Inside Two Beloved YMCA Camps That Offer Something Different

A look at Camp Harrison and Camp Thunderbird, both a short drive from Charlotte

SURE, A GREAT TIME is a guarantee at both Camp Harrison and Camp Thunderbird, YMCA’s overnight camps near Charlotte. But parents and their prospective campers might be surprised by the many differences between the camps—each offering a distinct experience for area kids between ages 6-16. Which one is the best fit for your child? Explore each below to find out.


YMCA Camp Harrison
7901 NC-18
Boomer, N.C.

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Nestled between Lenoir and North Wilkesboro, YMCA Camp Harrison is about 90 miles away from Charlotte. The property is located on 2,000 acres of land, trails, and streams in the mountains, and it offers an experience based in the Christian faith. Faith-based activities include morning watch, vesper services, and nightly cabin devotions, but camp leadership considers the entire slate of outdoor offerings as a chance to enjoy God’s creation.

Water activities include swimming, boating, fishing and creeking, paddleboarding, and more. Land activities move between adventure, the performing arts, target sports like archery and riflery, and a broader slate of sports. Among many others, highlights of adventure-based fun are mountain biking, a climbing wall, mountain scooters, hiking and survival skills, and even puppy training. Basketball, softball and baseball, soccer, ultimate frisbee, flag football, and slingshot paintball are on the list of available sports, too. See the entire list of activities—and more on this summer’s schedule—here.


YMCA Camp Thunderbird
1 Thunderbird Lane
Lake Wylie, S.C.

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YMCA Camp Thunderbird has been offering thrills and lasting memories for the past 86 years. The camp is situated on two miles of Lake Wylie shoreline, just a half-hour outside of Charlotte. Known as the “ultimate water playground,” the camp balances fun with honing skills like independence, self-discipline, and empathy. It accomplishes that partly through the wide spectrum of activities there, many taking advantage of the pristine lake just steps away.

Let’s start with the land activity slate, which is too numerous to list here. A sampling: guitar, drama, pottery, engineer programming, dance, athletic conditioning, tennis, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, and digital media. On the water, you can learn the basics of or brush up on paddlesports, sailing, and water skiing, among standard lake fare like swimming and fishing. Kids can jump into advanced watersports, advanced pottery, paintball, and horseback riding as add-ons; for teens aged 13-15, the youth development program A.T.L.A.S. (Achievement Through Leadership And Service) is available. More info on all programming and scheduling here.


Whether your child aren called to the mountains or the shoreline—or prefer either a more faith-based or a secular experience—both of these YMCA camps have a reputation as being among the best in North Carolina. And the best part: Both are accepting new campers