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Summer camp: not just for kids anymore

Happy Solstice! Summer is finally here and for a lot of kids that means summer camp is just around the corner.

But why should kids have all the s’mores and all fun?

Here’s a round-up of some of the adult camps I found for a feature on CNBC Road Warrior.


From fantasy sports camps with major league players to boot camps for aspiring astronauts, rockers, clowns, zombie slayers and world poker players, there are plenty of summertime options for adults seeking to cross big-ticket items off their bucket list or or just try something new.

Music fans can take lessons from rock stars who serve as counselors at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp held in Las Vegas and, starting in October, at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. Four-day packages begin at about $5,000 and include loaner instruments and lunches, but not lodging.

The hefty fee didn’t deter 51-year-old Ron Cianciaruso, a musician and a senior vice president at a major bank in Jacksonville, Florida, from signing up for what will be his second session at Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp: the upcoming four-day camp that will feature The Who’s Roger Daltrey as one of the counselors.

Rock camper Ron Cianciaruso with Billy Hinshe and rock camp band members

Ron Cianciaruso (in red T-shirt on the left;) along with rock counselor Billy Hinsche (in the hat), a former member of Dino, Desi & Billy who also played with the Beach Boys; and co-campers Nick, Ted, John, Bill and Pat, who joined Ron in the camp band, Outside the Box.

Yes, it’s a lot of money,” Cianciaruso told CNBC. “But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And when you do anything like this as an adult you can appreciate the value in doing the things you love.”

Sports enthusiasts can hang out with their heroes at a wide variety of baseball and basketball fantasy camps, many with registration fees for adults hovering at around $5,000 as well.

Wish you could go into space?

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, offers a weekend-long Adult Space Academy for those who want to learn what it’s like to train to be an astronaut. Campers get to hang out in one of the world’s largest space aircraft collections, construct and launch rockets, and train on simulators, including the one-sixth gravity chair and Multi-Axis Trainer.

The three-day camp costs $549 per person while the four-day program runs $649. Meals and lodging are included.

For those worried about a zombie attack, weekend-long sessions at the Zombie Survival Course, held near Whiting, New Jersey, teach campers age 21 and older skills that might come in handy should there be a zombie apocalypse or some other disaster.

“It’s very much a camp-like experience, but with crossbows, pistols and training in advanced first-aid techniques and hand-to-hand combat,” said Zombie Survival Course founder Mark Scelza.

The $450 price includes lodging and meals.

“We’re ready for zombies, hurricanes, earthquakes, even martial law now,” said 34-year-old Ivory Mejia, an ultrasound technologist from Hull, Georgia, who took the course recently with her husband.

“Adult camps often take place in traditional camp settings and can be the adult version of a kid’s camp,” said Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association. And adult campers are likely to be baby boomers interested in “taking their vacations while supporting their vocations,” she said.

According to the ACA, the 12,000 organized camps in the United States are part of a $15 billion industry, with 11 million children and youth and more than 1 million adults attending camp each year. The ACA’s Find a Camp tool lists 200 adult camps, while its business affiliate has more than 800 paid listings for camps, courses and experiences.

Here are a few more options:

In Ely, Nevada, two of the three Railroad Reality Week summer sessions offered by the Nevada Northern Railway Museum are for adults only. The hands-on experience promises time spent maintaining 19th century locomotives and rail cars “with all the dirt and grime, you’d expect” and working as part of a railroad crew out on the track.

(Next session: August; price: $995; extra fees for bunkhouse lodging and “Be the Engineer” experiences.)

World Poker Tournament Boot Camps in Las Vegas (of course) cover everything from basic poker instruction to tournaments and tells (betting patterns and physical behaviors). And the Culinary Institute of America offers two- to five-day-long boot camps ($895 to $2,195) on such topics as wine, pastry, grilling and barbecue at its three campuses in New York, California and Texas.

Many CIA campers are food and wine enthusiasts who want to learn in a professional kitchen with professional chefs, but the short sessions sometimes serve as gateways to something more serious. “We have had people attend Boot Camp, decide it was a life-changing event and then enter into the degree program,” said Amy Townsend, CIA senior project manager for consumer marketing.

Opera performed by airline and airport employees in Munich

This New Ocean image

This sounds like fun.

On May 30 and 31 employees of Munich Airport and flight crew members from four different international airlines will appear on stage at Munich’s Cuvilliés Theater to perform the global opera “This New Ocean.

The three-act opera, which has a narrative arc described as stretching “from the earliest beginnings of humanity to the age of globalization,” starts with a video prologue filmed at Munich Airport. The roles will be sung by pilots and flight attendants from South African Airways, Lufthansa, All Nippon Airways, S7 Airlines and employees of Munich Airport and its subsidiaries.

The “Golden Record” sent out into interstellar space about 40 years ago with the Voyager probe also has a role in the opera. And, according to Munich Airport officials, the soprano soloist, Yoko Yamaguchi, is a flight attendant with All Nippon Airways when she is not singing. The solo bass role will be sung by Claus Schippan, a real estate manager with FMG. The third soloist with the cast recruited from across the aviation industry is countertenor Jan Kollmar, who works as a purser with Lufthansa. These soloists will be backed by 15 professional musicians conducted by Anton Zapf and alongside the strings led by concert master Vladimir Lakatos, the ensemble will include winds, a piano, percussion and an electric guitar.

Nélida Béjar and Björn Potulski (who works at Munich Airport) created this new opera and two years ago they also created a musical theater project called “Heavier Than Air” that featured the airport’s baggage handling employees.

Two performances of the opera will take place in Munich and all ticket proceeds will be donated to a fund to help people in need near the airport. In July the opera will be performed at the Soweto Theater. Backing the singers in the African shows for selected numbers will be a 100-voice children’s choir from Soweto.

Connected fliers get movies on their gadgets


Courtesy United Airlines

United Airlines is joining the ranks of carriers that can bypass seatback screens and deliver on-demand, in-flight entertainment directly to gadgets brought on board by passengers.

“We’ve noticed more and more customers have their own personal electronic devices when they fly, so it just makes sense to provide this service,” said United Airlines spokeswoman Karen May.

The service, provided by Panasonic, will allow passengers with Wi-Fi enabled devices to access over 150 movies and TV shows stored in on-board servers.

Apple users will access the content through United’s new iOS app; laptop users will just need to open a browser. An app for Android devices is still under construction.

United will begin testing the new service this week on a Boeing 777 flying between the mainland and Hawaii. “We’ll then gradually expand the personal device entertainment system to other 777s flying to Hawaii and then to other fleet types that currently don’t have on-demand seatback entertainment systems,” said May.

Programming will be different than that offered via the on-demand seatback system and will be changed quarterly at first and eventually refreshed monthly. During roll-out, the service will be offered to passengers for free, “but I can’t say it will always be that way,” said May.

United is not the first to begin offering on-demand programming to passengers’ personal devices. “Many airlines are rolling out this ‘from the Netflix server on the plane to your device via Wi-Fi’ option for passengers,” said John Walton, direct of date for Routehappy. Fliers get a wide range of content “often for no more than the price of downloading it from iTunes and, for airlines, it’s a lot cheaper and lighter than installing a seatback entertainment system,” he said.

For a fee, passengers on many American Airlines, Delta and US Airways flights can stream on-demand movies and TV shows via Gogo Vision. Other airlines streaming to passenger devices include Air Canada, El Al, Norwegian, Scoot and Virgin Australia. “Southwest offers streaming video plus streaming live TV, while Qantas offers streaming to the airline’s own iPads, which are rigged to the seat in front of you in a kind of sling,” said Walton.

It seems like a trend, but experts say Hollywood is making sure seatback in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems aren’t going away just yet.“Major airlines are still making significant investments in fixed IFE systems and backseat screens on wide-body aircraft because they want to offer the latest Hollywood blockbusters to passengers on long-haul flights,” said Raymond Kollau, founder of, an industry and consumer trends research agency.

“This so-called early-window content is restricted to fixed seat-back systems and select airline-owned tablets because of the perceived risk by Hollywood that their latest releases will get copied when streamed to passenger devices,” said Kollau.

But that barrier may not last long.

“Many airlines would like nothing better than to rip out embedded systems,” said Mary Kirby, founder of the Runway Girl Network, “and the moment Hollywood relents on early window to personal electronic devices, or connectivity can support streaming over the pipe, is the moment that embedded IFE will go the way of the dodo bird.”

(My story about changes in in-flight entertainment first appeared on NBC News Travel).

Chicago airports get their own radio stations

Farmer listening to radio - courtesy U.S. National Archives

Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports now have their own radio stations.

The 24-hour “AIR Chicago” was created for the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) by Clear Chanel Airports, a division of Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, Inc., and features smooth jazz music interspersed with airport traffic and weather reports, business news, information about the airports and advertising.

Clear Channel has the indoor advertising contract at the Chicago airports “and this was an opportunity to start a different kind of branding, get more people interested in what we do at the airport, and reach out to a lot more people,” said Karen Pride, CDA spokeswoman.

Pride said the CDA has already recorded “vignettes” about holiday travel that will begin running on AIR Chicago in December and is working on others that might cover everything from sustainability efforts underway at the airports to the art and live music programs offered. There might also be opportunities for airline partners to record messages.

“There are a lot of applications that could be integrated into AIR Chicago,” said Pride. “The possibilities are endless.”

The AIR Chicago programming can be found on and the iHeartRadio app, on the CDA’s website, and on Clear Channel’s local HD2 digital station, WKSC-FM/103.5 KISS FM.

While AIR Chicago is the first 24-hour radio station dedicated to information about the Chicago airports, it is not the first airport radio station. Some airports, such as Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, have low-power AM radio stations broadcasting airport parking and traffic information, with the audio also available online. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport offers a web radio player showcasing northwest music.

Airplane-shaped piano at Pittsburgh Int’l Airport

Chicago’s O’Hare and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International are among the airports with piano bars on-site. But through the first week in January 2014, travelers passing through Pittsburgh International Airport will hear tunes played on this airplane-shaped piano:

PIT Airplane Piano

The airplane piano is 13 feet 6 inches long and is valued at $160,000. It was created by Story & Clark/QRS Music Technologies in Seneca, Pa. and an Italian design firm and is controlled via an iPhone or iPad app and plays from a catalog of more than 6,000 songs.

The piano can also be played the old-fashioned way: by people. And it will used during live performances and during the airport’s holiday choral and concert series featuring local schools.

Look and listen for the piano on the Ticketing Level, Landside Terminal, near the US Airways ticket counter through the first week of January.

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