Camper Frequently Asked Questions | Surprise Lake Camp

Camper Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to the questions you really want to ask!Question Mark

What is so special about Surprise Lake Camp?
It's hard to explain. SLC has been around for over 110 years and anyone from 8-80 years old can tell you that being at camp was the best time of their life.  There is a unique feeling a person gets while at SLC - a strong sense of belonging. There is a special magic that happens when you are surrounded by incredible natural scenery, feeling the wonderful spirit of friendship, and participating in fun, memorable activities. The magic of SLC is easier to experience than to describe, but you will know it when you see it and feel it!

How big is SLC?
SLC has approximately 475 campers at any given time.  The camp is divided into 2 sides, Mainside and Teenside.  Mainside is for campers in grades 2-7, and Teenside is from grade 7 up until 15 years old.  

Mainside and Teenside function separately most of the time.  They each have their own waterfronts, dining rooms, sports fields, etc.  Mainside has the climbing tower,  ropes courses, gymnasium and pool (which Teenside does not) and Teenside has a small golf program (which Mainside does not).  The two sides of camp get together for Shabbat morning services and for special camp-wide events and performances once or twice a week.  

Are there trips?  
Everyone goes on trips out of camp. The youngest campers, up to age 10, go on one trip in a four week session. As campers get older, the trips get more extensive and more plentiful. Teens go on at least two trips every four weeks. Our oldest teen units go on a three day trip during our second session, one of the highlights of the camp experience. 

What kind of special events do you have at SLC?
A special event day is one where we don't follow our normal schedule. These can be events such as Carnival, Israel Day, Shomrei Adamah Day (SLC's version of Earth Day), Olympics, Visiting Days, Mitzvah Day, etc. 

Which session is better, July or August?  
July is usually more popular throughout the Northeast because a lot of families go on vacation in August.  However, our August session usually has as many campers as July. The first session has all of the excitement of the beginning of camp and the start of summer.  The second session has all of the end-of-summer banquets and parties. 

Can I request to be bunked with someone?  
You can request to be in the same group as someone, but since some of our bunks are small, we can't guarantee you'll be in the same bunk.  In most cases, if you are the same age and/or grade grade as your friend, your request should be honored.  We only allow you to make two requests, so choose wisely!  Requests not to be with someone are guaranteed. Please make your requests BEFORE June 1.

Will I be the only new kid in my group?  
No. Groups are balanced to include both new and returning campers. Groups and counselor assignments are completely rearranged for the second session to avoid any disadvantage to newly arriving campers. 

What kinds of activities can I do at SLC?
During a regular day at SLC, you will follow a group schedule.  The first few days of camp are programmed in advance so that you get to try a little bit of everything.  After that, you will decide as a group what activities you want to do the next week.  Your counselor will go to a programming session and program you for as many chosen activities as possible.

Check out the different activities we have!   

All campers will also have the chance to choose an elective, callled "Specialty".  Specialties are held three times a week. 
What is the waterfront like?
On a hot day, the lake is the coolest place to be!  Campers get general swim (free swim) each day.  Everyone receives instructional swim at least two times a week at the pool. This is when lifeguards help you improve your swimming skills and become better swimmers! 

All campers (even returning ones) have to take a simple deep water test when they first get to camp.  But don't worry if you can't swim - just tell the lifeguard and he/she will make sure you get tested in a way that is perfectly comfortable for you!  

ALL campers swim with a buddy.  Buddy checks are done every few minutes.  During buddy calls, campers get quiet and call out their assigned numbers.  This process makes the waterfront as safe as possible. 

What are the different Units in camp?  


Mountainview Boys (grades 2-5) 

Mountainview Girls (grades 2-5) 

Idyllwood (grades 4-5) 

Journey's Way (grades 4-5) 

Frontier (grades 5-7) 

Highlands (grades 5-7) 


Timberline (grades 7-8) 

Boulder Hill/Lakeview (grades 7-8) 

Sherwood (grades 8-10) 

Merrylane (grades 8-10)  

How big are the groups?  
Mainside groups have twelve or thirteen campers with two counselors for each group. 
Teenside has groups of 8 or 9 campers with one counselor for each group. 
Work Program has groups of up to ten campers with one counselor for each group. 

What are the cabins like? Do staff live with the campers?  
In Mountainview, the entire group of 12 lives together and has bathrooms and showers inside the cabin.  The counselors live in a separate bedroom inside the cabin.

The rest of Mainside has groups of 12 or 13.  In Idyllwood, Frontier, and Highlands, these groups live in one cabin with three camper rooms or 4 or 5 campers.  In Journey's Way, the groups are separated into two separate cabins that hold 6 campers each.  Counselors live in the camper cabins, but in their own rooms.  Each cabin has  a deck and one toilet and sink for convenience.  There is a separate larger washhouse nearby that has more facilites, including showers!

On Teenside, groups of 8 or 9 are housed in two different kinds of cabin arrangements.  One is a single with two separate rooms that are connected by a porch.  The other is two separate cabins.  Either way, you will live in a space with either 4 or 5 campers and with a counselor living in his/her own room.  The washhouses with toilet facilities and individual showers are nearby.  

Work Program campers live in small, historic cabins with up to 4 kids each.  Counselors live in separate nearby cabins. 
What does a typical camp day schedule look like?
(This is a general schedule. Mainside and Teenside schedules are slightly different)
7:30 wake-up 
8:15 breakfast 
9:00 cleanup 
9:30 first AM activity 
10:30 second AM activity 
11:30 third AM activity 
1:00 lunch 
1:45 hafsakah (rest period) 
3:00 first PM activity 
4:15 snack 
4:30 second PM activity 
6:15 dinner 
7:30 evening program 
8:30 snack/unit meeting (Mainside)
8:30 open curfew (free time) (Teenside)
 (schedules vary on Shabbat) 
Will I be able to see my brother, sister, or other family member?
If you are on the same side of camp, you will bump into each other every day while just walking around or before or after meals, etc.  

If you are on different sides of camp, you will be able to see them during camp-wide events, and visit them during Shabbat Walk (special free time after Shabbat morning services).  

Everyone can send friends and relatives in-camp mail - it's free!

What do you do on rainy days?  
In light rain, we often continue with normal program. In heavy rain, there is plenty of indoor space (unit lodges, indoor gym, Alumni Hall, Shmerler Building, craft shacks, dining rooms, etc.) for any type of indoor activity.  If it’s been raining a lot and things are muddy, sometimes we go mud sliding! 

How Jewish is Surprise Lake Camp?
Being Jewish at camp is fun!  We have great Jewish cultural programs: games, songs, skits, etc.  We have an Israeli culture program as well as Yom Yisrael (Israel Day). The Jewish program at camp is designed to be understandable and fun . . . it’s not at all like school!  We recite a short blessing before and after the meals, have creative services on Friday evening and Saturday morning, and a short Havdallah service on Saturday nights. Saturday morning we have Shabbat Walk, which is free time when siblings and friends from different parts of camp traditionally visit with one another. 

Where do Surprise Lake Campers come from?
Our campers come from all over the country and even the world!  Most of our campers are from the New York area.

Can you tell me more about the counselors and other staff?
We have over 250 staff members from approximately 15 different countries!  Your bunk counselors live in small cabins attached to yours, and go to all the activities with you.  Their job is to make sure that you are safe, having fun, and having a truly WOW experience.  They are also there to support you in any way they can!

Specialists are at camp to teach you about their areas of expertise.  We have over 30 specialists that will help you do things like act in a play, reach the top of the tower, hit a bullseye at the archery range, make movies, and so much more!    

Can I call home? 
We have no scheduled calls home. If there is a problem that you need to discuss with your parent or guardian, arrangements can be made under many circumstances, but not all. 

Can I get mail and packages?
YES! We encourage your family to write as often as possible.  All campers are allowed to receive packages, but Mainside campers are not allowed to get packages containing food.  Parents and family members can also send emails, which the camp office prints out and delivers with the mail. 

What do we do with laundry?  
We have a commercial laundry service once a week that washes, dries and folds. It is usually returned in two to three days. This service is not recommended for delicates, colors that have never been washed and may bleed, or very expensive items.  You should make sure all your clothing is labeled… if it gets lost or misplaced, it’s much easier to return it to you if it’s got your name on it! 

What is the food like at camp?
A few years ago we got tired of eating "camp food," so we re-wrote the menus and hired real chefs to prepare our meals.  We have Theme Night Thursday's, such as Mexican Night, Chinese Night and Italian Night, we have breakfast bars, salad bars, and vegetarian meals in addition to the main course and side dishes.  Peanut butter and jelly and plain pasta is almost always available!  If you have any special dietary needs, we can and do offer other options.

We also have snack every afternoon, and fresh fruits are available in the dining room if you are feeling like you could really use a snack in between meals. 

Is camp really as much fun as you say it is?
Yes! Come try it out for yourself! 

What do I do if I have more questions about camp?
Email us at any time and we'll be happy to answer your questions! 




Winter Address:  520 Eighth Avenue - 4th Floor, New York, NY 10018

Summer Address:  382 Lake Surprise Road, Cold Spring, NY 10516

Phone: 845-265-3616   Fax: 646-582-0138   Email:  [email protected]