When it comes to choosing a summer camp, we often rely on word of mouth. I’ve nudged friends’ kids to certain summer camps over the years after loving the experience it gave my kids. Now, I’m going to share what I know about Omaha summer camps with you all.
When I say I know summer camps in Omaha, I mean I KNOW THEM. For about eight years, my kids have been in summer camps all summer long because both my husband and I had full-time jobs. Camps were more affordable than nanny. So I had to plan for 12 weeks of summer camps for two kids with different interests. I had a spreadsheet and everything. Fun times.
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What are the best summer camp options in Omaha?
There are a head-spinning amount of summer camp options in Omaha. What’s “best” for one kid is not the best for another. Things to consider what makes a camp “the best” for your kid:
- Your kid’s age. All-day camps are tough for younger kids, especially if they still nap.
- Your kid’s interests. Whatever interests your kid, there’s probably a camp for that. Themed camps are great to introduce the idea of summer camps to kids since characters are familiar and comforting.
- Your kid’s comfort level for adventure. Trying new things is a big deal, and some kids thrive on it, and some do not. Overnight camp is not for everyone.
- Is a friend going? Sometimes, my kids picked a summer camp only because they knew a friend already signed up for it. And sometimes that friend is what makes a summer camp experience unforgettable.
- The teachers/camp counselors. It’s not easy to scope out, in advance, who’s leading camps, but ask around and you’ll learn who has top-notch staff.
- The drop-off & pick-up process. This shouldn’t make or break your choice to send your kid to camp, but it’s always good to know in advance. I like well-organized places that don’t feel like utter chaos at the end of the day. Call me crazy.
If you’re curious what I think are the best camps, keep reading. I’ll share some of my family’s favorites later in this blog post.
Different types of summer camps in Omaha and their benefits
Sports camps, science camps, art camps, day camps, overnight camps. We’ve signed our kids up for them all. Here’s a glimpse at each type:
Many of the area high schools and colleges offer various sports weekly camps. Some are morning camps that last about two or so hours, like the Creighton Prep Soccer Camp. My kids loved that camp and the coaches involved (it’s open to boys and girls). Another option is the UNO Boys and Girls Youth Soccer Camp for kids in first through seventh grade.
My daughter enjoyed volleyball camps that were coached by players from the schools at Marian High School and Creighton University. These camps are geared for kids in elementary through middle school, by the way.
Other places offer more of a variety of sports and athletic pursuits, including Fit Girl. I highly recommend Fit Girl camps! Each day was different with activities ranging from yoga to fishing. Special guests talked to the girls about different careers. Those were the day camps, though, and now Fit Girl has evolved into overnight camps (which I can’t wait for my daughter to try).
Another summer-only camp that’s unique is the DEVO youth mountain bike camps. I can’t express enough how much I love this program. The camp is held one evening a week throughout the summer, and volunteer coaches teach biking basics in a progressive style. By the end of the summer, your kid is fearless on the bike (and yeah, a little scratched up too).
Sports camps help kids develop skills that extend beyond their particular sport of choice. They still work on teamwork, leadership, and creativity at the camps. Plus, it keeps them off screens for just a little bit.
If there’s only one science camp my kids could attend in a summer, it would be a week at University of Omaha’s Aim For The Stars. Weekly camps are held on campus and range from astronomy to geography, forensic science, and robotics. They’re very popular, so register for them early.
Omaha Children’s Museum does a good job of tailoring science concepts to kids as young as 4 in their themed summer camps. My kids went to camp there for years from ages 4 to 8 (disclosure: I used to work there, so it was super easy to do so). They liked the hands-on aspect of activities and the chance to play each day in the museum. My daughter’s favorite camp was Kids in the Kitchen.
Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum is a bit of a drive for Omaha families, but their summer camps are…dare I say it? A blast. If it wasn’t a pain in the butt to make the drive, they would’ve done more than one camp there. After their first summer camp, they begged to attend a winter camp later that year.
Metropolitan Community College also offers summer camps, though they’re sometimes not a full week (which made it difficult for planning for me, at least). My son has done a robotics camp and a YouTube camp that MCC held in partnership with Do Space.
Another place to sign a kid up for a robotics summer camp is Creighton Prep. My son learned a lot when he attended their week-long summer camp. I’ve seen a new private high school called Quest Forward Academy announce some science-oriented camps for grades 6-8 like Crime Scene Forensics & Psychology, though they’re so new, I don’t know much about them.
For a kid-friendly camp experiences that explores animals, habitats, and the like, consider a day camp at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. My daughter has attended a half-day camp there but the zoo also offers full-day camps for older children.
The cool thing about science camps for kids is that it all feels like play to kids. Age-appropriate science learning is essentially play. It’s brilliant.
When I think of art in Omaha, my mind immediately goes to Joslyn Art Museum. My kids loved weekly summer camps at Joslyn Art Museum but it’s closed until 2024 so let’s just move on.
You can find great art opportunities around Omaha. One place I highly recommend for kids in grades 6 and older is KANEKO in downtown Omaha. Their Creative Camps vary from architecture to visual design, and what’s cool is that firms and businesses around Omaha are involved in them giving kids real-world context to their projects.
We’re lucky to have several great theater camps in Omaha. For all ages, The Rose Theater can’t be beat and they have a ton of options…plus two locations now. My kids have attended half-day summer camps at The Rose since they were about 5 years old. My daughter particularly loves the different themes (and years later, still remembers how “fun” the Pokemon camp was there).
Omaha Community Playhouse also offers summer camps, and they tend to extend beyond acting into areas like theater makeup. My kids have attended winter classes at OCP, which they loved, so I’m pretty confident in recommending their theater education team who also put on the summer camps.
McGuigan Arts Academy is a smaller venue than others so class sizes are small and options are limited. On the plus side, teachers really get to know each camper. My kids thrived in their weekly camps they attended, plus they got opportunities to perform in front of an audience. Another perk of McGuigan Arts Academy is that campers get to access to auditions only open to McGuigan students.
All the exposure to theater camps has done wonders for my kids’ confidence in front of people.
The ultimate day camp experience is Hummel Day Camp, where kids learn wilderness skills, archery, and various games. They will get muddy, they will get bug bites. They will love it (assuming they’re OK with mud).
Hummel Day Camp is a City of Omaha camp run by Omaha Parks & Recreation, which also holds camps at other locations. My kids’ other favorite of the city camps is Camp Zorinsky which includes time paddling on the Zorinsky Lake and swimming at the water park.
For nature lovers, two day camps I’ve signed my kids up for more than one year are the camps at Lauritzen Gardens and Fontenelle Forest. Lauritzen Gardens has different themes each week and time is spent both indoors and outdoors. They will sometimes pair camps with the zoo, which is pretty cool.
Fontanelle Forest’s camps are mostly outdoors (though they always start indoors). There’s some legit hiking involved, as well as animal identification, art, and sometimes, the ropes course.
The Durham Museum also offers weeklong summer camps that are a half-day long (you could attend one in the morning and one in the afternoon to make it a full-day, though). The themes are fun and some are tied in with the museum’s big summer exhibit. My son enjoyed a Harry Potter-themed camp one year.
YMCA of Greater Omaha offers day camps at nine of their 12 locations throughout the summer (and they have been voted Best of Omaha for at least the last five years!). Camps are open to kids ages 5 to 12 (must have completed kindergarten), and run from May 30 through Aug. 18. Campers can attend for one week up to all summer
Overnight camps are not for every kid, and I was completely surprised when my little second grader asked to go to a WEEK-LONG sleep away camp. She went to YMCA Camp Kitaki with a few of her friends and loved it. I mean, LOVED IT.
And, well, since then, both she and her big brother have spent a week at Kitaki each summer, as well as shorter overnight trips there for Halloween camps. Camp Kitaki is not technically an Omaha summer camp – it’s located in Louisville, Neb.
Got a horse fanatic? Camp Kitaki’s Ranch Camp is a week of working with horses and horseback riding, as well as the other fun activities at Kitaki.
Overnight camps can be an incredible experience, and from what I’ve observed the camp staff is outstanding (they keep us updated throughout the week). My kids have matured tremendously thanks to Kitaki, and have grown in empathy, confidence and self-reliance.
The last category: Camps I’ve heard are good but can’t vouch for
There are obviously more that I haven’t covered, in a large part because my kids probably haven’t gone to their camps, so I can’t really vouch for them. Some that I have heard good things from friends and would not hesitate to sign my kids up for include camps run by Omaha Girls Rock, Junior Vet camps at Oxbow Animal Health, and camps at the Jewish Community Center.
Planning for an affordable summer camp experience
A week-long summer camp can be expensive. Believe me, I know.
You can take a small amount of weight off your shoulders knowing that at least it can be calculated into childcare when you pay taxes each year. It helps…kinds?
It is tough to find affordable summer camps that are also well run and fun. They do exist in Omaha, though. KANEKO Summer Camps are donation-based camps, for instance. And I think all of the City of Omaha parks camps are a great value (from bus pick-up to lunch & snacks and all the activities).
Some camps offer scholarships or discounts, including Omaha Children’s Museum. YMCA’s Camp Kitaki offers tiered payment options, and they also offer the choice of monthly payments or one lump sum.
Omaha summer camp key dates to know
I hate to say it, but January is not too early to start thinking about Omaha summer camps. Some camp registrations are already open. Some fill up before the end of the previous summer. Here are a few tips I’ve learned, as well as a few key dates:
January: Many places open registration for summer camps at the beginning of January each year. Registration is already open for: McGuigan Arts Academy, Omaha Children’s Museum, Omaha Community Playhouse, Rose Theater, The Durham Museum, and UNO’s Aim For The Stars. Camp Kitaki is already open for registration, as well.
Lauritzen Gardens’ summer camps open January 15.
February: Jewish Community Center’s summer camps open for member registration on February 1; non-members can begin registering for camp on February 15.
City of Omaha’s summer camp registrations open on a rolling basis starting at the end of February and going into March. Hummel camp registration starts February 27 for Week 1. Check here to see when registration opens for each week of camp. Hummel Day Camp fills up within an hour of opening. Camp Zorinsky fills up within hours. The other camps — Hanscom and Adams — are a bit easier to sign up for.
March 31: The last day to get Omaha Children’s Museum’s early bird discount on their summer camps.
On-going: YMCA camps like Kitaki (near Louisville, Neb.) usually allow summer campers to sign up for the next year’s summer camp before they even leave camp.
A review my family’s Top 10 summer camps in Omaha
It’s a hard task choosing favorites, especially since camps are so different from one another. My favorites were similar to my kids’, though they had a few that I didn’t anticipate they liked so much.
The parent’s favorite Omaha summer camps
- YMCA Camp Kitaki
- Fit Girl camps (the day camps…we haven’t tried the overnight camps yet)
- Hummel Day Camp
- UNO’s Aim for the Stars
- DEVO youth mountain bike camp
The kids’ favorite Omaha summer camps
- YMCA Camp Kitaki
- UNO’s Aim for the Stars
- Hummel Day Camp
- Omaha Children’s Museum
- The Rose Theater
Links to recommended Omaha summer camps
Here are all the summer camps’ links that were mentioned in this blog post for easy reference. Happy summer camp planning!