Finding a Great Winter Camp in Los Angeles

By Christina Elston

winter camp los angeles

Thanksgiving and Holiday editions of Kids in the Kitchen camp at Surfas Culinary District get kids cooking with sweet and savory treats. PHOTO BY LISA TANNER

Winter is coming. It won’t bring snow. It might not bring rain. It will, however, bring a lengthy school break for most kids. Campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District are closed a whopping three weeks. Burbank, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Long Beach public schools are closed for two, and Pasadena schools just slightly longer.

Your children will be home, and you need a plan. And if your kids are lucky, that plan will include one of the many cool winter camps that pop up to help families fill the vacation gap.

Here’s where to look for them.

Museums, Zoos and Aquariums

Two of L.A.’s museums – the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the La Brea Tar Pits and museum – offer winter camps. The L.A. Zoo and one of the area’s aquariums – Aquarium of the Pacific – have them as well. If your family enjoys visiting these spots on the weekend, they’re a great place to start.

Aquarium of the Pacific has been offering winter camps for at least 10 years, and interest is growing. “I think in the last year or two, we’ve noticed a lot more people booking them,” says Education Coordinator Erin English. Camps for younger kids include aquarium tours, demonstrations with animal artifacts and a touch pool. Camps for teens focus on the deep sea and give campers a chance to drive a remotely operated ocean vehicle and have a pizza party and a sleepover inside the aquarium. “The most exciting part for the kids are the husbandry interactions,” says English, explaining that campers get rare up-close opportunities to feed and interact with the animals.

Places to Get Crafty

Whether your kids are into pottery, designing their own clothes, making art or just tinkering around, there are winter camps crafted just for them.

winter camp los angeles

Kids attending camp at Bitter Root Pottery don’t need previous experience with clay, but they do need to be ready to get dirty. PHOTO COURTESY BITTER ROOT POTTERY

Bitter Root Pottery offers camps at its stores in Westfield Village and Beverly Grove and its newly opened location in Valencia Town Center. Each day is a combination of wheel throwing and hand building things like animal sculptures. And camp offers kids a chance to paint and glaze their projects, which there generally isn’t time for during regular classes. No prior pottery experience is required, and Manager Rachel Villanueva advises campers to be ready to get dirty. “Make sure they wear clothes they don’t mind getting clay on,” she says. “Don’t wear your fancy tiaras to camp.”

For kids who prefer motors to mud, reDiscover Center will again offer Tinkering School Camp, promising a chance to learn tool safety and build amazing things. The fashionista in your family, meanwhile, can design signature clothing at The Unincorporated Life Fashion Design Camp.

Campers who are a bit more artsy might enjoy art making with winter fairytale themes at Purple Twig Winter Tales Camp. “Our camps are such a great combination of art making, experiencing the neighborhood and free play,” says Owner/Creator Samara Caughey. Campers create sculpture with papier mâché and recycled materials, and also head out for neighborhood scavenger hunts or to play in the park. “If it is raining, we go on rainy walks with umbrellas,” Caughy says. “Then we come in and have tea.” Winter camp gives young artists time to focus on involved projects, and space is limited to 15 so kids get individual attention.

Performing Arts Programs

winter camp los angeles

Purple Twig Winter Tales Camp is a combination of art making and neighborhood fun. PHOTO COURTESY PURPLE TWIG

If your child loves the spotlight, you’ll find dance, theater and even comedy camp options. The venerable Santa Monica Playhouse Create-a-Play Winter Break Theater Camp will host young playwrights and performers again this year, and Studio LOL in Studio City lets kids dabble in comedy stand-up and improv fun.

At ABCs of Dance Winter Wonderland Camp, dancers can practice ballet, tap, jazz dance and some tumbling that Co-Owner and dance teacher Katie Albin promises isn’t too girly for boys to enjoy. There’s a different theme (one recent theme was “Frozen”) each year, and they’ve been offering Winter Wonderland the past four years. “A lot of our parents asked for it,” says Albin. Other camp perks include lunch from Corner Bakery Café and in-studio performances for family and friends every Friday where dancers wear and use costume pieces and props they make during craft time.

Spots for Sports

If your kids are into a particular sports activity such as soccer, baseball or horseback riding, check local sports programs for camp options. Some, such as Saken Sports Camp in L.A., offer a variety of sports activities during the course of the week. Super Soccer Stars offers soccer camps at parks in Hermosa Beach, Malibu, Santa Monica and West Hollywood, among others. All Star Baseball School offers winter camp with instruction from former professional players and coaches.

A unique experience is Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation Winter Youth Baseball Camp. The focus is on allowing young Dodger fans the rare chance to tour Dodger Stadium, play baseball on diamonds set up in the outfield there and discuss baseball with former and current Dodger players. Camp is only two days long, and spots fill fast.

Campers can learn complete horsemanship at Enterprise Farms Holiday Camp, held at the Paddock Riding Club in Atwater Village near Griffith Park.

winter camp los angeles

Got a horse lover in the family? Head over to Atwater Village for Enterprise Farms Holiday Camp. PHOTO COURTESY ENTERPRISE FARMS

Children who attend learn grooming, tack and parts of the horse, and ride every day in skill-appropriate groups. Enterprise Farms provides boots and helmets, plus two healthy snacks per day and lunch on Fridays – when there is a horse show that lets campers demonstrate their new skills.

The camp features rare Caspian horses, which are the size of a pony, but proportioned like a full-size horse, with a horse’s gentle temperament. No riding experience is necessary to attend. “Kids who’ve never even been on a horse will find it absolutely appropriate for them,” says farm owner and manager Gene Gilbert. Holiday camp has been part of Enterprise Farms throughout its 20-year history. “At the end of the summer, people always ask when is your next camp,” Gilbert says. “People always come back and they always bring their friends.”

Possible Career Paths

Does your child have an interest that might turn into a career? Winter camp could be a chance to build skills and dip a toe in the water.

At the beautifully appointed test kitchen at Surfas Culinary District in Culver City, aspiring chefs can get cooking with the Thanksgiving Edition and Holiday Edition of Kids In the Kitchen camp. Culinary Coordinator Stephanie Norcio (Chef Steph) will turn your kids into skillful kitchen assistants, teaching them knife and food safety skills, and how to make salads, sides and desserts for the Thanksgiving table or Christmas dishes from Mexico, Italy and Jamaica. Surfas also offers a host of individual classes for kids, including gingerbread house workshops and cookies for Santa. And there are “family dinner,” cooking and baking classes for kids and parents to take together.

winter camp los angeles

PHOTO COURTESY OF GRAY STUDIOS

Or perhaps your child dreams of becoming a waiter – um, actor. Gray Studios Winter Camp gives kids the opportunity to make and star in a real movie with IMDB credit. In groups of 15 or fewer, campers create seven-minute short films where they write the script, operate camera equipment, and where each has a starring role. “They get to create their character from start to finish. The process is 100 percent driven by them,” says owner and president Shanelle Gray. “They get the experience of being on a real set.”

In the fall, summer- and winter-camp students come together for a red-carpet screening and awards event called the Gray Studios Oscars. This is the third year the acting studio has offered the camp, and no prior experience is required. “Anybody can come in and we’ll make a really great film with them,” says Gray.

Kids interested in computer technology careers can code with the same tools the pros use at CodeREV Winter Tech Camp in Santa Monica. Campers design apps, games, robots, have battlebots sessions and do 3D modeling and animation. “The camp format allows for the best type of learning,” says CodeREV CEO Kevin Boorman. Focusing on coding daily for a week or more of camp allows kids to build basic skills that give them the tools to create whatever they can imagine. “That’s when the real fun starts,” Boorman says.

And kids at CodeREV camp are taught by people who have worked at places like Microsoft, Google and Sony, and are interested in giving kids a head start. “All of our instructors have real-world tech experience and real experience teaching kids,” says Boorman. “They feel a social responsibility to give back and revolutionize the way we learn to code as a culture.”

winter camp los angeles

Kids with an interest in coding can focus on building basic skills at CodeREV Winter Tech Camp. PHOTO COURTESY CODEREV

Summer Camp Locations

If you aren’t looking for a revolution, maybe a more traditional camp is in order. And maybe the camp your child enjoyed over the summer offers winter sessions, too.

Tumbleweed Day Camp is one that does. And Tumbleweed Winter Camp is dedicated to traditional camp activities such as horseback riding, ropes course and arts and crafts. “We do everything we do in the summer minus swimming,” says Tumbleweed Director and President Liz Kimmelman. Winter Camp also includes a New Year’s Eve Party Dec. 30 and a winter festival with cooking and crafts. The camp provides transportation and has a lunch-delivery service available.

Tumbleweed has been offering Winter Camp for at least 40 years, and camp tends to fill up every year. “There’s a mad dash right around the beginning of December,” says Kimmelman, who advises families to try to sign up before Thanksgiving. Because families can sign up for as few as two days, this is a good camp for beginners. “It’s a really great opportunity for young kids that are new to day camp to try it out,” Kimmelman says.

Tom Sawyer goes a different route in the winter. “Our Holiday Camp is very different from our summer camp,” says Program Director Kathy Garcia fromthe Pasadena-based program. Each day, campers meet at a local school site and then depart – in Tom Sawyer vehicles with Tom Sawyer drivers – for a fun field

winter camp los angeles

PHOTO COURTESY AQUARIUM OF THE PACIFIC

trip. They visit places such as Pacific Park in Santa Monica, Scooter’s Jungle indoor playground, Columbia Memorial Space Center and the L.A. Zoo. They also do a “park hopper” day where they visit different playgrounds. “And before the kids get bored and don’t want to play any more, we move on to another playground,” Garcia says. “We just have a lot of fun.”

Whether you are looking to cover your child’s entire winter break, or to fill in gaps between other camps, YMCA Winter Day Camps are another great option. The Y operates 26 branches in Los Angeles, plus 57 licensed school programs, with each local branch and program offering something different planned around local schedules. “We follow the school calendar,” says YMCA Los Angeles Senior Vice President of Youth Programs Gwen Bagley. “When school’s out, the Y’s in.”

The Y offers themed camps featuring fun activities from games to STEM, arts, crafts, dance, yoga and anything that supports healthy lifestyles. Check with your local branch website for options in your area. These camps are also a great way for local families to connect. “Most of our programs are located on neighborhood school campuses, so it’s part of their community already,” Bagley says.

There are fewer winter camp programs out there than you’ll find during summer, and capacity at these tends to be smaller at some locations. Still, this article barely scratches the surface of what is available in L.A. County. The key to a fun winter break for your child, and less stress for you, is to dig in and start your planning now, while it’s still fall.

 

winter camp los angeles

Unlike it’s summer camp, Winter Day Camp at Tom Sawyer takes kids out and about for fun field trips. PHOTO COURTESY TOM SAWYER

Winter Camps 2016

 

ABCs of Dance Winter Wonderland Camp
Dec. 19-23 and Jan. 2-6
Ages 4-8
$295 per week for new dancers, $245 for currently enrolled dancers
8505 Santa Monica Blvd., #5, West Hollywood; 310-923-0888, www.abcsofdanceweho.com

All-Star Baseball School Winter Camp
Dec. 26-30
Ages 5-14
$295
660 Stoney Dr., South Pasadena; www.allstarbaseballschool.com

Aquarium of the Pacific Winter Camps
Sea Squirt Winter Camp, ages 5-6, Jan. 3-5; $115 per child, $90 per member child
Winter Day Camp, ages 7-12, Dec. 27-29; $150 per child, $125 per member child
Winter Teen Overnight, ages 13-15, Dec. 28-29; $90 per child, $80 per member child
100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach; www.aquariumofpacific.org/education/programs

Bitter Root Pottery Kids Winter Sessions
Dec. 19-23, 26-30 and Jan. 2-6
Ages 6-12
$60 per day
Westfield Village, 6320 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills; Beverly Grove, 7451 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Valencia Town Center, 24201 W. Valencia Blvd., Valencia;  www.bitter-root-pottery.myshopify.com

CodeREV Winter Tech Camp

Dec. 19-23, 27-30 and Jan. 2-6
Ages 6-14
$110 per day, $59 per half day
1639 16th St., Santa Monica; www.coderevkids.com

Enterprise Farms Holiday Camp
Dec. 12-Jan. 13
Ages 6-12
$525 per week
3919 Rigali Ave., L.A.; www.enterprisefarms.com

Gray Studios Winter Make-A-Movie Camp
Dec. 19-23 and 26-30 and Jan. 2-6
Ages 7-15
$550 per week
5250 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood; sasha@graystudiosla.com, 818-582-3943

La Brea Tar Pits and Museum Adventures In Nature Camp
Jan. 5-6, grades K-5, call for tuition
900 Exposition Blvd., L.A.;  www.nhm.org/aincamp

Los Angeles County Museum of Art Winter Art Camp
Dec. 19-23: Cartoons, Rectangles and Representation (ages 6-9), Wearable Art (ages 10-13)
Dec. 26-30: Art and the Five Senses (ages 6-9), Experimental Art (ages 10-13)
$330 per session for members, $335 for non-members
Member prices apply to those with NextGen memberships, which are free for ages 17 and younger.
5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Registration: www.lacma.org/kids-families/art-classes/art-camp

Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation Winter Youth Baseball Camp
Dec. 10 and 11, ages 7-12, $450
Camp proceeds benefit the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation.
Dodger Stadium, 1000 Vin Scully Ave., L.A.; www.dodgers.com/camp

L.A. Tinkering School Winter Camp
Full session Dec. 19-23, $500; one-day camps Dec. 26-30, $100 per day; ages 7-12 (ask about their counselor-in-training program for ages 14-17)
reDiscover Center, 12958 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.;  www.Rediscovercenter.org

Los Angeles Zoo Winter Zoo Camp
Dec. 26-30
Ages 4-Grade 4
$60 per day for zoo members, $65 per day for non-members
5333 Zoo Dr., L.A.; www.lazoo.org

Purple Twig Winter Tales Camp
Dec. 19-23 – $350
Dec. 27-30 and Jan. 3-6 -$300
Ages 5-10
Must sign up for a full week
2038 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock; www.purpletwig.com

Saken Sports Camp
Dec. 19-23
Kindergarten-Grade 7
$100 per day, $475 per week
15871 Mulholland Dr., L.A.; www.sakensportscamp.com

Santa Monica Playhouse Create-a-Play Winter Break Theater Camp
Dec. 19-22, 26-29 and Jan. 3-6
Ages 6-14
$395 per week
1211 4th St., Santa Monica; education@santamonicaplayhouse.com, www.santamonicaplayhouse.com, 310-394-9779, ext. 3

Studio LOL Comedy Camp
Dec. 19-23 and 26-30 and Jan. 2-6
Ages 8 and up
$300 per session
12434 Moorpark St., Studio City; www.studiolol.com

Super Soccer Stars
Dec. 19-28
Fun in the Sun Camp, Ages 3-5
Kick It Camp, Ages 6-12
Hermosa Beach Valley Park, Hermosa Beach; Malibu Bluffs Park, Malibu; Clover Park, Santa Monica; La Brea Tar Pits, L.A.
For tuition and enrollment information, visit www.supersoccerstars.com/la-december-holiday-camps

Surfas Culinary District
Kids In the Kitchen Thanksgiving Edition: Italian Thanksgiving Nov. 22, Sweet Treats for Turkey Day Nov. 23
$140 for both classes.
Kids In the Kitchen Holiday Edition: South of The Border Holiday Favorites Dec.  19, Italian Pasta Party Dec.  20, Traditional Jamaican Dec.  21
$210 for all three classes.
Ages 7-14
8777 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 559-4770

Tom Sawyer Holiday Camp
Dec. 19-23, 29 and 30 and Jan. 3–6
Campers must be enrolled in kindergarten-eighth grade
$80 per full day
Registration: www.tomsawyercamps.com

Tumbleweed Winter Day Camp
Dec. 19-30
PreK-Grade 8
$135 per day, two-day minimum, no drop-ins
1024 Hanley Ave., L.A.; www.tumbleweedcamp.com

The Unincorporated Life Fashion Design Camp
Nov. 21, 22, 28 and 29; Nov. 23, 24, 25 and 27; Dec. 14-18; Dec. 21-24; Jan. 4-8;
Ages 6-12 and 13-18
$650 per session
1150 N. Western Ave., L.A.; www.theunincorporatedlife.com, 323-655-0515

YMCA Winter Day Camps
Dates follow the local school calendar, and schedules and options vary by branch.
Visit www.ymcala.org/metro/locations to find a branch near you.

Christina Elston is Editor of L.A. Parent.

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