Live like a kid again—but this time with booze.
Summer camp: where many a child’s strongest summer memories and friendships are made. A time of lakeside swims and Kumbaya, of poorly made macramé bracelets and budding romances.
Now imagine all the bonfires, barbecues, archery lessons, and field days without the curfews, roll calls, and single-sex bunks. Yes, there is such a thing as adults-only sleepaway camps where participants can kick back old school without giving up their well earned, grown up freedoms. From boozy long weekends to digital detoxes, America’s top five adult summer camps offer something for every kid at heart. So go ahead. Get out.
Club Getaway, Kent, CT
This 300-acre rolling estate in the Berkshires has everything you’d want out of a summer weekend sleep-away: lakeside cabins, al fresco lunches, s’mores around the campfire, along with the usual exploits—kayaking, volleyball, arts and crafts—and a few surprises. (Thrill junkies can try out the bungee trampoline, wine tastings and organized Flip Cup tournaments abound, and ravers converge for “silent” dance parties in the woods.) Think of it as the ultimate outdoor mixer, complete with cocktails and camaraderie.
Camp No Counselors, Albany, NY
This all-inclusive camp in the Adirondacks reminds of us college, only with no classes. Everything is paid for ahead of time, from the lodging (read: co-ed dorms) and transportation (via chartered buses screening old-school flicks) to meals and—yes—alcohol. Upon arrival, attendees are assigned bunks and t-shirts (for the Color War, of course). Breakfast might consist of waffles and Bloody Marys. Lunch? Tacos and margaritas. Activities skew on the skilled side—wakeboarding, ropes courses, ultimate Frisbee—and everyone has the freedom to float between activities. Come nightfall, no one’s talking about curfew. Instead, the day’s gossip is parsed over whiskey shots and sets by international DJs.
Soul Camp, Honesdale, PA
Camp Towanda, burrowed deep in the Poconos a little over two hours from Philadelphia, was ground zero for David Wain’s American classic Wet Hot American Summer, so you know exactly what sort of scene to expect. Soul Camp is a getaway for kids at heart looking to make memories that last a lifetime; “a weekend for the soul,” as the website promises. On the itinerary: sunset lake swims, tarot card readings, organic farming, cardio, and lessons in yoga, astrology, meditation, and dream catcher–making (obvi). The fun lasts past sundown, when campers can let loose during the obligatory talent show and a DJ-led late-night disco.
Camp Grounded, Anderson Valley, CA
During the four-day, adults-only sessions at Camp Grounded, from the folks behind the Digital Detox tech-free retreats, the rules are simple: no digital technology, no talking about work, no asking someone’s age, no drugs, and no alcohol. There’s also, sadly, no glow sticks, but the reward—leaving behind your workaday routine for a phone- and watch-free weekend—far outweighs the sacrifice. Unplug and reconnect with yourself and the great outdoors during courses on archery, dance, stargazing, and survival skills. Write on old typewriters. Make new friends. Sleep in open-face cabins. Play capture the flag. Breathe in the West Coast air (or check out their new Southeast outpost in North Carolina), and take time to look around. Just make sure to follow the camp edict: “No screens. No Filters. No Big Data. No agenda. No bullshit. Just good old camp.” We’re down with that.
Camp Wandawega, Elkhorn, WI
It was once a Prohibition-era speakeasy, a gambling den, and even a Latvian church camp, but the latest iteration of Camp Wandawega is the best version yet. A young couple rescued the grounds, 90 minutes north of Chicago, and remade it as a nostalgic summer resort, decorating everything from the main lodge to the bunkhouse with nostalgic bric-a-brac: mason jars, horseshoe pits, hammocks, lots of taxidermy. There’s even a handful of tents and teepees for lounging, though the highlight is surely the airy three-story tree house, built around an old elm, whose Pendleton blankets, statement chandelier made of antlers, and full library loft give it grown-up appeal and that serves as a communal gathering spot. (The camp’s accommodations consist of small vintage cabins and a bunkhouse, all of which look largely the same as they did 90 years ago.) The activities here are strictly make-your-own; this is more of a camp-style rental than it is an organized camp experience, and no food or drink is provided. (In fact, all potential campers are required to read the camp’s “Manifesto of Low Expectations.”) Guests who are up for a rustic experience can spend their time paddling their own canoes around the lake, hiking the forest trails, and telling stories around the bonfire—Camp Wandawega, is as laid-back as it gets.