Children Unplug and Explore Nature at NC Adventure Camps


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Teenage campers at Adventure Treks enjoy the thrill of climbing a mountain.

Photo courtesy of Adventure Treks

Have you ever looked into the eyes of a living, breathing sea turtle? Made a campfire in the rain? Challenged yourself to your limits by riding a wave?

These are questions adventure camps throughout North Carolina pose to the thousands of children who travel from all over the world to participate in extreme camp experiences.

From rock climbing and camping to surfing and snorkeling, North Carolina is home to dozens of world-renowned adventure camps.

What are Adventure Camps?

Adventure camps, also referred to as “extreme” camps, focus on giving campers unique, life-changing experiences that often feature direct interaction with the natural world. North Carolina’s abundant natural wonders, stretching from the mountains to the sea, offer campers many settings in which to test their mettle.

Instructors at WB Surf Camp, located in Wrightsville Beach, teach campers to catch a wave the right way, as well as integrate ocean safety, marine science and conservation.

Instructors at Adventure Trek, based in Hendersonville, set up a myriad of outdoor challenges in the nearby mountains. The camp also allows older campers to travel to locations ranging from the Pacific Northwest to British Columbia. Nearby Camp Pinnacle also offers a Ventures Program, which consists of day and overnight trips to explore surrounding parks, forests, mountains, waterfalls and rivers.

All adventure camps aim to go above and beyond a typical camp experience to provide opportunities for kids to face new challenges, gain independence and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Why Choose an Adventure Camp?

Now, more than ever, may be the best time to look into adventure camps for your children. These days, kids can fly jets, become superheroes and even create entire virtual worlds without ever having to leave the comfort of their couches. Adventure camps take them out into the world and teach them many of the skills necessary to becoming successful adults.

One such skill is creating challenging but realistic goals. WB Surf Camp Director Will Ahlers says setting goals is an important component of the camp programs they offer.

“No matter which program it is, from the guppy camps with our 5- to 6-year-olds all the way through our adult camps, we go through daily goal-setting,” he says. “In any camp or school setting, anytime you are learning a new skill, goal-setting keeps you in check as far as what is realistic and where you can push yourself. (Setting goals) also creates a great opportunity for our instructors to be supportive and good role models.”

Another important skill taught in adventure camp settings is independence. Many Generation Xers grew up in a world where they hopped on a bike in the middle of the day and their only instruction was to be home by dark. Their children live in a very different world and, as a result, are not presented with as many opportunities to gain the independence and confidence to make their own decisions, especially in stressful conditions.

At adventure camps, there are often activities that set up “perceived danger,” wherein campers are placed in new situations they have never been in before. They can feel that sense of risk and opportunity to fail while being in a safe and controlled environment with skilled instructors nearby.

Navigating those risks and challenges not only bring independence, but also a sense of confidence because they faced a fear and rose to meet a challenge. This is just one of the reasons why Camp Pinnacle and Adventure Trek Executive Director John Dockendorf is passionate about adventure camping. He believes the skills gained at adventure camps cannot be overlooked.

“When you go to camp and you learn how to mountain bike on a trail, go down a zip line that seems scary, climb to the top of a mountain when it was hard but you kept going ­— and when you were nervous about going to camp and being with kids you didn’t know — and suddenly you’re leaving the cabin with hugs and all these new friends ... you’re standing much, much taller when you get home,” Dockendorf says.

What to Look for in an Adventure Camp

Above all else, parents vetting adventure camps should make sure safety is the management’s top priority.

“We want perceived risk, not actual risk,” Dockendorf says.

Ahlers describes his instructors as the best in the business. “They have to go through extremely thorough and comprehensive training where the majority of it focuses on specific ocean safety information,” he says. “How to keep your campers safe in the ocean is our utmost responsibility and we take it very seriously.”

In addition, word of mouth reputation, staff retention and returning campers’ feedback are all good indicators for what camp is right for your child. 

Whether it’s the thrill of catching that first wave, navigating a white-capped river or falling asleep under a blanket of stars, North Carolina adventure camps offer countless ways for your children to unplug and be immersed in the beauty of our state.

Mandy Howard is a freelance writer and mother of three in Raleigh.

 

North Carolina Adventure Camps

Camp Pinnacle camppinnacle.com

Adventure Treks adventuretreks.com

WB Surf Camp wbsurfcamp.com

Sea Turtle Camp seaturtlecamp.com

Green Cove greencove.com

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November 2017

Step back in time with a 19th-century costumed interpreter and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Registration encouraged online. Tickets available at the...

Cost: $5/adult, $3 ages 7-16. Free for ages 6 and younger

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Raleigh, NC
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Celebrate the wonderful world of exotic animals and reptiles. Enjoy live specimens, presentations, raffles, vendors and much more. Purchase tickets online.  

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N.C. State Fairgrounds, Kerr Scott Building
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

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Cost: Free and open to the public.

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Downtown Durham
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Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Crowder District Park
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Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve
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Wake Forest, NC
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Search for salamanders, owls and more. Ages 10-13. Register online.

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Park West Village hosts Winter Wonderland in the District. This year’s event will take place the weekend of November 17th. Take the family to enjoy train rides, magical winter lights, live...

Cost: Free; $5 donation for sledding

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Park West Village
3400 Village Market Place
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Telephone: 919-234-6710
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Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
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Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
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Crowder District Park
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Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
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Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Learn what it was like to be a kid at the first Thanksgiving. Play games and make a food collage. Choose either the 10:30-noon and 2-3:30 p.m. session. Ages 7 and older. Register online.

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Raleigh, AL
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Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
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Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
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Harris Lake County Park
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
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Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Crossroads
333 Crossroads Blvd
Cary, NC  27518
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Website »

More information

Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free with admission

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Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Telephone: 919-828-3344
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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More information

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Cost: $35-$55

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
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See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See a contemporary re-imagination of Tchaikovky's timeless music. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $35-$55

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Catch this comedy classic on the big screen—as the symphony plays the charming and delightful score by John Williams live. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $14-$29

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $25-$45

Where:
Umstead Park
8801 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Fit and Able Productions
Telephone: 919-673-4689
Contact Name: Travis
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More information

Celebrate what you're thankful for. Play a game and make a pine cone turkey craft. All ages with adult. Drop-in program. Registration not required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Toddler Time is a special time for ages 5 and younger to bounce under the supervision of their parents, and without interference from the big kids. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $7-$10

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Shop more than 20 local vendors offering amazing gifts this holiday season. Enjoy daily raffles with proceeds benefiting local animal rescue Paws in the City. Kids can enjoy crafts...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Crossroads
333 Crossroads Blvd
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

The Raleigh Boychoir makes an appearance before its big Christmas concert.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $5/adult, $3 ages 7-16. Free for ages 6 and younger

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Leigh Farm Park
370 Leigh Farm Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: Durham Parks and Recreation
Telephone: 919-560-1116
Contact Name: Natalya Buckel
Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Catch this comedy classic on the big screen—as the symphony plays the charming and delightful score by John Williams live. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $14-$29

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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