What comes to mind when you think about summer camp? Days spent splashing in the lake with friends. Or evenings around the campfire roasting marshmallows. Maybe it’s learning to tie square knots or identifying plants and flowers on a hike. While you can still find plenty of traditional summer camps that offer kids these types of experiences, more and more summer camps are going specialized.
Kids can trade in their sneakers and sweats for chef hats to become bakers for a week. They can learn more about pets by attending summer camps all about helping, training and caring for animals. The list of specialty camp offerings is going up each year, which means you can match your child’s specific interests with a camp all about that topic.
Looking for more kids’ summer day camps? Browse our day camps directory for tons of summer day camps in Michigan’s southeast region.
Here’s our list of the top 10 hottest kinds of specialty camps around. For each type of trendy camp, you’ll find information about a few locations in southeast Michigan where you can sign up your child.
Please note: Those listed are day camps unless otherwise marked.
Why they’re hot: Justin Verlander, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Missy Franklin. If your kids are regularly chatting about their favorite baseball, tennis, basketball, swimming or any other type of sports star, they’d jump at the chance to go to sports camp.
What they offer: There are several different kinds of sports camps. For younger children, there are camps that introduce kids to a range of sports instead of concentrating on one. Grade- and high-schoolers can choose from camps that will help them develop skills needed for their specific sport.
- Address: 31555 Southfield Road, Beverly Hills
- Phone: 248-642-8500
Sports skills, swimming, tennis, ninja warriors, martial arts, basketball, triathlon training and more.
- Address: 29350 Northwestern Highway, Southfield
- Phone: 248-352-8000
Sports skills, tennis, basketball, swimming, kickboxing, dodgeball, soccer and flag football.
- Address: Locations throughout southeast Michigan
- Phone: 248-252-0208
Tennis and golf camps offered throughout the metro Detroit area.
- Address: 6600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield
- Phone: 248-661-1000
Kids in grades 1-10 can take archery, baseball, basketball, cheerleading, inline hockey, karate and more.
Why they’re hot: Many kids like to spend some time in the spotlight. Theater camps give them the chance to discover more about stagecraft – from preparing sets and costumes to acting and performance skills.
What they offer: For many theater camps, your child doesn’t need any previous experience to participate. Some of these camps also include a performance at the end of the session, so that you can see the campers demonstrate their skills.
- Address: 2251 Antietam Ave., Detroit
- Phone: 313-872-6910
Drama, music, theater camps for various levels of experience.
- Address: 1051 Oakland Ave., Birmingham (Note: All 2016 theater summer camps will be held at Groves High School due to construction at the Birmingham campus.)
- Phone: 248-203-7470
Summer Stock Theatre divided by age group. Students participate in activities to build acting, singing and dancing skills.
- Address: The University of Michigan Student Theatre Arts Complex (STAC), 1201 Kipke Drive, Ann Arbor
- Phone: 734-926-5629
The academy offers morning workshops in performing arts and afternoon rehearsals for the upcoming production. Ages 8-plus.
- Address: 6600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield
- Phone: 248-661-1000
One-week and three-week programs for new and seasoned actors and actresses, singers and stage technicians.
Why they’re hot: Legos have a long history of encouraging kids to tap into their imagination – one block at a time. Legos have expanded from toys to robotics and even onto the big screen. If your child was a fan of the toys, and now The LEGO Movie, then a Lego-themed summer camp may be the way to go.
What they offer: Campers use Legos to create robotics, electronics – and some even mix in computer programming.
- Address: 3765 Plaza Drive, Ann Arbor (Note: Camps are also offered at three additional Ann Arbor locations. Contact for more details.)
- Phone: 734-355-6872
Technology, robotics and engineering camps for ages 6-17.
- Address: Locations in Ann Arbor, Brighton, Canton, Farmington, Grosse Pointe, Huntington Woods, Rochester, Southfield and Troy
- Phone: Call nearest center for details
Building, movie making, robotics, digital media and more for ages 5-12.
- Address: 39221 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills
- Phone: 248-645-3674
Camp programs for ages 6-17 explore STEM curriculum using the latest robotics software to let kids design, build and program robots.
- Address: Locations in Birmingham, Grosse Pointe Park and Rochester Hills
- Phone: 248-723-9100 (Birmingham), 313-924-3310 (Grosse Pointe Park), 248-213-9960 (Rochester Hills)
Building and robotics camps with cool themes like superheroes, Minecraft and Robot Discovery.
Why they’re hot: “We know that children have such a strong sense of compassion towards animals,” says Karen Patterson, director of humane education at the Humane Society of Huron Valley. “Every year we’re adding more camps, and they keep filling up. We always have a waiting list.”
What they offer: These camps give kids the chance to learn more about animals and their care from experts.
- Address: 3100 Cherry Hill Road, Ann Arbor
- Phone: 734-661-3575
Animal-themed activities and lessons and interactions with pets for kids ages 4-11. Spots fill quickly; sign up soon!
- Address: 1219 E. Square Lake Road, Bloomfield Hills
- Phone: 248-341-6475
Variety of camps for all ages with nature focus and farm animals.
- Address: 8450 W. 10 Mile Road, Royal Oak
- Phone: 248-541-5717
Zoo offers Summer Safari Camp, Zookeeper Camp and more.
Why they’re hot: Surprised? Yes, pottery is popular. For kids who love crafting and creating with their hands, these camps are perfect!
What they offer: Kids get to take home the pottery pieces that they create during camp.
- Address: 10125 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit
- Phone: 313-626-2062
- Address: 1516 S. Cranbrook Road, Birmingham
- Phone: 248-644-0866
- Address: 924 W. Ann Arbor Trail, Plymouth
- Phone: 734-453-8797
- Address: 149 E. Main St., Northville
- Phone: 248-347-6718
Why they’re hot: For children who want to hone their playing or singing skills, music camps can be a guaranteed high note.
What they offer: There’s a music camp to fit just about any focus. Kids can concentrate on a specific instrument – including their voice. Or there are general camps that introduce kids to music.
- Address: 311 E. Grand River Ave., Detroit
- Phone: 313-965-8430
The Summer Arts Academy includes six fine arts and performing arts programs over 10 weeks.
- Address: 380 S. Bates St., Birmingham
- Phone: 248-644-5832
Band camp, cabaret camp, musical theater and more.
- Address: 44575 Garfield Road, Clinton Township
- Phone: 586-286-2044
Summer workshops in show choir, flute, clarinet and children’s chorus.
Why they’re hot: Thrill seekers alert! If your child likes to be active and has a bit of a daredevil streak, sign him or her up for an adventure camp.
What they offer: While you can find day camps, for maximum thrills you might want to check out overnight options, where kids are busy doing everything from backpacking to horseback riding.
- Address: Various locales in Ann Arbor
- Phone: 734-794-6240 (contact depends on the camp)
Activities include kayaking, canoeing, fishing, rafting and swimming.
- Address: 9750 Milford Road, Holly
- Phone: 248-382-8382
Swimming, boating, archery. Also offers Camp 4 Military Kids.
- Address: 9505 W. Ludington Drive, Lake
- Phone: 517-827-9650
“The Mystic Experience” for ages 7-14 includes archery, high ropes, rock climbing, kayaking and more.
Why they’re hot: These days most tweens and teens have cellphones – and many are smartphones, meaning they’re carrying around a piece of high-tech gadgetry wherever they go. No wonder so many kids are all about technology!
What they offer: All things tech. Kids can learn computer-aided design, build their own computer apps and much more.
- Address: 2111 Woodward Ave., Suite 506, Detroit
- Phone: 313-831-3050
Camps for grades 3-12 include visual programming, biomedical and mechanical engineering, software design and robotics. Residential and commuter programs offered.
- Address: 220 Trowbridge Road, East Lansing
- Phone: 517-432-2129
Two-week overnight or day camp offered for children in grades 7, 8 and 9.
- Address: 800 Republic Drive, Allen Park
- Phone: 313-583-3831
Girls-only camps are offered, in addition to coding, programming, Design and Build with Laser Cutters and much more.
- Address: 4001 W. McNichols Road, Detroit
- Phone: 313-993-3374
STEM camps including product design, robotics and more.
Why they’re hot: Kids have a week-long opportunity to explore an area that they’re interested in to see if it’s something they want to pursue as a career.
What they offer: Often, these programs are affiliated with a college or university – so whatever programs are available through the school may be something offered as a summer camp experience.
- Address: 201 E. Kirby St., Detroit
- Phone: 313-664-7456
Range of programming for high school students including graphic, fashion and automotive design.
- Address: Locations include University of Michigan and Oakland University
- Phone: 888-709-8324
Why they’re hot: The Food Network has turned chefs into rock stars. Children with an interest in the kitchen have taken notice, and they’re interested in sharpening their culinary skills too.
What they offer: Camps give kids a chance to learn everything from basic skills in the kitchen to more advanced baking and cooking techniques.
- Address: 18600 Haggerty Road, Livonia
- Phone: 734-462-4448
Cooking and baking skills for grades 7, 8 and 9.
- Address: Locations in Ann Arbor, Clinton Township, Novi and Troy
- Phone: 586-226-1452 (Clinton Township), 248-319-0025 (Novi), 248-283-1057 (Troy), 734-531-0304 (Ann Arbor)
Camp topics for kids and teens include kitchen fundamentals, science in the kitchen and more.
This article was originally published in 2014 and was updated for 2016 by Jessica Schrader.