Summer camps and programs, Twin Cities and beyond


It’s hard to believe but summer is not that far away if you have a kid who needs enrichment, extra tutelage or a grand new experience. The Twin Cities offers a dizzying array of offerings and if you expand your search to outstate camps and events, it’s even more. Here is a look at highlights of some of the most interesting options, presented by categories. These selections lean toward the unique and/or the more demanding, except the last section, which is old faithfuls and multi-experience tasters.

Outdoor Adventures—the original Summer Camp
One of the most local, broad and affordable programs is offered by Minneapolis Public Schools. Summer programs are offered at Dowling, Hale, Justice Page, Southwest and Webster. Check out the Trek programs for Middle Schoolers (entering grades 7 through 9) at Southwest, where the “Recreational” option, which runs roughly June 17 through July 25, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., is an outdoor program consisting of a week for $139. (Students can only take one per summer.) Students need to be proficient and equipped for bike riding and in command of water safety for canoeing. Sites visited include Lake of the Isles-Cedar Lake, the Luce-Lake or Hopkins Cedar bike trails, and Minnehaha Falls for lessons in geology and environmental science. Another great MPS Trek is the Water Trek at Webster, which only requires bike proficiency, and visits Silver Lake, Pike Lake, St. Anthony Falls, Mill City Museum and Bde Maka Ska. For a really easy exploration for your itchy-foot kid entering or in high school next year, there is the delightfully-named Riding the Bus Around the City. This comprises a four-day week starting at 1 p.m. for $39 and it’s just what it says. Other short classes from MPS include horseback riding, hiking, Red Cross water safety, geocaching, intro to paleontology and more! Check the brochure from MPS, available online or in libraries.

Vertical Endeavors, a local rock-climbing center, offers two levels of day camp for climbing skills: Base Camp for ages 6 to 9, and Peak Experience, for ages 10 to 13. Week-long camps are $340 and single days are $75. Bruentrup Heritage Farm, a site run by Maplewood Historical Society, is offering a Farm-to-Table camp again in 2019 for kids entering grades 2 to 5. This runs Aug. 5 – 8, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and costs $160, which includes everything but lunch. Kids learn how to make butter, cheese, bread and ice cream plus other farming skills, and play “old-time” games like Townball.

Sports and Wellness
Sports camp is almost as traditional a summer past-time as camping outdoors, and is no longer only for boys, thankfully. Here again, look to MPS for some great bargains and a lot of variety. Sports include biking, hiking, ball sports, track and field, yoga, as well as more exotic things like quidditch, mermaid aquatics and fencing. Also the Minneapolis Park Board sponsors just about every sport kids can do, and what could be more handy and familiar than your nearest park? Non-aquatic youth sports leagues include baseball, gymnastics, softball and track-and-field in summer; football, soccer and volleyball in the fall; and basketball, ice hockey and wrestling in the winter. Most sports are for kids 10 to 18, and they even have fee assistance for those who need it. There are also some imaginative sporty summer camps offered: skateboard instructional at Armatage, archery at MLK, game and sport sampler at Bottineau, “survivor” games at Linden Hills or MLK, basketball at Whittier, or exotic martial arts at Pearl. Start at to search the day camp offerings. Minnesota United is offering a range of elite youth soccer training camps culminating in a prep camp for tryouts for competition. All the camps are at Pearl Park in South Minneapolis except the older youth (ages 13 to 16) tryout prep, which is at Parade Stadium, 400 Kenwood Pkwy.

Arts & Crafts, Music & Performance
This could be the richest and most eclectic of the categories. We won’t even try to cover all the bases. With great resources such as Northern Clay Center, Leonardo’s Basement, Articulture, the American Swedish Institute, Circus Juventas and numerous theaters and music organizations, plus our incredible schools, parks and libraries, you can see why.

Articulture has both PreK thru Grade 6, and Grade 7 and up (teen) summer camps. The teen camps are especially alluring, starting June 10 with public art and activism and then moving through the weeks with comics and animation, visual journals, “let’s eat,” animal instincts and printmaking. Each week costs between $280 and $295 and the day is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Northern Clay Center also teams up with Articulture to offer Doors to Other Worlds, creating fantasy figures and art from clay and mixed media, July 29 through Aug. 2, for ages 9+, $315. The American Swedish Institute offers the Nordic cooking and culture one-day camp on July 18, or the youth handcrafts week for ages 7 to 13 on Aug. 12 through 15. Start at to find the registration information.

For music and performing arts, check out the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony programs at Another serious music option is summer camp with MacPhail Center for Music at And then of course, there is Circus Juventas, a cultural treasure truly unique to the Twin Cities. Check out their website for 2019 summer camp information.

MPS offerings include Super Summer Classes in such things as Lego, papier-mache, creative writing, drawing, painting, textile arts and graffiti. In music and performance, there are classes and camps such as Broadway Here We Come, Irish dance and beginning ukulele at Southwest. Hennepin County Libraries in Minneapolis offer loads of classes, too. Pick up a brochure in your nearest library. Finally, MPRB, too many and various to list, but if you have a kid yearning to know more about their African heritage, North Commons Park is offering African Culture Camp, June 24 – 27, noon to 3 p.m.

Mathletes, STEM & Academic Enrichment
STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Mathematics) is the big thing for kids now, and in Bloomington there is an organization that specializes in it called The Works. Their summer camps are divided into Lego, robotics, STEM for girls, and coding areas. Classes include kids from age 5 to 13, and most camps are a four-day (Monday to Thursday) week for $165, slightly higher for non-members, with an option to add on Fun Friday for an extra fee. Another organization in this space is the Bakken Museum in Minneapolis. Their offerings are similar, pitched to a slightly older crowd, ages 7 to 15. Instead of having a separate girls’ program, they offer the camps in weekly “sessions” and dedicate some weeks to only girls. And they combine Lego and robotics into one thing: Lego robotics. Also check out the Science Museum in Saint Paul, and once again, MPS Super Summer for loads more STEM. The University of Minnesota CSE also offers STEM camps for high school juniors and seniors, as well as a girls-only program called Eureka in conjunction with the Minneapolis YWCA, where you can get more information. And finally, an old hand, one might even say innovator in the STEM field is idTech at Macalester College, running STEM programs since 1999. See for more information.

Twin Cities math learning center Mathnasium can help students during the summer. Students who don’t practice math all summer can lose more than two months of proficiency, so to avoid the downward slide, Mathnasium will help your student stay on top of their game and start next school year with confidence! Monthly and session packages are available. Flexible scheduling includes either morning or afternoon hours. For more information call 763-269-6969.

Another academic enrichment activity popular for summer is language immersion. For very young kids, there is a Spanish immersion program offered by Rayitos de Sol, which is at The ASI offers a Swedish immersion camp (see above for contact.) And the Germanic American Institute in Saint Paul offers a German Language Camp for kids ages 5 to 13, with the older group (10 to 13) also learning the science of renewable energy—in German!

Some Old Favorites or Across Categories
MPS has been offering Sports and Arts since my own kids were in school (we’re talking more than 30 years here.) This is perfect for kids who prefer a balanced mix of activities rather than a passionate focus on one thing. If you saw the arts offerings and the sports offerings in individual classes, this would be a flexible mix of both, still at affordable fees. Leonardo’s Basement’s summer camps kind of mix art with STEM, so it doesn’t fit in one category. Start at their website home to access the offerings in individual and collaborative project building in engineering, art, design, and technology for ages 6 to 17, including Friday-only workshops and AM and PM extended day for an extra fee. It includes a Harry Potter Theme Week with a Hogwart’s Castle build, welding, metalworking, art, CAD, Arduino, woodworking, escape room and community improvement workshops for teens (scholarships available.) And while looking at camps, let’s not forget the old standbys, the YMCA, and scouting programs, both Boys’ and Girls’. Something is available that’s just right for your kid!

PHOTO CAPTION: STEM campers make “battlebots” from Lego

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