If you get a nostalgic feeling and long to stick around every time you drop your kids off at summer camp, you're not alone. Many summer camps now offer programs for the entire family, giving you the chance to sleep in cabins, canoe and participate in talent shows and other organized activities as a family, just like you've wanted to do since the first time you saw the movie "Dirty Dancing."
Even if the rustic, traditional camp experience isn't your thing, there are more specialized camps that offer everything from space exploration to luxury accommodations and gourmet meals. The fact that everything's included in the price of most programs makes it easy to relax and unwind as you bond with your brood.
This traditional summer camp for kids opens its doors to the whole family for two weeks each year, for Memorial Day Family Camp the last weekend in May and Labor Day Family Camp, which usually ends on the first Monday in September. You'll participate in the same sort of activities your kids would typically enjoy at camp — swimming, ropes course, archery, s'mores around the campfire, and the like. The adults even sleep in bunk beds in rustic cabins and share bathrooms. How's that for a true camp experience? Families who've been before are given priority and there's always a waiting list, so try to sign up early if you can.
Ready for something different than the typical beach vacation? Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island, a former retreat of the Carnegie family located on one of Georgia's Golden Isles near Jacksonville, Florida, offers a weeklong Island Camp for kids age 5 and older. This year's is scheduled for July 16-23. Adults can enjoy exploring the island or relaxing on the beach, or join the kids as they participate in organized activities like arts and crafts, surfing lessons, kayaking, and educational programming incorporating lessons in art, history, science and social studies in fun ways. Families stay in luxurious cabins and rooms located in the main inn, where all meals are served unless you choose to take your lunch in the tent on the beach of the island, which is otherwise uninhabited (aside from the wild horses, of course).
While not intended for the entire family, Green River Preserve's Sons & Daughters Weekend is open to any adult and child pair and is a great way for younger children (age 5 and older) to experience camp life, perhaps for the first time, with you by their side. Held May 4-6, the weekend's schedule is modeled around typical days for the elementary- and middle school-age campers at Green River Preserve, a coed summer camp in Cedar Mountain, North Carolina. Activities include canoeing, archery and hiking with trained naturalists on the 3,400-acre wildlife preserve. You and your camper will stay together in a cabin, some of which are coed. Be prepared to totally unplug and connect with nature — there's no Wi-Fi or cell service available.
If you're looking for flexibility in terms of dates and activities, Callaway's family camp can most likely meet your needs. You can sign up for four-, five-, six- or seven-night packages between June 2 and July 21. The most unusual aspect of the camp is its partnership with Florida State University's Flying High Circus, giving campers of all ages the opportunity to swing on a trapeze, walk the tightrope, learn to juggle and practice other non-death-defying circus skills. Kids can also play disc golf, ride the TreeTop Adventure zip lines, play mini golf, swim, act, make tie-dye T-shirts and more. Parents have separate activities in the morning — tennis and golf clinics, fly-fishing, guided meditation, Zumba, mimosas, you name it — and then join their kids in the evening for competitions, trivia, beach parties and other group gatherings. Families stay in the privacy and comfort of their own cottage or villa in the resort's neighborhood-style setting, and each comes with Wi-Fi and its own kitchen, living room and screened porch.
Join your budding astronaut as you learn about space exploration, design and construct a model rocket, simulate a mission to the International Space Station, and train like an astronaut on the Multi-Axis Trainer and 1/6th Gravity Chair at Family Space Camp. Or, train like a fighter pilot by opting for the Family Aviation Challenge, where you'll learn about the history of aviation, learn air navigation and combat techniques before going on a mission in an F-18 cockpit simulator, and learn basic survival skills for land and sea. Families have the choice of staying in either the communal camp "habitat" on-site or in a nearby hotel offering special rates for campers. Both camps are open to families with kids in second grade or higher and are held most weekends year-round.