Before you know it, the end of the school year will be in sight and you'll start wondering: “What the heck am I going to do with these small people I call 'my children' for the summer?" We’ve got you covered with the best of New Jersey–area summer camps. These camps take fun seriously—so much so that they plan all year long for eight weeks of summer. Many of these camps have had entire generations of families pass through. Though some are quite large, they offer great counselor-to-camper ratios, with additional support from adults supervising younger staff.
Find more New Jersey summer camps in our Camp Guide and Full Directory of Listings.
The following camps are for kids ages 3–15 unless otherwise noted.
Frogbridge Day Camp – Millstone Township
Who needs Disney World? Not these campers! On the whopping 86-acre camp grounds, they try out arena soccer and go-karting, hang out in a retro ice cream parlor, go fishing, play outdoor laser tag, or participate in more typical offerings of sports, arts and crafts, and theater. There are also three natural lakes and three swimming pools to keep the kids cool. As a nice perk, staff launders campers’ bathing suits every day for them—no mildewed trunks here! Pre-K – 8th grade.
Oak Crest Day Camp – Somerset
This camp’s goal is for every child to succeed and becomes an expert in something during his or her stay—and it offers plenty of opportunity. Situated on a 35-acre campus in Somerset, the camp boasts six pools, a mini-golf course, video production, 40’ climbing tower, ropes course, go-karts, rocketry, archery, mountain biking, and nature/orienteering. Pre-K – 6th grade.
Palisades Country Day Camp – Closter
This camp devoted to young children features three heated pools with twisty slides, two drenching splash parks, a triple-decker playground, and daily activities. Tiny Tots start at 18 months (no potty training necessary) in their own gated community, comprised of an air-conditioned cottage, wading pool, ride-on toys, sand play, and picnic benches. All campers get to enjoy special events including petting zoos, magic shows, inflatable pool toys, boat rides, themed weeks, special performances, and much more. Ages 18 months – 9 years.
Camp Riverbend – Warren Township
Swimming is the biggest skill stressed at this family-run camp, with swim instruction each morning and a free swim in the afternoon. Other activities include arts and crafts, sports, environmental learning, and performing arts. The camp is located on 30 acres of varying environmental areas such as wetlands, woods, and open fields. Options include a half-day program for ages 3 and 4, and a teen day trip program for students in grades 7–9.
Swimming, sports, and even a zip line make the Spring Lake Day Camp loads of fun.
Spring Lake Day Camp – Ringwood
Founded in 1989, this camp spreads over 26 acres that include a five-pool heated complex, five-acre lake with zip line, two hockey rinks, baseball and soccer fields, gymnastics pavilion, indoor dance studio, a ropes course, climbing tower, and more. The seven-period day includes two swims, two athletics, and two arts. Full-day for children entering kindergarten – 10th grade; half-day for children entering nursery school and pre-K.
Willow Lake Day Camp – Lake Hopatcong
Here's the camp for the sports enthusiast. On three separate fields (divided by age groups), kids learn and hone their skills in soccer, football, softball (including batting cages), and lacrosse. Then it's on to basketball, tennis, volleyball, Newcomb, hockey (with a real rink), miniature golf, archery, martial arts, gymnastics, and an extensive ropes course. There are also arts and science offerings, for those who aren't worn out from all the other fun. Pre-K – 8th grade.
Blue Rill Day Camp – Airmont
Set on over 20 acres in rural Rockland County just over the George Washington Bridge, this camp offers outdoor fun, just about every sport under the sun, multiple pools, and more. It works to foster community, which is great for the first-time camper. Boating and fishing on the lake are also available.
Deerkill Day Camp – Suffern
This camp is relatively small, but it doesn't skimp in the facilities department. It offers most anything you find at the large camps: pools, sports fields, dance/karate pavilions, a riding stable, a theater studio (for 200 children), ceramics studio/woodworking shop, and even a digital photography studio. Another perk? The Free Weekend Pool club for families of campers, which includes a 4,000-square-foot pool, tennis courts, and athletic fields.
Deer Mountain Day Camp – Pomona
Nestled at the base of the Ramapo Mountains, this 25-acre camp boasts an impressive array of activities and facilities: Six heated pools, tennis courts, all major team sports fields, mountain biking track, gymnastics pavilion, a nature center with petting zoo, separate nursery facility with mini-fields for young campers, outdoor amphitheater, and more. Kids entering 4th grade and up can tailor their own program.
Gate Hill Day Camp – Stony Point
In addition to the usual day camp amenities, this 33-acre family-run camp boasts a tree house, mini-farm, splash park, go-kart track, bumper boats, and an early childhood play center and playground. The Explorers Program lets kids discover a new passion for science; digital arts; games; music and theater; and history and social science.
Ramaquois is filled with outdoor adventures and sports.
Ramaquois Day Camp – Pomona
Water fun is tops at this camp, where the five-acre "Rama Lake" that includes two water trampolines, bumper boats, water bikes, paddle boards, inner tubes, "water-duckies", fountain sprays, kayaks, and a professional team of lifeguards. Days are divided into seven periods, and kids shuttle through eight heated pools, a spray park, an indoor gym, ceramics studio, woodcrafts, a puppetry building, a discovery science lab, a nature center with a petting zoo, a theater arts building, and an arts and crafts building.
These camps are ACA accredited, meaning they went through a thorough (up to 300 standards) review of operation, from staff qualifications and training to emergency management. The ACA web site can also help you find a camp and offers testimonies from actual campers about why kids should attend camp ("Because Of Camp" has its own Facebook page, too!).
Top photo of kids at Oak Crest Day Camp. All images courtesy the respective summer camp.
Originally published January 2012; updated for 2017.