Updated: February 18th, 2023
Iowa is a great destination for the outdoors, with numerous rivers, prairies, hills, and more than enough local parks for children to play in. This makes it an ideal home for the many camps that receive children each year. At camp, kids can expect fun things like hiking, swimming, sports, and more.
We’ve compiled a list of the best summer camps in the state of Iowa. Each camp offers a unique experience for children to work on personal skills, develop communication skills, and have the best school break ever. With the beautiful outdoors in Iowa, your kid can have the time of their life here.
1. Des Moines Y Camp
This YMCA camp has been actively fostering children’s independence, confidence, and faith since 1919. Located in the Des Moines River Valley in Boone, Des Moines Y Camp has access to hundreds of acres of wilderness for campers to explore.
Each child has different interests and needs, and their programs allow children to gain confidence with day camps, overnight camps, family camp, and leadership camps. In addition, you can select specialized programs for kids to learn new skills while enjoying opportunities they won’t find anywhere else. From building birdhouses to survival camping and learning how to cook, there’s something for everyone here.
The summer programs usually start in June, run through August, and last around a week. However, younger campers do have the option to attend a shorter mini-camp to prepare themselves for it. There are financial assistance opportunities available for families. The YMCA also provides staff with the appropriate training to help kids safely enjoy every minute of their summer adventure.
2. Camp Io-Dis-E-Ca
Camp Io-Dis-E-Ca began in the 1960s to promote the word of God through fun experiences in nature, individually and as a team. This established camp has a swimming pool, athletic field, and full-time employees in Solon.
From kindergarten to 12th grade, all students have a place and activities prepared for them. Younger students can start their camp experience with a day camp that runs Monday through Friday to build confidence before moving on to overnight camps. Each gives a unique experience by focusing on specialized skills and learning new concepts while embracing Lutheran values.
Your child can spend time outside cooking meals around a campfire and enjoying the wilderness while growing closer to God. They can engage in sports-focused activities, horseback riding, or get a break from the outside world. They’ll have a blast making memories with friends with similar values and be excited to return year after year.
3. Boy Scouts of America Scout Camp
The Boy Scouts of the Northeast Iowa Council have been operating for around a century. They strive to teach young boys independence, how to work as a team, and to inspire strong values in youth. The camp location is in Dubuque, a central area for different counties to access.
Throughout the summer, from June through July, different sessions allow campers to have fun at their comfort level. Parents can choose from day camps, weekend camps, and sleepaway camps. At this time, eight unique campsites host individual troops each week.
Boys can select activities related to the merit badges they need to acquire. Their camp facilities can accommodate everything they need for adventures and badges. Some activities include sports, fishing, ecology, riflery, and rappelling. In addition, there are special activities aimed at working on specific skills, understanding the natural world around them, and developing leadership skills.
4. Iowa State University
Iowa State University offers access to various summer camps for children to experience based on their age. There are camp locations in different cities, and the cost is low to help everyone attend. The centers can change each year, but they are all carefully centered around education, engaging children, and providing a fun experience.
Children in K-2 can access different programs, such as art, flight, or a bug adventure. Each focuses on one topic, involving children in group projects and independent skill development. They get hands-on science experiences while making friends and learning new skills.
Elementary and middle school children can enjoy solving crimes, learning about nature, creating things in the kitchen, and more. With age-appropriate tasks, each experience is new and engaging. With a babysitting and mindfulness camp, your older child or teen can take steps toward independence and self-control.
5. Iowa County Conservation Camps
Iowa County has multiple locations to give children from different areas an option for a memorable summer. Camp sizes are small to give children the attention they need and help them stay focused. Registration for these camps starts on April first, and you can also register to grab a take-home kit for more fun after camp!
There are three age groups for children to learn age-appropriate skills at camp. Toddlers through kindergarten can attend story time with an adult. Older children learn about nature while engaging in fun camp activities. Preteens also have incredible opportunities to learn about wilderness survival, including which wild plants are edible.
If you’re looking for a day camp in Iowa focusing on nature exploration, these are some great choices.
6. Camp Sunnyside
The Easterseals programs have worked with families for almost a century to provide enrichment, support, and resources to people with special needs. They understand the difficulties of everyday life for people and families who have challenges with regular day-to-day activities.
There are different programs for a broad range of ages, from four-year-olds up to twenty-one-year-olds. Each program is designed specifically with the needs of the individual in mind. You can select summer camps with trusted caretakers to take a break and allow your child to have a wonderful school break. Some sessions last for days and include activities such as horseback riding, sports, arts and crafts, and swimming, encouraging your loved one to work on personal goals and skills.
If you or your older teenager is interested in becoming a helping part of this camp, there’s also an option to become a camp counselor. They teach campers how to understand the needs of others, how to best care for others and become a leader. These full day camps tend to run Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm.
7. Camp High Hopes
In Sioux City, Camp High Hopes offers a unique program that allows kids and adults with special needs and disabilities to enjoy their summer. Since 2004, this summer camp has cared for those who need extra support to enable them to learn new skills and try things out of their comfort zones.
There are multiple session options to fit the needs of every individual. You can select a day camp, weekend camp, or overnight option that lasts all week. Camper-to-staff ratios are kept small, so your loved one can have the attention they deserve while having fun experiences. If someone needs special one-on-one care or an extra staff member, they can provide that, as there are full-time employees dedicated to enriching every camper.
Some summer camp activities include archery, camping around a fire, and canoeing. Special equipment is available to accommodate the needs of everyone, regardless of ability.