From my perch on the back of the pontoon boat, I watch the two slippery, life jacket-clad girls splash and flail as they clamor back onto the heavy black tube. Heaving themselves onto their stomachs, they grasp the red fabric handles encircling the tube’s perimeter. The pontoon’s motor roared to life and the slackened rope linking the tube to the boat snapped to attention as we took off across the water, the tube holding the now shrieking girls bouncing in a wide arc in our wake.
Our outing on Vermont’s Lake Whitingham was just one adventure offered during Mount Snow’s weeklong family camp. Two days earlier my 12-year-old daughter and her tubing partner had been strangers. Now, anyone who saw them clinging to one another in gleeful terror would assume them lifelong pals.
For my husband and some of my friends, sleep-away camp marked the pinnacle of adolescence. Because my summers were spent watching “Days of Our Lives” or riding my bike, the stories they tell — of cabin shenanigans and climbing Mount Washington, of inter-camp rivalries and dining hall chants — make me wish I’d been a camp kid, too. Reading descriptions of overnight camps while exploring opportunities for my own kids, I wondered why there weren’t places like that for grown-ups. But a bit of sleuthing revealed that my summer camp ship had not sailed after all.
There are multiple camps throughout New England that curate that quintessential camp experience for kids and parents alike; one that hearkens back to easy, old-fashioned summer days sans smartphones, cavorting through the woods, jumping off the dock into the lake, or capturing the flag by the light of the moon. And in this age of digital deluge, a vacation that encourages families to unplug and reconnect can be paramount to everyone’s well being.
Twelve families each week take up residence in Medomak’s unadorned cabins making for an intimate escape from the daily hustle and grind, encouraging the brood to slow down and enjoy being immersed in the outdoors. Kids spend mornings engaged in supervised activities while parents hike, kayak on the lake, or just chill out with a good book. In the afternoon, the lakefront is the place to be for swimming, canoeing, and waterside crafts. All variety of musical instruments, including voices, are welcome at the nightly post-dinner campfire.
Since 1911, Alden Camps has offered families the chance to delve into the forested wilds of Maine’s Kennebec Valley. 18 rustic cottages on the picturesque shore of East Pond come complete with wood stoves, rocking chairs, and private docks. Originally a fishing camp, guests at Alden can cast a line for large and small-mouthed bass as well as trout, sunfish, and pickerel and small motorboats can be rented by the week. The folks at Alden take great pride in their cooking and three delicious meals are served daily in the farmhouse dining room including homemade pies that are not to be missed.
Migis Lodge (above)
Reminiscent of the traditional great camps of a bygone era, Migis translates from the native Abenaki as, “place to steal away and rest.” Families make themselves at home in one of 35 fully serviced guest cottages — including daily ice and firewood delivery — spread throughout 135-woodland acres on a secluded stretch of Sebago Lake. Children’s camps take place from noon to 5 each day, creating windows of time for rocking on the cabin porch in peace or walking through the Maine woods. Popular traditions include bingo and bonfire nights, a Friday evening lobster bake, and traveling to lunch on a private island via the camp’s vintage wooden 1940s lake cruiser.
For five generations, the Hoyt family has provided year-round family recreation on the shores of Purity Lake near New Hampshire’s famed White Mountains. In summertime, a schedule packed with activities ranging from guided hikes and paddling adventures to tie-dyeing, waterskiing, and magic shows is printed weekly and the resort encourages families to experience everything together. Weekly favorites like breakfast cookouts and Thursday night lobster bakes are included with accommodations and additional meal plans are available.
A truly multigenerational experience, many guests at Rockywold Deephaven Camps on New Hampshire’s Squam Lake have been visiting for eons, returning season after season for a hefty dose of vintage summer diversion. Home for the week is one of 60-cedar shake cabins with screened-porches, water views, and an antique icebox that holds ice harvested from the lake. Family-style meals are served in the historic post-and-beam dining hall and days are spent enjoying bona fide camp activities like canoe races, square dances, and a weekly talent show.
Operated by Mass Audubon, Wildwood offers three, nature-focused family camp gatherings each summer on 159-acres adjacent to Hubbard Pond and Annett State Forest. Accommodations border on primitive with families sleeping in platform tents, rustic cabins, and yurts. An opening ceremony on the first afternoon starts the fun, which includes archery, canoeing, hiking, a ropes course, and bird watching. Counselors lead daily kids-only programs that teach outdoor skills like orienteering, animal tracking, and shelter building and the camp encourages families to enjoy simply “playing outside,” like we did before screens lured us indoors.
A more resort-like experience, Tyler Place, on Lake Champlain’s northern shore, provides an excellent balance of family time and kid- and adult-only activities each day, including nightly opportunities for parents to relax over dinner together while happy offspring eat with new friends. When the kids aren’t with their counselors, families can grab bikes at the Bike Barn, join a guided canoe trip, or take a day trip to nearby Québec. Tyler’s Parents’ Helper program, which offers childcare for infants and toddlers, means even grown-ups with little ones get a break.
Pulled back from the brink of closure thanks to a massive rallying cry of dozens of loyal guests, Quimby Country delivers an unplugged experience on 1,000 remote acres in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. 19 inviting, farmhouse-style cabins welcome families for a week of hiking, swimming in the lake, playing tag on the lawn, and sharing ghost stories. A welcome cocktail party starts the week while daily counselor-led activities entice the kids, including a weekly camp-out. A host of evening family activities, from charades to stargazing, round out the fun.
Embracing family as “the full catastrophe,” Ohana, run by the Aloha foundation, welcomes folks as they are, emphasizing off-grid time spent enjoying the outdoors. Locally sourced farm-to-fork fare is served in the camp’s historic dining hall while families bunk in cozy cabins — glamping fans can opt instead for one of six platform tents. Staff-led recreation options cater to all ages — lazy afternoons by the waterfront are a camp favorite — and evenings feature storytelling, contra dancing, and naturalist presentations.
Located on 300-acres beside Leonard Pond in bucolic Kent, Club Getaway has multiple personalities — from welcoming nearby camp groups for day visits to hosting weddings and running their incredibly popular adults-only, theme weekends. For three weeks each summer, the Club also ushers in families for an old-school, campy good time. Rustic cabins sleep up to four people — the per-person fee means it’s easy for larger families to book adjacent quarters — and all meals are included. Parents get downtime while counselors engage the kids in bungee trampoline, flying trapeze, dodge ball, and the water adventure park. Wacky Family Olympics and the Kids’ Getaway Show are family camp favorites.
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