Remember summer camp? Long afternoons of nature walks or horseback riding, launching from a rope swing into a lake, singing goofy songs around a fire at night. Those days may seem like a distant memory, but it's not too late to relive them. Adult summer camps are becoming a ritual for more and more under-rested, overconnected grown-ups – places where you can play capture the flag or learn to carve a kayak instead of checking your email by the pool.
According to the American Camp Association, 1 million people over the age of 18 went to summer camp last year. And adult camps in the U.S. have grown some 10 percent over the past decade. "Put eight people in a bunkhouse with no phones and they become a mini tribe," says Levi Felix, 29, who co-founded a tech-free retreat outside San Francisco two years ago. "You become mindful about yourself and the people around you." Here are six camps where that authentic kind of connectedness – with new people and new skills – will leave you feeling like a kid again.
Cooking with Pros
"At CIA, we are not teaching recipes; we are teaching kitchen skills," says chef Mark Ainsworth, a 20-year veteran professor. "The focus is on cooking methods, like how to julienne or braise." Offered at three locations across the country – Hyde Park, San Antonio, St. Helena – the Culinary Institute of America's two- and five-day boot camps cover skills such as butchering, knife work, grilling, and baking, and offer lessons on making hors d'oeuvres, comfort foods, and exotic dishes from around the world. You'll sweat through sessions in its state-of-the-art professional kitchens, working in teams to make meals that are judged by teachers – just like a reality-TV show, but without the screaming. Ainsworth says he's seen everyone from retired surgeons to former Navy lieutenants come in with a passion for cooking and "leave completely energized." As a bonus, all three schools are situated in areas where there's a ton of fun to be had outside the kitchen: Hyde Park's hiking paths and graded mountain-bike trails overlook the Hudson River; San Antonio's exploding restaurant scene will satisfy your appetite should your own cooking experiments fail; and St. Helena is in the heart of Napa Valley.
Cost: Two-day skills development, $895; five-day basic training, $2,195.
Credit: Courtesy of CIA / Keith Ferris
Bring: Nonslip, rubber-soled shoes (think Mario Batali's Crocs) are required for the kitchen.