By Colleen Kane, CNBC.com
The go-to mental image for summer camps is a group of kids and counselors toasting marshmallows around a campfire in the woods. The rustic, woodsy tradition depicted in "Meatballs" and "Salute Your Shorts" is still a part of many summer camps.
But summer camp is no longer just about lakes and lanyards. If your kids are more about art than Color Wars, there's a place for them. From science to snowboarding to magic, there's a camp for almost any kid with an itch to explore a favorite topic.
The American Camp Association - think "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" for camps - compiled this list of unusual programs where campers can learn about the deepest seas, the stars and everything in between. Many of these are so popular that they have wait lists long before the season begins.
See the slideshow: Unforgettable Summer Camps
See the slideshow
Tall Ship Summer Sailing CampTall Ship Summer Sailing Camp
Who: ages 10-18
Where: Claremont, Calif.
Cost: $1,495-$3,900 for 7- to 20-day trips
What: Kids who board the SSV Tole Mour for Tall
Ship Summer Sailing Camp learn maritime history, marine science and all about the teamwork it takes to operate a tall ship. On their expedition, which departs from Long Beach and travels through the Channel Islands, kids get to experience the glory of unfurling the sails and standing watch on the bow in the wee hours of the morning, tempered by the mundane but necessary tasks of putting in shifts in the galley or washing dishes in the scullery. They will also go snorkeling, diving in kelp forests, kayaking and boogie boarding.
Camp MotorsportCamp Motorsport
Who: ages 9-16
Where: Virginia International Raceway, Virginia Cost: $1,095 per week
What: At Camp Motorsport, aspiring Nascar and Formula One drivers can get as close as legally possible to driving race cars while they're still underage. Mini drivers can command half-scale race cars, dirt kart and go-karts, as well as riding along in a real race car on a racetrack. In addition to driving, the camp offers activities including fishing and swimming.
Camp Kamji for GirlsCamp Kamji for Girls
Who: girls ages 7-15
Where: Cass Lake, Minn.
Cost: $4,800/$8100, 4 weeks/8 weeks
What:Plenty of camps let a girl ride her horse, but at Camp Kamji, girls can take their horses swimming. Minnesota's oldest camp for girls also offers activities like geocaching (a treasure hunt that uses GPS), windsurfing, sailing, horseback riding and rock climbing (indoors and out, including the shores of Lake Superior). Campers go on excursions such as wilderness adventures, moonlight sailing and kayaking on the Mississippi.
Experimental Aircraft AssociationAir Academy Camps
Who: ages 12-18
Where: Oshkosh, Wis.
What: Air Academy Camps are an introduction to aviation through study, demonstration and flight simulation. Campers learn about aviation history and science. They build and fly their own models of hot-air balloons, balsa gliders and rockets, and they take trips aboard an airplane and a helicopter.
Who: ages 12-17
Where: Big Pine Key, Fla.
Cost: $3,850+ per 18-day session
What: The nonprofit Seacamp aims to educate kids about marine science through experiences including scuba, sailing, board sailing and arts and crafts. Scuba campers, which costs an extra $425, can collect scientific data on their dives, and more advanced divers can take a marine investigations course.
See the full slideshow: Unforgettable Summer Camps
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By Colleen Kane, CNBC.com
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