Family Resort Camps
When I was a kid, I hated summer camp. The food was bad, fellow campers taunted me, and I left at the end of each season with the same thought: What was I supposed to do with all those ceramic bowls I made? I also had one recurring fantasy: How great would it be if the whole family could just come to camp with me?
Now I have a child of my own, and you know what? It IS possible to pack everyone up for a classic camp experience. You can do it at any number of resorts and hotel chains that offer family packages featuring summer or holiday activities and classes catered to kids.
For our kids' camp-style vacation, we chose La Costa Resort in the southern California seaside town of Carlsbad. Upon arrival we discovered that each day inside the lush, green immaculately groomed grounds, there were adventures for kids taking place each hour, from morning till night.
At La Costa, kids can attend free events, classes in tennis or golf, or boot camp-style fitness classes for a small fee. Week-long tennis or golf clinics cost a bit more, as does half-day surf school. Got a gamer? There's a weekly Wii tournament for teens. Kids love animals? The radical reptile show is sure to keep them entertained. To get the grownups involved, there are family yoga classes and mommy-and-me tennis. And to truly give the experience just the right flavor, campers can toast s'mores on the fire Friday and Saturday nights and watch "drive-in" movies by the pool.
For our 7-year-old, beach-loving son, surf camp was La Costa's ultimate offering. For this two-hour oceanside tutorial on how to catch a wave, we were shuttled to the beach with a group of other kids ready to hit the surf. After donning little wet suits, they were given a crash course in the sand on how they would soon handle their boards in the water.
As I watched my son practice paddling on the board and leap up like a little ninja, I glanced at the ocean and noticed the waves were a little bigger than I'd expected. Had I made a mistake? What kind of a parent was I? My fears were allayed as soon as he hit the water with his instructor, who provided hands-on guidance throughout the lesson. My child, who has to be prodded each night to carry his plate from dinner table to sink, proudly carted his heavy board out to sea and then leaped on, furiously paddling to catch each wave.
After several attempts, it finally happened: With a push from his instructor, he stood up on his board and glided in toward the beach. It was his shining moment. Then he capsized, disappearing beneath the surface. I ran to the water's edge as his head bobbed up. His instructor was by his side."How was it?" I yelled.
"Awesome!" he replied, a triumphant smile on his face.
The rest of the day was spent recuperating back at the resort at Splash Landing, a complex of three pools and three water slides, plus a water play area and a sandy beach for the littlest swimmers. To keep things interesting, the resort hosts a slider's cup speed challenge on the slides twice a week throughout the summer. Competitors with the fastest times can win prizes from a free smoothie to a free two-night stay at the resort.