Great Camps for Families Around San Francisco

This is a guest post from Jennifer Silva of Sign Up for Camp, a new website that makes it easy to find just the right camp for kids. You can search camps by location, dates, ages and interests. We’ve covered favorite activities in San Francisco with kids, including yesterday’s great post on special San Francisco attractions — carousels and kids’ museums.

If you want to mix it up and do something really different, check out Jennifer’s list of camp suggestions for families visiting the Bay Area this summer.

You’re traveling to San Francisco with kids, and ready to see the sites and maybe have a few museum day or two. You have an itinerary you know that you (and maybe your spouse) will love. But the kids … they are ready to the Golden Gate, but not so anxious to spend the day at the de Young. Local area summer camps can be just the trick to give your child a kid-oriented introduction to San Francisco while you savor more grown up activities.

Mobile camps that let kids explore the Bay Area

Want your kids to get their own Bay Area tour? Try a mobile camp! Mobile camps have a set meeting point each day (usually a local park), but they travel by van to some of the most beautiful and unique spots in the Bay. The camps often include hiking, beach days, and parks.

– Adventure Camps. Ages 5 – 14. Rory Judge has been running Adventure Camps for 32 years and knows all sorts of very cool, kid-friendly, off the beaten path spots. After a week with Rory, your kids will practically be Bay Area Native. Adventure Camps has three pick-up and drop off locations in San Francisco and Mill Valley. But they are sometimes able to accommodate hotel pick-ups and drop-offs, especially for a bigger group.

– Kids Nature Adventures. Ages 5-7. This is a great options if your kids are a little on the younger side and need (or you want) a little more attention. This group also travels around the Bay Area, but in very small groups – only 10 kids per session.

Camps in our National Parks

There are a number of camps that take advantage of our amazing National Parks. The kids will have a great time playing outside, and they’ll retain a sharp memory of what the Bay Area looks like after they leave.

– Angel Island Camp. Ages 5-12. The location of this camp, on an island in the middle of the Bay, is special enough to sell most kids (and parents) on the camp. But for many campers, the daily ferry ride to and from the island (with camp counselors) is the highlight. This isn’t to downplay the activities at the camp – they have fantastic, well-thought out programs, including a kayak Friday – but riding the ferry is pretty cool.

– Crissy Field Center Summer Camp. Grades 1 – 6. The new Crissy Field Center (in the Presidio) overlooks the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge and is a truly amazing spot. The camps offer a variety of outdoor activities and projects and have an environmental bent.

– Nature Nurture Adventure. Ages 3-6. This is a fun, nurturing program for very young kids in the Presidio. It offers very small groups that explore the outdoors safely. The groups only include six kids and have two teachers, so it’s a very low child:teacher ratio.

– Presidio YMCA. The Presidio YMCA offers a huge selection of camps, and is a great option if you have kids of different ages and interests. They have camps for kids entering kindergarten and up to 10th grade, and camps for every interest imaginable, including biking, tennis, basketball, legos, art, science, theatre, animals, circus etc., etc., etc.If you need a one-stop shop, in a great location, the Presidio YMCA is a great solution.

Drop-In camps/Camp by the day

Maybe you have just 1-2 days that you’d like to be adult focused. Or a full week camp is just more than you have in mind. There are several well-regarded camps in the area that offer a “drop-in” option. Either you can enroll by the day or the week, or even just show up on days when your child wants camp.

– Kids Outdoor Club. Kids Outdoor Club offers kids a variety of fun, outdoor activities in Golden Gate Park. Kids love this camp, and it’s where many San Francisco kids first learn to climb a tree. The location makes it a perfect destination for kids while you explore the deYoung Museum.

– Camp Doodles. Ages pre-K – 6. Camp Doodles has three locations in the North Bay – Mill Valley, Larkspur and San Rafael, making it great destination for kids if you plan to do an intense Marin hike or a quick trip up to the wine country. The camp offers a nice blend of structured and unstructured activities and is well-loved by kids.

A couple other options to consider

– Roughing It Day Camp or Horse Camp. Grades pre-K to 12.Roughing It provides a great, sunny outside experience. It’s located at the Lafayette reservoir, about 30 miles inland from San Francisco. This gives it true summer weather and a bit warmer outside experience than you get in San Francisco or Marin. And, they offera daily van service that makes it very easy on the parents. (They also offer van service from Berkeley, Oakland, Lamorinda and San Ramon, so it’s good for many traveling families.)

– San Francisco Zoo Camp. Grades pre-K – 7. It’s camp at the Zoo. What could be more fun for kids? Kids learn all about the animals, their habitats and how the animals are cared for. It’s a special experience for kids to spend a week at the zoo.

Relevant Links:

Ciao Bambino recommended San Francisco family hotels

Favorite San Francisco attractions with kids

Favorite San Francisco Spring activities with kids

Visiting Mount Diablo with kids

San Francisco with kids – Ciao Bambino guest post on Two Kids and a Map

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