts, your future Federer and Sharapova will fall asleep to championship dreams of the next day’s big match. (Plus, with every participant scoring free Nike apparel, you can check some clothes off your back-to-school shopping list come August.) .

Bungee over a trampoline, just for fun.

NAYDENOV SPORTS CAMP

503-283-0440
www.ngymnastics.com

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 3-12
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:7-8
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $55-130

THE 30,000-square-foot Naydenov Gymnastics school in Vancouver bills itself as the largest gymnastics facility in the Northwest, complete with an inflatable waterslide and an adjacent park for outdoor play. Instruction at Naydenov—named for the school’s founder, former Bulgarian Circus member Jordan Naydenov—involves dismounts off the balance beam, flips on the high bar and routines on the rings in preparation for a Mini Olympics in August. In addition to tumbling, Naydenov emphasizes excellence in a variety of sports and mental gymnastics: Three-day camps for preschoolers also include crafts, water play and math and reading lessons, while older campers up to 12 spend five days learning the basics of volleyball, basketball or soccer. While all this may seem like a lot to pack in to a 9-to-3 day, there’s still enough free time to bungee over a giant trampoline, just for fun.

BERNIE FAGAN SOCCER CAMP

503-284-4951
www.berniefagansoccer.com

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 5-12
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:12-16
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $185

WHILE POSH SPICE’S husband scored a $250 million contract to play what he calls football with the Los Angeles Galaxy, Bernie Fagan, former PSU coach and ex-Portland Timber, has found his reward in teaching pint-size players for the past 26 summers. At fields across Portland, Clackamas, and Hillsboro, beginner kickers to soccer jocks spend five days learning to bend it just like Beckham.

BIG WINDS WINDSURFING CAMP

888-509-4210
www.bigwinds.com

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 7-13
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:4
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $240-265

AT OUTFITTER Big Winds’ private beach in Hood River, beginners spend half-days learning the basics of the board—such as sailing and harness use—inside the peaceful Hook Lagoon, while the advanced class takes on deeper water and higher winds as they begin to jibe on the Columbia in the open gorge. Since the four-day camps are run by the largest windsurfing shop in the United States, the program includes gear even the pros would envy.

SUMMER BIKE CAMP

503-288-8864
www.communitycyclingcenter.org

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 6-15
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:5
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $275

THE NONPROFIT Community Cycling Center on NE Alberta St removes the training wheels with a tour de force education in basic bike maintenance and safety before campers hit the bike lanes each day to explore Stumptown on two wheels. Each weeklong camp ends with a graduation ceremony, and throughout the week pedalers are awarded a saddle bag full of goodies.

KIDS KUNG FU SUMMER CAMP

503-231-1999
www.onewithheart.com

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 6-11
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:10
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $199-250

PUT DOWN the Pokémon cards; it’s time for poekoelan—an Indonesian martial art that teaches kids how to hand strike and roundhouse kick just like Bruce Lee. This year the organization, located at SE Hawthorne & 42nd, celebrates 29 years of teaching martial arts to karate kids all over Portland and Vancouver. The five-day camps help children build not only muscle, but some powerful self-esteem as well.

LLOYD CENTER KOOL KAMP

503-288-6073
www.lloydcenterice.com

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 6-12
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:7
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $198

KIDS CAN CHILL this summer at the Lloyd Center ice rink, where campers practice hockey stops and twizzle turns. Each week is themed; choose music week at the rink, and your skater will explore rhythm and beats on and off the ice. And just as cool for parents are the affordable price tag and convenient location.

From violins to watercolors to make-believe creatures, budding artists need a camp that inspires.

The Arts Camps

YOUNG FILMMAKERS CAMP

503-221-1156
www.nwfilm.org

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 6-18
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:7
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $315

YOU WON’T FIND these campers sharing ghost stories around the fire; instead, they’re in the studio spinning story lines into scripts and putting them on the big screen. Held at Portland Art Museum’s Northwest Film Center, it’s “Lights, Camera, Action!” at Young Filmmakers Camp, where your little Quentin Tarantino learns cinematic appreciation and the basics of film production, such as camera angle and lighting, from working artists and professional filmmakers. Campers-turned-directors focus their five days on a specific field such as animation (offered in three age levels), which allows artists to transform their drawings or clay figurines into cartoons, step-by-step and frame-by-frame. Other course options include documentary filmmaking, digital storytelling and video art installation. And rather than macaroni necklaces and Popsicle-stick picture frames, your children bring home DVDs of their final product for special screenings on a television near you.

WILLOWBROOK ARTS CAMP

503-691-6132
www.willowbrookartscamp.org

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 3-18
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:5-6
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $20-190

WITH NEARLY 2,000 CAMPERS attending each summer and an impressive return rate, Willowbrook, now in its 29th year, boasts that even some of its own teaching specialists (a whopping 175 of them) have been around since they were 3 years old. Camp founder and former director Althea Pratt-Broome taught a children’s summer arts program in California for 16 years before bringing her camp to Brown’s Ferry Park in Tualatin, where toddlers and teens participate in more than 20 programs. Kids love the diversity (tap dance today, guitar tomorrow, puppetry next week), while parents love the flexibility (campers can attend just one half-day or sign up for multiple weeks). Even focused artists attend Willowbrook to join Advanced Artisan groups, learning how to throw pots, perfect their darkroom techniques, design stained glass and dance classical ballet. And for parents left pining for their youth, family nights on Wednesdays include picnics in the park and artistic fun for all generations.

DO JUMP!

503-231-1232
www.dojump.org

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 3.5-12
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:4
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $75-340

FOR JACKS extra-nimble and Jills especially quick, Do Jump! mixes theater with acrobatics to explore the art of movement. Whether play-acting like a monkey or swinging on a trapeze like the cast of Cirque Du Soleil, campers earn their badge as “actorbats” during their five days at Southeast Portland’s Echo Theater and Sunnyside Church on SE 35th and Yamhill.

NORTHWEST CHILDREN’S THEATER AND SCHOOL

503-222-2190
www.nwcts.org

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 4.5-18
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:14
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $135-250

CLASSICAL LITERATURE and fairytales is the focus of the Northwest Children’s Theater and School this summer, where professional theater actors and directors teach your future Tony Award winner the secrets of the stage—like how to channel their inner Beauty or Beast. The five- and ten-day camps end with a performance, in full costume and makeup, in the main auditorium of the Northwest Children’s Theater.

YOUNG MUSICIANS & ARTISTS SUMMER CAMP

503-281-9528
www.ymainc.org

Length of Stay: Extended
Age Range of Campers: 9-18
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:3
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $1,545

FOR THE MOST dedicated of artists (you won’t find finger paints here), YMA offers campers instruction from talented professionals, such as choir director Quinn Van Paepeghem, who once sang at Carnegie Hall, and Michael Gesme, conductor of the Linfield Chamber Orchestra. Two 13-day sessions are offered: the first covering band, orchestra and choir, and the second focusing on theatre, photography and creative writing.

ART ADVENTURES SUMMER CAMP

971-255-4159
www.ocac.edu

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 6-18
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:4-6
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $300

MOVE OVER, MOMS: Mother Nature is the reigning queen of your child’s creative inspiration at five-day Art Adventures, hosted by the Oregon College of Art and Craft. At its wooded campus off SW Barnes Rd in the West Hills, trees and snails inspire ceramic masterpieces and photographic works of art.

IMAGINING ME CAMP

503-471-9926
www.portlandcm.org

Length of Stay: Day
Age Range of Campers: 4-8
Staff-to-Camper Ratio: 1:4
Price (for specific length of stay mentioned): $100-250

IF YOUR CHILD repeatedly rolls his eyes or won’t stop sticking out her tongue, he or she will love Imagining Me, one of six different five-day art camps offered at the Portland Children’s Museum. Kids explore expression and discover their originality through games and crafts, before molding their final master-piece: a clay self-portrait.

*Camps may offer additional programs and price options not mentioned here