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The best 2020 kids summer camps in Pittsburgh

Sally Quinn
March02/ 2020

With the hundreds of summer camps available in Pittsburgh, the possibilities are endless. There are options for athletic kids, the scientifically minded and those more artistically inclined. Do you have a youngster who’s fascinated by the outdoors? Or one who seems destined for a stage career?

They’ll all find their niche within these five summer camp categories where we have rounded up some of the best:

1. ARTSY-CRAFTSY CAMPS

Fabulous Fiber Art

Fiber, patterns, textures and colors are the source of creative expression at this Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh camp. Kids in grades 3-5 will explore weaving, knitting and sewing. Other artistic sessions include Puppet Design, Big Messy Art and Little Picture Play.

Dream House Architect

Campers consider all the elements of function and design in creating the house of their dreams at this Carnegie Museum of Art session running June 15-19. Using different architectural drawing and model-making techniques, kids will come up with exciting ideas for a unique home. Check out additional camps, like Experimental Drawing and Painting, Clay Play, and Art Cat’s Art Party. Scholarships are available.

Drawing Mania

Tweens and teens will learn a solid foundation in drawing with charcoal, markers and ink at this Sweetwater Center for the Arts camp. The young artists will learn techniques like pointillism, shading and perspective while completing a different project each day. Kids can get their hands dirty throwing pots in a ceramics camp or explore their sweet side in a cake decorating session.

Fashion Maker

Fashion designers come in all sizes and ages. Kids from age 6 to high school seniors will master the techniques of style design at Cut & Sew summer camps. Beginner classes will get kids started with patterns and sewing machine operation. More advanced kids can try a hand at making doll clothes, color block dresses and home fashion. Look out, Project Runway!

Cooking Up History

Campers in 4th-6th grade head to the Heinz History Center kitchen to cook up historical recipes and explore their connection to the culture and traditions of Pittsburgh people. Field trips include outings to the Strip District markets and a visit to the Frick Environmental Center. Other cool camps include The Changing City, which looks at the evolution of Pittsburgh over the past 250 years, and City Artists, where kids will recognize some familiar artistic styles.

Art, History, Nature

Kids in grades 4-6 will explore and create at this Frick Pittsburgh camp. The leafy Frick grounds and museum spaces set the scene for painting, sculpting and printmaking. A Mini-Camp for imaginative younger kids, ages 4-6, runs the previous week.

Camp Delicious

Aspiring teen chefs will find culinary confidence at this Luminari camp offered on CCAC’s Allegheny Campus. Teens will participate in tastings and learn about food sourcing and preparation under the guidance of some of Pittsburgh’s most prominent chefs and nutritionists. By the end of camp, kids should have the ability to create scrumptious meals at home.

Summer @ The Factory

The Mattress Factory’s Mini-Camp kids, ages 4-6, will experiment with all sorts of materials and explore the galleries for inspiration. Kids ages 7-13 will work with practicing artists in the museum environment at the Community Art Lab. Their phenomenal artwork will be exhibited during the camp’s final celebration for family and friends.

2. STAGE CAMPS

Stage Combat

Fights look so real onstage and in the movies, but it’s all about theatrical illusion. Participants at this  Ellis School summer camp explore the basics of combat safety, learn how to fall correctly and then move on to choreographing combat. Other stage camps include Comedic Acting and Art in Motion – Dance by Bodiography.

DJ Project

Wannabe spin artists in grades 6-8 develop their craft at this Pittsburgh Cultural Trust camp. The week focuses on essential DJ skills using digital tools to develop a playlist, beat-match and blend. As kids develop their rhythm, they’ll create their persona, including a stage name and personal DJ style. At the end of camp, they’ll perform in public at the Trust’s summer Gallery Crawl.

Shakespeare Live!

Budding actors from 10-16 years-old will develop a close relationship with the Bard in this two-week camp at Pittsburgh Public Theater.  Kids will study the history, drama and comedy found in William Shakespeare’s plays while working on their acting skills, ending with a performance at the camp’s end. Other summer camps include classes in puppetry, playwrighting and improv. Huzzah!

Summer Acting

Summer workshops at Gemini Children’s Theater channel energy and talent toward the theater arts. Kids as young as 4 years old rehearse and perform a play that they help develop from their imaginations. Scene building, collaborating and character development are part of the sessions for all age groups, up to 17 years. Scholarship and tuition assistance are available.

Ballet Summer

Dancers in all sizes, from toddlers to teens, will find a place at Pittsburgh Ballet’s summer sessions. Kids will develop progressive dance fundamentals through barre and floor exercises, French terminology and ballet concepts. The most advanced Junior Intensive covers skills in pointe, pas de deux, jazz and repertoire. At every level, kids can expect to find plenty of joy in their movements and training.

Triple Threat Boot Camp

This popular camp at Pittsburgh CLO Academy promises three intensive days of acting, singing and dancing for ages 10 and up. Younger, musically inclined kids will have a blast in sessions that focus on specific musical adaptations, such as “Frozen,” “Aladdin” and “Newsies.” Even the smallest crooners get their place in the spotlight with the Promising Preschoolers camp for ages 3-5.  That’s entertainment!

Cello Fury Rockers

Junior violinists, cellists, bassist and violists are invited to bring it on to Cello Fury’s rock string camp. Now in its 12th year, this high energy camp gives kids an alternative to traditional classical training to play in a rock orchestra. Workshops in past years have included music composition, fitness for musicians, improvisation and music promotion. Camp concludes with a rocking concert for friends and family.

Summer Musical Theater

Kids from ages 4 to 18 can train and rehearse in Pittsburgh Musical Theater day camp programs that lead to an end-of-session performance on a professional stage. The four-week camp, running from June 15-July 12, gives kids three weeks of instruction in the West End studio, followed by a week on stage at Hazlett Theater on the North Side.

3. STEM CAMPS

Pixar in a Box

MuseumLab campers will be immersed in the Pixar Studios world to learn about the secrets behind their award-winning films. Kids will explore Pixar techniques for turning stories into digital storyboards. Other exciting MuseumLab summer camp sessions for kids in grades 6 to 8 include Digital Gaming, Woodworking and Fashion Design.

Air Force Association CyberCamp

High school kids will be immersed in a range of technical skills and digital literacy with a focus on cyber-ethics and systems security. CyberCamp is offered through a partnership between Pitt Cyber and Robert Morris University. Free; registration opens March 25.

Ancestry DNA

This week-long ancestry analysis camp teaches teens how to investigate their family ancestry and learn the techniques used in the process. It’s one of the hands-on camps for grades 4-12 at Citizen Science Lab’s two locations. With a full range of science and engineering adventures – including robotics, outer space, zoology, microbiology and drones – there is sure to be something that excites and inspires budding scientists.

Land of the Giants

Pittsburgh’s home of dinosaurs, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, offers several dino-themed camps where kids can perform hands-on investigations with mud, rocks and fossils. Other STEM camps examine bugs, veterinariary science and chemistry. Scholarships are available.

Survival of the Futurists

Kids use science and engineering to learn about environmental sustainability at Assemble. They’ll invent new games using coding, virtual reality, circuitry and collaboration. Other cool camps include Tech Styles + Textiles and Mysteries of the Universe. Camps are free for Garfield kids; scholarships available for others.

Intergalactic Explorers

At this Carnegie Science Center camp, kids step into the shoes of a space scientist as they explore the universe and search for habitable planets. The number of specialized fields for kids from ages 4 to 18 is astounding. They can investigate the human body as medical detectives or take a voyage on the Magic School Bus. There are even special adapted camps for kids with sensory processing disorders. Scholarships are available.

Elevate

This new program from Camp Invention teaches kids to create, collaborate and problem solve. Campers at the weeklong camps, held at schools in and around Pittsburgh, will act as entrepreneurs, creating a prototype and pitch of a new invention, while tackling environmental challenges.

Fizz Boom Bang

Junior chemists shake up flasks of excitement in this hands-on laboratory experience. It’s one of the many cool workshops offered by Mad Science. With additional workshops like Red Hot Robots, Secret Agent Lab and Grossology, kids are sure to find an intriguing outlet. Choose from one-day Flash Camps or weeklong camps.

Bike Adventure with Kraynick’s

It makes perfect sense that kids who ride bikes should know the basic mechanics of keeping them in good repair. At this summer camp offered through the Irma Freeman Center for the Imagination, kids will learn all about bikes, plus head off on teacher-led adventures on hidden trails. Kids who don’t have a bike will receive one to work on and take home. Other Freeman Center camps include Herbal Apothecary & Plant Life and the Miniatures Club. Scholarships are available.

4. NATURE CAMPS

Wild by Design

Kids respond to the call of the wild at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium summer camps. In Wild by Design, they take a close look at creating habitats for animals. Future zoologists work alongside zoo vets through tours and hands-on experiences. And the Zoo Crew helps care for the 9,000-plus animals that make their home here. Zoo camps are designed for all ages, from toddlers to teens.

Science Sleuths

These youth-sized investigators check out the science behind ecology and conservation at this Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Garden summer camp. More experiences include Rockin’ Researchers, Little Sprouts and Seedling Scientists for campers from ages 2 to 13.

Kids in the Woods

City parks are the backdrop for Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy summer camps. Kids in the Woods is dedicated to learning outdoor skills and nature play. Nature Investigators spark creativity and critical thinking, while Survival Camp builds team-working skills and develops confidence in the outdoors. Campership scholarships are available.

Aviary Olympics

In the spirit of the Summer Olympics, this year’s National Aviary camps aim for the gold! Campers will interact with birds from around the world through crafts, hands-on STEM activities and games. Kids will get close to nature while exploring the Aviary’s Tropical Rainforest, Wetlands and Savanna habitats. New this year, kids in the Field Conservation camps will check out conservation in action with off-site excursions.

Nature’s Garden Adventure

Campers from ages 5 to 10 will connect with nature and sharpen their scientific skills at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden’s summer camp. Daily nature walks, maker projects and outdoor play emphasize lessons on Pennsylvania’s native plants, insects and birds.

Canine Good Manners

Pet lovers will learn more about dogs, cats and rabbits at Animal Friends summer sessions. In Canine Good Manners, kids will help train shelter dogs. Past camps included Critter Camp for little ones and Pet Plus for the older crew where they enjoy quality animal time along with projects, games and activities. Making friends – both human and animal – is a positive outcome.

5. SPORTS CAMPS

Rope Climbing

Bouldering, top-rope climbing, yoga and slacklining are a few of the ways kids will be challenged at Ascend Pittsburgh summer camps. Concerned that your kids are new to climbing? No worries! These sessions are flexibly designed to be accessible for all levels for ages 6 to 16.

World Series Experience

Future All-Stars from kindergarten to eighth grade can develop new skills at Pittsburgh Pirates Summer Camps. Lessons in goal setting, optimism and resiliency are taught along with catching and hitting. This year’s camps are offered at six area locations. The World Series Experience includes a full Pirates Camp uniform and a day-long session at PNC Park, plus a tour and meet-and-greet. Play ball!

Circus Camp

Kids who love flipping upside down on monkey bars will transition easily to trapeze skills at Iron City Circus Arts summer camp. They will learn aerial arts, such as hoops, hammock and silks, as well as ground-based circus arts like tumbling and juggling. Camp concludes with a showcase where friends and family can ooh and ahh! Discounts available for siblings and those on public assistance.

BMX Camp

Experienced and wannabe shredders can find a session they’ll love at The Wheel Mill bike camps. Kids will race through the varying terrain of trails and ramps at the 80,000-square-foot bike park. An outdoor camp takes them on a tour of the area’s best skateparks and BMX tracks in the area.

American Ninja Warrior

Among the engineering, performance and nature sessions, the Jewish Community Center’s catalog of camps includes cool sports programs, too. American Ninja Warrior develops physical skills, while Ultimate Fun Frisbee increases endurance and speed. Other camps focus on soccer, tennis and running challenges.

Eco Adventure

Physical strength and exercise are just part of the curriculum at Steel City Rowing. Campers at the new Eco Adventure camp take a deep dive into the ecology of our rivers, performing water quality monitoring and studying habitat improvement. River Fun camps offer paddleboarding, kayaking and swimming. More serious rowers will learn rowing techniques and advanced sculling. US Rowing-certified coaches cover water safety, too. Scholarships are available.

Ice Hockey

What better way to keep cool this summer? Kids in kindergarten through eighth grade will learn fundamental skills to play ice hockey at this Shady Side Academy summer camp. Other sports camps offered focus on golf, tennis and basketball. And be sure to check out the directory of STEM and arts camps, too.

Sally Quinn

Sally Quinn is an award-winning writer and editor who has been covering her favorite city for more than 20 years. She welcomes comments and story ideas for Kidsburgh.

  • Sheila Talarico Reply
    1 month ago

    What a great listing! There’s also a great camp for kids with special needs, including children in need of social skills development, with autism and related disorders, in Zelienople. Campers work with horses, other animals, and the natural environment! For more info, check out the camp brochure at https://gladerun.org/adventures/camps/. There are scholarships available, and a free camp sampler event on March 21 from 9-11 to see if this is a good fit for your child! For more info contact Julie at 724-452-4453, ext. 1236 or jwahlenmayer@gladerun.org.

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