Mar 20, 2024 - Parenting

The ultimate guide to summer camps in Portland

Children and a caregiver playing under a colored parachute at at summer camp in a Portland park.

Portland Parks & Recreation summer camp registrations open May 16, but most private camps are already taking names. Photo: Courtesy of Portland Parks & Recreation

Summer camp sign-up season is here, which means parents should be doing their homework now.

Why it matters: Caregivers have to plan ahead or risk their kids being home alone over Oregon's 10-week school vacation that starts June 15.

How it works: In Portland the choices are between $100+ a day private camps and affordable, but more basic, ones run by Portland Parks & Recreation.

⏰ Set a timer for May 16 because PP&R camp registration will go live online for camps that take place in June and July. A second registration starts June 13 for camps that take place in August.

  • Parks & Rec spokesman Mark Ross said via email that prices are $220 for one week, though low-income families can get discounts of up to 90%.
  • There are about 1,000 spots, and grades third through fifth usually have waiting lists, Craig Vanderbout, Southwest Community Center director and Summer Camp Division lead told Axios.
  • The camps use public parks and Portland's nine air-conditioned community centers.

Of note: The city also offers a Free Lunch + Play program in many parks for four-hour periods, with no age limit.

Free-range parents take note: Kids under age 8 are not supposed to wander into Free Lunch + Play alone.

If your city camp of choice fills up fast or you're just looking for something a bit different, here are some other options:

🔭 The Oregon Museum of Science & Industry has a large catalog of camps based on the belief that science is fun. Five-day camps in Portland are $595.

🏹 Trackers Portland is known for its survival and bushcraft camps, and its willingness to let kids play with fire and knives, sometimes together. The vibe is to counteract "bulldozer parenting."

  • Trackers runs overnight camps in Sandy but also rents space in the old Marshalls at Lloyd Center.

ğŸŽ­ The Northwest Children's Theater and School teaches kids the skills of the actor and the tech so they can produce a show. It now uses five locations, including its new home downtown at The Judy. The typical five-day camp, Monty Python's "Spamalot," is $864.

ğŸŽ¨ Grace Art Camp is a charming day camp with a theme (2024 is Hawaii) where kids make one lasting work of art to take home. $415 for five-day camps.

🤖 Steve & Kate's Camp is a growing franchise that puts kids "in charge of their own learning experience, so they can try, fail, and learn on their own." $120 a day.

⚽ Nike Sports Camps are serious athletic camps. The five-day soccer camp at PSU is $485.

🐘 The Oregon Zoo is not hosting summer camps in 2024.

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