Our Annual Guide to Summer Camps 2024

Summer break is on its way, so it’s time again to look for the right camp for your child — for the experience of a lifetime.

For those who are lucky enough to get there, spending time at summer camps can be a rich experience in a young person’s life. Sometimes it’s a sleepover camp, but these days, it’s mostly an opportunity to have fun, learn new skills, hang out with friends, and spend time outside — all wonderful alternatives to staying at home and watching YouTube videos. To that end, we have asked three of our readers to tell us about their summer camp days, and what they meant to them.

Summer Camps, Gables Style

By Nicolas Cabrera, The Young Associates of the Coral Gables Museum

In a world filled with technology and TikTok dances, the idea of “summer camp” is a whisper in the wind. This comes from someone whose childhood is defined by a culmination of summer camps scattered throughout Coral Gables. Don’t get me wrong… technology has brought a multitude of opportunities, education, and enrichment to the lives of kids today. But when I look back at my experience of growing up in the City Beau- tiful, when technology existed but did not create the distractions it does today, I can’t help but remember the incredible memories I have of attending summer camp right here in the Gables.

As the school year would end and my parents would prepare themselves for entertaining me all summer long (which was a task in and of itself), summer camp always presented itself as the perfect solution. From learning to play golf at the Biltmore Hotel golf camp to earning my place as a junior lifeguard at the Venetian Pool, each of my childhood summers was defined by one of the many joyful summer camps our city had to offer.

From my early years of summer camp at the Coral Gables Youth Center to my later years discovering my inner magician at David Gindy’s MagiCamp at the University of Miami’s original Rathskeller, most of these camps contributed to my growth as a young adult and continue to define who I am today. Coral Gables is a special place when it comes to summer camp, with so many schools, churches, and community institutions offering experiences for kids of all ages. It feels like only yesterday that I was attending camp at Granada Presbyterian Church and exploring my faith, or discovering Riviera Day School during its fantastic Day Camp, where I would eventually spend the majority of my educational years.

Summer camp in Coral Gables was more than just a place for my parents to send me to when school was out. It was a place to be adventurous and explore my creativity. Summer camp was a place of growth and coming of age; of learning right from wrong; of creating friendships, relationships, and memories that would last a lifetime.

So, in a world filled with the trivialities of technology, cell phones, social media, and distractions, I look around and wonder what summer camp can do for the children of today. I wonder how summer camp can be an outlet for the children seeking the adventures of the world around them and the experiences that await them in nature and under the sun. I wonder how summer camps can fill children’s hearts with the joy of summer right here in Coral Gables much like they did for myself as I grew up in the City Beautiful. I wonder how children will tell the stories of the summer camps they attended, much like I do today.

My love for Coral Gables stems from my memories of summer camp, an experience that I hope remains an integral part of childhood today. So if you’re wondering what to do with your kids this summer while you’re busy at work… Send them to summer camp and let them rediscover the magic of summer.

The Summer of ’69

By Mitch Kaplan, Books & Books

It was Pocono Highlands Camp in East Stroudsburg, PA. I was 14-years-old, a long way from Miami Beach. The boys were on one end of what seemed like acres and acres of rolling hills, the girls (lots of them from Philadelphia) were on the other end. We were separated by a very, very cold lake, canoes and rafts littering its bank. My memories are a bit hazy: we played basketball all day, we swam and hiked the trails. At night, we watched movies in the canteen and listened to music on our transistor radios; in the dark, we snuck out of our cabins hoping to meet those girls on the other side.

There was so much in the air that summer. Our counselors were talking about the Chicago 7 trial, the Vietnam War was raging, and this place called Woodstock where hundreds of thousands of young people were gathering was not all that far from where we were. It was very heady being so far from home, alone in a world in transition.

And then, it was the night of July 20. The entire camp gathered, under a screen that seemed to reach the clouds, to watch the live broadcast of Neil Armstrong taking those first historic steps on the moon. It felt like the whole world was watching with us. It was stunning. Nothing was ever the same. I started high school in the fall, went to college in Colorado, and not too long later came back to Miami, moved to Coral Gables, started a family, and opened a bookstore.

Reflections on Summer Camp

By Brenda Moe, Coral Gables Art Cinema

I was 10 and embarking on an adventure in lush landscapes in the company of strangers. My mother didn’t have the money to cover the fee, so a church scholarship paid my way. While miles from home, I mailed a daily letter detailing something I’d never experienced before.

The campfires were central to our nights, offering a space for stories and bonding. Ghost stories and scary camp legends added an element of mystery and excitement. In front of the flames, I learned to create long-lasting friendships. I played tennis for the first time and loved the camaraderie built up in the food hall. Summer camp was a world of endless possibilities for a kid like me, whose opportunities were often limited due to poverty. It was a time of laughter, discovery, and quiet moments of introspection. Being able to go to sleepaway camps was a gift, one that continues to shape the person I am today.

Looking back on that summer, I am reminded of the transformative time that has shaped my appreciation for community and the power of storytelling to bring people together and inspire imagination. Just as the magic of camp ignited a sense of wonder within me, it also fostered a strong sense of connection. In life, our experiences are like chapters in a book. Summer camp remains a cherished chapter in my story — a testament to the joy of adventure, the beauty of friendship, and the magic of discovering previously unknown worlds.