Camping with Kids (and Printable Camping Checklist for Packing!)

Outdoor Places to Go

We went camping for the first time last summer and much to our surprise, we loved it! Even though I thought we were more of a “hotel vacation” type of family, camping has some incredible perks! I think it’s best to go with a group…the kids have a blast together, and as a result, the parents do, too! Camping is a wonderful and inexpensive way to get away, take advantage of the great outdoors, reconnect, and unplug.

Camping with Kids

There are so many beautiful locations 1-3 hours away from Chicago that are situated in picturesque wooded settings along a lake. This makes for fun beach days and offers opportunities to kayak, canoe and fish. Most sites also offer trails to hike and bike, nature centers with activities for the kids, and evening concerts for the whole family. You can really get creative with meals while camping, too – the kids love being a part of shopping for the trip and helping with the food prep. And, you can never go wrong with s’mores!

Whether you’ve been camping for years or are considering it for the first time, we have some great campsites picked out for you. You’re guaranteed to be a happy camper!

Devil’s Lake State Park
S5975 Park Rd.
Baraboo, WI 53913-9299
(608) 356-8301

Governor Dodge State Park
4175 State Highway 23 N
Dodgeville, WI 53533
(608) 935-2315

Indiana Dunes State Park
1600 North 25 East
Chesterton, IN  46304
(219) 926-1952

Kettle Moraine North Mauthe Lake
N1490 County Rd GGG
Campbellsport, WI 53010
(262) 626-4305

Starved Rock State Park
PO Box 509
Utica, IL 61373
(815) 667-4726
Click here for a great guide to hiking at Starved Rock with kids!

Turkey Run State Park
8121 Park Road
Marshall, IN 47859
(765) 597-2635

Want a campsite really close to start off your camping experience? Try Camp Bullfrog Lake in Willow Springs, Camp Sullivan in Oak Forest, or Blackwell Forest in Warrenville.

If you are willing to travel further than the sites 1-3 hours away mentioned above, Sleeping Bear Dunes is absolutely beautiful. We went last summer and spent our time going to the beach, tubing, and exploring nearby towns like Glen Arbor. Cherry Republic is a fun place to go- they have everything cherry! There is a campsite called Platte River Campground that has fairly spread out sites with electricity and bathrooms (a major plus).

Camping Checklist: Free Printable List of Things to Pack

Before you go, be sure to Google “camping recipes” or peruse Pinterest to see what looks good so you can come prepared! The following camping checklist will give you a really base list to what you should consider bringing. Keep in mind that I prepared this list for my family, so you may need to adjust as needed.

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • The packing list is amazing!

  • Thank you so much for all of this info!! I have always wished to have that idyllic summer cabin/camping experience where I watch my kids swing from a rope into a lake! lol
    But with so many areas to explore around Chicagoland and beyond I’ve felt kind of stuck in just picking an area. We don’t vacation much at all so I just need a place start.
    I had some questions about the Glen Arbor area and Platt River Campgrounds. This sounds amazing. I’d really love to see all things “cherry” in Glen Arbor too! Did you rent an RV or sleep in a tent? You said the camp sites were fairly spread out (I like that) can you recommend a specific area in the campground?. If they had organized activities were there any that you participated in? What were the other neighboring towns you visited besides Glen Arbor? Anything else you’d be willing to recommend would be greatly appreciated

    • We slept in a tent when we went to Sleeping Bear Dunes. It was our first camping experience and it turned out great! We stayed for three nights and it rained almost every night we were there, but we didn’t get wet and the days were beautiful. Click here for the map to see where all of the spaces are at the campground. I believe we stayed in 102. It was down the street from the bathrooms and it had electricity… both of those were huge pluses and I’m not sure I would go camping if we didn’t have either of those. I like to rough it, but not that much! Especially because I took my two kids without my husband and met up with a friend and her three kids. Loops 1-3 have electricity and Loop 4 does not, so please be aware of that. The campsite rentals open six months in advance and my friend reserved our spot in February for an August trip. I’m not sure how fast the sites fill up, but here is the number for reservations so you can check: (877) 444-6777. I wasn’t aware of any organized activities at the campground, but we didn’t ask, so you would have to check out their website or give them a call before you go about that one. Here’s their office number: (231) 326-4700, extension 5029. As far as other activities, I would definitely recommend tubing down the Platte River. We rented tubes from Honor Trading Post on recommendation from a friend (and they have really high ratings on Trip Advisor). That was a great experience. We also climbed the dune, which was a work out but really fun and the view from the top is amazing. I still have the photograph of my kids at the top framed in our hallway. We enjoyed the town of Glen Arbor where we went to Cherry Republic, some art galleries, and had some ice cream. Click here for some great ideas of what to do with kids in that area. We also just hung out at the lake, went swimming, made rock sculptures, and had campfires. It was time with my kids that I will never forget!


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