There's a national trend toward more choices in summer camps. Parents and kids are demanding adventures outside the traditional cabin and canoe in the woods. (Call it customizable camp.) And California's Pali Adventures is delivering some extreme child-friendly adventures. The massive operation has hosted campers ages 8 to 16 from 38 states and 44 countries, and now offers 21 different themed camps in one-week intervals throughout the summer.
Located on 74 acres off Rim of the World Highway in the San Bernardino Mountains, Pali Adventures was founded by Andy Wexler, 45, who while still in college started an Los Angeles day camp that morphed into the city's largest outfit. After investing in a few family publications, Wexler turned back to his passion for kids and summer camp, amassing a complex unlike anything on Earth.
"We provide experiences you can't get anywhere else on the planet," says Wexler, pointing to activities ranging the flying trapeze to ATVs—in some 250,000 mind-boggling permutations. "We try to be way ahead of the curve. About 30 percent of the time it doesn't work, but we’re always trying different things to see what sticks."
This summer it's all about LARP (live action role-playing). Feedback from Pali attendees yielded requests for more fantasy-style action-adventure, a trend that's increasing in popularity (think zombie and paint runs) in the U.S. "Kids act out the experience, like being in a video game," says Wexler. "That's where the world is going." Pali also added magic camp and fine arts to its vast list of activities, all tailored to pint-size attendees.
Each morning, Pali attendees, whose parents fork over $2,000 for a week's stay, use an iPod Touch to select their name, cabin, and afternoon "elective" for the day. Campers also designate a "major," or favorite activity, that they attend each morning for three hours before the afternoon is up for grabs. Many Pali kids stay for up to three weeks, alternating between weekly majors so they can experience the gamut: Hollywood stunt, secret agent, watersports, rock star, girl power, film, fashion, and more.
Wexler says the high-end price tag is well worth it, considering Pali's exclusive access to unparalleled activities, 2-to-1 kid-counselor ratio, comfy, three-bath, 12-person cabins, yummy kid-approved make-your-own pizzas, omelets, and buffet-style bites, and the camp's full accreditation and top-notch safety standards.
The world of summer camp has clearly turned a corner, and kids and parents alike seem to be wired for the next adventure.
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