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Choosing a Long Island summer camp

West Hills Day Camp in Huntington encourages full

West Hills Day Camp in Huntington encourages full participation in a wide variety of activities from swimming, boating, arts and crafts, ceramics, volleyball, yoga, tennis and ziplining among others. Photo Credit: Handout

Remember when you went off to camp and everything was the same as the summer before -- and that was good? No more. This summer, some camps on Long Island have pulled out all the stops, offering everything from circus, theater and tap dancing programs to a giant treehouse, a Ferris wheel and bumper cars.

"Camps really need to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak," says Arlene Streisand, owner-director of campspecialists.com, a free sleepaway camp referral service. Day camps need to compete with the allure of sleepaway camps, and when one local camp unveils a program with bells and whistles, the others follow suit, she says.

"Parents are looking for more variety in camping today," says Ron Kuznetz, owner-director of Miss Sue's Summer Fun in Plainview and Driftwood Day Camp in Melville. "In addition to the traditional programs, they're looking for skills and more activities that are meant to keep the kids from sitting at a computer."

Here are some of the latest programs premiering this summer.

Red Robin Country Day School & Camp

878 Jericho Tpke., Westbury, 516-334-1144, redrobincamp.com

NEW FOR SUMMER 2012 A treehouse made from a real oak tree stump will be more than just an observation point for campers ages 2 to those entering seventh grade. "It's a very whimsical tree house, with a platform, a slide and monkey bars," says owner-director Michael Cohn. The camp will also introduce a Super Senior Adventure Program for kids from fifth through seventh grades that will have campers taking three day trips a week to museums, theaters and amusement parks on Long Island. "We're always looking to give campers the opportunity for new experiences," Cohn says.

CAMP RATES $2,400 to $4,495, depending on number of weeks and camper's age

OPEN HOUSES 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 11, Mar. 11, Apr. 21, and May 12; 1-4 p.m June 2., and anytime by appointment

Crestwood Country Day School

313 Round Swamp Rd., Melville, 631-692-6361, crestwoodcountryday.com

NEW FOR SUMMER 2012 Those who remember the Ferris wheel and carousel from the Fun Zone can revisit it this summer at Crestwood, says owner Mark Transport, who bought the rides from the defunct business and moved them to camp grounds. But what are carnival rides without a circus? Campers ages 6 to 16 will be able to learn circus arts, including the flying trapeze (25 feet up in the air but, yes, with a safety net below). Their teachers will be circus instructors from Canada and Argentina, Transport says. Younger campers can learn to juggle, work on the apparatus bars and also try out a new "jumping pillow," a huge blowup blanket.

CAMP RATES $3,000 to $7,000, depending on number of weeks and camper's age

OPEN HOUSES 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays starting Feb. 4

Hofstra University Summer Camps

Hempstead, 516-463-2267, hofstra.edu/camp

NEW FOR SUMMER 2012 Here's what's on tap for campers grades 2 through 9: ecology and science programs; flag football; tap dancing; training and fitness; volleyball, web publishing, and Write-O-Rama (writing and journalism). The REACH program for teens will expand to have an inclusion program for teens with special needs. New programs were added based on the needs of the community, says Bradley Kaye, assistant director Lifelong Learning division at Hofstra.

CAMP RATES $1,000 to $5,000, depending on number of weeks and camper's age

OPEN HOUSES Noon to 2 p.m. Feb. 5 and March 31

Camp Karole

44 Woods Lane, East Hampton, 631-324-3510, jcoh.org

NEW FOR SUMMER 2012 The camp is offering add-on courses for campers ages 7 to 12: Italian cooking, food and nutrition and photography and nature. New York City chef Hillary Sterling will give Italian cooking classes in July and cooking teacher Deborah Clemence will teach children how to make nutritious foods that they can bring home daily in August. Campers will also be able to go on beach walks and trail hikes to photograph nature and participate in a scavenger hunt for two sessions in July and August. Each class runs an hour a day for four consecutive days.

CAMP RATES $770 to $900 per week. The cooking classes cost an additional $50 and the photography program costs an additional $75.

OPEN HOUSE will be announced online soon.

Lawrence Woodmere Academy Summer Day

Woodmere, 516-374-5559, 336 Woodmere Ave., Woodmere, lawrencewoodmere.org

NEW FOR SUMMER 2012 The camp's new Center for Creative Arts will let kids from second through seventh grades choose a "major" in studio art or theater and dramatic arts that they will do two hours each morning. Lynbrook's Plaza Theatrical Productions will run the drama program, says Barbara Feldman, director of the day camp academy. Campers will also be able to choose from about 15 "minors," including cartooning, animation, pottery and dance. Also new this summer will be one-week horseback riding and sailing programs, a new program for 2-year-olds, and a travel program, including overnight stays, for kids in sixth through 10th grades.

CAMP RATES $2,200 to $5,300 for the summer, depending on number of weeks and camper's age

OPEN HOUSES 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Sunday until camp starts

Hampton Sports and Arts

P.O. Box 5089, East Hampton, 516-953-5171, hamptonsportsandarts.com

NEW FOR SUMMER 2012 Hampton Country Day Camp is launching Hampton Sports and Arts, located about a mile away from the main camp on the grounds of East Hampton Indoor Tennis, says Dave Skolnick, director. The new program will let campers ages 11 to 15 customize their schedules daily, with choices such as tennis with semiprivate instruction, photography, videography, rock band, fabric and fashion design, cooking, golfing, soccer, basketball, baseball and area day trips.

CAMP RATES $900 to $1,250 per week

OPEN HOUSES Memorial Day weekend, with hours to be finalized

Park Shore Day Camp

450 Deer Park Road, Dix Hills, 631-499-8580, parkshoredaycamp.com

NEW FOR SUMMER 2012 Campers ages 3 to 12 will be able to cool off on hot days and challenge themselves on a new 50-by-50-foot action maze, says owner-director Bob Budah. The maze is a blowup (but not bouncy) contraption with archways and paths for kids to navigate. The camp is also installing a Confidence Boot Camp Challenge Course that will be run by a physical trainer and gym owner. "It's similar to what the military would do, with kids going under cargo nets, swinging over ropes and some water," Budah says. "But it's not as strenuous." The idea is to have campers ages 5 through 12 build confidence and self-esteem. Park Shore will also introduce one-week extender sessions this summer.

CAMP RATES About $625 per week

OPEN HOUSES Noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays starting Feb. 4

Miss Sue's Summer Fun

1191 Old Country Road, Plainview, 516-938-0894, misssues.com

NEW FOR SUMMER 2012 The campers may be tots (ages 2 1/2 to 5), but the new additions are big, says owner-director Ron Kuznetz. This summer will see the addition of a 12-horse merry-go-round, a caterpillar train and a Smart Board that will help campers make movies in which they will act, Kuznetz says. In addition, Miss Sue's is adding to its zip line, expanding the current one by adding six stations that let harness- and helmet-wearing campers zoom from platform to platform around trees.

CAMP RATES $2,300 to $4,500, depending on number of weeks and camper's age

OPEN HOUSES 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays starting Feb. 4

Driftwood Day Camp

331 Mount Misery Rd., Melville, 631-692-6990, driftwooddaycamp.com

NEW FOR SUMMER 2012 There are quite a few new tricks up Driftwood's sleeve for this summer, including Legoland with tables and oodles of Legos and a recording studio for campers, who range from kindergarten to sixth grade, says owner-director Ron Kuznetz. The camp is also expanding the unicycle program it added last year, with the addition of 12 more unicycles (with training wheels for beginners) designed by unicycle aficionado Adam Cohen, Kuznetz says. Driftwood is also installing bumper cars, an inflatable water park and paintball.

CAMP RATES $3,100 to $5,300, depending on number of weeks and camper's age

OPEN HOUSES 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays starting in February; also Sundays starting in March

Find more Long Island summer camps.

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