Affordable Summer Camps

Parent Q&A

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  • Free Summer Camp in Berkeley?

    (1 reply)

    Where can I find free summer camp information? We are in Berkeley. I used to receive it from school.  I have not gotten it this year.  I checked with the school advocate but I have not heard back from her. Thank you.

    Hi! I'm a super researcher, and I have some answers for you.

    If your child is at a Berkeley public elementary school (which it sounds like), your child can go to the BEARS summer camp at the schools, most likely what your child did before. Your child does NOT have to be in the BEARS afterschool program during the year to go to the summer session, but if your child IS in BEARS after school, ask the BEARS teachers when the summer sign up is--- it's right around now. Here is the BEARS info pages with phone numbers, etc:

    The City of Berkeley has full scholarships available for low-income Berkeley residents for their Summer Fun camps. I'm not sure if there is a scholarship application deadline, but here is the page with City of Berkeley summer camp info. My child is doing this, and I had to send in camp application plus a scholarship application.

    Best of luck, and I hope your child has a great summer!

  • Does anyone have a recommendation for affordable summer camps for a 5 year old going into Kindergarten in the fall? Preferably in the San Leandro/San Lorenzo/Castro Valley/Hayward area. Thank you!

    Yes! Camp Tenderfoot at E Ave Park in Hayward is amazing! It’s run through HARD (the parks and rec), so it’s not that expensive. There are lots of kids from CV, SLZ, SL and Hayward, and the same ones go each summer. Your kid will LOVE it - the campers get dirty, play in the woods, sing goofy songs and all the other outdoorsy things. My 16 year old son started in K, and now he works there :)

    Depending on your kids' interests, you might try Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward. It's a small wildlife rescue organization that offers wonderful educational programs. Have had a great experience with every staff member we've interacted with there. We haven't done their summer camp yet, but I can recommend the organization wholeheartedly. 

  • Looking for AFFORDABLE summer camps

    (14 replies)

    It seems to be that time of the year already - time to arrange for summer camps. My 11 year old daughter LOVES summer camp, but the cost stresses me out. I simply can't afford the $500 - $600 a week that most camps seem to charge. At the same time, I usually don't qualify for need-based scholarships. So I'm turning to the wise folks of BPN. What are the most affordable - yet fun - camps in the Berkeley/Oakland area? Must be public transportation accessible. Full-day and half-day are both fine.

    The most affordable are the Ymca and the city recreation departments. 

    Albany YMCA has a traveling camp for this age group. It is called Awesome Adventures. Each week the campers go on 3 whole day field trips by bus and the other two days they walk to El Cerrito pool and spend some time there. It is a full day camp, till 6pm.  You can allow her to sign herself out. Some weeks they are based at Memorial park, some at Albany Middle. My daughter said she would not sign up for the whole summer (too much traveling), but you can choose weeks with your favorite destinations, like Exploratorium, Boomers or Water World.

    Our daughter loves Cal's Blue sports camp. It's $525 for two weeks. Not cheap, but a good deal for an all day camp that includes swimming and lots of fun.

    Check out the multitude of camps run by the City of Oakland, City of Berkeley, City of Piedmont, East Bay Regional Park District, etc.  We had a great experience last summer with the City of Oakland's boating camp (they also teach sailing for older kids like yours!) and with EBRPD's camp for young kids.  Camps run by public agencies tend to be much more affordable as they are essentially subsidized by tax payers.  Typically you'll get a resident discount, but won't necessarily need to be a resident to participate.

    You might want to look into Camp Edmo. They have a Berkeley and Oakland locations (among others as we attended in Marin years ago) and although their weekly rates are more in the $350 - $550 range, they offer sliding scale financial aid which is designed for families who need just a little help or a lot. You might want to take a look at their website. I pulled the url for the page with info on their sliding scale program -

    I hope this helps.


    'Shake Rattle and Roll' is for 11+ year olds and up in Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland. Both my 15 year old and 12 year old sons started as soon as they were allowed -- at age 11.  They cook their lunch on campfires they make themselves (learning how to start a fire and build a safe one are part of what they learn), learn to carve wood with knives, make bows and arrows from natural materials, learn about local botany and what is edible, learn some archery.  They absolutely love this day camp and insist on participating at least a few weeks every summer still.  I can say it has even changed their lives in terms of them wanting to learn how to make things themselves and to have responsibility and passion for the outdoors. Although a few more boys than girls sign up, there are plenty of girls, too. This camp has an amazing history in Oakland Parks and Rec and is an absolute hidden gem of summer camps. It is also just ~$275 per week, 9 am - 3 pm, so half or almost half the price of many other day camps and yet I feel it is as good or better than almost all the other camps I've sent my kids to (Chabot, Galileo, SummerQuest, Cal camps). And, with so many other camps opening up in the past 5-10 years, it is also quite easy to get a space even at the last minute (or at least this has been the case the past 3 years, except for the advanced bowmaking week, which often fills up early)... I would think one could get there by AC Transit; the kids go throughout Joaquin Miller, Roberts and Redwood Parks but they meet at the Ranger Station on Sanborn Dr for drop-off and pick-up.  Reasonable after-care is also available (but the pick-up for that is up top closer to the Roberts pool).  Sometimes OPR is a little late getting information on the web and it may not show up until March.  If you want, you can call the Rotary Nature Center at (510) 238-3739 (who run it for OPR) to get information before it may appear online.

    If the outdoors isn't your daughter's thing, another option our younger son did for several summers was Doug's Drama Camp ( in which campers perform in original plays. Sessions are 2 weeks. Doug is great in directing the children and providing a fun and joyful experience for all. And the price is very reasonable -- again, about half the price of many other camps my kids have attended.  

    I don't know where you are, but the rec centers in Berkeley and El Cerrito are very reasonable. You just look up your local rec center and "summer camp." They aren't super cheap, but $250/week is better than $400/week. 

    In Richmond, there are VERY low-cost camps, like $50/week, but you have to be really quick to register the DAY they open registration.
    More info here:
    People well get super-snotty about these camps but many of my friends and I have very happy kids in them. 

    Does she have any interest in girl scouts?? There are 2 camp sessions each summer that are hecka cheap. 


    Berkeley Day Camp ( has been our go-to summer camp for almost 10 years (this summer will probably be the first time my oldest, who will be 14, doesn't go) and both my kids love it.  You drop off at one of several locations around Berkeley and their school bus takes kids to either Tilden or the Berkeley Marina for a day of adventures - hikes, fishing, games, arts/crafts, cook-outs, etc.  I think the cost is around $200/week, hours are 9 am-3:30 pm and they do offer after-care till 6 pm. 

    Another low-cost camp we love is sailing camp at the Lake Merritt Boating Center (  Also about $200/week and kids with no sailing experience can learn to sail, advancing each year till they are sailing at the Oakland Estuary.  Finally, for less "active" kids, Studio One in Oakland offers great art camp ( also around $200/week.  Hope this helps!  Good luck!

    My kids (son and daughter) always loved Touch the Earth in Oakland. The kids get dirty, build forts and do basic camp activities. 

    UC Berkeley Golden Bear rec center and other campus based camps.
    YMCA camps
    City of El Cerrito and City of Berkeley camps.
    Tilden Parks camps.

    Sees the Day camp. Owned and operated by Kirk Cooper. It takes place in Tilden Park. Kids of all ages love it. There is a Web site.

    Berkeley Day camp is fantastic and affordable. City of El Cerrito has fantastic affordable camps. Look at Albany too, but we like Berkeley & El Cerrito better. Additionally, the Albany Y's camps are good. My children have done their bicycle camp--loved it.

    City recreation camps are really cheap (we did a couple of weeks at Oakland's Redwood Heights, and it was under $200/week), and this includes camps at Lake Merritt and parks up in the hills. I think Studio One also counts as a Parks & Rec location, also with lower rates.

    Hi there - It's true the most affordable are the Ymca and the city recreation departments.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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Oakland All Day Summer Camp for under $300 week?

Feb 2013

Oakland Parks and Rec . Depending on the location, weekly rates are quite reasonable, from $60 - $150 per week. Dimond, Montclair, Redwood Heights, Allendale, etc.

Another option is Adventure Time . They are the aftercare program at several OUSD elementary schools and they run a summer camp open to anyone - you don't have to be enrolled in the aftercare program during the school year to attend their summer camp. Their summer camp is at Robert's Park in Oakland 3 days per week and then at an OUSD school the other 2 days (typically Joaquin Miller or Montclair). You can sign up for the entire week or by the hour. summer camper

The least expensive summer camp I found was Adventure Time (located in several OUSD schools, and on Monday-Wednesday in Roberts Park). They charge per hour, and although I have not looked at the prices this year, my memory is that if your child goes full time, you pay something between $5.00 and $6.00 per hour. They do a lot of different activities -- crafts, sports and games, and a lot of free play. Very low key. See their website at Karen

Take a look at Lakeshore Children's Center , which runs summer and school break camps, in addition to its preschool and aftercare programs. It is located on Lakeshore Ave, and costs $150 a week (I think). They have a pretty typical summer camp program, with Monday being ''wheel day'' (bikes, scooter, etc at the park), swimming two days a week, field trip one day a week (bowling, ferry to San Francisco, etc.), and arts and crafts one day. My daughter really enjoys it there.

Other affordable options include Oakland Parks & Rec camps (although I was underwhelmed by the counselors), and the Oakland YMCA . Carrie

Summer camp was a big sticker shock for us, too, not to mention the transportation logistics. The city parks & rec departments are the way to go. In Oakland, our kids have really enjoyed Studio One summer camp, which has 9am-5pm days for -- brace yourself -- $150/week for city residents. Throw in a couple of weeks of that, and you can still afford some Monkey Business or another more expensive camp if you want, if your kid has friends are going there, etc.

I also know that most of the OPR rec centers (Montclair, Dimond, Redwood Hts, etc.) have all-day programs at similar prices. For the Oakland programs, their website is here: For category, enter ''day camp,'' and then you can sort by start date or location, and click through on ages/places/dates that work for you to get more information. Also, there's Berkeley City Camp, which even with morning and after care at non-resident rates is less than $300/week, and pickup/dropoff is at Willard Park in South Berkeley. Summer camp sticker shock

Not in Oakland but nearby in Elmwood/Claremont are the Cal Youth camps , which are $200-300/week depending on the child's age, for 9am-4pm. Extended care is offered from 7:30-9am or for 4-5:30pm for $45/week. Here's their website: see