At the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago’s Camp Nawakwa in Lac du Flambeau, WI, the Y’s year-round family camp (Photo courtesy of YMCA of Metro Chicago)

If sending your kid to camp then heading to the spa is your thing, read no further. But if you would rather join the kids for fishing, hiking and other traditional camping activities, read on. Family camps welcome grown-ups too.

"It's a great way for us to spend time together," said Matt Johnson, of Evanston, who attends YMCA Camp Echo in Michigan each year with his sons Sam and Max, his parents and his sister's family. Matt's wife, Elaine Moy Johnson, stays home and "enjoys her no-husband, no-kids time," said Matt. "So it's win-win-win for everybody.

"Sam likes canoeing. Max likes archery. I like that we can do something together, like a basketball game. We never have the chance to do that at home."

Some family camps welcome the whole gang, while others focus on parent/child or grandparent/grandchild duos.

"Grandpa brings one cousin; grandma brings another," said Mona Christensen, who oversees the Grandparents' University camp at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay. "They get to see cousins who don't live nearby, and it ends up being a family reunion."

Many parents see family camps as an economical trip, sans airplane tickets and hotel rooms.

"We've seen an increase in family campers since the economy got worse," said Rob Grierson of Camp Echo. "For $1,200, you can take a family of four on an affordable vacation for a week. We call it Disneyland without the Disney."

The following are some of the overnight family camps within a four-hour drive of Chicago. Prices include meals and lodging.

In addition to the activities listed below, most also offer arts and crafts and, of course, the requisite evening campfire.


Camp Kupugani's Mother/Daughter Camp

6903 W. White Eagle Road, Leaf River; kupugani.com or 866-471-4616

Canoeing, rock climbing, swimming

Girls ages 6 to 14 and their mothers

Aug. 19-21

$200 per pair

Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Center's Family Camp

1834 S. Illinois Highway 2, Oregon; lomc.org or 815-732-2220

Archery, canoeing, hiking for families (not limited to Lutherans)