Top Family Camps In The Midwest | My Family Travels

Family camps in the Midwest offer fun, adventure and family bonding vacations at reasonable rates. To plan sleepaway camp together with your kids, start by checking out these great family overnight camps and be ready to book one early in the year.

Family Camps, a growing trend

Family canoeing at Camp Nawakwa.

According to research by the American Camp Association, there are more than 8,400 overnight camps in the U.S.! While more than 14 million children and adults attend day or overnight camps each year, the ACA’s 2015 Emerging Issues survey found that in the past two years, 15% of all camps have added specific family camps or family programs.

Parents who wish to relive their childhood camp days — or who simply want to enjoy quality family time away from the distractions of modern technology — are flocking to family camps. It’s not only because these are top value cheap vacations. Family camps also welcome parents to enjoy the outdoors, healthy recreation and an overnight camp experience that is usually exclusive to tweens and teens.

What is a Family Camp experience?

Families stay in tents or cabins, eat communal meals in the dining hall, and participate in a variety of outdoor activities. No cooking, driving, or planning an itinerary on this vacation!

Most family camps run three to seven days, and generally include all activities, food, and lodging. The price ranges upwards from $100 per night per adult depending on season, with lower rates for teens and younger children — often less expensive than the typical family vacation. Family camp is ideal for families with children ages 7-12, however most camps welcome infants (some even provide the option of childcare and most don’t even charge for under-3s). Many camps have teen-specific programs as well.

6 Top Family Camps in the Midwest

Resort cabins at Camp Dearborn are on the water.
These rustic waterfront cabins are available for rent at Camp Dearborn.

Camp Dearborn
1700 General Motors Road
Milford, MI 48380
313/943-2350
Situated on 626 acres of hills, forest, and plains in Dearborn, Michigan since 1928, this campground is in a state park with six lakes within its boundaries, a 27-hole golf course, a heated swimming pool, playgrounds, and a baseball field. Families can enjoy bike trails, a zip line, hayrides, fishing, paddle boating, dancing, and many other outdoor camp activities. Since it’s only 44 miles northwest of Detroit, this is a good basecamp for family outings to the remarkable American history collection at the Henry Ford Museum, house tours of the Henry Ford Estate and a visit to the recreation Greenfield Village. Depending on season, catch a Detroit Tigers baseball game, Detroit Lions football game or a Big 10 college football game. Camp Dearborn cabins each have six cots, electricity, refrigerator/stove units, charcoal grills, and patio furniture. Those who choose to stay in an RV or tent have access to the same amenities. The camp runs themed weeks in summer and special Halloween events on fall weekends.

Families compete in Water balloon toss at Camp Nawakwa.
The Water Balloon Toss gets very competitive at Camp Nawakwa.

Camp Nawakwa
13400 Camp Nawakwa Ln
Lac du Flambeau, WI 54538
715/588-7422
During the summer, Nawakwa, which is less than 6 hours from Chicago, Illinois, has 35 cabins and five tent sites available for rent. Cabins range from modern (log furniture, full bathrooms, large living spaces) to economic (furnished yet smaller; must use central wash houses). At Nawakwa, there is no dining hall, so each family is responsible for preparing their own food. The camp provides you with refrigerators, dishware, cooking utensils, and campfire pits at no extra cost. Activities include archery, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, campfires, a water carnival, a triathlon, nature hikes, and many others. All programs are designed for full family participation, thus children are the sole responsibility of parents. There are, however, two mornings per week devoted to a Kid’s club for children ages 5-10, run by the staff. 

YMCA Camp du Nord
3606 North Ann Road
Ely, MN 55731
651/645-6605
Located on Burntside Lake among the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in over a million acres of forest, Camp du Nord’s serene beauty calls families to gather here year after year for active, fun vacations.  While there are organized activities and crafts for babies through 17-year-olds every morning during their weeklong family camps, the bulk of time is spent “families-together,” enjoying hiking, fishing, sailing etc. New are the women’s, mother/daughter or couple retreats that include arts, crafts, cooking, nature and wellness. There are 28 large cabins (many open year round) with bathrooms and kitchens; seven rustic cabins with kitchens and electricity; and plenty of tent sites, six on platforms. Meals are prepared by guests in their cabins, or they purchase a meal plan for dining in the Lodge where kids under 3 years dine free.

Fisherman at Camp Northern Lights shows off fish he caught.
Fishing boats can be rented at Camp Northern Lights so you can cook your own supper.

YMCA Camp Northern Lights
9089 Highway 21
N. Babbitt, MN 55706
612/822-2267
The YMCA has expanded its facilities with this beautiful new camp at the edge of the Superior National Forest on Bear Island Lake. Here’s a great place to fish or enjoy boating as a family. Among the year-round lodging and program opportunities are 3, 4 and 7-day family camps in summer, plus opportunities for a Cookout or Overnight adventure with loaner gear, accompanying staff or just their expert advice to smooth the way. Life is easy here, too, since a food truck is available until their dining hall is complete.

Sailing is a favorite pastime for family campers, and all ages can learn the sport.

YMCA Trout Lodge and Camp Lakewood
13528 State Hwy AA
Potosi, MI
573/438-2154
Located on Sunnen Lake in Potosi, 90 minutes south of St. Louis, these facilities encompass 5,200 wooded acres, a private 360-acre lake and the Triangle Y Ranch equestrian center. The fully renovated Trout Lodge offers a big lodge with balconied rooms, comfy family cabins and 40 to 100 different seasonal activities throughout the year. The Lodge vacation package rate for families includes a room, all meals, nature hikes, horseback riding, zip lining, water activities and more. Kids under 4 stay and play free. Camp Lakewood runs a summer camp for ages 6-16 in age-appropriate groups, plus a Family Camp that parents attend only over Labor Day weekend. Those three days of fun includes time on a zipline, archery, a 50-foot climbing structure and trail rides. There is also a riflery range, a gymnasium and a mini-golf course, plus a variety of other ways to spend quality family time together.

Top Learning Camp for Families in the Mid-West

Campers display their tie-dye T-shirts at Camp Nawakwa.
Tie dye is back in fashion at Camp Nawakwa, where families work on recreation and crafts projects together.

For families that are looking for something outside of the typical camp experience, many places offer family-oriented, camp-like learning programs. These camps are not always all-inclusive, yet are still relatively inexpensive for what they do offer. Parents and their children can learn about outer space, the arts, or other cultures over the course of a week or weekend. The following activity-specific camp is best for families with school-age children ages 6-13 or older.

Concordia Language Villages
901 8th St S
Moorhead, MN 56562
800/222-4750
Spend a week in Germany without leaving the country! Since 1961, this branch of Concordia College has hosted more than 150,000 campers. At Concordia Language Villages, families are immersed into a different culture, according to the language they wish to learn. During check-in, campers present their “passports” they have received in the mail, and they exchange their dollars for foreign currency at a camp bank. They learn the new language of their choice, eat the indigenous cuisine and learn about the country’s song, art, sports, and dance. Family camp sessions offered in several languages — currently Chinese, German, French, Finnish, Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Portuguese, Russian — during weeklong summer sessions and on weekends throughout the year.

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