Investors Business Daily - March 9, 1999
Finding The Best Camps - For Grown-Ups
Fantasy Camps Cater To Adults With Music, Sports, Nature


Skip Maggiora noticed something funny about his former music students. Even though they'd grown up and traded in their bell bottoms for pinstripe suits, many still fantasized about becoming a rock star.

So Maggiorra, a Sacramento, Calif., music store owner, launched Weekend Warriors. The music camp lets would-be rockers live out that fantasy - if only for a while. For $75, you get an instrument, four or five bandmates, a coach, rehearsals and one gig.

"This is instant gratification for anyone who used to play as a kid but decided that they couldn't make a living at it," Maggiorra said.

Living out those childhood daydreams is the idea behind such camps that cater to grown-ups. Even if you have a mortgage and 2.5 kids, it's not too late - to dream, at least.

Fantasy camps for adults (www.grownupcamps.com) are springing up across the country. They feature everything from arts and music to languages and fitness.

Take Maggiorra's Weekend Warriors (916-484-7575). More than 1,000 people have gone through the program since its 1993 debut. The camp is now held at 125 locations in the U.S. and Canada.

If you grew up in awe of Dr. J or the Mick, sports fantasy camps abound. Retired players often serve as instructors and managers.

Los Angeles lawyer Melinda Hayes gave her husband a birthday gift most men would die for - a $6,000 week in Hawaii at Magic Johnson's Basketball Fantasy camp.

"It was supposed to be once-in-a lifetime thing," Hayes said. "And it was totally worth the money. But it was so much fun, we're doing it again this year."

Baseball has been a long-time staple of fantasy camps. Several major league teams run camps of their own in the fall and winter for weekend sluggers.

Even players are getting into the act, Baltimore Orioles star Cal Ripken opened his fantasy camp, Cal's Cactus League, in Peoria, Ariz., last winter. The $8,000 entry fee includes uniforms, equipment, lodging and entertainment.

Not all grown-up camps are that expensive. And even if you're not trying to live out a fantasy but simply feel nostalgic for the long-forgotten fun of summer camp, there's a place for you. Check into a weekend camp - but without the kids.

Take Camp Mom (949-448-8192), a retreat in the San Gabriel Mountains an hour north of Los Angeles. Myra Peck got the idea for Camp Mom after seeing her daughter come home from summer camp.

"I started thinking, 'Wouldn't it be great to have a place like that for us?'" she said.
Four times each summer, 150 to 175 campers bunk four to a cabin. There's hiking, canoeing, crafts and yoga. For campers who prefer nurture to nature, there are manicures, massages and facials.

The "No Kids, No Men, No Makeup, No Stress, No Cooking" motto is attractive to camp-goer Denise Hatch.

"The food is great because you don't have to plan it, think about it or do the dishes," said Hatch, who has attended the camp four years running with her sister. "You just show up."

A weekend of food, lodging and classes at Camp Mom cost $219.

The Gunflint Lodge (800-328-3325) in Grand Marais, Minn., also caters to women in search of a little rejuvenation and self-pampering. Its posh Lifestyle Retreat - fireplaces, private saunas - offers an antidote for stress.

Activities include mountain biking, canoeing and tai chi. Prices start at $345 per person and include lodging and three meals a day. The Gunflint Lodge also hosts riding weekends and couples' packages.