Summer Camp In Southern California! Discovering Catalina Island Camps!

The summer I turned 12 my parents offered me a choice. I could get the braces I needed (for mostly cosmetic reasons) or I could go back to camp for a 4th summer. They couldn’t afford both.

I chose camp.

As much as I’ve wrung my hands over that choice, I don’t regret it one bit. Camp made me. How else can I explain the fact that I remember almost every word to our Color War theme songs over twenty five years later?

Camp is one of the things that I’ve struggled with as a parent, particularly one on the west coast. Going off to camp was a common rite of passage back east where I grew up. Everyone came back to school with tales of bunk raids and mammoth mosquito bites. But here in Cali all the overnight camps I’ve investigated seem so specialized. They seem focused on a skill or a talent or cementing a religious belief… So much so that I’ve even investigated sending my kids back to my own Catskills stomping grounds just so they too can experience that bonfires burning, crickets chirping, lungful of sunshine summer camp feeling that was so much a part of my youth.

But man, it’s expensive to fly kids back east for summer camp. Particularly when they need braces!

This is just one reason I’m thrilled to have discovered Catalina Island Camps.

Let me tell you about Catalina. I’m not sure if time slowed down gracefully in the early 80s there. Or if there is just a different drumbeat. But when I go to Catalina, it’s like the world makes sense again to my east coast grown, old-fashioned vacation loving self.

You don’t have to kick the kids outside and force them to play on Catalina. If anything, you have to beg them to come inside.

People spend their days hiking, swimming and sailing on Catalina. They ride bikes and they watch stars. The kind in the sky. They talk to each other. They always have sand stuck somewhere, even after a shower. But that’s ok. It’s better than ok. It’s exactly what I’d wish for my 7 year old nature boy, as he turns 8. I wish for him to put down the books and computer games and be a kid, be a BOY, at one with sea and island.

It’s also what I’d wish for my daughter as she teeters on the cusp of teenagerdom. Spend one last summer being a girl. Get freckles on her shoulders even though she uses sunscreen, act silly and forget about brands of backpacks. I’d like her to spend this last summer of her childhood as far from the mall as humanly possible. I wonder if it’s possible to get a doctor to write a prescription for that?

Childhood is brief. Mine was, and it’s poignant to realize that my own kid’s will be too.

I’m sure that spy camp and computer game programming camp and commercial acting camps (all of which are popular back here on the “mainland”) are heaps of fun. But they aren’t worth growing up with slightly crooked teeth over.

But This… This is a camp. Shhh… It’s so awesome I think it might be even better than my own Adirondack experience. The Catskills have a shocking lack of snorkeling.


Browsing through Catalina Island Camp’s website I think I may have discovered a time portal. Or an intention portal. Could that be a thing? Finally, here’s a camp that could mean something to my kids when they grow up. They might even sign up for the Facebook page and find their old friends in 25 years, like I did. Note: My old friends remember the Color War songs too. They too suffer from dirty looks from spouses when they sing Oh ho ho… let’s Go Seminole! to the chorus of “China Grove”.

The photos and videos of the activities at Catalina Camps bring back so many memories for me. Kayaking, Sailing, Arts and Crafts and Ropes courses are just a few of the activities that I loved then & know now that my kids would love too.

I’ve shared a few of my old camp photos here. What are your favorite memories from camp? Do you send your kids to sleepaway summer camp?


Ciaran Blumenfeld is a writer and designer (Little Lubbaloo, Francie Pants). Practically every tot in tinseltown has worn her creations at one time or another but she designed her lines with her own 4 adorable kids in mind. Ciaran is the founder and publisher of Momfluential Media, a site that highlights the most influential moms online.

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