Older kids learn the Science of Sailing. Photo courtesy of Piers Park Sailing Center
Older kids learn the Science of Sailing. Photo courtesy of Piers Park Sailing Center

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.

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

Note that summer camp information for the 2020 season is changing daily. Please click the links to the individual camps below to see which ones are offering programs this year.

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.

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

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 entering sixth, seventh, eighth, or ninth grade in the Fall. The camp, which focuses on fun activities like swimming and sports as well as developing leadership skills, is free for families.

RELATED: Free Classes Around Boston for Kids

3. Camp Shriver–Boston and Easton

This unique, inclusive camp accepts campers ages 8 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 17 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. Along with sailing, they also offer STEM programs and other activities. This is also 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 $375.

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 are 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 non-academic. 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 Camps 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, ages six to nine, 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 $350.

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 $250-$750 depending on income and dependents.

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 2/22/20

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
Hike & Seek: Winter Wonderland
The Stevens-Coolidge Place - 9:00 AM
Intrepid Adventures: Intrepid Women
The Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum Online - various times
Boston StoryWalks
- various times
Imagine from Home
- various times
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides