Send your kids to the same companies adored by kids of Mark Wahlberg and Steven Spielberg.
Industry parents at a loss in August can still enroll bored kids in some of the town’s top day and sleepaway camps — with "service equivalent to Four Seasons" — for everything from audition skills to exploring wilderness.
"My entire family has been a huge fan of summer camp,” says Richard Feldstein, business manager for Madonna, Drake and Pharrell. “All my kids [including actor Jonah Hill and Lady Bird’s Beanie Feldstein] have been sent to sleepaways.” This year, L.A. camps are reporting a rise in inquiries about gluten-free meals (“Parents request chefs replace bread with their gluten-free brand,” says Iverbe director Bobby Hamm) and security (“I detected an uptick in asking about access after the Malibu park shooting,” says Camp Hess Kramer’s Janine Regal).
But overall, as parents contemplate late summer at some of these trusted hideaways, “there’s been a decrease in helicopter parenting,” says Tumbleweed owner Andy Kimmelman. Check out the industry’s current favorites.
Junior Saturday Night Live hopefuls hone their improv at The Second City (where Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch and Adam McKay started) via day camps in sketch comedy or musical improv for ages 8 to 18. Mad Men’s Kiernan Shipka is an alum, as is This Is Us’ Mackenzie Hancsicsak, who attended in 2017, says her mom, Melinda. “At the time of her This Is Us callback, they wanted us to do improv, but she’d never done it before. This gave her confidence.” Last summer, SNL’s Alex Moffat taught at the camp that “rewires your mind-set behind failing,” says director Carrie-ann Pishnak. For families in the valley, Second City also hosted camps in Pasadena this year.
Lenny Kravitz and Paula Abdul have attended the music school, while Steven Spielberg and Annette Bening have sent children to the camp, two hours outside L.A. Kids ages 5 to 18 study writing, music, theater, film, fashion, dance and art on the San Jacinto Mountains-based 205-acre campus. “Idyllwild inspires creativity by virtue of its big, tall pine trees and fresh mountain air,” says COO John Newman. Campers were to perform the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Aug. 5., canceled due to the Cranston wildfire.
Since the 1950s, Wilshire Boulevard Temple has offered two Jewish no-phones-allowed sleepaway camps with a 65-foot climbing wall, archery range and dining hall (kids love the grilled cheese). Solo: A Star Wars Story’s Alden Ehrenreich and Diary of a Wimpy Kid’s Zachary Gordon attended, and The Good Doctor’s Fiona Gubelmann was a counselor in 1999 during “one of the greatest summers of my life.” Gubelmann led the drama program and offered advice to preteen girls about bullying and belonging. “As a woman, there's just so many things you go through, especially in your teens,” she says. “I felt like I was making a difference in their lives.”
Director Doug Lynn says the camp arranges for days off if kids need to shoot pilots or audition, as was the case for Benjamin and Matthew Royer (Disney’s Best Friends Whenever). Camp is fully booked.
Two-thirds of the camp’s parents are writers, producers, actors or reps, says Kimmelman: “When we watch the Oscars, we’re like, ‘There’s a camp family!’ ‘There’s a camp family!’" He adds, "By standing at the bus stop, people have made professional connections."
No tech is allowed; campers explore the 100 acres of Santa Monica Mountains on horse-back or by hiking. Programs include swimming, ropes courses and archery, with organic, local lunch delivered from FreshLunches (think pizza, tacos and chicken and waffles). Vans ferry kids from Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica. Enrollment manager Sheri Lawson acts as a concierge to form “a real relationship with our families.”
After working with Adam Sandler’s and James Corden’s children, Elizabeth Fraley founded Kinder Ready in 2016 to help kids with private school prep. Her academic camp has customizable curriculum for ages 3 to 12 that can include coding, Mandarin and manners.
Parents include Tom Arnold; CNN’s Lisa Ling; and Grey’s Anatomy producer Zoanne Clack, who wanted her 5-year-old to attend so she can "tell his teachers how he learns." Ling hires Fraley for weekly lessons because "I want my kids to be prepared for school but given that it's summer, I also want my eldest to enjoy herself. ... I'll come downstairs and I'll see them having a picnic with wooden toys and different animals."
Last summer, Fraley created a tented classroom at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica (this summer: a private residence in Brentwood). With monogrammed school supplies and decor, “it looks like she’s setting up a birthday party,” says Stacie Krajchir, a former Extra producer whose son attended last year; she now does the camp’s PR.
With programs at Palisades High School, St. Anastasia School in Westchester and The Willows in Culver City, Iverbe’s day camps have “service equivalent to the Four Seasons,” says Krajchir.
On offer: pillow polo (like street hockey), martial arts, jewelry making and lightsaber training. The Biggest Loser producer David Braun, who sent his two kids, describes the community as "magnetic — for parents, it’s reminiscent of the way they experienced summer." Actress Sari Lennick adds, "Everybody from the Westside who's anybody goes." Her son loves Water Day at Culver City’s Bill Botts Field, "which is a bunch of kids running around on the side of a mountain shooting each other with water guns all day," she says. "Isn’t that the camp experience we all wish we had?"
YADA really brings the magic out that kids have inside them. Theatre in general is so wonderful for kids learning how to present themselves onstage. At YADA they get to perform with their friends and be silly and have fun. My daughter just loves it. It is a truly magical place with the best teachers in town. Truly. I LOVE IT. My daughter Stella loves it. The productions are top notch. It is just so heart warming that a place like this exists in Los Angeles - Molly Shannon #YADA #Singing #Drama #CreativeArts #SummerCamp #DramaticArts #Kids #Fun #PerformingArts #DramaStudent #Musicals #YadaRocks
Lily Collins is an alum of the theater school, which has drawn the spotlight-loving kids of Mark Wahlberg, Felicity Huffman, Patton Oswalt and New Girl’s Max Greenfield. Staff includes Stacey Oristano of Friday Night Lights. Their weeklong day camps also offer after-camp care for working parents. Molly Shannon, whose daughter performed as Annie with YADA, posted, "The productions are top notch. It is just so heartwarming that a place like this exists in Los Angeles."
A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.