336 Good Days in Tacoma: Affordable Summer Camps

Editors Note: This was one of my first entries. Scroll to the bottom for updates.

Why am I writing about summer camps in January? Because registration usually starts in early February, and some of them fill up pretty fast.

You may have noticed most of these entries deal with kids, I'm hoping to have a little more solo time this summer. There are a number of very affordable ways to go about this in Tacoma.

My eldest is a fan of all things related to the Tahoma Audubon society, especially Nature Camp, at the Tacoma Nature Center. I believe last year's cost was $125 for one full week of day camp. She was a bit young for an all-day camp last summer, and we very much appreciated the large staff of teen volunteers that supplements the paid staff members. Another local mom told me she paid big money for camp through a private school, that turned out to be disorganized and severely understaffed. Another plus of this program is that it's available to a wide age range, from very young children in a half-day camp at the Adriana Hess Audubon Center to older school-age kids.

Last summer, we also took advantage of the Morgan Family YMCA's Fit for Fun program. In 2006, half a day of Fit for Fun was available for the insanely low price of $25 a week to YMCA members. The kids did what the name suggests: play play play until they needed to go home and pass out. Half or full day programs are available and swimming is included for all but the four year olds. The YMCA also has summer camp programs, day camps that meet at the Morgan Family Y and an overnight camp out at Camp Seymour on the peninsula. Although you have to be a Y member for fit for fun, camp programs are open to all.

Metro Parks also runs a number of camp programs scattered throughout the area, with a focus on the arts, sports, swimming, and your more basic day camps. Registration hasn't started yet for 2007, I believe the programs listed on the website are last year's. Ages 4 and through high school. Registration for Nature Camp is also through Metro Parks.

The Point Defiance Zoo also has camp programs that fill up pretty quickly. They offer everything from a half day "Wiggling Walruses" program for four year olds to a career-focused hands-on science program for teenagers. Our 7 year old neighbor has gone for the past few summers and she gives it a thumbs up. Registration for zoo members starts February 1st.

Update, 6/8/07: Metroparks camps are filling up, but spaces are still available for many sessions! Check out their website for more information, and to register online.

Other camps we left out: Campfire USA runs several day camps in the area, as well as a sleep-away camp. Prices are extremely affordable, day camps are $85 a week, sleep-away camp is $300. As of yesterday, spaces were still available at all of their camps.

The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts also have day camps and residential camps. We'll call for an update on availability next week.

Summer fun, parks

Ben Dew's Clubhouse Grill

We love this place for it's consistently good standards. Great breakfast food. Excellent sandwiches. Very good artery clogging dinners. If you are looking for a diner-type atmosphere without risking a bad meal, this is the place to go. They also have abundant parking and a space large enough to accommodate everyone, even during weekend brunch, with little to no waiting.

Ben Dew's (on 6th and Mildred) is always a reliable place to get a good meal in a kid-friendly atmosphere. Today at lunchtime they were extremely busy, but made up for it by making sure the kids had things to keep them occupied. My kids even received a random gift of stuffed animals from either a regular, an employee, or some member of the family who owns the place, I really do not know.

This is not the kind of place you can only appreciate with children, however. They serve all of your standard Uhmurrican faire, with a skill and consistency that is somewhat unusual in these parts. There's been a Ben Dew's in Tacoma since the early twentieth century, and it's easy to see why.

Ben Dews Clubhouse Grill

6501 6th Ave

Tacoma, WA 98406

(253) 564-4442

Age Recommendation: All

dining, American, American map, breakfast, breakfast map, West End


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