As a woman in her mid-30s, I can say, without a doubt, that one experience truly shaped me and made me who I am today: the eight summers I spent at an all-girls camp in the Tennessee mountains. If I could, I’d take the mosquito bites, the community bathroom (which we called Egypt, because you had to walk a really long way in the middle of the night to get there), sunburned scalp and slap bracelet tan, to wear a white latex bathing cap and swim in a muddy lake for one more summer without electricity.
Deep lifelong friendships are forged during those hot, sticky summer weeks. My “tribe”, as we still call ourselves, pick one long weekend a year and travel by car or plane to a centralized city to relive our youth. Instead of talking about boys we had crushes on at school, we stay up all night and give each other parenting tips, gardening advice, exchange recipes and celebrate the highs and lows of being career-driven women. When one of us gets married, we bring our husbands along and in turn, they’ve formed their own special support group: “I Married a Nakanawa Girl.”
I am not alone in my deep love of summer camp. And lucky for those of us who long for hot, sweaty nostalgia, there are adult summer camps all over the country you can go to.
Camp No Counselors USA and Canada
The most commercial (and also the most known, since it appeared on Shark Tank) of the adult summer camps is Camp No Counselors, with locations in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Florida, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York and Seattle, and Calgary and Toronto in Canada. Rates vary from $550 to $675, depending on the weekend and location, but it’s all-inclusive: lodging, land and water sports, arts and crafts, an open bar, nightly theme parties, meals and all of your favorite classic camp activities. This isn’t a place where you have to make your own root beer out of sassafras. (That never actually worked, did it?) campnocounselors.com
Club Getaway Kent, Connecticut
If you’re looking for more of a tailored camp experience, Club Getaway offers a little bit of everything. Young Professionals weekend is geared towards 20-30 year-olds, while a special GenX weekend is a little slower speed. They also have Camp Out, an LGBT-only weekend in late July that features drag brunches and Cosmo crawls. Sessions are $424, which covers all accommodations, food, sports, activities and evening entertainment, and for an extra $100, you can add an all-inclusive “Cheers” package, although wine is included with your dinner. For an additional $65, a shuttle bus is available to pick up and drop off from New York City. clubgetaway.com
Camp Shenanigans Sedalia, Colorado
With a name like Shenanigans, you know you’re in for some. Activities like beer pong, flip cup, cornhole and Giant Jenga are optional, but Capture the Flag, Color Wars and dodgeball are scheduled events. You can sign up for classic camp activities — archery, canoeing and rappelling — and on Sunday, they offer an open yoga class to get you to your safe place before your journey kicking and screaming back to the real world. Since Shenanigans uses a YMCA camp, there are only two sessions, one in late August and one in mid-September, but at an all-inclusive price of $375, it’s a bargain for a weekend of s’mores and theme parties. How can you pass up mandatory dodgeball? campshenaniganscolorado.com
Camp Wandawega Elkhorn, Wisconsin
If you’re looking for a camp experience without the anxiety of structured activities, look no further than Wandawega, 90 minutes from Chicago. They pride themselves on their Manifesto of Low Expectations and individual cabins are available for rent through Airbnb. Bring your own friends and fun and enjoy 25 acres of of untouched woods and wildlife. Don’t forget your bug spray. Wandawega.com
Camp Kid Again Mountain City, Georgia
Three squares a day, wine and craft beer (BYO liquor), snacks so you don’t get hangry and lodging in an air-conditioned cabin — sounds like a plan. Sisters Jenny and Lauren Albano spent their childhoods at summer camp and once they teamed up with Clara Green (who was kicked out of her summer camp as a kid) they started their own in the Georgia mountains. For one wild Labor Day weekend only, you can party all-inclusive Southern-style for $565 with typical camp activities like hiking, swimming, arts and crafts, archery and blobbing — you know, it’s that thing when you sit on a partially inflated water trampoline, aka blob, and you’re launched into the air when someone else jumps onto it. Have a safe landing. campkidagain.com
Soul Camp Warrensburg, New York and Sanger, California
If you’re looking for a more alcohol- and WiFi-free transformational personal experience, Soul Camp offers exactly that. With yoga instruction, meditation classes, archery and even Tibetan Bowl Healing, three days in the Adirondacks or a lush valley in the Sierra Nevadas is sure to recharge your batteries and lift your spirits. Ticket prices range from $899 to $1,899, depending on when you book, and includes four nights of lodging and bed linens, three nutritious meals a day, unlimited healthy snacks and all workshops and evening activities. soul.camp