Best Minnesota Summer Camps and Enrichment Programs: A Guide for All Ages

The summer camp experience creates memories that last a lifetime. For some, feelings of nostalgia surface when they break out the sleeping bag and smell campfire smoke in the air; for others it’s an inside joke shared with an old camp friend or the memory

“Camp provides children with a community of caring adults, who nurture experiential education that results in self-respect and appreciation for human value,” according to the American Camp Association. “All of the outcomes — self-identity, self-worth, self-esteem, leadership, and self-respect — build personal competencies. These personal competencies are reflected in the four “C’s” of the camp community: compassion, contribution, commitment, and character.”

Camps help children grow by providing a supervised, positive environment. They can help broaden a child’s social skills (kids meet all kinds of different people in a camp setting) and, when the camp involves the great outdoors, can heighten a child’s awareness of the relationship between people and nature.

YMCA Day Camps promote a healthy spirit, mind, and body in a safe and exciting environment. All camp programs emphasize the YMCA’s core values of caring, honesty, respect, responsibility and faith with camp staff and fellow participants.

For Mary and Ben Brucciani, parents of Eva (10), Leo (8), and Lou (6), Camp Streefland in Lakeville has been their go-to summer camp for the past four years. “The bus picks the kids up and drops them off at a school just down the road from us,” Mary says. “It couldn’t get more convenient!”

Mary and Ben work full-time and needed a day camp that would work for all three kids, who have three very different interests, so Eva went to horse camp, Leo went to a general day camp, and Lou went to fishing camp. They all loved the experience. “The YMCA was a great option to have them all at the same day camp at the same time,” says Mary.

The YMCA offers a number of metro area camps for kids ages 4 to 14, with a typical camp day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (before and after care is available from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.) Traditional camp activities such as arts and crafts, swimming, canoeing, archery, games, hiking, outdoor cooking, songs, and skits are offered at all Day Camp locations. Bus stops are available at most locations each day.

Specialty Camps, available for kids ranging from 6-14, are available based on each site of location.

For those who desire a family experience, the “Summer Family Escape” and “Grandparent/Grandchild Intergenerational Road Scholar Camp” offered at the Audubon Center of the North Woods (ACNW) on 535 acres in Sandstone (about 70 miles from Duluth) is the perfect fit. Parents and kids ditch the video games, TVs, and computers, and reconnect with Mother Nature the old-fashioned way, in the Great Outdoors. “It’s close enough to home that you can save travel time and money, yet far enough away to feel like an adventure,” explains Laurie Fenner, marketing coordinator with ACNW.

Today’s camp experience—whether indoors or outdoors—often includes a specialized focus on music, dance, sports, community service, special needs programs, academic enrichment, or visual and performing arts.

At The Art Academy, students can refine their artistic skills this summer by taking a class. “I have yet to meet a kid who isn’t talented,” says Jim Robinson, founder of The Art Academy. “Every child can draw and paint well if they’re trained how to do it. I’m a fanatic about that.”  

The Art Academy teachers work to encourage a positive atmosphere where students—children and adults— can relax and enjoy learning in a fun, noncompetitive atmosphere. “Our goal is to improve students’ drawing and painting abilities dramatically in a short period of time. We accomplish this by teaching time-honored techniques in classes with very low student-to-teacher ratios,” Robinson says.

For kids who are interested in music, there are a number of music camps offered in the summer months (MacPhail Center for Music Summer Camps, Sing Minnesota, or McNally Smith, for instance), if they’re interested in computers, there are camps like Tech Camp at Macalester College (video game design, iPhone app development, Flash animation, programming, video editing and more), and for the animal lover, the Minnesota Zoo Camp allows kids ages 2-18 to explore a wide range of subjects involving animals and wildlife conservation.

“Campers explore behind-the-scenes at the Zoo and learn how we take care of our animals,” explains Grant Spickelmier, Minnesota Zoo assistant director of education. “They also learn how people impact wild populations of animals and what specific things they can do to help endangered species around the world. Whether you want your three-year-old to touch a snake for the first time or your high schooler wants to learn about careers in marine biology, we have a Zoo Camp for you.”

Over 10 million American kids go to summer camp every summer, to meet new people, try new things, appreciate nature, learn new skills, and most importantly — have fun.

For a full list of camps, visit the American Camp Association at or My Summer Camps at




The Art Academy
515 S. Albert St., St. Paul, MN 55116

The Art Academy offers year-round classes and camps for students ages 5-adult.  Improve drawing and painting abilities in a safe, fun, non-competitive environment.  A Create Your Own Schedule option provides flexibility to allow families to build a program around other planned activities.  Classes and camps take place at the school’s location.  The Art Academy’s summer session begins June 11 and runs through August 18. Visit for over 300 examples of student artwork. Call for a free brochure.


International Kids Camp
7000 Eden Prairie Rd., Eden Prairie,  MN  55344

The International School of Minnesota offers full and half day camp for ages 3.5 to those entering sixth grade. From June 18 – Aug. 10, this is your passport to summer fun! An afternoon sports option is also available.

Day Camp

New Horizon Academy Camp Discovery
3400 Annapolis Lane, Plymouth, MN 55447
*And 53 Minnesota locations

Camp Discovery at New Horizon Academy is specially designed to provide a sensational summer for children from kindergarten through sixth grade. Filled with unique activities like field trips, sports clinics, music, drama, arts, and crafts, Camp Discovery provides an exciting adventure for each child. Visit any New Horizon Academy for more information on Camp Discovery.


Angelica Cantanti Youth Choirs Summer Day Camp        
Bloomington Center for the Arts
1800 W. Old Shakopee Rd., Bloomington, MN 55431

Calling all second through fifth graders who love to sing! Join us for a week filled with singing, music games, and arts activities. This camp will serve as a springboard from which singers will explore their vocal potential and increase their confidence in singing. Taught by the professional artistic staff of the Angelica Cantanti Youth Choirs program. July 23 – 27. 10 a.m.- 12:15 p.m. $95.

MacPhail Center for Music Summer Camps
501 South Second St., Mpls, MN 55401

Macphail offers 45 camps for ages 3-adult. From “Music Around the World” to “Rock Week” to “String Camp,” summer camps at MacPhail provide a fun and unique learning opportunity to explore music in a creative environment. June 11 – August 31. For more information or to register, call 612-321-0100.

McNally Smith College of Music Summer Workshops
MIX (Music Industry eXperience), Jazz, Guitar, Vocal, and Hip-Hop
19 E. Exchange St., St. Paul, MN  55101

Jazz, guitar, vocal, hip-hop workshops June 29 – July 3.  MIX Camp August 21 – 26. Dorms available.  All of McNally Smith College of Music’s Summer Workshops offer a hands-on learning experience. Evenings are filled with fun and enriching trips throughout the Twin Cities. Intended audience is 13 to 19-year-olds.

Sing Minnesota Day Camp
Concordia University, Buetow Music Center
300 Hamline Avenue N., St. Paul, MN 55104

Sing Minnesota is a week-long day camp for girls and boys, ages 8-12 (completed grades second through sixth), sponsored by the Minnesota Boychoir. While focusing on choral singing, campers also participate in other creative arts—drama and movement, visual arts, and outdoor fun and games! $300 scholarships available. August 13-17, 2012 (St. Paul’s Concordia University), 8:30 a.m – 4:30 p.m.


Wolf Ridge Environmental
Learning Center
6282 Cranberry Rd., Finland, MN 55603

With a camp program dating back to 1971, the continuing success of Wolf Ridge is due to the variety of programs, amazing location and facilities, qualified staff, and vast outdoor opportunities. Programs feature myriad activity options such as canoeing, adventure ropes, rock climbing, natural history classes, cultural history classes, and overnight adventures.

YMCA Camps, Day Camps and Summer Programs

The YMCA has your summer covered with programs to meet the needs of every child. Teen Wilderness Adventures (12-18), Overnight Camps (7-16), and Day Camps (10 located around the metro area) are a great introduction to camping.


Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Musical Theatre Camp
501 W. 78th St., PO Box 100, Chanhassen, MN 55317

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres offers summer camps for kids and teens (ages 8 – 18). Registration offerings include either a week of half or full-day sessions taught by CDT professionals.  2012 themes include musicals from ‘90s and the New Century, i.e. Lion King, Wicked, Mamma Mia, and Hairspray!