Community Connections Schools and Youth

5 unique Palo Alto summer camps that offer something for everyone

When it comes to planning summer camps, there are two kinds of parents. The organized parents are great at planning ahead and schedule their kids’ summers like an army colonel plotting the invasion of Normandy. The ‘other’ parents (myself included) are a bit more, well- free form.

We start the summer with lofty goals of cultivating creativity and imagination with fun outings and open-ended craft projects. But after a few weeks of sweeping up glitter, driving kids all over the Bay Area, yelling at everyone to get off their devices and trying desperately to get work done, we are ready to call it quits.

Look familiar? This is why the universe invented camp. Photo by 'Screenagers'

Look familiar? This is why the universe invented camp. Photo by ‘Screenagers’

It’s not too late for summer camp…

Photo by Environmental Volunteers

Photo by Environmental Volunteers

Fortunately for procrastinating parents, there are plenty of local camps that still have space available. We are particularly fond of the camps that support great local nonprofits and get kids outside exploring their neighborhoods, playing with coding, learning about local ecosystems and more.

Here are our picks for Palo Alto summer camps that will keep your kids happy and busy…


What kids do: Camp Sparkiverse is designed to bring out the creativity and tech curiosity in all students. Sparkiverse offers camp programs that integrate science, technology engineering, math and arts (STEAM) through circuits, robots, gaming, music, coding and more. More info on each week’s theme and target ages can be found here.

photo by Sparkiverse

photo by Sparkiverse

Where it’s located: Duveneck Elementary School (also locations in the South Bay, SF and East Bay)

What’s unique: Sparkiverse was created by Palo Alto parents David and Mare Lucas to, “to inspire children to think big thoughts, pursue big dreams, and discover a deeper understanding of how the world works.” They are particularly passionate about getting girls involved in exploring STEAM through art, coding and more.

Registration info: here or

Art Works Studio Palo Alto

What kids do: Art Works Studio offers morning camps where kids create hands-on art projects with a different theme each week, such as clay, animals, 3D, painting and more. Optional lunchtime play at Addison each day.

Where it’s located: Across from Addison Elementary School near downtown Palo Alto.

a monster doll created at Art Works Studio. Photo by Tracy Wu.

a monster doll created at Art Works Studio. Photo by Tracy Wu.

What’s unique: Art Works Studio’s founder Marci Lamb has been helping children find their creativity in her lovely studio for over 12 years. Read why kids love ArtWorks Studio here. ArtWorks Studio also offers after school classes during the year.

How to register: here  or

Wheelkids bike camps

What kids do: Wheelkids camps offer two levels of biking fun for kids. For more confident riders, the Adventure Riding Camp get kids out on bikes exploring and learning to use their bikes for transportation and adventure to Stanford, the Baylands and more. For new riders, Wheelkids offers the Two Wheelers Club, where kids learn to ride on campus and eventually progress to nearby streets.

Where it’s located: Camps meet at Addison Elementary. Adventure Riding Camp kids go to different locations throughout the week while the Two Wheelers are based mostly at Addison.

photo by Wheelkids

photo by Wheelkids

What’s unique: Founded in San Francisco, Wheelkids has a mission to introduce kids to cycling as a fun form of transportation and create lifelong habits of riding safely. Wheelkids also offers after school programs and family rides as well as discounts at local bike shops for registered campers.

How to register: here or

Explore! Summer Day Camp

What kids do: Explore! Summer Day Camp is about going on adventures, developing a love of nature, cultivating wonder, and having fun. Camps meet at the EcoCenter in the Baylands and throughout the week, campers have the option to go on mini-trips to local areas like parks or Rinconada Pool or they can stay at the Baylands to explore the local habitat. Each week, all campers head out to nature site like Windy Hill Open Space Preserve or Half Moon Bay and to a special field trip to places like CuriOdyssey or Happy Hollow.

Where it’s located: EcoCenter in the Palo Alto Baylands

What’s unique: Explore! Summer Day Camp is run by Environmental Volunteers, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit that has been helping kids explore nature for over 30 years. Environmental Volunteers provides nature field trips and classroom programs for schools all over the Bay Area. For more about this cool organization, check out our story on Palo Alto Pulse.

Photo by Environmental Volunteers

Photo by Environmental Volunteers

How to register: here or Camp open house June 16 from 5-7pm at the EcoCenter.

The design farm (DFarm) Summer Workshops

What kids do: Summer workshops focus on teaching the design thinking process and putting it into action with opportunities to build real world solutions. Teens will work in teams of 3-5 to identify areas of interest and passion. The key focus of the workshops is to have fun, learn to identify problems and and then launch projects into the teencubator program.

Where it’s located: Palo Alto High School

What’s unique: The DFarm is a non-profit founded in Palo Alto (in-process) with the goal to cultivate entrepreneurship in teens through the lens of design thinking. DFarm has cultivated a range of local mentors from tech, arts and more to support their after school and summer design thinking workshops.

photo by DFarm

photo by DFarm

Read more about DFarm on Palo Alto Pulse, including their recent Design Daze event.

How to register: Next session is July 11-22. Register here.

And keep in mind for next summer…

Kick for Charity is one of our favorite Palo Alto summer camps, but the sessions for 2016 are already over. Founded and run by Palo Alto high school students, Kick for Charity is a sports camp focused on fun that raises funds for nonprofits. This year, Kick for Charity’s camps will support the East Palo Alto Kids Foundation, which provides urgently needed funding for East Palo Alto schools.

Learn  more about Kick for Charity on Palo Alto Pulse and get on their mailing list for summer 2017!

Photo by Jim Migdal

Photo by Jim Migdal

About the author

Victoria Thorp

Victoria Thorp

Victoria is the founder and editor of Palo Alto Pulse and has lived in Palo Alto since 2007. Victoria's diverse professional background includes working as the editor of , as a senior writer for KIPP and Teach for America, and as a radio producer for City Visions on KALW (91.7FM San Francisco). She is a graduate of Leadership Palo Alto and a member of the Palo Alto Partners in Education Advisory Board.

She has a BA in English from Tufts University and Masters in Education and Secondary Teaching Credential in English from UCLA.