Summer Camps

The South Bend area is rich in summer camp offerings for children of all ages. The South Bend Parks and Recreation Department holds the annual O’Brien Summer Camp Fair every spring, featuring informational seminars for parents and exhibits by over 30 area camps.

Several area daycare programs and preschools (e.g., the Early Childhood Development Center at Notre Dame/St. Mary’s, Bridges School, and the Montessori Acadmey at Edison Lakes) offer summer day camp options. For more information on these programs, see the Schools page on this website.

Dedicated summer camp options in the vicinity of South Bend include, but are not limited to, those listed below. The search engine offered by the American Camp Association is an excellent resource for locating additional summer day and residential camps.


Day Camps

Sensing Our World is a week-long summer program hosted by the University of Notre Dame for middle school students and designed to expose middle-school students to the exciting world of science, mathematics, and technology. Participants visit different academic departments and research labs on campus, meet with various scientists to learn about their research, and learn through intensive hands-on activities. Program instructors include Notre Dame Faculty, staff, and graduate students from Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Biological Sciences, and Engineering departments.  Sensing Our World is sponsored by the Siemens Foundation, NISMEC, the Department of Physics, the College of Science, individual faculty members, and various research centers at Notre Dame.  All interested students aged 11-14 are eligible to apply; some scholarships are available. Photos for SOW 2011 photos may be viewed at (Note: Information for the 2012 camp is forth-coming.)

Zoo Camp

Half-day Zoo Camps are offered for children aged 5-17 at the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend. Each session of camp is one week long. Younger children learn about animals and their habitats through storytime, hands-on encounters, and arts and crafts. Older children aged 13-17 are introduced to zoo careers and help in the daily work at the zoo.

The St. Joseph County Parks offer the Outdoor Adventures camp at St. Patrick’s County Park in South Bend. Five camps are offered for different age groups, serving children aged 5-14. The camp gives children the chance to discover the wonder of the natural environment, explore plant and animal habitats, learn wilderness survival skills, and enjoy fun outdoor activities such as fishing and canoeing. Camp hours are 8:30 a.m. to noon or 2:30 p.m.

Fernwood Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve outside Niles, Michigan, about twenty minutes north of Granger, offers two summer day camps for children each summer. Nature Camp (for children aged 4-10) uses hikes, games, crafts, and educational activities to introduce kids to the wonders of nature. In the Roy and Ethelbel Knauer Art Camp (for children aged 6-12), children use Fernwood’s gardens and natural areas as inspiration for artistic projects of various kinds. Camps run half-days Tuesday through Friday, serving a different age group each week.

Bertrand Farm in nearby Niles, Michigan organizes a daycamp program for children aged 4-10 years old. Children are involved hands-on in the everyday activities of a small working farm. Each day includes farm chores, an agriculture lesson, harvesting, and a cooking or nature project.

Potato Creek

South Bend Parks and Recreation Department Summer Camp offers children aged 5-12 the opportunity to participate in organized sports, games, field trips, crafts, and other fun activities in a full-day camp. The Parks Department also offers similar day camp programs during the winter and spring school vacations.

Camp Tawanchi is a full-day camp for children aged 6-11; the camp is located at Merrifield Park in Mishawaka and hosted by the River Bend Council of CampFire U.S.A. and the Mishawaka Park Department. The camp offers crafts, sports and games, archery, swimming, and educational opportunities in an outdoor setting. Children may sign up for one or more one-week themed sessions; typical themes include “Leadership Training,” “Strange Things in the Kitchen,” “Bedazzling Artists,” and “Olympic Heroes.” An extended day option is available for an additional fee.

Camp Ideal is a full-day camp for area Jewish youth aged 5-11 operated by the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley. Children from all Jewish backgrounds (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and secular) attend. The camp is directed by the current Israeli shaliach/shlicha (cultural ambassador), overseen by the Federation’s professional staff, and staffed by area Jewish teenagers and college-aged students. Numerous field trips to destinations such as local berry patches and the Ideal Beach Family Water Park in Elkhart complement a variety of cultural and educational activities, sports, and crafts.

The Children’s Dispensary is an organization that provides social, recreational, and educational programs for children, teens, and young adults with special needs; among the offerings is a summer camp program that offers a variety of activities and features field trips to locations such as the Lincoln Park Zoo and Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, the National New York Central Railroad Museum in Elkhart, Indiana, and Curious Kids Museum in St. Joseph, Michigan.

IUSB Mini-University offers a half-day camp for two weeks in July on the campus of Indiana University, South Bend. Participants select which courses they would like to take from a broad range of offerings; different courses have different age eligibility, but the camp as a whole serves children aged 5-16. Courses are offered in the areas of math and science, the humanities, the fine arts, and personal development. Examples of recent course offerings include “Cooking with Class,” “LEGO Engineering,” “Developing Athleticism,” “Mathematics Origami,” and “Film Fanatics.”

The University of Notre Dame offers Summer Sports Camps for boys and girls of various ages. Students select from basketball, golf, lacrosse, soccer, diving, football, hockey, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field/cross country, and volleyball, and levels range from beginner to advanced. Each camp session has a day camp or boarder option, and each is one week long.

The Saint Mary’s College Athletic Camp offers girls entering grades 6-11 two one-week sessions during the month of July for the beginner to varsity-level player. Camp activities focus on team and individual skill development. Instructors include Saint Mary’s College varsity coaching staff, athletes, and guest professionals. Volleyball, basketball, tennis, soccer, and softball are offered. The camp has a day camp or residential option.


Sleepaway Camps

Camp Tannadoonah

Camp Tannadoonah (Vandalia, Michigan), located about a 45 minute drive from South Bend, attracts many South Bend area children to its rustic 45-acre grounds each summer. The camp is located on beautiful Birch Lake in lower southwestern Michigan, and it offers many traditional summer camp activities such as swimming, boating, canoeing, archery, nature, drama, and arts and crafts. The camp has a long history going back to its founding in 1921, and campers enjoy learning the camp legends of Tanadoonah, the Princess Tree, and others. Each one-week session is organized around a theme such as “Gypsy Week” or “Harry Potter Week,” and each session ends with a Council Campfire and a costume party.

Lake of the Woods Camps (Decatur, Michigan) offer four different residential camps, The Glen for Girls and The Grove for Boys (2-week sessions, ages 6-14) and Lake of the Woods for Girls and Greenwoods for Boys (4- or 8-week sessions, ages 7-15). The Lake of the Woods camps were recently featured in Family Life magazine as “one of ten recommended overnight summer camps in America.” The camps are located on 60 acres in southwest Michigan on a beautiful spring-fed lake, and the grounds include extensive lake frontage, riding stables, a climbing tower, a golf course, recreational lodges, athletic fields, tennis courts, rifle and archery ranges, craft shops and more. Campers attend from all over the United States and the world. The camps’ goal is to provide a safe environment where campers develop skills, establish friendships, increase confidence and most of all just have fun.

Camp Eberhart

YMCA Camp Eberhart (Three Rivers, Michigan), founded in 1909, offers traditional camp activities such as swimming, archery, hiking, astronomy, crafts, and cabin group adventures, plus the options to pursue special skill classes like waterskiing, horseback riding, and photography. The camp, located in southwest lower Michigan about a 45 minute drive from South Bend, spans nearly 200 wooded acres, including over a mile of shoreline on Corey Lake, and hiking trails lead back to the shores of Spatterdock Lake. Camp facilities include a centralized dining and meeting hall, open playing fields, scenic horseback riding trails, nature and hiking trails, volleyball and basketball courts, archery and rifle ranges, an astronomy observatory, and an outdoor chapel, and the waterfront provides opportunities for swimming, rowing, canoeing, sailing, windsurfing, fishing and water-skiing. Camp Eberhart also offers a week-long AstroCamp program, which offers children ages 10 and up the exciting opportunity to stay up late learning about the universe, stargazing and telescoping.

Tower Hill Camp (Sawyer, Michigan), run by the Outdoor Ministry of the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ, is located on the shore of Lake Michigan in the Dunes region of western Michigan. The camp’s terrain is a prime example of Midwest dune biodiversity such as one might find at the nearby Warren Dunes State Park. Various camp sessions are offered throughout the summer for children ranging in age from 6 to 18 (completing grades K-12). The camps combine daily worship and Christian study with social time and fun activities like games, swimming, music, and arts and crafts. Specialty sports and equestrian camps are also offered for students completing grades 6-9.

Camp Alexander Mack (Milford, Indiana), located on more than 200 acres on the eastern shore of Lake Waubee in Northern Indiana, is affiliated with the Northern Indiana and South Central Districts of the Church of the Brethren. Since its beginnings in 1925 it has served as a place of leadership development and faith formation for children and youth. The camp is open to children completing grades 1-12 and offers activities such as crafts, Bible stories, singing camp songs around a fire, nature activities, sports, and swimming in the lake. Participants sign up for sessions organized around particular themes such as “Eco Challenge,” in which students live in a teepee and explore their natural environment, or “Worship Arts,” in which participants explore a variety of worship media including clowning, puppetry, drama, and music.

Camp Tavor

Habonim-Dror Camp Tavor (Three Rivers, Michigan), founded in 1956, is a progressive, inclusive Jewish camp that attracts campers from across the Midwest to its beautiful setting on the shore of Lake Kaiser. Campers have fun being themselves while developing a strong sense of social responsibility, a connection with Israel, and a personal Jewish identity. Boys and girls entering grades 4-10 can attend 2-, 3-, 4- or 7-week overnight camping sessions, and older students can travel to Israel or spend the summer at camp developing leadership skills. Camp Tavor offers the traditional swimming, boating, arts, crafts, and sports that other overnight camps have, plus Hebrew, a kosher kitchen, and Shabbat celebrations that other Jewish camps have. In addition, the camp keeps animals and an organic garden and prides itself on helping the local community.

Culver Summer Schools and Camps (Culver, Indiana) are affiliated with the Culver Academy, located one hour south of South Bend on Lake Maxinkuckee, Indiana’s second-largest natural lake. The focus of the camps’ diverse offerings is character development: the teaching of self-discipline, personal responsibility, fairness, appreciation for diversity, and respect for self and others. The camps, open to both girls and boys (ages 9-17), are organized around a distinctive military system that fosters leadership and spiritual development through personal reflection, individual counseling, small-group experiences, and participation in religious services. Instruction, competition, and extracurricular events develop the mind, character, spirit, and body of young people of varied skills and experience levels. There are three different camp options offered: Woodcraft Camp (6-week program for ages 9-13; develops self-confidence through a well-rounded program that provides personal and team accomplishment); Culver Upper Camp (6-week program for ages 13-17; boys choose a “major” in Aviation, Horsemanship, Naval School or Naval Band; music and arts activities give campers many opportunities to participate in performances and develop their abilities); and Specialty Camps in areas such as Equestrian Arts, Sailing, Fencing, and Waterskiing (1-week program for ages 11-16).

Blue Lake

Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp (Twin Lake, Michigan) is a summer school of the arts located on a 1,300 acre campus in Michigan’s Manistee National Forest, about 2 1/2 hours from South Bend. The camp annually serves more than 5,000 gifted elementary, junior high, and high school students with diverse programs in music, art, dance, and drama, while offering more than 175 performances during its Summer Arts Festival. Blue Lake also operates a widely acclaimed International Exchange Program and two public radio stations. The Upper Camp enrolls artistically motivated students entering grades 7-12, while Camp Bernstein (Junior Camp) enrolls students entering grades 5-8 in a warm, fun, and nurturing learning environment. Campers attend 2-week sessions and select a major (art, band, choir, dance, harp, jazz, orchestra, piano, or theater) and one of twenty minors ranging from campfire guitar and fiddling to music theory and Shakespeare performance. The camp offers generous merit scholarships for qualifying applicants.

The Saint Mary’s College Fine Arts Camp (Notre Dame, Indiana), which takes place in three one-week sessions during the month of July, offers girls entering grades 5-9 the opportunity to receive instruction in music, art, dance, theatre, and creative writing. No previous experience in any of the art forms is necessary.

The Saint Mary’s College Athletic Camp (Notre Dame, Indiana) offers girls entering grades 6-11 two one-week sessions during the month of July for the beginner to varsity-level player. Camp activities focus on team and individual skill development. Instructors include Saint Mary’s College varsity coaching staff, athletes, and guest professionals. Volleyball, basketball, tennis, soccer, and softball are offered. Day camp options are also available.

The University of Notre Dame offers Summer Sports Camps for boys and girls of various ages. Students select from basketball, golf, lacrosse, soccer, diving, football, hockey, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field/cross country, and volleyball, and levels range from beginner to advanced. Each camp session has a day camp or boarder option, and each is one week long.


Residential Academic Programs

University of Notre Dame Summer Scholars Program (Notre Dame, Indiana) is a unique opportunity for academically outstanding high school students aged 16 years and older (for students entering grades 11-12) to explore one of thirteen academic fields of study. For two weeks, participants become part of the Notre Dame student body, through their academic studies, social interactions, and spiritual encounters. Courses are offered by Notre Dame faculty members that span the sciences, business, law, the humanities, social sciences, and the arts.

Saint Mary’s College Summer Academy (Notre Dame, Indiana) is designed to offer a pre-college experience to academically and artistically motivated young women entering grades 8-12. Participants may select any combination of classes from three available courses of study in the areas of the arts, science, and the humanities (each one-week session of the camp is devoted to one of the three areas). In addition to in-depth learning, students have the opportunity to develop meaningful friendships with others who share the same interests and learn about college life within a safe and enriching environment.

Purdue University GERI (Gifted Education Resource Institute) Summer Residential Camp (West Lafayette, Indiana) offers one-week programs for students entering grades 5-6 and two-week programs for students entering grades 7-12. The programs are designed for students who have been identified as gifted and talented, and they give participants the opportunity to experience academic challenge, meet kindred spirits, and grow in self-understanding. The program offers a wide variety of courses such as “Forensic Science,” “Introduction to Archeology,” and “Conflict, Power, and Justice.”

Northwestern University Center for Talent Development Summer Program (Evanston, Illinois) offers one-week programs for students completing grade 4 and three-week programs for students completing grades 4-12 in three separate programs, called Apogee (completed grades 4-6), Spectrum (completed grades 7-8), and Equinox (completed grades 9-12). Students must meet eligibility requirements to attend. The program offers gifted and talented students rigorous, accelerated courses in mathematics, science, and the humanities that give students a taste for what will be demanded of them in the future and take them beyond typical school coursework. Students enjoy the challenging and fun experience of studying and living with their intellectual peers.


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