I can’t even pretend to count the number of hours I’ve spent trying to find summer programming within a 15-minute drive of southwest Atlanta, but it probably amounts to days not hours. Metro Atlanta actually boasts an abundance of programming options, many of which are highlighted on the website of Atlanta Parent Magazine.
But if you’re looking for affordable options on Atlanta’s southside for children who are 5-years-old or younger, that isn’t the resource for you. Here’s my guide to summer programs that come highly recommended to me by other parents:
Westside Atlanta Watershed Alliance
This is a hidden gem of sorts with sprawling terrain, hiking trails, and an outdoor play yard of swinging tires, a tin slide, and plenty of wood beams to balance on. The summer camp is hosted through the alliance’s Outdoor Activity Center, and the program boasts “a safe and supportive place to explore nature and help care for our environment.” The camp runs from May 31 to July 29, with the week of July 4 off. Call before registering at 404-752-5385.
Cost and hours: Big Campers (ages 5-12) can register for a 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily schedule for $250 a week. Little Campers (ages 3-5) can register for a 9 a.m. to noon schedule daily, with a lunch option from 12p.m. to 12:45p.m. for $125 a week
Kids Gym USA
This nonprofit based in College Park has been operating its training center for 30 years at the Conley Recreation Center, according to the Marietta Daily Journal. The gym offers several different childcare, gymnastics and sports programming options throughout the year.
Its Wiggle Worms program serves gymnastic students ages 12 months to 3.5 years old and focuses on “stimulation, parent education, the mastery of simple tricks which leads to peer and adult reinforcement for exercise.” Mighty Mites serves 3- and 4-year-old students by exposing them to movement challenges. “We build confidence, strength, flexibility and motor skills with an overall goal to prepare them socially, emotionally, cognitively and physically,” the gym said on its website. Super Mites serves students ages 5- and 6-years-old by introducing them to the fundamentals of gymnastics and exposing them to Amateur Athletic Union levels 1, 2, and 3 skills. “We teach how to set goals for achieving skills, learn safe training behavior – how to listen, pay attention, practice independently,” the gym wrote on its site. “Participants build self-confidence, strength, flexibility and coordination.” The DynoMites program targets gifted 5- and 6-year-old who have mastered fundamental skills, and the kids gym also offers specialty sports offerings. Its summer programming lasts through August 4.
Call (770) 306-0389 or email email@example.com for registration specifics. Register for programming through the city of College Park here.
Ages: 1-6, with program-specific variations
Camp hours: Varies
Airborne Gymnastics Club USA
A boutique gymnastics studio, Airborne Gymnastics is within a quick drive of southwest Atlanta, located at 2473 Riverdale Road in College Park. Each week of the gym’s PreK summer camp covers a different theme from gardening and storybooks to princesses and superheroes. The camp runs from June 6 to July 29. Register for classes online and call for specifics at (470) 635-1456.
Cost:$175 a week
Ages: 2.5 to 4
Camp hours: 9 a.m. to noon or noon to 3 p.m.
Camp Best Friends
Hosted through the city of Atlanta, this camp offers several different locations and programming options, including some sports programming.
The program at Anthony Flanagan Recreation Center boasts: “Centers of Hope from the moment campers arrive each day.” Service leader interns guide campers in activities developed around the five Centers of Hope pillars of Academic Enrichment, Health &andFitness; Character and Leadership Development, Technology and Community. “These experiences are achieved through integrated reading, sports, creative writing, games, drama, music, dance, arts and crafts, physical fitness and outdoor adventure,” the program reports on its website. The camp runs June 5 to July 22.
Find Camp Best Friends and other Atlanta city programming on the iPARCS site.
Cost: $35 a week for city residents and $110 a week for non-residents
Ages: 5 to 12, with some sites serving ages 13 to 17 in teen programs
Camp hours: 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
A tried and true summer camp option, local YMCA programs boast camps that are “designed to make summer fun, exciting, and safe while focusing on the Y’s values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.” Not all locations are created equal in terms of facilities, but there are a couple within a short drive of Atlanta’s southside that I’ve visited and can recommend, specifically the Andrew and Walter Young YMCA and the Arthur M. Blank Family Youth YMCA. Both locations’ summer camps run from May 31 to July 29.
Cost: $195 a week for members and $245 for non-members
Ages: 5 to 13 at Arthur Blank and 5 to 6 at Andrew and Walter Young, with specialty offerings for older children
Camp hours: Vary
Zoo Atlanta’s Safari Camp is a popular option that’s a quick drive from Atlanta’s southwest side. “From pandas to parrots to pine snakes, young explorers will be immersed in hands-on, minds-on learning while having fun,” Zoo Atlanta boasts on its website. The camp runs from May 30 to August 4, and it sells out months in advance.
Cost: $320 to $425 a week. Extended care is $75 more a week.
Ages: 5 to 14
Camp hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with extended care options
If you don’t mind a 20- to 30-minute drive, some metro Atlanta private schools, museums, and theaters also offer summer camps that are open to the public. Those include Alliance Theatre, the High Museum, the Galloway School, and St. Benedict’s Episcopal School. Woodward Academy also offers summer programs at multiple locations.