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So, Who's Bringing the S'mores?

President Obama salutes as he and daughter Sasha exit Marine One. The Obama family had just returned from a mid-July trip to Camp David. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Obama's summer White House? Camp David.

Ronald Reagan went to California, George W. Bush loved his shrubs in Crawford, Tex., and President Obama originally thought Illinois would be home base for his R&R. "Let me explain to you," he told the Chicago Tribune in December. "My Kennebunkport is on the South Side of Chicago." But, as he quickly discovered, he can't go home again -- at least, not without the hassle of bringing the White House operation with him.

Never mind that: Camp David has turned out to be a big hit with the first family. Michelle Obama was advised by former first ladies to go "early and often" to the "one place you can go where you feel some level of freedom and an ability to breathe." Since the family's first visit in February, the president has spent all or part of 15 days at the Maryland retreat, according to CBS's Mark Knoller, and his wife and daughters even more.

"We love Camp David, and we'll probably end up spending quite a bit of time up there during this summer," Obama said last month. "If Michelle and I had our way, we'd go there every weekend."

The combination of amenities (guest cabins, golf, pool, tennis, movies, biking) and privacy on the isolated military camp has proved ideal: Both Sasha and Malia hosted birthday parties for friends, the president has worked on his golf game and the family currently worships at Evergreen Chapel, the nondenominational church on the grounds.

The place has many charms: "Snow was poetic; summer and the flowers and flowering trees -- like picture postcards," one guest who visited during the Bush administration told us. "And near 'bout any activity you can imagine -- a gym, pool, tennis courts, putting green, skeet, archery, family movie theater. ... When there were the few hours of downtime, the downtime was sweet because of the privacy. As close as we were, we all felt a million miles away from Washington."

Sounds almost perfect -- except there's no beach. So the Obamas have announced one other destination this summer: They're heading to Martha's Vineyard at the end of August.

By The Reliable Source  |  July 24, 2009; 1:03 AM ET
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