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Local Parks Offer Summer Options

Dance, sports, wilderness all fodder for summer camps.

This summer, going to camp could mean anything from wilderness activities to lacrosse to dancing up a storm. That's just a sampling of the activities offered at day and overnight camps by local departments of parks and recreation.

Activities, prices and locations vary widely from county to county. Here's a brief rundown:

Fairfax County offers a wide variety of camps for children and teens ages 3 to 16. Over 70 camp options meet at recreation centers and in parks, including sports camps, performing arts camps and adventure/excursion camps, says Ellen Greenberg, a county youth services specialist. One and two-week camp sessions are offered between June 27 and Sept. 2

At the half-day Kiddie Camp, for children aged 3 to 5, preschoolers will experience activities including music, creative movement, arts and crafts, outdoor games, water play and special events. Meanwhile, children aged 6 to 12 can participate in a range of indoor and outdoor activities, including swimming and crafts, at Summer Fun Camps. Among the special interest camps, magic and clowning and nature camps are attracting many children, Greenberg says.

Adventure camps, in which "each day is a different adventure," are popular for teens this summer she said. Activities include rock climbing, kayaking, white water rafting and visiting theme parks. An adventure water camp is also offered, featuring only water-oriented activities like kayaking and tubing.

Costs vary, depending on the child's age and the length of the camp. Full-day, one-week Summer Fun camps are about $150 for county residents, while a gymnastics and dance camp is $235.

Greenberg recommended that parents enroll children in camps catering to a variety of interests. "I do think it's important for parents to give children a variety. Most rec centers offer more than one type of camp, so the child can rotate through different types of camp, but the parent doesn't need to leave the location that is most convenient," she says.

The Fairfax County Park Authority also enrolls for Rec-Pac programs based at 60 elementary schools throughout the summer, which meet July 5-Aug. 11. For more information on all county camp options, call 703-222-4664. or visit http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/.

Arlington County also offers dozens of camps in the 10 week-long sessions. More than 50 programs are available, said recreation programmer Beth Comeau. One popular program is Camp Horizon for 4 to 7-year-olds, which makes the first time the county has offered full-day camping opportunities to students going into kindergarten, Comeau said. Another popular program, Camp Patahontas, offers children aged 8 to 11 one week of day camp followed by a week of sleep away camp in Prince William Forest Park.

Special interest camps offered by the county include creative and performing arts camps, eco-camping for teens, and a week-long nature camp session devoted to Bats and Bugs.

One new camp offered by the county is Camp Volunteer Quest, a two-week camp for teens and young adults with mild mental or physical disabilities. Participants will learn how to serve the community as volunteers, and also engage in such traditional camp activities as swimming and day trips.

Typical in-county costs for a week-long full day camp are in the range of $95 to $110, though prices are higher for overnight camps.

"The most important thing is for parents to realize this is all about the child, and to pick a camp that's age-appropriate and matches the child's interests. Don't pick a camp just for convenience," Comeau said.

The Arlington County summer camps booklet is available as a download at http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/ParksRecreation/ParksRecreationMain.aspx, or call 703-228-3323 for more information.

LOUDOUN COUNTY offers summer day camps for children entering grades kindergarten to ninth and a counselor in training program for older teens. The camps, which meet at 16 locations throughout the county, are known as Summer Camp Daze for elementary schoolers and SummerFEST Camp for middle schoolers. The day camps have a different theme each week and meet from June 27 until Aug. 12, while specialty camps meet from June 20 until Aug. 26. "For our summer day camps for middle schoolers, their themes are new, and they're based on reality TV," said Keleigh Taylor; Loudoun County camp coordinator. Sample theme weeks include "CSI Loudoun County", "Fear Factor."

Other new programs this month include a martial arts camps, Doctor Seuss camp, and the expansion of fishing camp from Western Loudoun. The county is also offering sports camps that help condition children for a variety of sports, instead of one specific one.

"All of our camps are done on weekly basis, so that gives parents the ability to plan child's summer. I tell them to really sit down and read through the guide, chart out all of their child's interests, register from there," Taylor says.

The cost for Summer Camp Daze is $165 per week for county residents. Costs vary for specialty and sports camps, but are typically in the $150-$200 range, Taylor said.

For more information, visit www.loudoun.gov/prcs/camps or call 703-737-08031.

Alexandria City offers Chinquapin Summer Camps, featuring a variety of programs for ages 4-17. Programs include a sports camp, which offers tennis, swimming, and an additional sport in each week-long session; day camp, which includes games, field trips, swimming and crafts; and inline skating/roller hockey camp, as well as 10 other camps. Most camps meet for seven hours each day, with before and aftercamp care available. Prices range from $275 for the sports camp to $150 for day camp. camps run from June 27 through Sept. 2.

For more information on Alexandria camp offerings, visit http://ci.alexandria.va.us/recreation/ or call 703-519-2160, ext. 15.