City of El Cerrito Summer Camps

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El Cerrito
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Toddlers, Preschoolers, Kinder, School-Aged, Preteens, Teens

Parent Q&A

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  • City of El Cerrito Adventure Camp

    (3 replies)

    We are considering signing up our 5 year old up for the City of El Cerrito's Adventure Camp. I have read the older reviews, and wonder if there is more recent experience with the camps - especially for the younger kids.

    I have to admit that I was excited about it, but the release form they require you sign during registration was incredibly off-putting and concerning to me, as it releases the city from all responsibility for injury or death "including such liability which may arise out of negligence or carelessness..." This may be standard legalese, but it felt a bit extreme to us.

    If you've sent your kids there over the last few years, what was your experience with the staff? I'd love to hear about the experience for your kids as well, but any insight into whether the staff seemed reliable and responsible would be greatly appreciated.

    I don't have any direct experience with Adventure Camp but -- I, too, signed my daughter up for Adventure Camp as well as a slew of El Cerrito specialty camps. I've heard great things about the program in general and figured my daughter would spend the whole summer there. Then I put her in President's Week camp at Harding Elem and now have second thoughts. The kids were packed like sardines into a small space with one small outdoor play area. There were a few special guests during the week but otherwise I think it was pretty cramped and bare bones. At any given time during drop-off/pick-up I saw a few caregivers who were positively engaged with the kids and a few who were staring at their phones for extended periods or giving the appearance of being totally checked out/bored/annoyed. 

    The camp is cheap (if you ignore the sky-high city taxes that fund it) and definitely convenient and has real family-friendly hours, but if President's Week camp is any indication of what Adventure Camp is like, I'm not enthused. We decided to keep some weeks and go elsewhere for others. That's to say nothing of your concerns about the waiver, which may be standard but which I will now re-read more carefully. 

    We have had good luck with the El Cerrito camps with my girls who are now almost 7 and almost 11, in general they have liked the specialty camps more more than the traditional camps but I have found the staff to be warm and supportive and feel like my kids get a good summer experience with kids in our community.  

    My daughter did several weeks of Discovery Camp one summer, which is the age group above the Adventure Camp, but the same "classic" camp offering from El Cerrito.  My daughter enjoyed the camp, but I think a whole summer of it might get boring.  In my opinion they are best mixed in with more expensive specialty camps or other non-city camps.  My daughter liked Discovery Camp the most when she had a friend there.  We didn't plan for her to go with anyone in particular, but most weeks she knew someone in her group from school or other community activities.  I think the release form is fairly standard, and I wouldn't worry about that.  The staff at these camps can be a bit hit or miss.  I think they are all friendly and well-meaning, and some are better than others.  One experience we had that I was not okay with is that they failed to check in with the kids sufficiently about sunscreen application, and my daughter got one or two fairly bad sunburns on the swim days when they spent the whole afternoon at the pool.  The counselors may do better with that for the younger kids, but I would definitely make a point of talking to the counselors about it and reminding them on pool/splash park days.

  • Looking for parents' experience with the Viva Espanol summer camps run through El Cerrito Rec. My 5 yr old boy is starting kinder in the Fall, going into a dual-immersion program. He currently has no Spanish. He is super shy and not looking forward to starting school. I see the age range is large- K-6. I am wondering if it would be a fun introduction for him or would he be overwhelmed...? 

    My child attended this camp 2 years ago and I was not impressed.  She was already fluent in Spanish though so maybe for a child with no Spanish it would be a good introduction.   It's a drive from El Cerrito but Escuela Bilingue Internacional has a wonderful summer camp.   

Parent Reviews

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My daughter loved the City of El Cerrito camps when she was younger, She also liked the camps at the Albany Y but I don't see a web page for that so not sure if it is happening this year.

The El Cerrito summer camps are highly regarded and reasonably priced. Registration opens March 29th and if you want to register I recommend you clear your schedule because the camps are popular and usually fill up quickly. I don't know if COVID will make it easier or harder to sign up.

RE: Summer swim lessons for 10yo ()

City of El Cerrito Swim Camp is super fun! My daughter went for several years. It is a mix of lessons and games and a weekly field trip. If your daughter is not a strong enough swimmer for Swim Camp, the Classic Camp also has a couple days per week of regular swimming lessons.

Our 6 year old daughter will be attending El Cerrito camps again this year for most of the summer ( She enjoyed Adventure Camp last year and will be trying Discovery Camp this summer. Both of these camps run from 7am to 6pm (you can add "early bird" or "late bird" sessions on to other El-C camps, too, for a fee) and have swimming lessons twice a week as well as trips to the splash park (Discovery Camp also takes one offsite field trip a week). In addition to having working parent hours, they are very reasonably priced. 

El Cerrito City Summer Camps have a Mandarin Immersion specialty camp. I think it's new this year. We like the other EC summer camps we've done, so we signed up for it this year. 

Check out the City of El Cerrito summer camps at

They have camps that run from 7am-6pm if you sign up for the extended care.  The prices are good, compared to some of the other camps out there, and there are tons of things to choose from.  My daughter loved their camps during the summer.

Good Luck!

City of El Cerrito has full day

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.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


El Cerrito Adventure Camp or Junior Explorers?

Feb 2015


My son is 7 years old and going into second grade next year. I'm signing him up for camp right now and I'm having a hard time choosing between El Cerrito Adventure camp and Jr. Explorers. He did Adventure camp last summer and loved it.

With his age, he is eligible for either camp. In Adventure camp he'd be one of the oldest and in Jr. Explorers he'd be one of the youngest. I know that he'd enjoy the field trips that the Jr. Explorers do. He's a happy, outgoing kid who does not have problems making friends.

I'm leaning towards Jr. Explorers but hesitate to commit to having him with big kids for the whole summer. He has complained a little about the big kids in the holiday camps doing some bullying. But I don't know how old those kids were or if there's more oversight during the summer than during the holidays. Maybe all ages are thrown together more during the holiday camps than during the summer camps?

Do most entering second graders do Adventure camp or Jr. Explorers? If you've had to make this decision, would you mind letting me know what you decided and if you were happy with your decision? Thanks for your input

My older son could go to either last summer and after the first day in the Adventure Camp, he was like, 'The kids are so little. I'm the biggest one.'' and I immediately transferred him to the Jr. Explorers camp... so starting out with one and transferring to another is a possibility. They charge a nominal fee but they were totally fine with him switching. I had originally signed him up for Adventures because his little brother was going to go to camp with him so I wanted them to be together but the little brother ended up staying at his preschool until the end of summer so that wasn't a factor anymore in which camp he went to. Jr. Explorers was fine for him, even if he was on the younger side, but he can usually hold his own.

Hope that helps! Another El Cerrito Mom

Funny you posted this, just today I called the rec office to ask if a 6 year old going into 2nd grade would be in Jr Explorers or Adventures. They said they go more by grade, so it would be Jr Explorers. I was happy to hear this as I want my son to be with his friends from his grade, not kids he doesn't know who are a whole grade or more behind in school. Not sure why you are so concerned about bigger kids in Jr Explorers... welcome to life at elementary school! (At my son's school, the 1st-3rd graders share recess time - same age range.) Sounds like they're going to have a ton of fun with the field trips. Anyway, don't worry, your kid isn't going to be the youngest one there!

El Cerrito Camp for 5 and 7 year olds?

March 2014

We are thinking about sending our 5 and 7 year old boys to El Cerrito Camp. I checked the archives but don't see many recent posts about this camp. Can anyone share their positive or negative experiences? We sent our older son to a different camp last year but he didn't love it. We are looking for a half day camp two afternoons a week so if anyone has other recommendations [we're already familiar with Steve and Kate's], I would appreciate the advice. Summer is a comin'

My then 6 yr old son was at Adventure Camp during Summer 2013 and loved it. The staff were excellent and the camp offered a range of activities. They would visit the pool daily and there were weekly themed activities, art projects, sports, cooking, etc. We also did a few specialty camps like Lego and Art (also through the City) which he liked. I highly recommend the EC camps and we plan to return this year. Anon

Review of Junior Explorers Camp

Feb 2013

Re: Camp for 1st grader that lasts more than 2 weeks
For the last few years, we've been sending our daughter to the Junior Explorers Camp that is run by the City of El Cerrito Recreation Department. It is available for ten weeks, and each week they do different activities and a short local field trip. They also swim at the El Cerrito Community Center in the afternoons on M,W,F. My daughter never gets bored, and in fact, she has made some nice friends there. They have all day coverage too, which is great for parents that still have to work all day. Happy Camper's Mom

Experience with El Cerrito Adventurer camp?

June 2011

I'm wondering if any parents have recent experience with either the YMCA camp or the El Cerrito Adventurer camp? I would love my active girl to be at a camp that included swimming as part of their day. Do the instructors seem kind, calm and well connected to the kids? Also considering these for her younger sister who will be entering Kindergarten next year - too young? curious camp mom

I had a recent experience with El Cerrito Adventurers camp, on June 20. My child was enrolled in half day, afternoon. When we arrived the first day on week two there was a sign on the door that they had gone to the community center and would return at a specific time. We waited for 10 minutes before someone arrived. It was not a good sign. They were running late was the only explanation. A coordinator did not arrive until 1:30. There was no clear connection with the children, no effort to learn my child's name. I gave them the benefit of the doubt for two other days and saw a subtle improvement but I am sure now it is not the right fit for our family. I called and gave feedback to Cory at the Rec Dept. she seemed genuinely interested in making improvements to the program. My child liked the water play, ''squirted with the hose'' and the popcorn snack - when they watched The Little Mermaid. Not the camp experience for us.

EC Sports Camp for 6 year old?

March 2011

Hi! This will be my 6 year old son's first year in a camp and I am kind of nervous about the whole thing! He really loves sports so we were looking at him attending the EC Sports camp. I haven't read any reviews. Does anyone have any experience (good or bad) with it? We were also looking at the Albany YMCA which I have heard good things about. Thank you!! Leslie

My kids haven't gone for a few years, but when they were younger they attended various El Cerrito camps including Sports Camp. While it's maybe not for kids who want to specialize in a particular sport, it has a nice, friendly atmosphere. Some of the counselors come back year after year and the kids seem to admire them a lot. They do keep them running around; my kids always slept quite well when they were going to sports camp. Also their hours are convenient in that you can drop your children off at 7 in the morning and pick them up by 6 in the afternoon, which isn't true of many places. Liz

My son loves El Cerrito Sports Camp! He has been attending since he was 6 (he's 9 now), and he's having a blast every time. I know it sounds grueling to spend the whole day outside. But the camp counselors offer a variety of sports during the day, and they have different schedules every day of the week. They always have chess or board games for kids who feel tired and need to chill. My son doesn't like going to the pool on a cold day, and they're OK with that, he just stays at the park with a counselor while the other kids swim. He comes home very happy and completely exhausted, and it only takes him seconds to fall asleep every night. There are kids who spend their entire summer there, but we have found that it's good to take breaks between weeks at the Sports Camp (never two weeks back-to-back, it's just too exhausting.) You have a variety of options just in El Cerrito (City camps, Windrush Camp, the new Steve and Kate's at Prospect Sierra.) Happy Camper's Mom

Gymnastics camp at El Cerrito Community Center

March 2007

Re: Gymnastics camp for 6 year old novice
I have the perfect camp for your child: Gymnastics camp at El Cerrito Community Center, on Moeser. They have week-long morning camps (9-12:30) for this age group, and no prior experience is required. I believe they offer this most weeks of the summer, but you'll have to check. My daughter did it last year and will go again this year, and she had a blast. Check out the website for the City of El Cerrito's rec program and search around until you find the info, or go directly to the Community Center and register. Christine

More Summer Camp reviews

March 2004

We are considering the City of El Cerrito Summer Camp (Castro site) for our active seven-year-old boy. Also, perhaps Windmill Gymnastics for a few weeks. Unfortunately, he won't have a little pal with him at either program because many of his friends are not doing a summer program so I'm worried that it will be a difficult adjustment. Has your child split the summer between more than one camp and been able to navigate each program successfully? What do you think of Castro Camp vs. Windmill? Are there other summer day camp programs in or near El Cerrito that you've had good experiences with? Any input would be helpful. Thanks

Well my almost 8 year old has attended El Cerrito summer camp for the past 2 summers and he loves it. He also attends two weeks of cub scout camp as well. He likes the counslors,the kids stay busy and it is very affordable. Good hours also... Danielle

Jan 2002

Does anyone have experience/opinions about the Harding Summer Camp program in El Cerrito? It sounds like fun from the description. My soon to be 7 year old son is extremely shy and takes a long time to warm up to new situations, especially adults. He does best with smaller less chaotic groups. He likes art, cooking, sciencey things, being active, but not particularly sports. Any opinions about Harding, or other camps more appropriate for a quieter guy would be appreciated. We live in East Richmond, so convenience is an important factor, ie: north Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, Richmond, etc.Thanks, June

My 7 year old daughter attended Harding Summer Camp last summer & will be there this summer. It has always seemed pretty crowded and chaotic to me, but she loves it. Unfortunately due to the closure of the El Cerrito Community Center pool this summer, they won't be swimming every day, only once a week at the Albany pool. My older daughter, who is much less outgoing than her sister disliked Harding Summer Camp, I think mainly because of the rowdy behavior of a lot of the kids. Her little sister IS one of the rowdy kids, so she fits right in! M.G.

Jan 1998

In response to Summer Camp recommendations: My children have been attending the summer camps run by the City of El Cerrito for many years. They offer seperate camps for different ages beginning with Kindercamp all the way to Surf & Turf for teenagers. The sign-ups are in the Spring on a first-come-first-serve basis. El Cerrito residents have priority registration. Camp sign-ups are done on a week-by-week basis, but are offered all summer. The campers go swimming every day at the El Cerrito Community Center pool. Swim lessons are offered at an additional charge. Lynn

El Cerrito Soccer Club

Christina (11/99)
Another league is the El Cerrito Soccer Club, listed in the business section of the white pages. I would second all the recommendations made by other parents -- good exercise, good for girls to do something that makes them feel tough and part of a team, good to have friends from outside school. My daughter is not a star player, but she has learned a lot (she's been playing two years) and it has given her a lot of physical confidence I don't think she would have gotten anywhere else. It's great to pick her up from practice all muddy, and with a red face from running around. It does eat up a lot of your life, but if you can carpool, it's not so bad --