CUSTOMER SATISFACTION Maybe it's the 3-to-1 camper-to-counselor ratio or the nurturing environment that stresses the importance of being a responsible member of a community and how to be a good friend. Perhaps it's the appealing location on the shores of a placid lake nestled in the White Mountains or that large heated pool the kids use when the lake waters get too cool. Whatever the perk, it's obviously a great one, since Camp Walt Whitman has an annual camper return rate of 85 to 90 percent. Last summer, that included 91 sets of siblings and 39 campers who were children and grandchildren of alumni. Now in its 60th year, the camp features a long list of attractions, including 11 tennis courts, a driving range, batting cage, gymnastics, pottery, and the requisite water sports. Piermont, New Hampshire. $5,700 for a four-week session to $9,050 for the full seven-week session. First session: June 28. 800-657-8282; campwalt.com
STAYING LOOSE Parents love the locale of the all-boys camp, Kabeyun, nestled on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. Kids love the flexibility. Founded by John Porter in 1924, the motto is "You can choose to do anything you want, but you can't choose to do nothing." Every day except Sunday, boys get to select their own activities, so if you want to get that sailing license or hook a large lake trout, go for it. There's also water-skiing, windsurfing, wakeboarding, canoeing, swimming, archery, a ropes course, and a top-notch tennis program. Basketball and soccer games are on the agenda, but Kabeyun strives for a noncompetitive, laid-back atmosphere. Alton Bay, New Hampshire. $3,150 for an introductory three-week session to $6,800 for the full eight-week session. First session: June 21. Three campers per counselor. 603-746-3485; kabeyun.org
VOLUNTEER SPIRIT The all-girls Camp Danbee emphasizes values like volunteering, with campers taking on jobs in the community (giving a much-needed paint job to a late-18th-century library, for example, or doing their latest dance routines at a nearby nursing home). The positive attitude stems from the communal spirit the girls develop as they spend the entire summer on the shores of Lake Ashmere in the Berkshires. Amenities include a large gymnastics center, an arts-and-crafts studio for working on pottery, stained glass, and mural designs, an equestrian center, a ropes course, zip line, tennis courts, water-skiing, windsurfing, and a 100-foot water slide. No wonder the camp has a return rate close to 90 percent. Hinsdale. $5,300 for a four-week program to $9,200 for the full seven-week session. First session: June 27. A five-day Discovery Camp is available to first-time campers for $700 August 2-6. Three campers per counselor. 973-402-0606; campdanbee.com
LASTING APPEAL To stay in business for almost 100 years, a camp obviously has a recipe for success. For camps Keewaydin Dunmore (all boys), which was established in 1910, and the younger Songadeewin (all girls), it's a classic back-to-nature approach that stems from their stellar location on the shores of Vermont's Lake Dunmore. Kids have the option of canoeing, kayaking, or sailing on the quiet lake or rock climbing or backpacking on terra firma, all against the backdrop of Mt. Moosalamoo and the spine of the Green Mountains. They can also kick back near the rustic cabins and catch frogs in the lagoon, fish off of the dock, or read under the shade of a tall fir tree. Salisbury, Vermont. $3,200 for an introductory two-week program to $6,750 for the full eight-week session. First session: June 22. Three campers per counselor. Keewaydin also offers a camp for boys in Ontario, Canada. 802-352-4770; http://dunmore.keewaydin.org
LOCATION, LOCATION There's much to like about Camp Pinehurst in the Sebago Lake region of Maine. Three generations of the Curtis family have run the camp since it opened in 1946. The lakeside setting features an intriguing mix of sports, from wakeboarding, mountain biking, and fishing to a riflery program. Best of all are the off-premises trips to hike Bald Peak, canoe for two days on the Saco River, and whitewater raft down the surging rapids of the Kennebec River. Now that's taking advantage of your surroundings. Raymond, Maine. $2,250 for an introductory two-week session to $5,475 for six weeks. First session: June 29. Three campers per counselor. 603-880-6287; camppinehurst.com
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