Psst. Here’s a secret. Deep down dad’s dying to torch some s’mores and mom wants to canoe, too. So pack the whole clan in a van and head to these family camps.
McGaw YMCA Camp Echo
For traditionalists (or Wes Anderson fanatics) seeking that old-school woodsy camp vibe, Evanston’s Y stakes claim to 500 acres of forest around Ryerson Lake, near Freemont—right on the ring-finger knuckle of Michigan’s mitten, if you will. Both the full-week camp (Aug 18–24) and the mini-week (Aug 24–28) offer bonfires, singing, rope climbing, berry picking, swimming, sailing and just tuning out from urbanity (mcgawymca.org; adults $200–$500, kids $50–$350). BYOBK. That’s bring your own bug killer.
Rainbow Families Great Lakes
On the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, in Saugatuck, Family Week (rfgl.org, $250) brings together LGBT parents, the children of LGBT and non-traditional families, youth who are LGBT, and their supporters. Along with the expected crafts, BBQ and splashing about in the water, there’s a parade in Douglas, Michigan. This day camp doesn’t offer overnight accommodations, but there are plenty of neaby options ranging from state parks to inns listed at rfgl.org.
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
If you can’t get away to the wilderness (or hate insects like some of us), stick to downtown with these one-week, all-ages camps. Budding painters take daily gallery excursions to AIC. Work together or independently on visual art projects in studios, led by museum and school faculty. Bonus: Family Camp (saic.edu; $212 per week session) is mornings only or evenings only, so you still have all AM or PM for fun outdoors. Or more sculpting at home.
YMCA Family Camp Nawakwa
Anyone who’s been to Wisconsin knows that Cheeseheads don’t mess around when it comes to the great outdoors. So you can bet that Nawakwa (ymcachicago.org; cabins $478–$4,351), which sits snug between Big Crooked and Little Sugarbush Lakes in Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin, has the goods when it comes to fishing and boating. But this is the joint for creature-comfort lovers, too. You know, the ones who want raw beautiful nature and all that, but also want climate-controlled cabins, refrigerators, nice bathrooms and free Wi-Fi. The grounds are split between a social North camp and a tranquil South outpost. Slots fill up fast, so you might have to plan for 2014.