Ah, the lazy days of summer – and that pile-on stress for parents figuring out how to keep the kids entertained and out of trouble during the weeks that school is out. Enter: Florida summer camps for kids.
Across the Sunshine State, there’s a surprising camp for every kind of camper–and since it’s Florida, they’re bound to be located in places where you’d be happy to spend a few days or a week enjoying the beach, fun coastal towns and natural freshwater springs during your own little vacay, too.
Read on for a few top Florida summer camps around the state where the learning and entertaining is on someone else during the daytime – when the relaxation is on you.
Camp Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral
Best Florida summer camps for: budding rocket scientists and space explorers
Calling all future rocket scientists and any kid who’s into outer space for this favorite of Florida summer camps at Kennedy Space Center’s working launch facility. Camp Kennedy Space Center’s five-day summer camp program (daytime hours only) is focused on engineering and math activities with a space spin, with plenty of fun learning in the mix — including visiting the Apollo/Saturn V Center, immersive simulators and hands-on engineering design challenges.
What you’re doing on the Space Coast while the kids are at camp:
How about surf lessons on the sands where World Championship surfer Kelly Slater came up in Cocoa Beach with School of Surf followed by lazy oceanfront lunches at Coconut’s on the Beach (fish tacos and pina coladas!) or exploring the boutiques and cafes just inland in historic downtown Cocoa Village.
Regroup with the campers in the afternoon to prepare for after-dark paddling adventures to see bioluminescence in the Indian River Lagoon during kayaking adventures with A Day Away Kayak Tours. The summer months are prime time for catching this incredible marine phenomenon that you hardly have to trek to the Caribbean to witness.
Seacamp, Florida Keys
Best Florida summer camps for: marine biologists in training
Budding marine biologists–or any kids in awe of the ocean and its inhabitants – settle in for very good times at this rustic sleep away camp on Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys. The marine ecology education courses on tap include field study labs in nearby lagoons to learn about the importance of sea grasses and sponges, SCUBA diving lessons, windsurfing, sailing classes and lots more.
When it comes to Florida summer camps where you’re getting a truly deep and experiential ocean education along one of the world’s most important barrier coral reefs, this one’s a good bet.
What you’re doing in the Florida Keys while the kids are at camp:
Pick your favorite base in the Florida Keys to spend a few days or longer on island time, whether at an all-inclusive adults-only property like Bungalows Key Largo (three words: floating tiki bars), a private island escape within a quick boat shuttle of Key West’s non-stop action like Sunset Key or one of the archipelago’s many rustic hideaway hotels tucked down palm-lined lanes a la Ragged Edge Resort & Marina.
And if you haven’t signed up for our free Florida Beyond newsletter, do so now to get our exclusive Florida Keys itinerary mailed straight to your inbox with tons more ideas for what to get up to in Florida’s favorite island chain while the kids are off at Seacamp.
Funky Fish Ocean Camp, Fort Lauderdale
Best Florida summer camps for: salt life littles
For a South Florida summer day camp for kids that’s all about the Atlantic Ocean’s fabulous marine environments and getting outside enjoying them, Funky Fish Ocean Camp in Fort Lauderdale Beach has been a family favorite for decades thanks to its entertaining and educational marine science programs for kids ages 4 to 17.
Kids new to snorkeling can gain confidence learning in a swimming pool before graduating to the shallows of the Atlantic Ocean to look for starfish, mollusks and other creatures. Other activities for campers include beach combing to source raw materials to get creative with during camp eco-art classes, skimboarding and boogie boarding lessons.
What you’re doing in Fort Lauderdale while the kids are at camp:
Plan to base in Fort Lauderdale Beach and park your car for the week, using a beach cruiser or the city’s convenient water taxi to reach points on Las Olas and surrounds. Fort Lauderdale is a great place for a self-made fitness or wellness getaway, with miles of canals and oceanfront for paddling a kayak or standup paddle board (Blue Moon Outdoor Adventures rents them) and pedestrian-friendly trails for walking or jogging, both along the oceanfront and downtown along the Riverwalk.
If your visit coincides with the last Saturday of the month, be sure to hit up FATVillage’s Artwalk for food, crafts and experiential art exhibits in warehouse surrounds that spill into outdoor spaces. And why not check out the Everglades while you’re here, too? You won’t run out of things to do.
Equine Camp, Ocala
Best Florida summer camps for: the horse-curious to expert riders
The rural Central Florida town of Ocala is known throughout the global horse-obsessed community for being one of the most important racehorse-breeding regions in the world–right up there with Lexington, Kentucky and Chantilly, France (you heard it here first!). And equine history in Ocala runs deep.
Whether your kids are experienced riders or overcoming their initial wariness around horses, summer daytime Equine Camps at Ocala Equestrian Academy offer a program to match their comfort level and experience, with activities like riding lessons, equine horsemanship and education, horseback games, arts and crafts, water play and much more in the mix. It’s just one of the many great Florida summer camps to be found in another surprising stretch of the state.
What you’re doing in Ocala while the kids are at camp:
Ocala comes as a real relevation to even non-horse types who make it to this surprisingly hilly stretch of rural Florida. And with the 2021 opening of the The Equestrian Hotel on the grounds of the World Equestrian Center, there’s finally a true luxury address here for a stay, too, where you can catch regular dressage and Arabian horse events between visits to the spa or relaxing by the pool.
Some of Florida’s prettiest freshwater springs are also found in this part of the state, including Juniper Springs inside Ocala National Forest and Alexander Springs, which is popular with scuba divers. You might not even miss the beach, either — the springs are even more refreshing on a hot summer’s day.