In this economy I know many parents are looking at the overnight camp bill and thinking, “This is an easy one to cut.”  I get it: you can send your kids to one of the day camps, mentioned at the end of this post, that truly last ALL day for just over $500 for two weeks.  Add about 2K for overnight camp.  Wait a second…..maybe not.  There are many options out there for a budget conscious, safe and happy overnight camp experience.  All of the campers may not come with monogrammed laundry bags and custom made camp trunks, but that’s OK, right?  Here are five budget friendly overnight camps to consider:

Camp Marymount

A Catholic camp (although it is open to all denominations) located about 15 miles west of Nashville, this camp is just $765 for two weeks and $945 for 3 weeks!  And, because it is so close, your kids may feel more comfortable here than a 6 hour car ride away.  The camp is divided up into girls’ sessions and boys’ sessions and has been around since 1946.  From the website:

“Today, Camp Marymount has a total of 340 beautiful acres and continues to use many of the original buildings, providing the Marymount camping experience to over 600 campers each summer with the help of 70 counselors and support staff.  Marymount is open to girls and boys of all faiths between the ages of six and sixteen.  Camp Marymount is now accredited by the American Camping Association and is financially independent of the Nashville Diocese.  Marymout campers hail from 18 different states, Mexico and Canada and many of today’s campers are third generation.”   www.campmarymount.com

Camp Nakanawa

Located on a huge private lake in Crossville, TN, this camp is a girls-only overnight camp that first opened its doors in 1920.  I know plenty of girls who go here each year and I was astounded at how great the tuition is: two week camp is $1650 and 4 week is $2,800.  Granted, this is way more than Marymount’s $945 for three weeks but I can assure you that many of the North Carolina camps are $2,500+ for 10-11 nights. Four weeks for $2,800 at Camp Nakanawa, is pretty fab.  Camp Nakanawa is not religiously affiliated.  For more information, please see www.campnakanawa.com

Victory Ranch

The newbie of this bunch, Victory Ranch is quickly gaining an impressive reputation since it’s opening just over five years ago.  Located in Boliver, TN, in between Memphis and Jackson, TN, Victory Ranch offers a ton of sports and looks to be a serious blast.  This camp has a whopping 550 acres and I love looking at the pictures as there seems to be more mud throwing, paint ball shooting and turtle stacking fun going on here than any other camp I have seen.  One week, which is six nights, is $950 and two weeks is $1,750, three weeks $2,500 and four weeks $3,200.  The kids staying for more than one week get a special day of supervised fun nestled between the one week kids coming and going.  I know of several families who have adopted this camp as their end-all be-all camp and I can see why.  For more details, see www.victoryranch.org

Camp Kanuga

Camp Kanuga, established in 1928, is a co-ed summer camp sponsored by Kanuga Conferences, an Episcopal center in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  For ages 7 – 15, Kanuga offers a nine day camp for $875 and a 13 day camp for $1,265.  For the older camper, ages 15 and 16, Kanuga offers two high adventure camps, both two weeks long, for $1,375 and $1,650.  My family from Virginia to Georgia to Florida have loved this camp for many generations.  See their website for more details  www.kanuga.org/camps/index.asp

Camp Widjiwagan

Voted best overnight by a Nashville Parent’s magazine poll for the past 12 years, the YMCA’s Camp Widgiwagan is supposed to be great.  I have heard, in particularly about this camp, for the overnight section, that it really is best to go with a close buddy.  I guess because it is sooooo close, less than 30 minutes away, it’s easy to get groups of friends to go and thus it’s a bit easier to feel left out without a friend.  I do not know this first hand but have heard the same thing from several people.  But with a friend, tons of fun is had.  Younger siblings can see their big bro or sis during day camp and thus a little bit of home can be there daily.  YMCA members for one week is $820 and two weeks $1,425.  Non-members are $895 and $1,575.  See website to day camp fees. For more details, see www.ymcacampwidjiwagan.org

Now, onto a couple of day camps — both provide bus service and outdoor time immersed in nature:

Whipporwill

There is one camp in town that sells out so fast that it never ceases to amaze; that camp is Whippoorwill.  If your kids want to go, you might want to consider signing up NOW, as in today.  New this year, you can sign up and pay online.  This camp is an all day camp and always proves to bring home tired happy children.  I’m a big believer in time spent in a creek and days spent walking on undeveloped land.  If this is your ideal of childhood bliss, check out Whippoorwill.  But, really, sign up soon as it does sell out alarmingly fast: www.whippoorwill.com.  Bus ride: about 45 minutes from Elmington Park, but there are various pick up and drop off points.

Camp Idyllwild

If you want a smaller Whippoorwill experience, but one that requires a bit longer on the bus to day-camp, consider Camp Idyllwild.  This will be the camp’s 3rd year and my kids give it high marks.  My son pretty much wanted to sit in the creek all day, so that’s what he got to do.  Idyllwild is an outdoor day-camp that feels comfortable not throwing a schedule on your child, but has one ready for all the kids that want to rotate through many activities each day (which is most…my creek sitting son was the exception).  It’s kinda like hippy camp for kids and I mean that in the best of ways:  back to basics, back to nature, crafts and games, good fun with wholesome snacks.  If the book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv is the type of thing that interests you, then check out www.campidyllwild.com.  Bus ride, from Warner Park baseball fields is just over an hour.  Drop off is 7:50 a.m. and pick up is 5:00 p.m..

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