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What Are Your Kids’ Favorite Summer Camps?

What makes a summer camp special enough to be a kid’s favorite?

Making new friends or hanging out with the old, learning a new sport or hobby, exploring the outdoors and getting to hang out with animals are some reasons. In other cases, a camp’s snacks seem to be what kids in the Westchase area like the best when it comes to camps to while away their summer vacation.

The Westchase Swim and Tennis Center and the Westchase Recreation Center get high marks from kids for having fun activities and ample friends. The two local camps also receive high marks from parents for their inexpensive costs and energy burning daily activities. “My children loved the Swim and Tennis Center camps,” said Radcliffe resident Sherri Kelly. “They had a fun group of counselors who kept them active. Dodgeball was their favorite indoor activity plus there were crafts. They also got to go swimming and play tetherball and volleyball. On Friday there was a party with water balloons.”

A similar experience awaited others in nearby communities.

“My daughter went to camp at Dunedin Parks and Rec. every summer, said Westwood Lakes resident Jodi Rose.

Dunedin Parks and Recreation offers full day and half-day camps in bagpipe, cooking, dance, LEGOs, nature, outdoor wildness, paddling and kayaking, sailing, skateboard, theater and yoga.

Keystone Park and Recreation Center in Odessa also was mentioned as a fun, budget friendly option.

The watersports camp at Eckerd College received several rave reviews from area residents who said it was a ride to get there but well worth it. The program offers instruction in watersports such as sailing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, kayaking and saltwater fishing as well as children’s marine discovery, and exploring marine life.

If you have a young writer in your home, Mandolin Reserve resident Jennifer Bullock says her children loved I.C.E writers’ camp. “The two-week long camp is sponsored by USF and held at various locations throughout Tampa. Both my son and daughter attend and enjoy being creative through their writing. They have fun – while actually learning. My son uses humor through his writings and my daughter uses writing at an outlet for her feelings. They have made friends and gained confidence through presenting their writings.”

If you have a budding rock star, several parents said Rockatar had been a family favorite. “They form a band with other campers, pick a band name and work on a couple of songs, which they perform to parents at the end of the week,” said Kelly. “They like getting to experiment with a bunch of different instruments and they like the freedom to do the music style of their choice.”

Another close-to-home favorite for the Kelly family was Adventures in Engineering. “Colton created a car that lit up and moved that he brought home at the end of the week and I was happy he was learning but also having fun with the group.”

Nature lovers like Radcliffe’s Luke Digdo loved the Eco Adventure Camp at Upper Tampa Bay Park. Kids are able to explore mangroves, hike through the forest, canoe on a river and go on field trips to Crystal Springs Park, Weeki Wachee, and the Hillsborough River.

When it comes to kids, if there are animals involved, the camp is generally a winner. Former West Park Village resident Terra Linder said, “Red Ranch is a favorite of ours. What’s not to like about riding horses and petting and tending to other animals such as a miniature donkey, chickens, and rabbits? The facility is nice. It’s covered so even with summer storms they can do things and the family who owns it is so nice. Plus it’s super close to Westchase.”

“My daughter absolutely loved Zoo Camp,” said West Park Village resident Christina Fletcher. “She did the baby animal camp. She learned so much and had so much fun. She said that she really loved meeting new kids from different schools that she wouldn’t have gotten to meet otherwise. She is begging me to go for two weeks this year.”

The winner in my household?

Carrollwood Country Club Sports Camp. Last summer when my daughter went there, she got to try out new sports like golf and tennis that she’d never played before and swim in a cool swimming pool with fountains. She spent six hours each day hanging with some of her best friends. She met a family from Japan and was so nice to their child that they gave her a beautiful, elegant, gold tone shepherd’s hook bookmark. She said she definitely wanted to go back again. I asked, “Why?”

She replied, “They have good milkshakes at the snack bar.”

And sharing a good milkshake with a group of good friends after a day of playing sports in the sun is sure to evoke fond camp memories later.

By Marcy Sanford

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