12 totally cool summer camps


Call me Olaf, but I’m dreaming of summer. Not only is the warm weather wonderful, but it’s also the perfect time for kids to try new activities and delve into subjects they love. And luckily, Chicago offers a tremendous range of interesting and inspiring summer camps.


Here are 12 day camps that are so crazy-cool, they fill up fast. So start dreaming of summer and book some engaging activities for your kids now.


Emerald City Theatre Summer Camp


Who: Imaginative kids ages 3 1/2-13


Where: Lakeview and Lincoln Park neighborhoods in Chicago


When: One week half-day sessions for preschoolers. Two-week 9 a.m.-3 p.m. sessions for kids 5-13.


How much: $225 for 3 1/2- to 5-year-olds for one week half-days. $750 for 5- to 13-year-olds for two weeks full-days.


Why it’s hailed as the best drama camp in town:


– Kids write and perform dialogue, create costumes and develop choreography


– Life skills are learned through drama: listening, problem solving, math, literacy and gross motor


– Final performances give students a chance to shine on stage and parents a look at what kids have been learning


– Themes include Frozen, Wizard of Oz and Lion King


Second City Summer Comedy Camps


Who: Budding comedians ages 8-18


Where: Old Town in Chicago


When: Half-day morning improv sessions for 8- to 10-year-olds. Full-day programs for ages 11 and up include afternoon sketch comedy sessions. Post camp workshops available until 5 p.m.


How much: $280–$1,000


Why this camp is no joke:


– Kids come from across the country and abroad to attend


– Bolsters creative thinking, self-confidence, brainstorming, team building, empathy and communication skills


– Two-week campers present a show to friends and family on a Second City stage


– Special performance by The Second City National Touring Company


School of the Art Institute of Chicago Multi-Arts Summer Camps


Who: Creative thinkers and future problem-solvers ages 4-18


Where: Downtown Chicago


When: Half-day and full-day 9 a.m.-5 p.m. camps available in one-week sessions


How much: $220 half-day per week, $440 full day per week. Financial assistance is available.


Why you’ll draw up a love for this camp:


– Culture, art and design are the focus of studio projects and museum visits


– It’s all about the process! Kids are encouraged to explore, imagine and design in their own unique ways


– Drawing, painting, sculpture, fashion, architecture, digital design and animation are explored


BollyGroove Summer Camp


Who: Dancers and shakers ages 3-13


Where: TBD (likely West Loop, River North or Lakeview in Chicago)


When: Half-day and full-day 9 a.m.-4 p.m. camps available by week


How much: $350 for a half-day week, $600 for a full-day week


Why this camp is groovy:


– Dance classes teach graceful movement to Indian music


– Kids learn all things Indian (people, places, language and festivals) in a theatrical Culture ZOOM


Double J Riding Club Summer Horse Camp


Who: Horse lovers ages 5-15


Where: Countryside


When: Four five-hour days per week, Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Before and after care is available.


How much: $315 per week


Why this camp is horse heaven:


– Riding lessons every day with a licensed instructor


– Horse grooming and bathing


– Horse crafts like finger painting and scrapbooking


Brookfield Zoo Camp


Who: Animal fanatics ages 6-12


Where: Brookfield


When: Half-day and full-day camps available by the week; before and after care available


How much: $150-$405 per week


Why you’ll be wild about this camp:


– It’s now a partner with the National Inclusion Project, so anyone of any ability can enjoy this camp


– Close encounters with wildlife and nature


– Carousels, dolphins and motor safaris, oh my!


– Solve a zoo mystery and touch biofacts


Trapeze School New York- Chicago Summer Youth Adventure Program


Who: Aspiring circus performers ages 6-14


Where: Edgewater neighborhood, Chicago


When: Full-day one-week sessions 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Three sessions available per summer. One session per camper.


How much: $599


Why this camp has kids soaring to new heights:


– Two-hour flying trapeze sessions


– Acrobatic yoga, trampoline, tightrope and aerial silk instructions


– End of week performance and party for friends and family


Girls Rock! Chicago Girls Camp


Who: Aspiring musicians ages 8-16 who identify as girls/women, transgender and/or gender non-conforming


Where: Location TBD (past three years have been in Chicago’s West Loop)


When: Seven-day week, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays with before and after care available, weekend performance and recording. Two one-week sessions available per summer. One session per camper.


How much: $425 per week. Sliding scale tuition with scholarships available. No one will be turned away for lack of funding.


Why this camp rocks:


– Volunteer run 501(c)(3) organization focused on fostering girls’ creative expression and self-esteem


– No musical experience is necessary


– 4:1 camper to counselor ratio ensures plenty of individual attention


– Instrument instruction, music composition coaching, recording and songwriting workshops provided


– Campers perform on Chicago stages, such as Schubas and Metro


– Each band professionally records a CD


Hi-Five Sports Camp


Who: Sports nuts ages 4-14


Where: Chicago’s West Loop Gate District and Northfield


When: Flexible two-, four-, six- and eight-week programs, customizable three-, five- and seven-week programs


How much: Starts at $1,295 for two full-day weeks


Why this camp hits it out of the ballpark:


– Nonstop sports plus instructional swim


– Door-to-door bus transportation included


– Staffed by professional coaches, college athletes and physical education teachers


– Hot lunch program catered by Chicago favorites, like Lou Malnati’s


– Field trips to sporting events and special event days, like Color Wars and Carnival Day


Chicago Fire Soccer Summer Camps


Who: Soccer sensations ages 6-16


Where: Communities across Chicagoland


When: Half-day and full-day programs offered by week


How much: Starts around $110 per one half-day week


Why this camp is a kick:


– Professional coaches come from across the world (learn new cultures and accents)


– Campers can host international coaches for a unique bonding experience and free camp attendance


– Individual player evaluations


– Exclusive Chicago Fire Summer Camp Graduation experience at Toyota Park


– Chicago Fire T-shirt and soccer ball


Kids Science Labs


Who: Critical thinkers ages 4-12


Where: Communities across Lincoln Park and South Loop neighborhoods in Chicago, plus Northbrook


When: Full-day and half-day options with extended care available; 12 weeks of camp in one-week sessions with six unique themes


How much: $275-$450 per week


Why this camp is cognitively crazy-good:


– Hands-on exploration builds kids’ academic confidence


– Themes include Artists are Scientists Too, Sports Medicine and I Can Make Anything


– Kids take home creations each day


– Parents don’t have to clean up the mess!


Camp Chicago Botanic Garden


Who: Outdoor enthusiasts ages 4-15


Where: Glencoe


When: One week and two week full-day and half-day available all summer 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Before and after care available.


How much: $212 for one-week half-day programs. $868 for full-day two-week programs. 20 percent membership discount provided.


Why this camp is a natural choice:


– Engaging activities explore the connections between nature and art, science, math, movement and cooking


– Themes like Forensic Investigators, Surviving Outdoors, Expert Wizardry and Bug Brigade


– Home connections help parents share the experience with their campers


Camp details subject to change. Check program websites for the latest information.


Cortney Fries
Cortney Fries
An award-winning travel journalist, Cortney Fries (pronounced "freeze") has been writing about family travel for over a decade. She knows that parents planning trips are looking for all members to have fun and make lasting memories. Cortney believes that you should definitely try anything that makes you slightly nervous.
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