Peachhead™ Approved Vacations: Vacation at UC Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center, July 2012
How often do we send our kids off to camp and wish we could be going with them? Well, now you have the opportunity to do so. UC Santa Barbara offers a family camp called Family Vacation Centerand they invited me and my family to experience what it was like to actually go to camp with your kids. The camp is held on the UC Santa Barbara campus and you stay in the dorms. With my daughter starting high school this year, I was very excited for her to see what college life was like. Never having lived in a dorm I was very surprised to see how college kids live. We had a 4 bedroom unit which had 2 twin beds in each room (however you can upgrade to a king bed for a small fee). There is also a nice sized living room and one bathroom. The bathroom was so funny though. It had 2 bathroom stalls and a shower split in two so that two people can take a shower at the same time (with privacy). They also have a double sink so in reality it really is like have 2 bathrooms. When we first arrived we were driving around the campus a little confused, however, all of a sudden we heard a bunch of cheering and we discovered we had found the camp. There were about 20 college kids (camp staff members) standing outside waiting for us to arrive and cheering us on. What a greeting. Not only that, they assigned a couple of them to help with our luggage and when I say help with our luggage, I mean, they took care of everything. Unloaded everything out of my car, put them in 3 huge carts (did I mention I over-packed?) and took everything up to my room while I checked in. Knowing that I was staying in a dorm, I didn't know what to expect but I found out that there was no TV or clock radios so I brought my own. I know, why bring a tv on vacation, but I love my nighttime TV. The staff here is great and they immediately hooked up the TV for me. One of the reasons I was excited about this camp is that it allowed my daughter who is staring high school to experience college life by living in a dorm, eating in the Carrillo Dining Commons and she even got to experience a college math class (my cousin goes to school here so he took her to a class).
There are so many activities planned throughout the week and the staff was so warm and welcoming and full of energy. In fact, many of the staff members went to this camp as kids. Our first night here the staff members put on a great welcome show to introduce themselves and the energy these kids show is amazing. You can clearly tell they love working here.
A majority of the meals took place in the Carrillo Dining commons which is where the college students living on campus dine. There are a number of different stations and you go to the station and choose what you would like to eat for the night. The different stations for breakfast consisted of an omelet bar (made to order), waffle station, oatmeal, fruits, bagels/cream cheese, cereals and toast. For lunch and dinner the stations consisted of a pizza station, pasta station, potato station, main course/veggie (chicken, turkey, meatloaf, etc), Mongolian station where they served pad thai one day and fried rice on another. They also have nightly desserts and well as a soft yogurt station. If your kids get sick, they will give you a sick pass so you can bring food back to the room.
There are a number of activities to participate in. They are broken down by groups (depending on age of your kids), family events, adult only events, and additional activities for an additional fee. They take kids as young as 1 month all the way through to high school. Some of the activities that my kids had the opportunity to go on were ropes course, overnight camping trip on the beach, bowling, and Sky High Trampoline Center. For the younger kids, they have field trips, scavenger hunts, water play, beach fun and so much more. There is also a crafts center. Make sure your kids bring their scooters and helmets as the kids have fun scooting throughout the campus. The camp provides bikes that you can check out anytime. There is a great recreation center that you are allowed to work out in. You just need to get a day pass from the front desk. They also have tennis courts and a nice outdoor pool.
Additional activities adults can sign up for included wine tasting, art walk in Santa Barbara, hikes and bike rides. My kids and I signed up for horseback riding one day. It was a beautiful trail. The horses are very tame and move pretty slowly so great for the younger kids. I would just make sure the guide knows you want to be near your kid on the ride as they separated us according to the horses we were on and I prefer to be near my kids when riding in one line throughout the trail.
They have a family bbq and carnival that is so much fun. Games set up for the kids to play and then contests such as 3 legged race, tug a war, water balloon toss, and of course a pie eating contest. What was really cool was that I actually met a Peachheader at this carnival. My favorite night was the campfire night. We sat out on the beach, made smores, and sang campfire songs. It reminded me of my days at camp. It was great to experience this with my kids.
In the evening one night they had an adult mixer with an open bar and then a nice dinner in the faculty lounge followed by casino night. Other nights they had a margarita pool party, adult night on the town, trivia night, family bingo, and adult karaoke.
The last night the staff put on a fabulous show and then showed a slide show with all of the pictures they took during our week. This slide show was so wonderful….to see so many kids and families enjoying themselves was priceless.
This camp is similar to being on a cruise. There are activities planned throughout the day and you can choose to participate in whatever activities interest you. One of the touching things about this camp is that families continue to return year after year so some of these kids started when they were 2 or 3 and 10 years later they continue to return and see the same friends they have met throughout the years. Very heartwarming to see high school kids excited to go to camp with their family. This was a great family experience. Hey, maybe we can even set up a Peachhead Familes week here….now that would be fun!!!