If you’re like most people, your summer strategy probably looks like this: Dispatch the kids to day camp while you spend the sweetest season behind your desk. But research shows that while children may be quicker studies, adults benefit hugely from learning new things, too. Good news: Now you can all go to summer camp together—and no, you won't be sleeping in bunks. Get ready to reclaim your summer with the top six learning adventures for rippers of all ages.
Sea Kayaking the San Juan Islands, Washington
On REI’s San Juan Family Adventure, families with kids eight and up explore the San Juan Islands’ cliffs, tide pools, and trails by kayak, bike, and foot. An overnight paddle to Jones Island State Park, where you’ll set up base camp, will satisfy your littlest wildlife junkies: Watch for porpoises, orcas, seals, and sea lions. During an afternoon at the University of Washington Labs, biologists will treat you to a private tour of the invertebrate touch tanks for an up-close look at the strange and fascinating life of the Salish Sea. Day hikes to lighthouses and island peaks, plus a visit to Friday Harbor’s whale museum, round out the six-day trip. Bonus: The San Juans sit in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, so summers there are typically dry and warm. From $2,299; kids under 17 receive a $200 discount; www.reiadventures.com.
Off the bike, onto the water. Photo: Four Seasons Whistler
Mountain Biking Whistler, British Columbia
Whistler Mountain Bike Park is one of the best lift-accessed downhill bike parks in the world, offering 4,900 vertical feet of lift-serviced trails for fat tire addicts of all ages. You won’t be roughing it at the Four Seasons Whistler, where the family adventure package includes bike rentals, free rides on the Peak 2 Peak tram, and breakfast daily for the whole family. Whistler Mountain Bike Park offers daily kids’ camps for riders ages 6-12, from $129, while adults and older kids can sign up for half- or full-day skills clinics, from $69; www.fourseasons.com/whistler, www.whistlerbike.com.
Rock Climbing Estes Park, Colorado
There’s a crag for everyone in Estes Park. Unlike many climbing destinations, where the routes are spread out, the rock formations in and around Estes Park, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, allow for a variety of prospects in one area—making it ideal for beginners and advanced climbers alike. Sign up for private family clinics with the guides at Estes Park Mountain Shop and learn everything from basic knot tying, belaying, and climbing safety to top-roping, rapelling, and leading climbs; rates start at $299 for groups of four. Or get your vertical fix in Rocky Mountain National Park with the Colorado Mountain School, which offers private instruction from $299 for four to six people starting at $105 per person as well as guided, non-technical routes up Longs Peak, starting at $275 per person for groups of three. Get a room at the grand old Stanley Hotel, inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining, where ghost tours are all part of the ambience; www.estesparkmountainshop, www.totalclimbing.com, stanleyhotel.com.
Surfing in Paradise, San Diego
Kids and adults alike can learn to hang ten—or even just two—at the Paradise Surf Academy’s one-day Surfing 101 course or their three-day family camp on Mission Bay. Feel good factor: Package includes a one-year membership to the conservation-minded Surfrider Foundation. Your swanky base camp for is Paradise Point Resort & Spa, on its own island in Mission Bay. Onshore, rent beach cruisers and ride 14-plus miles of nearby bike paths. Doubles from $310; www.paradisepoint.com.
Otter Bar river rats. Photo: Otter Bar Lodge
Whitewater Kayaking, Otter Bar Lodge, California
After a week at America’s best whitewater kayaking school, you’ll feel like family. Bring yours to the kids’ week (for boaters ages 10-14) and polish your Class I-III paddling skills with the grown ups, while they learn strokes and rolling right next door. You can see your river rats as much—or as little—as you want, while enjoying world-class whitewater instruction in a bucolic setting on the banks of the Salmon River. Not-quite-grown-up kids’ camp, $950; adults’ beginners/basic-intermediate, $1,990; www.otterbar.com.
Sailing and Windsurfing Biras Creek Resort, British Virgin Islands
Located on the North Sound of Virgin Gorda and surrounded by see-through Caribbean waters, the ritzy Biras Creek Resort tempts families with free sailing and windsurfing lessons in Deep Bay. Once you’ve gotten your sea legs, take advantage of the complimentary stash of kayaks, Lasers, Hobie Cats, and windsurfers on the beach. Summer “Family Fun” packages from $8,250 all-inclusive, seven days; www.biras.com.