Kids have escaped the summer heat (and their parents) at sleepaway camps for decades. But not all sleepaway camps are created equal.
The exclusive and expensive Raquette Lake Camp, in the Adirondacks mountains, offers campers million-dollar facilities, a camper to counselor ratio of 2:1, full-uniform attire, Olympic-level sports coaches, and around-the-clock counselor supervision in the bunks, all with 100 miles of shoreline on one of the cleanest lakes in the country.
The price tag? $11,400 for the summer, just for the basics.
"The camp may sound a little resort-like, but our campers are far from on holiday," said Ed Lapidus, whose wife Kathi has owned the camp for a little more than a decade (he calls himself "the camp grandpa"). "Parents want their children to get as much life experience as possible. We're old school."
Raquette Lake sounds like a child's dream, but getting in isn't easy.
There's space for just 450 campers between the ages of 6 and 16 years old in the boys' and girls' camps, and most of those spots are filled by children returning from previous summers. Siblings and legacies (some kids are third- and fourth-generation campers) are admitted next.
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Once those children have been factored in, there are usually only 10 to 12 spots left. At that point, potential campers must go through an interview process, to make sure they are the right fit for the camp, Lapidus said. Many wind up on a wait list. Camp staff uses a map to make sure that there are not too many campers from the same school or hometown, so the children truly have a diverse experience.
There are campers from 18 countries and 21 states, and a small group comes to Raquette Lake on scholarship, helping diversify the group of campers even further.
Lapidus said that no day in the seven-week program was "typical" at Raquette Lake. Tennis reigns as the top activity: every camper receives tennis instruction every day. A former Olympic coach heads the camp's equestrian program and imports horses from Florida. Once a week, the campers take on a ropes course.
With easy access to the lake, water sports offerings are also extensive and include sailing, waterskiing, and jetskiing.
Every week at camp, a different age group puts on a full-length play with the help of Broadway and off-Broadway directors, voice coaches, and costume designers.
And one day a week the campers leave the grounds and go hiking, or on nearby trips. These trips can bump up the overall cost of camp to more than $12,000. The 14-year-old campers — boys and girls alike — take an 80-mile canoe trip.
All the food served at camp is made on the premises (no canned goods). The chefs can accommodate every allergy, and Raquette Lake is completely nut-free.
All electronics, including cellphones, video games, and even hair dryers, are forbidden.
Care packages from home are also not allowed. Lapidus said they take the environment around camp very seriously, and don't want to create any extra waste from the packages. They also don't want to create jealousy among campers.
"You don't need them here," Lapidus said. "If you have a good program and quality time for the children and a lot to do and get them involved, they don't want to play video games or sit alone. It's a very social camp, they be with each other and spend seven weeks having friends, doing things with each other."
The formula, if costly, seems to be working. Lapidus said that campers love Raquette Lake so much that about one third come back as counselors—a very rare ratio.DON'T MISS: Send Your Kid To One Of These 18 Absurdly Expensive Summer Camps >
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