Unique Summer Camps in North Carolina for Kids and Adults

The summer camp experience can lead to some of the most-cherished memories. From making new friends to learning a new skill, spending time at a summer camp or school will enrich the kids’ vacation in North Carolina. These aren’t the send-the-kids-away-to-camp offerings, but experiences that will fill their days with exciting activities while you all are on a family trip.

And grown-ups, don’t worry – you’ll find several summer schools and camps for adults across our state, in addition to fun kids-only camps that allow parents to enjoy some time for themselves. Don’t wait to book. These activities are popular among locals, too, and many will sell out. 

1 North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher Summer Camps

photo: Meredith Travel Marketing

1 North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher Summer Camps

Kure BeachSee on mapSee on map

Aquarium summer camps are a great way to nurture children’s love of the water and educate them about this delicate ecosystem. The camps at the North Carolina Aquarium provide specific themes for various age levels, fostering skills such as storytelling, investigation, habitat exploration, animal care, conservation and even an understanding of careers in marine science for older teens.

Dates: Camps run Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m., during select weeks in June, July and August.

2 Surf Camp at Tony Silvagni Surf School

photo: Wilmington and Beaches CVB

2 Surf Camp at Tony Silvagni Surf School

Carolina BeachSee on mapSee on map

Wannabe surfers of all ages can learn how to ride the waves at Tony Silvagni’s surf camp. The camps run in three daily sessions (morning, afternoon, evening), and there’s never more than a two-to-one student-to-teacher ratio. All students receive a surfboard to use for the lessons, Tony Silvagni Surf School swag including a tote bag and water bottle, a meal voucher to Hang Ten Grill and a certificate of achievement.

Dates: Three daily sessions offered Monday through Friday, April through September.

3 Camp for the Kids, Wine-and-Shine for You

3 Camp for the Kids, Wine-and-Shine for You

Clayton, SmithfieldSee on mapSee on map

Plan a family trip to Johnston County, where small towns pack big outdoor adventures and charming retreats. Book the Sip & Stay Package, and get a discount on rooms at 10 participating hotels while also receiving an itinerary for great places for the grown-ups to eat (Clayton Steakhouse), drink (Broadslab Distillery) and sightsee (Ava Gardner Museum). Broadslab might inspire you to hit all the stops on the JoCo Beer, Wine and Shine Trail.

Your kids will be occupied and entertained at Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center, which offers a summer day camp, plus it’s open year-round. Activities include a ropes course, kayaking lessons, fishing, hiking and biking. Also, plan outdoor fun for the family at the many greenways and trails throughout the county and the iconic Neuse River.

4 Overnight Camps with The Haw River Canoe & Kayak Co.

4 Overnight Camps with The Haw River Canoe & Kayak Co.

SaxapahawSee on mapSee on map

The Haw River Canoe & Kayak Co. offers a variety of guided, multiday kayaking or canoeing trips along the Haw River, Black River, Roanoke River Swamps and Spirit Island. The trips are great for paddlers of all skill levels and include boating equipment, personal flotation devices, shuttle service, at least one experienced guide and most meals, but do not include camping equipment. Campers can expect to paddle or float an average of 10 miles a day on a weekend trip.

Dates: Visit the website or call for the schedule and availability of these trips.

5 Nantahala Outdoor Center Paddling School

5 Nantahala Outdoor Center Paddling School

Bryson CitySee on mapSee on map

With more than 40 years of experience in all things whitewater kayaking and canoeing, Nantahala Outdoor Center is an ideal place to learn or strengthen your skills in whitewater paddling. The Introduction to Whitewater Kayaking Course covers all the basics on the calm Fontana Lake, then it puts your skills to the test on a whitewater river. Experienced paddlers can try the multiday courses to solidify techniques.

Dates: Courses run through October on weekdays and weekends; check NOC's website for specific class dates.

6 CTS Brevard Mountain Bike School

photo: Carmichael Training Systems

6 CTS Brevard Mountain Bike School

Pisgah National Forest (near Brevard)See on mapSee on map

CTS Brevard hosts 2-day/1-night mountain biking camps for beginner bikers and advanced riders. There are three levels, and level one focuses on foundational skills like body position, operation of controls, braking drills and how to tackle obstacles you could encounter on a trail. Mornings are spent mastering skills while the afternoon is a review ride to put your new skills into practice. Accommodations and meals are not included, but you’ll find recommended places to stay on the camp’s website.

Dates: Level 1: June 15-16; Level 2: June 22-23; Level 3: June 29-30

7 Flour Power Kids Cooking Camps

7 Flour Power Kids Cooking Camps

Raleigh (two locations), Cary, Holly Springs, Charlotte (two locations), Cornelius

Flour Power Kids Cooking Studio hosts 5-day camps for tiny chefs (ages 5-8) and tween chefs (ages 9-12) that include all snacks, lunches, supplies and materials needed for the week. Kids can learn a variety of skills in the kitchen such as whisking, chopping and ingredient measuring, and enjoy classes themed from some of their favorite movies, international destinations and holidays.

Dates: Classes are held Monday to Friday through August.

8 North Carolina Barbecue Society’s BBQ Boot Camp

8 North Carolina Barbecue Society’s BBQ Boot Camp

Sugar Mountain

Take your love of barbecue to the next level. The North Carolina Barbecue Society arranges for you to learn the essential skills of how to cook whole hogs Eastern North Carolina-style, pork shoulders and butts Western North Carolina-style, and chicken, pork ribs, beef brisket and more from the state’s premier pit masters. You’ll receive additional instruction on how to judge barbecue competitions, graduating from camp as a NCBS Certified BBQ Judge. Lodging is not included.

Dates: The camp is held three times a year, each time in a different region of the state. Summer camp: July 19-20, 2019, in Sugar Mountain. Fall: Sept. 27-28 in Castle Hayne (near Wilmington).

9 Adult Summer Camp at the Museum of Life + Science

9 Adult Summer Camp at the Museum of Life + Science

DurhamSee on mapSee on map

While the Museum of Life + Science is usually a hotbed of activity for kids, this summer outing is strictly for the grown-ups. Adults (ages 21 and up) are invited to relive the joys of childhood summer camp for one evening by making friendship bracelets, hitting targets in archery practice, climbing wall races, roasting s’mores, playing in the treehouses at Hideaway Woods and riding the Ellerbe Creek Railway old-time train. Plus, you get to sample beer and wine and food truck fare.

Dates: June 13 and July 25

 

Updated May 22, 2018
About the Author
Shayla Martin

Shayla Martin

Shayla Martin is a Durham-based travel and food writer. She has contributed to The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fodors Travel and more.

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