Parent Frequently Asked Questions | Surprise Lake Camp

Parent Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions (And Answers!)

Question Mark


Can we see the camp?  

We encourage perspective families to take a guided tour of camp while we are in session during the summer. We offer a Tour Day in August and are also happy to schedule a time to visit camp that fits your schedule. We offer an orientation for new families on the first Sunday in May. Our Get Your Feet Wetsm and Mini-Camp programs are ideal for first time campers.


What activities does camp offer?  

Click here for a list of activities.  

One of the biggest differences between Surprise Lake Camp and other camps is that SLC focuses on an excellent staff, spirit, community, and creative programs, rather than expensive programs like horseback riding riflery, go carts, or motorboats.


Are there trips? 

All campers go on trips out of camp. The youngest campers, up to age 10, go on one trip each four week session. Older campers go on at least two trips each session. 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 Jewish activities do you have?  

Our Jewish program is fabulous!  It is designed to be fun, interesting, child-friendly, and has multiple entry points for campers with little or no Jewish background.  Our dining room is Kosher and we recite a short blessing before and after each meal.  Camp-style services on Friday evening and Saturday morning are awesome, full of music, singing and spirit.  Optional traditional services are also available for those who feel more comfortable in a traditional setting.  Saturday morning we have Shabbat Walk, a structured time when siblings and friends from different parts of camp have the chance to visit with one another.  We don’t offer crafts or creative specialties on Saturdays, but we do swim, play ball, and use electricity.  We have an Israeli culture program as well as Yom Yisrael (Israel Day).  We have great Jewish cultural programs: games, songs, skits, etc.  Please see our Jewish Mission Statement for more details. We also offer a unique Bar & Bat Mitzvah Program.


What is the food like? 

A few years ago, we got tired of eating “camp food.”  So we retooled our menus and hired talented professional chefs to prepare our meals.  Now eating at SLC is one of the highlights of the day!  Delicious, healthy, and kid friendly, we offer breakfast bars, salad bars, themed dinners, barbeques, and delicious, vegetarian options.  For the picky eaters, we have plain (whole wheat) pasta and peanut butter & jelly available at most meals, in additional to fresh fruit available throughout the day.  The camp food is kosher and overseen by a mashgiach (kosher food supervisor).  We can accommodate special diets with advanced notice and preparation.  Please contact our camp director if your child requires a special diet.


What do you do on rainy days? 

In light rain, we often continue with our 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.


Is it a structured program? 

Yes. Most of the time, groups travel together to activities, which are scheduled a week at a time. Throughout the week there are also specialty and choice periods. Specialty takes place three times per week and is designed to give campers more extensive time doing the activities they love most.  All of the specialties provide the opportunity to develop skills and have fun.  Choice periods are another chance to take advantage of activities they love, and also try some unique ones.  Mainside campers get choice activities 2-4 times per week, and Teenside campers get them up to 6 times per week.  Some of these workshops focus on skill building, and other allow for semi-structured play and exploration.  Some examples are basketball and soccer clinics, balloon animal making, baking, community service, farming, stand-up-paddle boarding, juggling, young scientists, knitting/crocheting, and Berger bounce/aqua jump.


How often do siblings see one another?  

If they are in the same unit, siblings will see each other several times every day. If they are in different units in the same division (Mainside or Teenside), they will see each other a couple times a day. If they are in separate divisions, they will see each other a couple of times a week.


How big are the groups?  

On Mainside: Mountainview (ages 7 to10 ½) and Seniors, (ages 10 ½ to 12) have groups of twelve or thirteen campers with two counselors for each group.

The Two-Week Mini-Camp program, (ages 7 to 10) and Teenside, (ages 13 to 15), both have 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.

Each unit (3-7 groups) also has two or three extra relief counselors and/or counselor aides.


What are the cabins like? Do staff live with the campers?  

Mountainview: each group of 12 lives together with two counselors and has bathrooms and showers inside the cabin.

Mainside Seniors: each group of 12 or 13 is either split into two six-person cabins or housed together in a single cabin with three rooms of four or five campers each. Counselors live attached to the camper cabins, but not physically in the same room. Separate nearby washhouses, recently renovated, have hot water showers and flush toilets. Night toilets, with toilet and sink, are attached to one side of each cabin cluster.

Teens: Groups of 8 or 9 are housed in two single cabins connected by a porch - four or five campers to a cabin. Counselors live attached to the camper cabins, but not physically in the same room. Separate nearby washhouses, recently renovated, have hot water showers and flush toilets.

Work Program: Groups of 10 are split into separate cabins with up to four campers in each, the counselors live in separate nearby cabins.


Can I request to be bunked with someone?  

Yes. We do our very best to make sure each camper gets one of theirgroup requests fulfilled. There is a limit of two requests per camper. Requests not to be with someone are given precedence. A request is for the camper group and NOT necessarily the sleeping arrangements.


How do you determine what side of camp and what unit my child will be in?

Campers under 13 as of the first day of the first session of camp will be living in a unit on Mainside.

Campers between the age of 13 and 14 as of the first day of the first session of camp will be placed in the lower teen units on Teenside.

Campers over the age of 14 as of the first day of the first session of camp will be placed in the upper teen units on Teenside.

Please note that many campers, because of their age, spend three years on Teenside, two summers in a lower teen unit and then one summer in an upper teen unit. Our policy exists to ensure that our teens are placed in groups that are socially and emotionally appropriate for all of our campers.


Will my child be with all new campers?  

No. Groups are balanced to include both new and returning campers. Groups and counselor assignments are rearranged for the second session to avoid any disadvantage to newly arriving campers.


How old are the counselors?  

The youngest must be both 17 and a high school graduate. The minimum age for Teenside is 19 (occasionally a mature 18 year old will work with younger teens). Most counselors are college students. 25-30% come from abroad, including Europe and Israel. All are personally interviewed, Camp runs a background check and checks references, and there is a one week orientation prior to camp. At least eighty percent are Jewish. Supervisors are mature adults with supervisory experience and additional special training.


How do you handle homesickness?  

Homesickness is natural and does occur in most new campers. We are experts at handling it. Staff is trained during orientation, and Support Supervisors, who are essentially camp guidance counselors, provide professional care if needed. A seminar on “Sending A Child To Camp For The First Time” is presented at the New Family Orientation at camp in May. It includes tips for parents on preventing/dealing with homesickness. Please contact us for a copy of the handout for this presentation.


Do you have a nurse?  

Yes. We have a staff including experienced Nurses (RNs and LPNs) and we have a Nurse Practitioner who has office hours three times each week at Camp. We have a fully equipped Health Center on Mainside, plus a satellite Health Center on Teenside. Whenever needed we send campers out of camp for x-rays, lab work or other procedures.


What about Lyme Disease?  

Staff and campers are given Lyme Disease Prevention Orientations upon their arrival in camp. Staff are also taught how to detect and identify symptoms of Lyme disease and the staff check the campers and remind the campers to check themselves daily. Medically approved repellents which we provide are applied prior to hikes and overnights. Upon returning to camp, everyone is required to shower. If a tick is discovered, campers are brought immediately to the Health Center. The tick will be removed and the area of the bite will be monitored for Lyme Disease symptoms.


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.


Can I call or visit my child?  

No, except for Visiting Day. Calls and visits can be disruptive to our campers’ experience. Many camps have the same policy. We encourage parents to write frequent letters or emails, and to send packages (we do not allow any food to be sent to campers on Mainside). Also, parents can always email their child’s unit supervisor, or call the camp office and leave a message for them


Are care packages allowed?  

Food is not allowed on Mainside and discouraged on Teenside. Food in the bunk attracts insects and animals. Non-food packages are always welcome. For more information on care packages we recommend the websites or 


Which session is better, July or August?  

July is usually more popular throughout the Northeast because August is preferred for family vacations. However, our August session usually has as many campers as July, sometimes more. The bottom line is that neither session is better than the other—both are terrific!


Should I sign up for one or two sessions?  

If in doubt, rule of thumb is one session for kids under 10, two for kids 10 and older. If any child, however, balks at two sessions, don’t force it. Campers who choose first session can re-register for second session if space is available. Please feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss this further.


How much spending money will my child need in camp?  

There are no additional charges for canteen or trips, except for the upper teen trip second session ($350) and any teens who exhaust their initial canteen credit of $15 per session.  All other canteen/trip fees have been rolled into the regular camp fee.

Camp does not provide spending money for trips.  All activity fees, transportation and food are covered, so spending money is not required, but many campers do bring some cash for souvenirs or snacks. If you would like your child to have spending money for our day trips, you should give it to him/her before camp. On the first day, the unit supervisors will collect any money the campers wish to keep in the safe, and you should encourage your child to take advantage of this. We regret that we are not able to accept spending money directly from parents on Arrival Day since it slows down the process and pulls focus away from where it needs to be - on the campers.

Recommended amounts per session are: $10 for Mountainview, $15 for Lower Seniors, $20 for Upper Seniors and $30 for Teens, although you may wish to provide more for second session Upper Teens and Work Program campers who go on the extended trip.


Is tipping allowed?  

Surprise Lake Camp has a strict no-tipping policy. This is because we do not ever want to put any of our counselors in a position in which they might (even unintentionally) show one child preferential treatment because of their families’ ability to tip. Instead, we encourage parents to recognize staff members by making a contribution to our scholarship fund in honor of those individuals. A letter will be sent to the staff member advising them of your thoughtfulness, and your contribution is tax deductible!

Additional Questions?  

Want to speak to someone live?  Please call 845 265 3616 and we will be happy to help you!
To request a packet of information, click here.
If you prefer to email our Camp Registrar, click here



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]