Lake-area Summer Camps for Kids

Kids stay active and engaged at local summer camps.

The weather is warm and the days are long, but with a few weeks left of summer vacation, maybe you’re wondering how to keep your children active and engaged. Instead of letting them lounge around in front of the TV, why not send them to camp? With so many popular camps around the lake, there are countless options, all of which help kids make new friends, develop a love of the outdoors, and create memories.

Located on the shores of Lake Minnewashta in Excelsior is Camp Tanadoona. The camp—which is run through Camp Fire Minnesota, a youth development nonprofit—has been around since 1924. Its staff says rich tradition is what they're all about. “It is so delightful to see the legacy of families come through our property, generation after generation, experiencing everything on our 103 acres on Lake Minnewashta,” says Marnie Wells, Camp Fire Minnesota CEO. “I find so much joy in hearing all the stories.”
From arts and crafts to archery, Camp Tanadoona has activities to keep boredom at bay. The staff’s deep love of nature is infectious, and they’re passionate about sharing it with campers. “We take the approach that getting kids to nature is absolutely our No. 1 priority,” says marketing director Kelly Abraham. “We celebrate that totally.” And broadening worldviews is essential—about half of the counselors come from outside the U.S., from South Africa to Japan and everywhere in between. “It’s fun to hear all the accents at little old Camp Tanadoona,” says Wells.
Camp Fire Minnesota also has a progressive education model. “The kids think they’re just having fun at camp. We know that they are improving their social and emotional skills, their leadership skills, their attitudes and perceptions of being a good steward to our environment,” says Wells. “We want to make sure that our kids are learning and growing and stretching and finding their spark.”

Whether it’s day camp, week-long overnight camp, or some combination, Camp Tanadoona has a program for all comfort levels. It is, however, incredibly popular, so most spots are full this year—and have been for a while. “We really strongly encourage that families register early,” says Abraham. “Getting in and holding your spot early is our best advice to families.”

Registration for summer 2018 opens in January, so mark your calendars. If you and your kiddo have your heart set on camp for this summer, don't give up. “Our customer service is fantastic, and we would be very communicative with the family if a spot opens up and their child would fit right in,” Wells says. “If we have a spot for a 12-year-old boy, and there’s a 12-year-old boy on our waiting list, we will be right on it and get them plugged in as soon as we can.”

Camps range from $240 to $500, depending on the type and length of the session. Camp Tanadoona offers a scholarship program to help families ease the burden of cost. “We really like to make this a comfortable and easy experience for the parents, and, of course, a delightful and exciting and learning-filled experience for the kids,” says Wells.