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.