Summer Camp in the Suburbs: Being the Only “Camp Family” in Town 

Jul 13, 2023

Working with Suburban Jungle, I quickly grasped the concept of “summer personalities” and the importance of finding a town that matched our family’s lifestyle. Fortunately, we struck gold. Our town, a hidden gem, offered a relatively short commute, top-notch schools, and the laid-back vibe we desired. It was ideal for summer camp in the suburbs.

The moms here are welcoming and many are working professionals, which I appreciate. The town boasts an abundance of restaurants, parks, and activities. While there’s a healthy interest in kids’ sports, the competition for spots on teams like travel soccer isn’t overwhelming. For our family, it’s been the perfect fit. As we concluded our first year here, we were amazed at how seamlessly everything fell into place.

What Summer Looks Like Here

The only time we truly felt out of place? In the weeks leading up to summer camp in the suburbs. While we’d been here last summer, our daughter wasn’t in school locally so we didn’t know anyone in the community. We enrolled her in a local day camp that seemed to have a good mix of area kids and hoped for the best. She loved it and, to be honest, it didn’t occur to us to find out how many neighborhood kids attended.

In our second summer and first full year in the community, I began to explore options for summer camp in the suburbs. As I connected with more moms, it became clear that our town isn’t big on traditional camps. The local beach offers a casual, part-time program, more akin to a short-term drop-off service. The nearby Y and JCC provide half-day camps, attracting a modest number of kids. Despite having a yacht club and three country clubs in the area, they don’t seem to be major hotspots for our community. Private pools are also rare.

Instead, kids here enjoy a more relaxed summer vibe. They spend time at the community saltwater pool, visit nearby beaches, go to their grandparents’, and participate in various short-term, half-day activities. These include a bit of cooking, theater, and some soccer as the fall season approaches. It’s a laid-back approach to summer camp in the suburbs, focusing more on leisure and family time.

The “Camp Family”

The truth is, we’re big on summer camp, and we also need day-long childcare – a couple of hours at a dance camp just doesn’t cut it for us. What really took us by surprise was not just the lack of day camp attendees, but also the reaction we received when people learned we’re a “camp family.” For instance, our oldest goes to a well-known summer camp in the suburbs, yet almost nobody in our town had heard of it. It’s clear that this isn’t a camp-centric community.

Our perspective broadened recently when we spent weekends visiting various sleepaway camps. Our new acquaintances were baffled by the idea, repeatedly expressing their disbelief that sleepaway camp is “still a thing.” As avid camp enthusiasts, we were equally puzzled. We had assumed that a community like ours would naturally embrace the concept of summer camp in the suburbs.

What Comes NEXT

The truth is, even with the difference in summer preferences, I would choose this town again in a heartbeat. However, I do wish I had a better understanding of the town’s summer dynamics earlier. Instead of the eight weeks of sleepaway camp I initially thought of, I’m now leaning towards four weeks, plus more time at home with us, so our girls can spend more time with their friends. We decided against joining a private pool club, thinking we wouldn’t use it much.

Looking at Instagram posts now, I regret not making more time for the pool and the local beach. As newcomers, it would have been a great way to meet more people and strengthen connections with other families we’ve met at birthdays and open houses.

My advice? It’s challenging to find a town that aligns perfectly with your family’s needs all the time. Our suburb comes close, and we adore it more than we imagined. But I do wish we had delved deeper into understanding its summer personality. Would we have still moved here? Absolutely. But would we have planned our girls’ summer camp in the suburbs differently? Definitely.

Now we know but, at the same time, I can see how a town’s summer personality can make or break these critical months. Fortunately, our oldest is still young and loves day camp—so much that I suspect she doesn’t realize everyone isn’t hopping on a camp bus in the morning. Next year, though, is a different story. But next summer, we’ll be prepared.

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