Most people don’t always consider Illinois much beyond the city limits of Chicago, but it offers so much more. Illinois has hundreds of state parks and more than 500,000+ acres of protected land. Chicago offers plenty of entertainment, but nothing as miraculous as nature you can interact with in other parts of the state.
Let your kids escape the concrete jungle this summer to explore the undeveloped nature just beyond your backyard. These camps can offer your child exciting activities, outdoor adventures, healthy meals, and an excellent opportunity to grow and develop new skills.
Here are some of the best overnight summer camps in Illinois. For more Midwest camps, see our Ohio and Michigan pages.
1. Camp Manitowa
Address: 12770 N Benton Rd, Benton, IL 62812
Dates: June 25 – July 29
Camp Manitowa has been offering summer adventures to kids for 10+ years now. There are dozens of activities for kids to choose from each day, including zip lining, rock climbing, water skiing, biking, soccer, frisbee golf, kayaking, plus a variety of other indoor and outdoor sports.
Adventure by choice is Camp Manitowa’s motto. Apart from those fun activities, campers can also expect field trips to museums and other local places.
Your children are encouraged to try new things outside their comfort zone. However, they don’t need to participate in activities not suited to their interests as they can choose what they want to do.
Summer camp enrollment is limited to 100 participants, allowing them to bond deeper with new friends. Camp Manitowa’s mission is to provide a nurturing environment for youth to thrive and build relationships.
2. Nike Soccer Camp at Elmhurst University
Address: 190 S Prospect Ave, Elmhurst, IL 60126
Dates: June 23 – July 23
Is your kid obsessed with kicking soccer balls around or loves running full speed with endless amounts of energy? If so, these coed overnight soccer camps at Elmhurst University are perfect.
Young soccer stars can improve their skills and gameplay through training in decision-making and supportive play. All areas and positions of the field are covered, including attacking and defending, through daily practice and tournaments.
Campers range in age from 6-18, and anyone over nine can stay on campus for up to five days. This summer program is geared toward players of all experience levels.
Young athletes work on drills to master fundamental techniques, then put their new skills to the test through competitive gameplay and plenty of exercises. They also function as day camps, so you can always pick up your campers in the evening.
3. Camp Shaw-Waw-Nas-See
Address: 6641 6000 W, Manteno, IL 60950
Dates: June 11 – July 23
Adventure, creativity, and bravery converge at this happy overnight camp! At Camp Shaw, kids go beyond adventures of the great outdoors as they cultivate a deeper sense of themselves.
There are two camp options for your kiddos: youth camp and extreme camp. Youth camp’s primary goal is creating magical memories that can stick around for a lifetime! “Camptivities” include archery, arts and crafts, theatre, photography, music, swimming, ziplining, and so much more. Extreme camp lasts two days more, lasting a total of 7 days.
For those who have never been to camp before, Camp Shaw’s “Try Camp” is a great choice. A shorter trip gives campers a taste of what to look forward to during longer stays.
Camp Shaw is situated on 110 acres of natural beauty in Manteno. They support the learning process of young minds through experimentation and closeness to nature. It’s open to students of all ages and provides a wonderful family camp too.
4. Camp Wartburg
Address: 5705 Lrc Rd, Waterloo, IL 62298
Dates: May 31 – August 4
If you’re looking for a faith-based summer camp your child can return to year after year, you’re in luck. With over 120 acres of woods, trails, and water to explore in Southern Illinois, Christian values are always at the heart of each activity.
Each week is unique at Camp Wartburg. Kids can be enrolled for multiple weeks and have different experiences each time. Everyone’s favorite summer activities are covered here, including hiking, swimming, canoeing, archery, and fire building.
There are group initiative courses designed to get campers working together in teams to play games, complete obstacle courses, or learn something new. Campers can cultivate valuable skills like communication, leadership, and problem-solving.
There are plenty of opportunities for campers to experience physical, emotional, and spiritual growth at Camp Wartburg. Camp Wartburg in Waterloo brings children closer to God through playing in nature.
5. YMCA Camp Duncan
Address: 32405 N US Hwy 12, Ingleside, IL 60041
Dates: May 30 – August 18
This YMCA Camp offers interest-based day camps as well as overnight summer camps. With so many options, parents can customize their child’s experience and sign them up for what they want.
YMCA Camp Duncan has a specialty camp for adventure seekers, with activities like rock climbing, swimming, and exciting games. The Navigator options offer boating events, challenge courses, and team sports.
The Trailblazers option has plenty of water activities, including swim practice and group games. There is a mini residential program for young or first-time campers ages 7-13 to experience the thrill of sleepaway camp for 4 days.
YMCA Camp Duncan also has special evening events for your teen, as well as leadership programs. The family camp includes some of the same activities that the whole family can experience together.
6. Camp Ondessonk
Address: 3760 Ondessonk Rd, Ozark, IL 62972
Dates: June 4 – August 5
Located in the beautiful Ozarks, Camp Ondessonk offers plenty of exciting activities for youngsters, including woodcraft, canoeing and kayaking, swimming, horseback riding, rock climbing, team-building exercises, and nature exploration.
Situated on Lake Echon, the camp is surrounded by a wealth of natural beauty, with Ozark Creek being close by, as well as tons of other water habitats such as Cedar Falls and Cedar Creek. Their campus in the Shawnee National Forest gives children exposure to nature that’s hard to find elsewhere, so they can get a good outdoor education.
With a range of programs for different ages, including counselors in training and mini-camps for young students, parents can find one perfect for their family. Their specialty camps include a horse, adventure, and leadership program., Camp Ondessonk has a wide range of healthy meals, including vegetarian options, and its kitchen staff is fully licensed and trained.
7. White Pines Ranch
Address: 3581 W Pines Rd, Oregon, IL 61061
Dates: June 26 – August 6
White Pines Ranch gives young campers a true ranching experience with their overnight camps. It’s only an hour and a half away from Chicago, making it close enough to drive but still remote enough to be away from the noise and learn about country living.
Situated in Northern Illinois, White Pines Ranch offers kids ages 8 to 15 to experience the ranching life and activities such as hiking, craftsmanship, and horseback riding lessons.
Campers can learn horsemanship skills, such as saddling, feeding, grooming, and general equine health. The magnificent sandstone canyon provides your children with a unique environment. The morning is filled with fun games and activities, while the evenings are for camp get-togethers and events like talent shows and dances.
They have options for several one-week sessions, all offering different themes.