SUMMER CAMP GUIDE
Day camps in the Berkeley/Oakland/Albany/El Cerrito area
including spring and winter break camp offerings
Residential camps in Northern California (& beyond)
plus some internships, family camps & international programs
by Tom Lent
Introduction to the Guide
This guide covers over 160 day camps in the Berkeley/Oakland/Albany/El Cerrito area, (concentrating on Berkeley and the northern end of Oakland and more than 50 overnight resident camps, internships and family camps mostly from around Northern California, but with a few from farther afield of particular unique interest to California kids, including international programs. See below for info on camps on the east side of the hills and elsewhere in the Bay area and beyond.
I generally have not listed programs that are an hour or less per day or run for less than two weeks (except residential camps and spring and winter break offerings). The majority of the camps are for primary school age children, but I have expanded to include more middle and high school age camps as they have come to me.
A note about reviews: Reviews are based upon surveys I did of parents at Berkwood Hedge School from their experiences during the summers of 1995 through 2001 so are reasonably impartial. I have gotten many requests to publish reviews for other camps, but as my son has grown up I am no longer in a community of parents from whom I can easily get reviews and I do not have the time to collect a good sample of reviews in another nor to do a fair job of evaluating impartiality. Hence I have chosen not to add any further reviews to the listings.
GETTING MORE INFORMATION: This listing is not comprehensive. There are more camps out there, both general and specialty (arts, music, drama, science, sports). Below are listed a number of useful resources for your exploration:
LEARN MORE IN PERSON AT CAMP FAIRS
AAUW Summer Program Information Fair Is a way to get a wealth of information in person about these and other camps in a few hours. Reps come from over 100 day and sleep-away programs for kids from pre-school to high school, including special needs. It is free and held in March each year in the Scottish Rite Center at 1547 Lakeside in Oakland near Lake Merritt. In 2012, the Fair is Sunday, March 11 from 1-4:30pm. www.aauw-op.com 287-9855 and https://www.facebook.com/pages/AAUW-Oakland-Piedmont-Branch-30th-Annual-Summer-Camps-and-Programs-Fair/154334397961620
American Camping Association (925-933-0666 www.acanorcal.org) Check out the Norcal section for more camps on the east side of the hills, San Francisco and other parts of Northern California as well as listings for other camp information fairs
READ MORE REVIEWS
Berkeley Parents Network (http://parents.berkeley.edu/recommend/summer/) Excellent parent-to-parent non-profit resource for more current parent reviews on these camps and information about other camps I have not listed.
Camp Ratingz (http://www.campratingz.com) provides ratings from parents and campers for camps in the Bay area and nationally. As with all consumer review sites, take it with a big grain of salt. Given the nature of such services, I’d expect these ratings to be in general biased toward the negatives (according to the FAQ, the positive ratings represent a bit over 65% of the total ratings and I’ll bet that a lot more than 2/3 of kids have positive experiences at summer camp). It’s just human nature that people are generally more motivated to post a review when they are peeved than when they are feeling complimentary and a negative review here does not necessarily mean your child won’t have a really fantastic time. So keep that in mind. Berkeley Parents Network is probably more balanced since it is more about parents sharing advice. Nonetheless, Ratingz sounds like they try hard to screen out flames and to be a useful data point if you keep all this in mind.
NARROW THE OPTIONS WITH SEARCHABLE DATABASES
ActivityHero (www.ActivityHero.com) Provides an online searchable database of camps and year round afterschool classes, camps and other activities in the Bay Area and around the country. The search by radius around a zip code, city, activity, grade and gender is very helpful for sorting through the large number of camps and a calendar function can help track sessions and share info with friends.
Berkeley Information Network (http://www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org/) Click on “Community Organizations” or click here to go direct to the BIN summer day camp listings. Over 100 day camps are listed here (along with many other valuable community resources compiled by the Berkeley Public Library). Use the “limit this search” option to narrow the list down by a keyword such as “soccer” or “music”.
Blayz (http://blayz.com) Provides a searchable database of extracurriculars for high school students, including summer camps, courses, internships & volunteeringaimed at college prep. Students and parents can filter by cost, location, type, financial aid, & selectivity and save their selections so they can easily apply and plan out their summer. They can also send reminders before application deadlines.
YET MORE OPTIONS IN LISTINGS
510 Families http://www.510families.com/east-bay-summer-camp-guide Large listing of camps in the East Bay organized by general type.
Bay Area Kid Fun (http://www.bayareakidfun.com/pages/summercamps.html) Listings of camps in greater Bay area and other kid fun organized by region.
Bay Area Parent (http://sanfrancisco.parenthood.com/) has lists of Bay area camps in its monthly magazines (one for the East Bay and one for San Francisco) – usually in the late spring editions (May, June). You will find more listings than I carry for Danville and elsewhere east of the hills. There are also links to other Parenthood.com camp guides for San Francisco & Peninsula, Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the country (click on "local sites"). To get to the magazine archives to find these lists, click on “current issues”.
East Bay Regional Parks (http://www.ebparks.org/activities/daycamps) Provides a complete listing of all the camps hosted in the parks, plus a “campership” program to help low income families afford the cost.
goCityKids/ParentcConnect (http://gocitykids.parentsconnect.com/sub-category/san-francisco-ca-usa/resources/camps) has an online listing of day camps and other family friendly stuff by neighborhood throughout San Francisco and in Marin, the Peninsula and East Bay.
Parent Press (http://www.parentspress.com/) publishes extensive camp listings for the whole Bay Area in the March and April editions of their monthly news magazine. Last I checked it was not available on line. You will have to search out the print edition at YMCAs kids stores and other such family friendly spots in the area.
HIGH SCHOOL & COLLEGE: More summer programs around the country aimed at high school and college kids can be found at http://www.enrichmentalley.com. The Berkeley High College/Career Center website offers more summer program info at http://bhs.berkeley.net/index.php?page=home-2 - click on “Summer Programs.”
VOLUNTEER opportunities in the Bay area are listed at www.volunteerinfo.org
WHAT TO DO THE REST OF THE TIME? How do you find cool things to do in the Bay Area the rest of the time when they are not in camp? The Berkeley Parent’s Network (see link above) gathers parent recommendations and discussions and Bay Area Parent (also above) provides calendar listings.
And don’t miss Kiddie Koncierge (www.kiddiekoncierge.com) another parent labor of love with lots of recommendations for fun kid friendly activities - and some good kid travel info and stuff for parental escapes as well.
Camps are filling faster every year. While many camps don't publish their schedules
until late February or March, and some have room in some sessions right into the
summer, others fill as early as mid February (Kids n'
Clay, LHS, the Cal Sports & Science combo and Skateboard camp, Ha-Ha-This
Away and some residential camps for example).
Act now if you want one of these programs….
Some of the fee & date information here dates back to the summers of 2002 and 2003, the last years that I attempted the increasingly heroic task of comprehensively updating the entire list. The list has grown and my time has shrunk for updating this site now and I am no longer able to gather and incorporate reviews or update fee, schedule and program information. The parenthetic number at the end of each listing (02) will tell you when I last updated it. Luckily most camps now have web addresses that are linked here so you can check yourself for updates that I may not yet have learned about or had a chance to incorporate here.
This has been a labor of love, not a profitable enterprise, started when I was first trying to wade through the confusion to figure out where to send my son after his kindergarten year. Once I had gathered a bunch of information, I figured I should share it. I do the best I can, but no guarantees about the accuracy information are made. I have less time now to keep up with it than I used to but hope it still is helpful to you.
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