It's true that most people don't go to summer camp once they're out of high school. But does that mean that grown-ups still wouldn't enjoy it? Definitely not, according to Nancy LaPook Diamond, publisher of GrownUpCamps.com as well as several other online camp directories.
"We debuted KidsCamps.com, which was the first online summer camp directory, in 1995," says Diamond. "We started hearing from parents wishing they could go to camp again." This gave the KidsCamps.com people the idea to create a site with camps for adults.
Here are just three examples of the various camps that can be found on GrownUpCamps.com and attended by adults of all ages.
Ready Oar Not
Deer Hill Expeditions in Mancos, CO, is a wilderness adventure camp that offers activities such as backpacking, kayaking, canoeing, and rock climbing in the American Southwest. Groups can receive program orientation and training at a 130-acre base camp in Colorado, then make the drive over to the San Juan River, a popular destination, and spend six nights paddling and camping along the river.
"The river trip is a great team-building thing where everyone's pulling together, cooking, preparing campsites, and paddling," says Richard Malcolm, the outreach director for Deer Hill.
Deer Hill is accredited by the Association for Experiential Education, which Malcolm says is something of a rarity in expedition groups.
"We're qualified to teach any kind of group in the wilderness," he says. "We have a high quality of teaching and learning as well as risk management."
At the end of a trip, groups gather in a sweat lodge—a stick-built dome with hot rocks piled inside—and participate in a Native American ceremony with singing, storytelling, and reflection on the trip.
"[The sweat lodge] can be a really powerful experience with bonding and depth," says Malcolm. "Bringing groups together, that's our specialty."
Rock of the Ageless
New York City's Rock 'n Roll Fantasy Camp allows attendees to jam with legendary rock stars—such as Bruce Kulick of '70s super group Grand Funk Railroad—and write, perform, and record their own songs. No previous musical experience is required, since people who aren't already pros can sing backup, play percussion, or take advantage of the lessons offered at the camp.
"A counselor works with the band (or the group of participants), writing an original song and recording it at the studio," says Courtney Clonch, camp coordinator for Rock 'n Roll. "At some point a big guest star comes to visit the studio, sign autographs, jam, and do a Q&A."
"After the performance [of the group's song], the counselors do an all-star jam," says Clonch. "Each does one or two songs from their own band."
Clonch also says going through the songwriting and performance process together is a good teambuilding experience for groups. It forces them to become a cohesive group, removes company rank from the equation, and puts everyone on an equal playing field.
"Nothing's more exciting than saying that you and your colleagues performed on stage," Clonch says. Especially in the company of famous musicians.
Just a Second
The Ranch at Jesus Canyon in Llano, CA, offers a range of activities for adventurous visitors (skeet shooting, ropes courses, a zip line, and paintball, to name a few). The ranch can be rented out with special packages created to suit a group's needs.
Probably the most unique—and the most dangerous—is called the Eight Second Experience. Other-wise known as riding a bull.
A real, live bull.
Participants have to sign liability waivers, of course, and go through training, which includes riding Mighty Bucky, a mechanical bull. The day culminates with riding a live bull, which is a short-lived experience. Eight seconds is considered an ideal ride and most likely unattainable by first-timers.
Julie Reid, programming manager for the Jesus Canyon ranch, says that a less nerve-wracking experience Jesus Canyon offers involves doing groundwork with horses, such as guiding them around pins and following a lead.
"To do those things, [participants] have to use their leadership skills to get the horse to do what they want them to do," says Reid. "Horses respond to personal energy. If you're afraid, scattered, or not in control, they know that and don't respond."
Reid says that the activities the ranch offers can help create a positive group dynamic with the help of instructors. "It's not bull riding that in itself has any intrinsic value, it's the process that person goes through that does it, pushing themselves, challenging themselves. The team goes through problem-solving away from distractions, which allows them to connect and become more efficient," she says.
Originally published July 1, 2009
--Nielsen Business Media