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Camp 101

Everything you need to know about in-person Smithsonian Summer Camps

Smithsonian Summer Camp cares about the safety of our campers, staff, and community.

Purchase a Camp as a Gift

Looking for a great gift for a child in your life? A Smithsonian Associates gift certificate can open adventures in learning all year long.

How to puchase Camp as a gift

Purchase a gift certificate for the child's parent or legal guardian, who can then use it when they register online for the Summer Camp of their choice. Gift certificates can be applied during checkout. 

This keeps the registration under the adult’s account, which will ensure they receive the receipt for tax purposes, welcome letter, and other relevant information. The adult will also be able to log into their online portal and access their child’s welcome letter information from anywhere. Please note: Smithsonian Associates memberships are not transferable. If the gift certificate recipient is not a member, they will not have access to the member prices or early registration.

Consider adding the Associates’ $50 basic membership to the gift certificate to allow access to the member prices and early registration.

2023 Camp Information Sessions

Want an opportunity to see the space in which camp comes to life? Want to ask questions in person? Join us for post-registration camp information sessions for parents of both new and returning campers. Stay tuned for the dates!

Camp Dates and Times

  • Camp sessions are one or two weeks in duration and are offered between June and August 2023.
  • There will be no camp on Monday, June 19, 2023 or Tuesday, July 4, 2023.
  • Camp sessions are held from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  • Before-Camp and After-Camp options are available.
  • Every Friday, family and friends are invited to a Show and Share presentation, generally scheduled between 4 and 4:30 p.m.

Camp Locations

Most of the in-person Smithsonian Summer Camps are held in the S. Dillon Ripley Center at 1100 Jefferson Drive SW, Washington, DC 20560. Computer-based camps may be held at the CIC-Computer Lab located in the National Museum of Natural History during the camp day.

In-Person Camp Prices

Price per camper for all weeks except weeks of June 20–23 and July 3-7

One-week camps
Two-week camps
Before/After Combo

Price per camper for the weeks of June 20-23 and July 3-7

The camp prices for these weeks have been discounted to reflect the Juneteenth and July 4th federal holidays.
One-week camps
Two-week camps
Before/After Combo


Smithsonian Summer Camp registration will open February 14-17, 2023. Registration is online only.

Smithsonian Associates Donors
$300 Contributor level and above
February 14, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. ET
Smithsonian Associates Members
Any level
February 16, 2023 at 1:00 p.m. ET
General Public
February 17, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. ET

Before- and After-Camp

Before- and After-Camp sessions are available daily, Monday to Friday. Parents must bring campers to the assigned Before-Camp room in the Ripley Center to sign in daily. Parents must sign out their campers from the After-Camp room daily. Before-Camp, After-Camp, and combo prices can be found in the Camp Prices section.

  • Before-Camp: 8 to 9 a.m. daily. At 9 a.m., campers will be brought up to Drop-off and then to their camps.
  • After-Camp: 4:30 to 6 p.m. daily. Snack provided.
  • Registration: Pre-registration for one-week sessions required. No drop-ins permitted and space is limited.

Inside Each Camp Room

  • Size: 16-20 kids
  • Instructors: 2 adult educators/professionals, plus 2 Youth Teaching Assistants in each camp.
  • Grade range: Grade requirements for each camp are set by instructors, who plan camp content around the developmental, academic, and physical considerations of children in a specific age range.

Camps may have children from two grades in one camp room for our youngest campers (e.g. just 1st graders, or 1st graders and 2nd graders) and up to three grades in one camp room for our oldest campers (e.g. children going into 5th grade, 6th grade, and 7th grade all in one camp). The grade range for each camp is listed with the camp title.

Camp T-Shirt

A Smithsonian Summer Camp T-shirt is included in the registration fee. Campers can sport their shirts proudly and stand out from the crowd on their field trips around the National Mall. Campers receive one shirt at check-in on their first day of camp, regardless of the number of sessions or weeks enrolled. Available sizes range from Youth S to Adult XXL. Be sure to include the correct T-shirt size when you register your camper. Campers will only be given the recorded size.

Camp Policies

Camper Age Policy

  • Camps are available for children who will be entering Kindergarten through 9th grade in the upcoming fall.
  • The camper’s grade must fall between the listed range in order to participate in the camp.
  • Camps are not designed for children under five.
  • High school students, ages 15 and above, may apply for a volunteer position as Youth Teaching Assistants.

COVID Policy

Our top priority is the safety and wellbeing of all children and staff. For the summer of 2023 in-person summer camps, we will be following guidelines devised by the CDC and Smithsonian’s COVID-19 Response Team. Email us with any questions you have.

Inclusion Policy

At Smithsonian Summer Camp we welcome children, families and staff of all cultures, religions, sexual orientation and gender identification, family constructs and abilities. We do not tolerate aggression, violence or bullying against one another. We strive to create a fun and educational environment that is respectful, engaging, and safe for all of our children.

Please contact us prior to enrollment if a camper requires individualized medical, behavioral, or social support to ensure a successful experience at Smithsonian Summer Camp. In order to best serve each camper, we encourage you to list any physical, cognitive, medical, emotional, or learning needs or anything else you would like us to know in your registration materials. To discuss any information or concerns about your camper with the Summer Camp Program Manager, please email us.

Drop-off/Pick-up Locations and Procedures

Campers must have their own transportation to and from camp each day. Drop-off and pick-up for all camps are supervised by Camp Staff each day outside the S. Dillon Ripley Center (unless inclement weather). Approved adults must sign in and out their campers each day.

  • Camper drop-off is from 9-9:30 a.m. each morning.
  • Camper pick-up is at 4:30 p.m. each afternoon.

Self-release forms

Self-release forms are available upon request from Camp Staff at Monday Morning Check-In only. The forms require a parent signature and all parent contact information. Campers under the age of 13 are not permitted to have self-release forms regardless of parent approval. The self-release form waives all responsibility and liability of Smithsonian Institution and Summer Camp, and campers will be able to sign themselves in and out of camp each day.

Cancellation Policy

A 75% refund will be issued if a request is received in writing (by email, fax, or U.S. Mail) at least four weeks before the start of the camp(s) for which you are registered.

Preparing for a Day at Camp

Expectation of Campers

We expect all campers to demonstrate Museum Manners while at camp and visiting the Smithsonian's museums. Museum Manners include acting with respect towards others, being careful of the exhibits, and following instructions from instructors and YTAs. Camps for children going into grades 1 through 3 will also employ the Smithsonian Stars System.

Please review these expectations with your camper in the weeks leading up to their camp session. If you have any questions or need clarification about these guidelines, please email

What Campers Should Bring

Campers should come to camp with the following items:
  1. Good shoes for walking (no flip-flops or shoes with wheels, please!)
  2. Clothes appropriate for the weather, playing outside and doing crafts
  3. Brown bag lunch, two additional snacks, and a drink
  4. Water bottle - refill station will be available
  5. Hand sanitizer, if a certain brand is preferred

Other helpful tips:
  • Put your camper's name on everything that comes to camp — Sometimes items get forgotten or lost and we want to make sure campers go home with everything they brought! Please check lost and found on Friday afternoons.
  • Put sunscreen on your child before dropping them off at camp — If they require additional applications, they must bring their own bottle and be able to apply it themselves. Smithsonian Summer Camp does not provide or apply sunscreen.
  • Electronic devices are not allowed to be used in the classrooms — They may be used during lunch and in Before- and After-Camp with the permission of a YTA or staff.

Monday Morning Check-In

On the Monday of your camper’s first week with us this summer, parents and campers must check-in at the Camp Staff table. Here Camp Staff will welcome you to Smithsonian Summer Camp, double-check that we have received all required forms, and give you your camper’s T-Shirt. This is also where you drop off your camper’s medication, if they have any, and optionally complete a Self-Release form for your 13+ years old camper.

On the Monday of any of your camper’s subsequent weeks with us, you can drop your camper off with their YTAs following our usual Drop-off procedures.

Please Note: Expect the line at the Monday Morning Check-In table to be long during the first week of Smithsonian Summer Camp. On Mondays of subsequent weeks, the Check-In line may be shorter, but this is not guaranteed. We appreciate your patience and ask that you maintain social distance while in line.

Please make time and accommodate your schedule for this Monday Check-In process.

Lunch & Snacks

Lunch usually takes place from 12:30-1:30 p.m. on the National Mall across from the Ripley Center. When camps take all-day field trips, campers will eat at the location of their field trip. In case of inclement weather, lunch will take place inside the Ripley Center.

  • Campers should bring their own brown bag lunch—we do not provide food for campers.
    Campers do not have access to vending machines, refrigerators, or microwaves, and campers are not permitted to purchase food from street vendors.
  • Many camps take a morning and/or afternoon snack break, so please pack extra snacks.
    Please also ensure campers come to camp with a water bottle every day. Use of drinking fountains will not be permitted at this time, but bottle refill stations are available.
  • Please note that Smithsonian Summer Camp is not a nut-free camp.
    Camp Staff does their best to accommodate allergies, but we do not restrict any foods from camp. Please be sure to list any allergies in your registration materials. Staff will make sure your camper’s instructor and YTAs are informed.


  • If your camper needs medication throughout the week, please give it to one of the Camp Staff at the check-in table on Monday morning.
  • Camp Staff is not allowed to administer any medication; all medication must be self-administered (with the exception of epi-pens).
  • Please make camp staff aware of any medical concerns you may have.
  • Sick campers must stay home if they have symptoms such as fever, throwing up, and lice. If your camper is having symptoms the night before, please keep them at home the next day and notify camp staff.
  • Please note that Smithsonian Summer Camp is NOT a nut-free camp. Camp Staff does their best to accommodate allergies, but we do not restrict any foods from camp. Please be sure to list any allergies in your registration materials. Staff will make sure your camper’s instructor and YTAs are informed.
  • Camp Staff is First Aid/CPR certified. All Camp Staff, YTAs, and instructors are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

When do we call you?

There are times when it is necessary to call you or your alternate emergency contact. These include, but are not limited to:

  • When a camper exhibits any signs related to COVID-19 or registers a temperature.
  • When a camper is too ill to continue with the activities.
  • When a camper has lice.
  • When a camper is being overly disruptive to the camp and campers.
  • When a camper exhibits unsafe behaviors in the classroom or in the museums.
  • When a camper is physically or verbally hurtful to instructors, staff, or fellow campers.
  • When a camper cannot adhere to Museum Manners or camp expectations after repeated verbal warnings and conversation with Camp Staff.
  • When you are late picking up your camper from camp or from After-Camp activities.

Field Trips

Camps take field trips almost every day to visit various museums, historic sites, monuments, and the National Zoo. Campers will either walk or take a Smithsonian bus to these locations. Older campers may also take the metro. Please see the Smithsonian’s Visiting Tips webpage for the Institution’s current safety policies in all its museums and facilities.

  • Trip costs are included in camp registration. If camp instructors have planned for a field trip outside of the DMV area, more detailed information will be given in the instructors’ letter received in the Parent Pack.
  • If it gets too hot during the day (Code Orange/Red) or if there is other inclement weather, campers stay inside for lunch and may not take the planned museum trips. Camp Staff reserves the right to postpone or cancel any field trips due to extreme heat or excessive weather.

Other Information

Parent Packs

One week prior to your camp, a parent pack will be emailed to you at the email address provided at registration and will be uploaded to the online portal. This parent pack will include:

  • Camp Culture reminders.
  • Letter from the camp instructors outlining the camp details for the week.
  • Pick-up card for each camper. This is required to be presented by anyone who picks up your camper each day.
  • Loading/unloading parking pass for your car. Please note this is not guaranteed to stop parking tickets.
  • Smithsonian Stars System for camps serving children entering grades 1 through 3, describing Summer Camp's positive behavior management.

If you do not receive this pack or cannot access it through the online portal two weeks before your camp, please email

Friday Showcase

Families and friends are invited to attend the Friday Showcases to view your child's art work, projects, or performance. These generally occur inside the camp classrooms and along the Ripley Center Concourse between 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. You will receive more details from Camp Staff during the week of camp.

Summer Camp Office Location

The Smithsonian Summer Camp office is located in the S. Dillon Ripley Center Associates’ office, Suite 3077. Camp Staff is composed of full time Associates staff and interns who are here to ensure that campers have safe, enjoyable and informative camp sessions. Staff is with campers throughout the day and oversee Before- and After-Camp as well as the lunch break. Our mission is to ensure a smooth operation and clear communication during camp. Please call us at 202-633-CAMP or email us at with any questions or concerns.

Camp Instructors

Two experienced adult instructors lead each camp session and are assisted by at least two high school volunteers (Youth Teaching Assistants). A letter from your campers’ instructors will be included in your Parent Pack.

Camp Youth Teaching Assistants (YTAs)

High school students 15+ years of age are welcome to apply to be a YTA for Summer Camp. YTA responsibilities include assisting with the safety of the campers, with any camp needs, and with a smooth execution of the week at camp. YTAs earn service-learning hours that can often be applied towards school district service hour requirements. More information regarding the Youth Teaching Assistant opportunity will be available soon.

High school students 14 years of age who wish to be YTAs in future summers are welcome to register for the week-long YTA Boot Camp. This is a week-long intensive training program guided by Smithsonian instructors and the program manager to develop strong, experienced future classes of YTAs. Completion of the Boot Camp offers applicants a priority for YTA selection the following summer. Registration for YTA Boot Camp functions the same as registration for any other Smithsonian Summer Camp session.

The Waitlist

If the program you would like to purchase is already sold out, you can add yourself to the waitlist online. Additional sessions may be created to accommodate large waitlists depending on teacher, staff, and resource availability. Families on the waitlist will be contacted directly if new sessions are created. We may also call you if space becomes available during the 9 weeks. Camp Staff constantly goes through registration numbers and waitlists to bring as many children off the waitlist and into camp as possible.

Dependent Care Tax Credit & FSA Expense

Tuition for Smithsonian Summer Camp may be an eligible expense under Dependent Care FSA if the child is under the age of 13 and a proper receipt is provided. Please check with your FSA provider to confirm. For those who qualify, a receipt can be issued in the name of the person who paid for the camp(s).