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On a Budget

Back to Camp With Kids

April 29, 2001|ARTHUR FROMMER

Parents often are surprised to learn that they can sometimes accompany their children to a summer camp and re-experience their own childhood.

Against a background of constant price increases for family summer camps, I've found three that have remained inexpensive but of decent quality.

* First, a vegetarian camp: If you aren't happy about the greasy hamburgers and meatloaf doused in ketchup served at many summer camps, you'll want to know about Camp Common Ground, a cooperative family camp rooted in its dedication to vegetarian cuisine. On the shores of Lake Champlain near Burlington, Vt. (on the YMCA grounds of Camp Hochelaga), this summer retreat cooks up healthy, wholesome fun for the whole family for two weeks each August. And its prices are just as tasty: Adults pay $420 per week, teenagers 13 to 17 pay $340, 3-to 12-year-olds pay $295 and toddlers $75. The price includes all meals.

Campers must bring their own tents. Basic bunk beds in 12 rustic-style cabins and 10 platform tents house some families for an additional fee of $60 per week.

This year the camp runs from Aug. 12 to Aug. 25 (two one-week sessions), with space for about 150 campers.

Contact Camp Common Ground, 159 Lost Road, St. George, VT 05495; telephone (800) 430-2667, Internet

* Though many of the nation's inexpensive YMCA family summer camps (as little as $260 per adult per week, less for children, but sometimes plus the cost of meals) are full for the summer, two still have spaces open: Camp Nawakwa in northern Wisconsin (five hours from Minneapolis) and Camp du Nord in Ely, Minn. Although most of the empty slots fall in early June and late August (about 50% were still open as of press time), there is spotty availability throughout the summer for families who call and book now.

Thirty-five heated "housekeeping" cabins (meaning they're fully equipped with a fridge, gas stove, cooking utensils, dishes and hot water) border the lake shore, and each sleeps from two to 20 people. About a third are "full-facility," with private bath; others are more rustic (and cost less).

Note that at Camp Nawakwa (unlike Camp du Nord) meals are not served. Families prepare their own meals from ingredients bought in town.

At Camp du Nord, meals are served buffet style in the communal dining room for an extra $70 to $135.

Contact the camp offices as soon as possible. For Camp Nawakwa, write YMCA Family Camp Nawakwa, 31401 Durand Ave., Burlingame, WI 53105; tel. (262) 767-1363 (before May 31) or For Camp du Nord: 2233 Energy Park Drive, St. Paul, MN 55108; tel. (651) 645-2136,

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