Many summer campers come home with a few bug bites, an increased knowledge of wilderness skills, and hours of practice rowing a canoe or riding a horse. While these are surely cherished moments in some people’s lives, not all kids are inclined to what some may consider the “traditional” summer camp experience. Check out some of the unique programs Denver and Front Range organizations have to offer.
Kids are great at twisting, twirling, swinging, and contorting. Aerial Cirque Over Denver camps teach students to create graceful shapes with movement on silk, trapeze, hoop, and sling apparatuses. The company’s morning and afternoon camps—2.5 hours each day for five sessions—are suited for novice aerial dancers to those with less than a year of experience, and are led by certified teaching aerialists.
Ages: Six to 18
Dates: May 30 to August 26
Location: Northeast Park Hill, Denver
Time to feel the heat of the sun and play around in the dirt. Kids who attend camp at the Growing Gardens Peace Garden learn how to tend plants, explore the science of agriculture, and make snacks from the bounty of their harvest. Each week of active education has a different theme with activities focused on urban farming, art, and ecosystems.
Ages: Five to 11
Cost: $345 to $395, scholarship applications available
Dates: June 6 to August 12, five-day sessions
Roshni is a local organization that works with diverse groups—refugees and immigrants, people with disabilities, seniors, and folks with low incomes—to tell stories that are often overlooked. This summer’s camp will incorporate dance, music, and theater to help kids create an original play.
Ages: Five to 12
Dates: June, Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon (ages five to seven) and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. (ages eight to 12)
Cost: $80, scholarships available
Location: Historic Centennial House, north Aurora
Fashion and theater
Factory Fashion, a design workshop for all ages, helps young creators innovate and build practical textile skills in a fully-stocked sewing studio. Projects for this summer include twisted headbands, pajamas, recycled couture, Shibori dyeing, and dog fashion. Factory Five Five, sister to the fashion programs, hosts theater camps that train young actors and production teams through workshops that culminate in performance. This year’s shows for all ages include Hogwarts and Cruella; teen classes will focus on Clue: the Play, and Meow Wolf-inspired performance art.
Ages: Six to 18
Cost: $250 half-day, $350 full day
Dates: June 1 to August 19; three to five day sessions with half- and full-day options
Location: Stanley Marketplace (fashion) and Factory Five Five, Aurora
A kid that thinks critically with analysis of actions and their consequences?—the dream. One way to teach a child these skills, through the context of playing a game, is chess. National Chess Master Todd Bardwick runs the Chess Academy of Denver, which hosts camps for beginner, intermediate, and advanced players. Sessions include instruction by highly-rated U.S. Chess Federation players; score keeping and game etiquette overviews; and mini tournaments.
Ages: Six to 18
Dates: June 6 to 10; morning, afternoon, and full-day options. July 5 to 7; full-day.
Cost: $369 full-day June, $249 half-day June, $259 full-day July
Location: Bethany Lutheran Church, Englewood (online if necessary)
The Bard’s iconic works drip with drama—fitting material for young thespians. Colorado Shakespeare Festival invites kids to the University of Colorado Boulder campus where they will learn acting techniques in the beautiful Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre. Shakespeare’s Sprites introduces younger kids to the art form through pool-noodle fights, silly insults, and Renaissance songs; and Camp Shakespeare helps older kids work in small groups to rehearse, stage, and perform a shortened version of a play. Each program culminates in a final showing for family and friends.
Ages: Six to 18
Dates: July 11 to 15 (Shakespeare’s Sprites, ages six to nine), July 18 to August 5 (Camp Shakespeare); 9 a.m. to noon.
Cost: $250 to $750
Location: University of Colorado Boulder
Financial education can be fun for kids, especially when they’re empowered to build their own businesses and run a whole town. Young Americans Center for Financial Education offers a variety of camps including the Girls Can program, where young girls connect with local businesswomen and discover how to be financially fit, and Ameritowne courses where kids learn about government, banking, economics, supply and demand, and advertising. All camps include hands-on implementation of instruction plus breaks outside on the program deck.
Ages: Youth entering grades three through eight in the 2022-2023 school year
Dates: June 6 through August 5, see online for details
Cost: $250 per week
Location: Young Americans Centers, Denver and Lakewood
Northern Colorado Fencers cover the core skills, strategies, and rules of the modern sport of fencing in their camps. No previous experience is necessary to participate, just a willing attitude to be gracious in victory and learn from defeat. Along the way, kids play games, engage in bouts with partners, and receive instruction on footwork positions and proper use of equipment (which is included in the camp).
Ages: Seven to 13
Dates: May 30 through August 12. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon
Cost: $195, 10 percent discount for multiple sessions and siblings
Location: Northern Colorado Fencers, Boulder