Developing leadership skills is a big focus at Harbor View. Photo courtesy of the camp
Developing leadership skills is a big focus at Harbor View. Photo courtesy of the camp

11 Free and Affordable Summer Camps for Boston Kids

Summer camp can be pricey, but not all fun and enriching programs have to cost a pretty penny. To round out our complete guide to Boston-area summer camps, we’ve put together a list of nearly a dozen inexpensive camps in the Boston area that can provide your child with everything from performing arts experience to sailing lessons. Four weeks of summer camp for $5? Yes, please.

Find a full list of local summer camps in our Camp Directory for Boston families.

1. Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston—various locations
Many of the local Boston-area Boys and Girls Clubs offer summer camps for children ages six to 12 that include arts and crafts activities, science and technology projects, field trips, swimming, and sports. Each club has its own summer program application process and fees, which are kept affordable from year to year.

2. Camp Harbor View—Boston 
Put on in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club, Camp Harbor View takes place on Long Island in Boston Harbor for four weeks each summer. Campers must live in Boston and be between the ages of 11 to 14 by July 1. The camp, which focuses on fun activities like swimming and sports as well as developing leadership skills, costs $5.

RELATED: Free Classes Around Boston for Kids

Photo courtesy of Camp Shriver

3. Camp Shriver–Boston and Easton
This unique, inclusive camp accepts campers ages eight to 12 with and without disabilities, with the camp population split half and half, to participate in its summer sports programs at UMass Boston and Stonehill College. There is a $25 registration fee.

Hop aboard the summer sailing program on the Esplanade. Photo courtesy of Community Boating

4. Community Boating Junior Program—Boston
Kids ages 10 to 18 can sign up for a full summer of boating classes and open sailing for as little as $1 at Community Boating, located on the Esplanade near the Longfellow Bridge. Not strictly a camp, participants can come and go and use the facilities as much as they like from June-August. Fees are based on a sliding scale that ranges from $1 to $349.

5. Days in the ARTS—Lenox 
This summer residential program near Tanglewood provides Massachusetts fifth, sixth and seventh graders the opportunity to be immersed in theater, dance, visual arts, and music for one of eight week-long sessions during the summer. There is a fee associated with the program, but scholarships are available and no student is turned away based on an inability to pay.

6. MIT Summer HSSP—Cambridge 
Everyone from rising seventh graders to students entering their first year of college is welcome to attend MIT's Summer HSSP program. It takes place in seven-week sessions on the weekends and covers a range of subjects both academic and nonacademic. The program costs $40 and financial assistance is available.

7. Northeastern University Young Scholars Program—Boston
This six-week summer program is open to Boston-area students who have completed their junior year of high school and are interested in participating in a hands-on science and engineering experience. There is a $150 commitment fee.

RELATED: Free STEM Summer Camp for Teen Girls from Girls Who Code

Photo courtesy of Youth Enrichment Services

8. Piers Park Sailing Center—East Boston 
The Harbor Explorers program is a full-day camp that teaches kids about marine life through hands-on experiences. Campers will trap lobsters and crabs, observe jellyfish, take pictures with underwater cameras, fish off the dock, and more. Or for kids ages 10 to 18, you can sign up for the Science of Sailing program. There are multiple levels ranging from beginner to expert, and progress is tracked so kids can pick up where they left off the year before. The program fees are based on neighborhoods. Campers from East Boston pay $25, while campers from Boston/Chelsea/Revere/Winthrop pay $125. Residents from all other Massachusetts cities are charged $250.

9.  Youth Enrichment Services Outdoor Adventure—Boston (and various off-site locations) 
Serving kids ages seven to 18, Youth Enrichment Services in Boston offers two one-week programs, Outdoor Adventure Sessions and Outdoor Adventure Intensives, that aim to introduce Boston kids and teens to the great outdoors. Campers can attend for $125 if they are income-eligible (regularly $200).

10. Youth Engaged in Action—Boston 
Have an aspiring activist in your home? YEA is a free three-week course offered to 150 income-eligible 13-year-olds, designed to help them become young leaders by studying government, discussing positive action and challenges, and considering financial wellness. Interested applicants should apply as early as possible. 

Tennis and literacy meet at this summer camp. Photo courtesy of Tenacity  

11. Tenacity Summer Tennis & Reading Program—various locations 
To avoid the summer slide, Tenacity serves almost 5,000 Boston students with their Summer Tennis & Reading Program, found at 23 public parks around the city. Students aged six to 16 meet daily for free three-hour sessions split between fitness fun and literacy skills development.

Originally posted on 2/1/16; updated by Caitlin Dowling on 2/26/19

Camp Shriver UMass Boston
100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125

Camp Shriver Stonehill College
320 Washington St.
Easton, MA 02357

Northeastern University Summer STEM Program and Young Scholars Program
110 Forsyth St.
Boston, MA 02115

American Repertory Theater and 826 Boston Summer Theater & Writing Camp
3035 Washington St.
Roxbury, MA 02119

Community Boating Junior Program
21 David G Mugar Way
Boston, MA 02114

Youth Enrichment Services Outdoor Adventure
412 Massachusetts Ave.
Boston, MA 02118

84 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02139

Piers Park Sailing Center
95 Marginal Street
East Boston , MA o2128

Camp Harbor View
Long Island
Boston, MA

Days in the Arts (Tanglewood)
297 West Street
Lenox, MA 01240