2020 OC summer camps are going to look different than 2019. Normally, providers in Orange County offer a number of outdoor camp themes for families looking to enroll their kids in options to keep them active and learning outdoors this summer. This year, some have cancelled, some have gone virtual, and others are proceeding with in-person programs with some pretty strict safety protocols and lower group sizes.
Most camps are for school-age children from ages 6 to 18. I’ve updated my list of summer nature camps for kids listed with themes like science, animals, the ocean, engineering, birding, and even water sports. Please go ahead and email me if you know of camps I might have missed.
If you value OUTDOOR SUMMER CAMPS, please make sure you sign up for this special time outdoors. Your kids will make memories for a lifetime and the organizers will continue to offer the camps as long as there is a demand.
OC Summer Camps with Outdoor Themes
#1 – [VIRTUAL] Inside the Outdoors* , part of the Orange County Department of Education, offering a Virtual Summer Camp experience each week in July. Program themes are: Full STEAM Ahead, Tinkers and Thinkers, Save the Turtles, and Amazing Animals. [Normally, locations vary between Rancho Soñado in Silverado Canyon, Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach, and Irvine Regional Park.] Disclosure: I work for them managing their social media during the school year.
#2 – [IN-PERSON, MODIFIED] Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach – Camps are split into different age groups. Little Naturalists Camp is for preschoolers ages 3 & 4. Summer Nature Adventure Camp is for ages 5-8 and campers ages 9-13 get Science Explorers Camp. ENC is proceeding with in-person camp with a lot of health & safety modifications.
#3 – [VIRTUAL] Camp Pinniped at Home (from Pacific Marine Mammal Center) is for 8 to 12 year olds. Online camp will run 9am to Noon M-F. [It’s normally held at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center on Laguna Canyon Road for M-Th and then Fridays are at an off-site location. “Campers learn how our animal care team rehabilitates our seal and sea lion patients through a series of mock activities including weighing fish, preparing fish smoothies, cleaning pens and learning the art of marine mammal rescue.” 14-17 year olds can apply for Junior Camp Counselor volunteer positions.]
#4- [CANCELLED FOR 2020] Sea and Sage Audubon Summer Day Camps at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary – Warning – these camps sell out quickly! These are very popular camps for the 7-8 year old Fledglings and 9-12 year old Marsh Bird Camp. Campers must complete beginner camps to advance to intermediate camps.
#5 – [CALL FOR INFO – Website not updated] Starr Ranch Junior Biologists Summer Camp for kids ages 8 to 13 researching wild animals and their habitats.
#6 – [IN-PERSON, MODIFIED] O.A.K.S. Day Camp at Oak Canyon Nature Center in Anaheim– “Campers will have the opportunity to experience themed art, nature, Native American traditions, games, and more.” Online registration is available if you login to the recreation catalog and filter for OAK Canyon Nature Center. Camps are listed as “O.A.K.S. Summer Day Camp” (registration available now) and “Wilderness Survival Camp” for 12-14 year olds (registration coming soon). Day camps have themes like: Diggin’ Up Dinosaurs, Star Wars, Pirate Scavenger Hunt, Bird Bonanza, Radical Reptiles, and Fin-tastic Sharks.
#7 – [VIRTUAL] Earthroots Field School is offering “live camp via Zoom” where “Summer camps will be supported with a combination of mailed activity kits, downloadable instruction, group zoom classes and one on one calls.” Two camps to choose from: Family Nature Skills Camp and Wild Craft Camp.
#8 – [IN-PERSON, MODIFIED] Ocean Institute normally has incredible camps for ages 5-17 which include time on boats and lots of marine science and research. They are still running camps for 2020 with health & safety modifications. View the website for complete details.
#9 – [VIRTUAL] Camp Discovery at Home (from Discovery Cube OC) is offering 3 hour per day morning and afternoon sessions (9-Noon or 1-4pm) for grades K-8. You can choose to attend for the whole week or just on a day to day basis (cost savings if you go for the week). Themes include: Creature Features, Discovery Cube Heroes, Gizmos and Gadgets, Space Camp, Planet Patrol, and Code Constructors.
#10 – [IN-PERSON, MODIFIED] Camp James at Newport Dunes “is a traditional style day camp offered in a natural, outdoor environment. Our goal is to expose children to a wide variety of activities as well as provide abundant opportunities for campers to increase their skill development each year they return for another summer session.” Open houses scheduled for March, April, and May so you can visit and find out what they are all about.
#11 – [NO EVENTS LISTED FOR CRYSTAL COVE] Camp Coastal WILD at Crystal Cove State Park is usually only one week at the start of summer where Crystal Cove State Park Naturalists and Lifeguards run a one week unique summer camp that blends the backcountry and the coastal areas of the park. Children ages 7-11 spend 2+ hours engaged in nature activities including: hikes, bird walks, and tidepool exploration. After lunch, campers enjoy 2 hours of coastal activities with park lifeguards (could include: volleyball, boogie boards, kayaks.) Call 949-497-7647 for registration information.
#12 – [ALL ACTIVITIES LISTED AS FULL] Camp Newport offers a summer day camp at Marina Park.
#13 –[CANCELLED] YMCA of Orange County has a sleepaway camp called Camp E.L.K. with lots of outdoor activities in our local mountains.
#14 – For sailing and watersports, we have OC summer camps in Dana Point Harbor and Newport Harbor. All are running summer programs (in-person, modified). Try Westwind Sailing in Dana Point Harbor and Newport Sea Base or Orange Coast College’s School of Sailing and Seamanship in Newport Harbor. Pirate Sports Paddle also offers a kids camp in Newport Dunes (offering private group option). Children must be able to pass a swim test to participate in these programs.
BONUS IDEAS [Many are cancelled or not advisable during Summer 2020]
(But I’m keeping them listed so we can hopefully return to them next year.)
- Take the Bus! OCTA Summer Youth Bus Pass* (30 day passes valid consecutive days from June 1 to August 31 for kids 18 and under)
- Surf Camp
- Junior Lifeguards
- Build a Fort Camps for Laguna Hills residents
*Disclosure: I should disclose that I personally know many of the organizers of the other camps from my history of writing about outdoors in Orange County. I contract to do social media for Inside the Outdoors Foundation for the 2017-18, 2018-2019, and 2019-2020 school years. Also my husband is an employee of OCTA (but I’ve always had that bus pass info posted!). As always, my opinions are all my own and you shouldn’t take my word as an endorsement of any organization. I’m just providing info and you can make your own choices!
Originally posted in March 2012.