Berkeley Day Camp

School-Aged, Preteens, Teens

Parent Reviews

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Sounds a lot like my seven-year-old who was just diagnosed with ADHD. We LOVE Trackers. It keeps him active all day and also teaches some good focus skills because some of the activities are risky (archery, etc.) and you really have to follow the rules in order to participate, so he is highly incentivized.

He also loved the Cal Youth camp (Explorers last year, we haven't tried any of the more focused ones like gymnastics) - it's very structured, with lots of activities, and he likes that.

Berkeley Day Camp is kind of the opposite though, with less structure and more free play and I think that is super important too, so we'll probably sign up for that again because I think that part of summer should be spent running around outside without much structure.

We also did Galileo last summer and he liked it but I didn't think it was worth the price compared with the city camp or Cal camp (whereas I think Trackers is so good that it's worth the extra money).

One thing that's very challenging for our kid is going somewhere without a friend, so we coordinate with his friends from school - it's extra work on the front end, but worth it when summer comes and he's less scared and resistant about going to camp.

I'm not sure if your reference to Day Camp at Willard is JUST that, or in conjunction with Berkeley Day Camp, which is a City of Berkeley Summer Camp that our kids went to for years, and which has a before and after care option at Willard.  We never did the before or after care, but I wanted to recommend Berkeley Day Camp because both our kids loved it.  It's very traditional -- think hikes, capture the flag, cookouts, lanyards -- with a school bus taking the kids to either the Berkeley Marina or Tilden every day with lots of adventures including swim day every Friday at either Lake Anza or Crab Cove in Alameda.  It's really a great, and very affordable, camp with super nice counselors and a lot of creativity.

Last year with a rising kindergartener we did Berkeley Day Camp and the Frances Albrier Art's Camp. We won't be doing Berkeley Day Camp this year. His reviews on the staff at BDC were mixed and the AM and PM aftercare was lack luster, plus I witnessed some poor supervision around pick-up and drop-off that made me wonder about safety. That said he loved all the cool places BDC went and I think for older kids the issues we had would not be a big deal.

At Frances Albrier's Art camp, the staff are the same week-to-week (and mostly the same staff as their school year after school program) the group is smaller than BDC. They do a walking field trip each week (to swim or go to a different park), they cook, do science, garden, art time, play games, dance, play on the playground, do light sports, and goof around. Lots of time outside and just the right amount of lightly supervised free play plus organized activities for mine. He choose on his own to go only to FA this summer. 

RE: CIT programs for teens ()

Hi there - I think CIT'ing at age 15 is perfect.  Our son was a CIT at Full Belly Farm (sleep away) camp last summer at age 14, and will do so again this summer.  He enjoyed it, and I think it gives kids that age the right combo of supervision and responsibility.  If it had fit our schedule (they require 2 consecutive weeks), we would have had him CIT at Berkeley Day Camp, run by the City of Berkeley, which he and his sister both attended from K-6th grade and loved.  It's a very traditional camp - hiking, games, arts/crafts, etc. at either Tilden or Berkeley Marina, so no "tech focus" or anything, but really a great outdoorsy experience with a lot of kids.  And we liked the counselors there very much.  Good luck!

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.

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!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Feb 2013

Any new reviews of City of Berkeley summer camp? I have gotten a few rave reviews, but see some negative ones in the archive. My camper would be entering first grade. Thanks!

We sent our first grader there last summer, she loved it! Came back happy everyday and always looked forward to what the next days adventures would bring. As a parent I found the rigidity of drop-off time a bit annoying. The counselors would be at the park early, stand around chatting with each other, but would absolutely not allow the children to be signed in until the sign in time. So it made my commute to the city a bit hectic in the mornings, but overall it was the best priced camp and she was happy. We'll be sending her again this summer. Happy Berkeley City Camp Parent

How did your child do at Berkeley Day camp?

April 2012

I'm a day camp newbie and have been completely blown away by how expensive summer camps are in our area. After looking at different options, it seems like the City of Berkeley Summer Day Camp may be the best choice for us. It's less expensive than the other camps we researched, and it seems like the kids spend a ton of time outdoors. This would be great for my active boy, who will be turning 6 over the summer. I was hoping to get some recent feedback from parents who have done the City of Berkeley Day Camp for their children, since the earliest archived recs are from 2008. My son doesn't need a whole lot of bells and whistles, as he'll only be going for a couple of weeks, most likely. However, we do need the camp to be safe and nurturing (he can be sensitive sometimes). Lastly, he'll most likely be going by himself, as most of his friends are going to more expensive camps, so I'd love to hear from folks who sent their kids alone, as well... how did they do? Are the counselors good at encouraging friendships between the campers? Thanks in advance for your feedback! Summer Camp Newbie

My son who was 9 last year did two weeks of the City of Berkeley Day Camp and really liked it. It was not at all full of ''bells and whistles'', instead all the time was spent outdoors in Tilden Park and Berkeley Marina. The price was very affordable and additional plus was that they had various pick-up/drop-off places in Berkeley and we had one just a few blocks away. We will do it again this year! anon

I hate to say it, but both of my children were ho-hum about Berkeley Day Camp. I SO wanted them to like it because of the price and the convenience, but BOTH of them (one sensitive, one very mellow and likes anything) said they didn't like it. My mellow and good-natured son threw a fit the last day and didn't want to go after just 4 days at camp. From what I could gather based on both of their limited abilities to communicate nuanced information at ages 5 and 6, the counselors weren't that pro-active about encouraging friendships between kids, and the pace is rather hectic, going to a different place every day, and spending lots of time in transport on the bus from the various pick ups at parks to whatever site they were headed to for the day. It was chaotic at drop off and pick up each day, and i would have been VERY nervous if my children didn't have a friend to go with. If your son goes for more than one week, he may have a different counselor every week. Now, my kids went 3 and 2 years ago, so it is highly possible things may have changed, but unfortunately, I think you get what you pay for in summer camps and Berkeley Day Camp is cheap for a reason.

Not a Fan of Berkeley Day Camp

My son, who was between K and 1st grade last summer, absolutely loved Berkeley Day Camp. I was a little surprised, because he can be more of an indoor, shy kid. He really liked the counselors and the outdoor activities, and for him the lack of bells and whistles was perfect. (He preferred this camp to a couple of other more expensive ones, though he liked Lawrence Hall of Science equally well.) That said, he did know a few kids at camp from his elementary school. I don't know if he stuck with them during camp, but it probably helped him in the big group to have a few familiar faces. mom of happy BDC camper

Tilden Park camp vs Live Oak Park camp

April 2008

I just realized that the city of Berkeley offers a day camp that goes to Tilden and the Marina and another camp at the Live Oak Community Center. Does anyone have experience with one or both of these camps? Would love to hear about your experience. Thanks. Cindy

My son (8 years old) went to Berkeley Day camp the last two summers, and to the Live Oak camp this past winter break for three days. The Live Oak camp included several disabled children and they had minimal activities. They were scheduled to do some outdoor activities, but it rained so they stayed in and watched movies all day. I wouldn't send my child back - it wasn't a good fit. Berkeley Day camp is great, lots of running around in the forest, good counselors, devoted staff. Whole different thing. anon

Berkeley Day Camp

Feb 2008

I HIGHLY recommend City's Berkeley Day Camp (kindergarten through aged 13 with the option of older kids being Counselors in Training at a greatly reduced fee for camp) which is a different program than the park-based programs. Unlike the park- based programs, Day Camp kids meet at one of I think 3 drop off locations and then are bused to various locations for the day. The basic schedule is 2 days at Tilden Park, 2 days at the Berkeley Marina, and 1 day either at Echo Lake or the beach in Alameda. I found the Day Camp program far superior (had tried the San Pablo Park program). My active boys LOVED being outdoors all the time and the staff is mostly college/young adult age rather than high school aged - very mature and VERY engaged with the kids). Day Camp Lover

March 2005

Does anyone have experience with this camp? Any concerns or positive imput about safety, quality of staff, atmosphere, programs, etc? It's so much less expensive than others -- is it too good to be true? Celia

Berkeley City Day camp is great. My older daughter went there every summer for several years, and my youngest daughter is now attending. Lots of outdoor fun, and crafts. The kids come home dirty, tired and happy, so you know they had a good time. The staff are fun and energetic. Nancy

Jan 2004

Could anyone whose child has attended the Citycamp summer camp in Berkeley please share thoughts about this camp? I'm intrigued by it for my 7-year-old (come summer). Was it fun? Was it well organized? Did your child like it? Were you comfortable with the level of supervision? Did your child have any bad experiences? Would your child go again? Etc. - Thanks. Amy

My son has loved the City of Berkeley daycamp program for the last 2 years(ages 6 & 7)--multiple weeks. They have fun counselors & a good variety of activities. The counselors are young and good with kids, and seem as responsible as one could expect for their age. Any requests (i.e. changing groups to be with a friend)were accomplished easily. And of course it's the best bargain in town--we've done weeks at many camps that were double the price and they were not superior in any way. Every year (including this one) we add more weeks at City of Berkeley. Nancy

January 2002

Has anyone had children go to this camp? It's surprisingly affordable, which I am sorry to say is a fairly significant thing this summer. Is it very chaotic? I have a fairly high need nine year old and a less high need six year old and would probably enroll them for several weeks along with other camps. Additionally, does anyone have any suggestions for relatively low cost camps? Thanks.

My son went to Berkeley Day Camp for four or five years and loved it. He stopped when he was around ten as he wanted to try new things. It's an exceptional value and the counselors are terrific. One thing to consider: You have to get your application in by the first day or you will probably not get in. Many parents sign up for all the sessions. The camp sends half the time in Tilden and and the other half down by the Berkeley Marina. Another outstanding camp is Playground Rats, run by the Albany YMCA. This is all sports, all of the time. The Y has other camps too. Jamie

My daughter loved Berkeley Day Camp and has gone there for 2 summers. The beginning of the pre-first-grade summer was a little rough because she wasn't in a group with any of her friends, but I learned that you can request that certain kids be together, and then my daughter made friends very easily and enjoyed her new friends as much as the old ones. The bigger kids were very nice to the younger ones, and kids took care of each other at the bus stop as well as at camp. I know some people have had problems with the supervision and lack of attention to kids with medical needs, but I have no complaints myself. Robbie

Re Berkeley Day Camp: My son has gone for at least 3-4 years and is sad that this is the last he'll be able to attend (due to age limits). I think it's the best deal in town! They hire great college kids who seem to be creative and fun. The camp will honor requests to have your child placed in the same group with friends, which is always a plus in the kids' minds. If your child does not like to be outside a lot, it's not a good choice because it is Entirely outside. I think there is a pretty good balance of activities, but it is a fairly low-key camp. The one complaint I've had is that it can be a little loose in the mornings when you drop your child off and this can be a problem if you're in a hurry to get to work. You have to wait for one of the 'bus counselors' to be present, and they sometimes stroll in a little late. The end-of-day pick-up time seems to be slightly fluid as well.... Deborah

My son has been to Berkeley Day Camp twice ((at 9 years old for two weeks and last year at 10 years old for the whole summer). He loved it and got on well with the other kids. This is a kid who has been immature/high maintenance in terms of behavior and social interactions in school, after school care, and past summer programs. Reasons for success? In my opinion, the staff was mature (at least college aged), well-trained, and visibly enthusiastic (didn't act like it was just a job). The staff seemed to deal with the kids individually - for example, when the age groups were remixed after the first session, my son was placed with 8-10 year olds rather than 10-13 year olds which made sense in terms of where he was (and though he complained, it really worked for him) Also, the format of going to different locations each day (Strawberry Canyon, Adventure Playground, swimming) kept things interesting and because the kids had to take buses, walk! , ! I think it reinforced the kids's understanding of the need for self-discipline and structure. My 6 year old is already talking about I get to go this summer (has caught his brother's enthusiasm) and my now 11 year old can't wait to be a CIT (Counselor in Training). Karen H.

And this from this morning: By the way, we've been very happy with the City of Berkeley Day Camp It's energetic and fun, the price is great, they have camperships if you need that, and you don't need to sign up until April 24. Avi


I've sent my kids to Berkeley City Day Camp for many years. In my opinion, it's not for everyone, but if you are OK with its style, it's great and certainly the best bargain you'll find. Strengths are that the kids are outside most of the time, that there is a high tolerance for exuberance (veering toward chaos on occasion), that it has a Berkeley community feel to it, and that it's diverse. Weaknesses are that it's big, much of the direct supervision of kids is done by relatively young and inexperienced counselors, and that it can get chaotic. I would not recommend it for kids who prefer a quiet, low-key environment or for parents who prefer to see their kids in a controlled environment with lots of adult supervision. My kids love it because it's a lot of fun. I turn off the control-freak part of me and send them because it seems like a bit of craziness is a good antidote to the rest of the year and one of the things summer is for. Nina

Berkeley Day Camp is great. My going-into-first-grader loves it. They get picked up at a school and get to ride the school bus to Tilden or the Marina. The staff is fabulous. They swim at Anza or Crab Cove or Crown Beach every week. There is a weekly cook out. You can sign up for just the weeks you want. And it has got to be the bargain of the area ($57 week till 3:30, a little more for extended day). You do have to sign up on time and pay in advance. Call the city for details for next summer. My husband went to this camp 30 years ago! Kristin