A Truly Magical Camp Experience

“Mama, this morning I fought a snake-lady with my enchanted sword that another camper gave me. Then my group negotiated with a friendly jackal-boy to get food and water. After that, we had to navigate through the obstacle course of a rocky canyon with monsters attacking us all the while. After that, we found ourselves in a stone room with glowing runes; we had to solve a riddle to escape with our lives.”

This is the kind of exciting report our son brings home after a day at his favorite camp. If you have a child who loves fantasy, swordplay, magic, or role play, we have a world-class camp here in the front range that is perfect. Renaissance Adventures is an organization that offers day camps (in Denver and Boulder), overnights, and parties that feature foam swords, puzzle solving, and exciting adventures for kids aged 7-18.  It even has after-school and school-days-off programs. Our 12-year old son has gone to these camps for going on five years now — it is so important to him that we schedule our summer around them.

Each camp week is a literal adventure, done as live action role-play (LARP); for the uninitiated, this means that each child designs a character that they will be not just for that week but for as long as they like (typically years). This character can gain skills and experience and earn in-game gold and silver that can be spent on supplies and magical equipment. Campers are put into groups of six people that have a “quest leader” who guides the campers (or rather, the group of mages, elves, knights, etc.) through imaginary lands and scenarios as a part of a specific quest. To succeed (e.g., “Defeat the shadow warlord!”), campers engage in a variety of physical, social, and mental challenges. For some (like my son), the featured activities are the (foam) sword battles and duels. He also delights in the seemingly endless rules and details, such as how one could acquire and train a magical creature for use in the game.

It hasn’t been all perfect, though. We love the passion and creativity of the counselors, but we have witnessed some disorganization. For example, in his third year, the staff lost my son’s character sheet between sessions. This was quite a blow for him because he had acquired XP (experience points), in-game money, and various (imaginary) items such as a baby dragon and a magical sword of which there was now no record. After a year of improvising, a counselor finally created a new one for him, but it did not replicate what he had. We also had a bit of trouble when we used the camp for a birthday party — one of the leaders arrived very late with the swords. In the end, the kids still had fun and RA compensated us for the trouble, which I appreciated. Improvisation is also their specialty, which helps.

Despite these hiccups, we could not imagine a summer without RA camps, particularly overnight. This is a single session that lasts three nights, held at Cal-Wood, near Jamestown. Students stay in cabins and get to experience immersive LARP. My son generally attends in costume in order to stay in character, but most kids just wear normal camp attire and use their imaginations, which are in full force to visualize castles, full-size dragons, etc. My picky eater even says the food is great. He comes home the fourth day exhausted but begging for more — it was a perfect introduction to overnight camp for us when he was nine.

We feel grateful to have found the perfect camp for our family. Good luck on your own quest!

For more information about Renaissance Adventures, visit their website.