12 unique summer camps in Pittsburgh, from ziplining and glass blowing to genetic research

Photo above courtesy of Dragon’s Den.

In a region with so many summer camp offerings, it’s exciting to imagine what kids could learn this summer. Along with bringing you our big 2022 summer camp guide for the Pittsburgh area, here is a lineup of a dozen unique summer camps in Pittsburgh that might just be perfect for your child:

Dragon’s Den

Dragon’s Den returns to the 2022 summer camp season with a cool lineup. The transformative educational environment has reinvented the former St. Mary Magdalene Church as a two-level rope course and zipline. Kids ages 7-13 will find exciting camps that range from Around the World in 5 Days and Outdoor Explorers to Dragon’s Laboratory. Camps include field trips and outdoor fun in the sun. Browse camps and register here. Partial and full scholarships are available.

Cello Fury Rock Camp

The four-week Cello Fury Rock Camp for Strings will happen again this year, giving young musicians a chance to play in a high-energy string rock orchestra. Registration is now open for violin, viola, cello and bass players ages 7 to 17. Sessions for various age groups run June 27-July 1 and July 11-15 at PYCO School of Music in Wexford and July 25-29 and Aug. 8-12 in Shadyside at The Ellis School. All four weeks of camp will be in person, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Get more information and register here.

Image courtesy of Cello Fury.

Air Force Association CyberCamp

The annual Air Force Association CyberCamp is a truly unique summer camp option in Pittsburgh presented via a partnership between the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security and Pitt Information Technology. This year, the free, weeklong camp is scheduled from July 18-22. High school kids will be immersed in a range of technical skills and digital literacy with a focus on cyberethics and systems security. Sign up to be notified about registration tentatively opening in May.

Ascend Pittsburgh

Ascend Pittsburgh’s summer camps, are designed to grow strong minds and bodies. Caring, experienced counselors guide kids through fun and developmentally appropriate activities, including bouldering, top-rope climbing, yoga, slacklining, and more. Kids develop strength, dexterity and balance, while they’re also having fun and making friends. Are your kids new to climbing? No problem. These classes are designed to be accessible for all levels and for ages 6-16. Registration is now open (register here) and summer camp financial assistance is available.

unique summer camps in Pittsburgh
Photo courtesy of ASCEND climbing.

University of Pittsburgh Gene Team

Science-minded teens from Pittsburgh’s urban high schools with an interest in biology are invited to apply for a position in the five-week Gene Team program. Pitt Biology Outreach will provide state-of-the-art laboratory training to collect data for a current research project. Bus passes will be supplied and participants will receive a stipend at the end of the program. Sessions will include a focus on strategies and skills that will help with college applications. To be eligible, kids must have completed one year of high school biology. Summer 2022 dates are June 27th-July 22nd, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Get application information here.

The Wheel Mill

Both more experienced and wannabe shredders can find a session at The Wheel Mill’s BMX and Mountain Bikes Camps. Kids will be thrilled to experience the 80,000-square-foot park filled with all kinds of trails and ramps with varying terrain and levels of difficulty. Beginners learn general bike safety and skills along with cycling, mountain bike and BMX vocabulary. Once kids master the basics, they can move onto learning intermediate skills. Check out the summer camp lineup here.

unique summer camps in Pittsburgh
Photo courtesy of the Wheel Mill.

Blue Ribbon Farms

Kids get a total fresh air farm experience at Blue Ribbon Farms’ Little Farmers Day Camp. Hands-on experiences include bottle feeding a newborn calf, caring for goats and piglets or riding a pony. Kids learn about growing food in the expansive garden and collect fresh eggs, then help prepare dishes from food harvested on the farm. Crafts, nature walks and games are part of the fun. The three-day camps are geared to kids ages 4-13. Register here.

unique summer camps in Pittsburgh
Photo courtesy of Blue Ribbon Farm.

Pittsburgh Glass Center

Teens in grades 6–12 take over Pittsburgh Glass Center from July 11-15 for the intensive SiO2 teen boot camp. This one-week summer day camp introduces the science and art of glass, offering hands-on experience with glass-making at one of the top facilities in the country. Sessions include glassblowing, flameworking, kilnforming, and coldworking. At lunchtime, campers will gather for discussions with instructors and fellow students. Scholarships are available. Learn more and register here (apply by June 1).

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Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Glass Center.

The Hillman Academy

The Hillman Academy provides authentic research experiences and mentorship to high school students. Participants work in labs on a cancer research project alongside a Pitt faculty member, graduate student, or post-doc. Great for students interested in STEM, biomedicine, or research! The program runs June 20 – Aug. 5. Applications are being accepted now through mid-February from all high school students (preference given to rising juniors and seniors). Read more here about eligibility. The program offers 34+ stipends of $2,400 to students from underrepresented groups.

The University of Pittsburgh Architectural Studies Program Summer Studio

Also known as the Experiencing Architecture program, this four-week experience immerses high school students in the various facets of architecture and design. Participants develop foundational skills for architecture – including sketching, drawing, and model making – while working on design projects and using Pitt’s architecture studios and maker spaces. Students get a sense of what it’s like to study and practice architecture and related professions through office tours, construction site visits, and walking tours of notable buildings in and around the city. Applications are open now for this July camp, and applicants will receive a status update by mid-April. Questions? Email Sara Pettit. Students in grades nine through 12 from all backgrounds are encouraged to apply if they have a strong interest in pursuing architecture or design beyond high school.

unique summer camps in Pittsburgh
Photo courtesy of University of Pittsburgh Architectural Studies Program Summer Studio.

Startable PGH
Startable teaches students 13- to 18-years-old entrepreneurial and engineering skills through the design and commercialization of hardware products. Participants build their own business, keep profits from their products, and pitch for prize money at a final event. Startable will offer their 2022 program in a hybrid model: Some cohorts will meet virtually, and others in person. Program dates will depend on the cohort schedule and end on Aug. 5. Applications will be available in May at startablepgh.org. This program is for anyone interested in entrepreneurship, technology or skill-building in related areas.

Steel City Rowing Club

The Steel City Rowing Club offers an outdoor day camp for kids ages 8-12.  Campers have an opportunity to explore the Allegheny River in kayaks and canoes in Verona, while also enjoying swimming, paddle boarding, or just relaxing on the docks. Bonus: There will be an occasional excursion to Sycamore Island to explore the environment on and around the island. Get more information and register here.