Michiganders are known for their epic camping getaways. Teach your child to love their time in nature with these character-building summer camps.
MICHIGAN—School’s almost out for the summer, but in Michigan’s diverse outdoor landscapes, the learning has just begun.
With breathtaking natural wonders that include beaches and forests, Michigan is one of the best places in the country for summer camp. And after the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, more kids than ever are looking forward to a classic summer camp experience.
Beyond fun in the sun, Michigan’s many summer camps offer programs meant to form important life skills and create lasting connections to Michigan’s gorgeous outdoors. So what kind of camp is your family looking for? A character-building experience? A physical challenge, outdoor learning, or even the fine arts? Read on to find it in this summer camp roundup.
YMCA Camps (Multiple Locations)
Age Range: 4-18 (Varies by Location)
The YMCA is a non-profit organization with the core values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility, and they have several overnight summer camps across the Lower Peninsula. Though they’re likely the closest options for many Michigan residents, they also sometimes offer shuttles to and from the YMCA. The YMCA uses its summer camps to teach youth independence and provide kids with physical, social, and educational activities as they build critical life skills and interact with nature. Each individual location may also offer special programming, such as leadership camps.
Visit the Michigan YMCA camps website for locations and more information.
Interlochen Center for the Arts (Interlochen)
Age Range: Grades 3-12
Interlochen is a nearly century-old creative center in northwest Michigan that teaches the fine arts to students interested in music, theater, dance, film, visual arts, and creative writing. Many alumni have gone on to have successful careers both within and outside the arts, and even become famous, such as singer Norah Jones, actor Santino Fontana, Breaking Bad executive producer Vince Gilligan, and Google co-founder Larry Page. It remains one of the most prestigious schools in the country and one of the best examples of summer music programs anywhere. Interlochen incorporates six different modalities for arts education and the summer camp offers a true creative retreat. About 2,800 creatively-minded students attend the camp every year. Camp housing is gender-inclusive for all gender identities.
Visit the Interlochen website for more information.
Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp (Twin Lake)
Age Range: Grades 5-12
Located in the Manistee National Forest, Blue Lake teaches programs in music, art, dance, and drama to more than 5,000 students every summer. Summer camp sessions run for a week and a half and students choose a major related to their creative focus. Music majors include band, choir, harp, jazz, orchestra, and piano. Camp housing is gender-inclusive for all gender identities.
Visit the Blue Lake website for more information.
Camp Blodgett (West Olive)
Age Range: 8-17
If the cost of your child’s summer experience is a concern for you, you’ll love Camp Blodgett’s sliding scale program. Camp Blodgett was designed to give children from low-income families equitable access to the enrichment of a summer camp program and precious time outdoors. Their sliding scale is based on family size and income, with fees as low as $40 for a five-day session. Camp sessions have different themes, such as Arts Week and Magic Week.
Visit the Camp Blodgett website for more information.
Circle Pines Summer Camp (Delton)
Age Range: 7-15
Is your child an activist? Do they have a passion for environmental issues? Circle Pines might be the right fit for them. At Circle Pines, campers focus on cooperation as a way of life and as a solution to economic and social issues. The Circle Pines summer camp experience is filled with cooperative work projects like organic gardening and trail maintenance, and educational programming that covers ecosystems, climate change, food politics, and social justice. The camp’s values even come up at lunchtime, as the camp kitchen uses primarily local, organic, and humanely-raised food sources.
Visit the Circle Pines Summer Camp website for more information.
Camp Tall Tree (Howell)
Age Range: 7-17
If your child has autism or a similar neurodivergent status, Camp Tall Tree is built to meet their unique needs. The camp is intended to give children with differing emotional, behavioral, and cognitive needs equitable access to the traditional summer camp experience, with plenty of trained staff on hand to see to it that your child has the best experience possible. Three programs are offered, including the main one for autistic campers, a second for their neurotypical siblings, and a third for both older neurotypical children and autistic campers, who are paired together in a supportive peer relationship.
Visit the Camp Tall Tree website for more information.
North Star Reach, Camp Michitanki, and Camp Discovery (Pinckney)
Age Range: 7-15
North Star Reach is a non-profit organization offering medically supported, cost-free camps especially designed for children with chronic illnesses. Eligible conditions include epilepsy (Camp Discovery), organ transplant (Camp Michitanki), congenital and acquired heart disease, sickle cell disease, anemia, chronic pain, and more. The camp’s clinic is fully staffed 24/7 by medical professionals from leading hospitals and medical centers. It also includes a fully supplied dispensary. This allows chronically ill children to receive individualized care without having to leave camp, so they can put all their focus into having fun!
Visit the North Star Reach website for more information.
Indian Trails Camp (Grand Rapids)
Age Range: 7-17
Children with chronic conditions like epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy will find the Indian Trails Camp a barrier-free summer camp experience. The camp is accredited by the American Camping Association. Programming ranges from sports, talent shows, arts and crafts, music and drama, campfire cooking, and more. Some sessions are based on a traditional camp program, while others focus on the campers’ specific needs and abilities.
Visit the Indian Trails Camp website for more information.
Camp Walden (Cheboygan)
Age Range: Grades 2-11
The “Walden Way” is to make campers the center of the experience, by giving them a feeling of belonging and strengthening their identity. Camp Walden gives its campers more freedom and responsibility by letting them create their own activity schedules. Walden has a neighborhood culture that gets campers interacting with many different people. It also offers a wide variety of activities, including athletics, horseback riding, outdoor life, arts and crafts, performing arts, media, and waterfront activities on Long Lake.
Visit the Camp Walden website for more information.
Camp Miniwanca (Shelby)
Age Range: Grades 3-12
Camp Miniwanca is run by the American Youth Foundation, a nonprofit youth development organization that challenges all campers to create communities where all feel welcome and respected, and where the camper can be their own best self. Diversity and inclusion is prized, and staff are trained to supervise children and prevent bullying based on any aspect of a camper’s identity. Camp sessions last anywhere from two to five weeks, with camps divided by their age, and may include overnight hiking and canoeing trips or community volunteer work. Though Miniwanca has two camps separated by gender, camp housing is gender-inclusive for all gender identities.
Visit the American Youth Foundation website for more information.
Black River Farm and Ranch (Croswell)
Age Range: 6-15
Is there a girl in your life who loves horses? Then the Black River Farm and Ranch is the place to be. Camp Black River Farm and Ranch is a 360-acre farm where young girls go to take horseback riding lessons, ride the trails in the picturesque Thumb Region wilderness, and participate in other camp activities such as water sports, field games, and arts and crafts. Camps last from four days to four weeks.
Visit the Black River Farm website for more information.
Camp Newaygo (Newaygo)
Age Range: 7-17
For girls looking to learn new skills, Camp Newaygo offers a great summer program. Campers have over 30 activities to choose from for three classes per week. These classes include traditional sports, like volleyball, tennis, basketball, and cheerleading, and more non-traditional sports, like archery, windsurfing, water skiing, and fencing. There’s also yoga, photography, arts and crafts, wilderness survival, drama, pottery, animal care, and more. Campers come together in free times for activities like scavenger hunts and jumbo-sized board games.
Visit the Camp Newaygo website for more information.
Crystalaire Adventures, Camp Lookout, and Camp Carvela (Frankfort)
Age Range: 7-17
These three camps in Northern Michigan are focused on empowering youth through experiential learning. Programs are camper-led, giving the kids free reign to make decisions about how they will spend their time at camp. The camps are unplugged communities, emphasizing taking a break from screens and the online world. Camp housing is gender-inclusive for all gender identities.
Lake of the Woods Camp and Greenwoods Camp (Decatur)
Age Range: 6-15
Greenwoods and Lake of the Woods offer two, four, and eight week experiences for summer campers. At Greenwoods Camp, boys may choose a competitive schedule or a non-competitive schedule, depending on their preferred experience. At Lake of the Woods Camp, girls create their own activity schedule tailored to their interests and passions.
Visit the Lake of the Woods Camp and Greenwoods Camp website for more information.
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