You may have read our Pacific Northwest regional guide, but this takes it a step further! If you are about to move to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, this is your resource for what to do in your new city. From finding the right military housing for you to learning all about the points of interest in your area, read this guide to become a local in a snap.
About Joint Base Lewis-McChord
If you aren’t familiar with the Pacific northwest and Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), you’re in for a treat. JBLM is the Defense Department’s premier military installation on the west coast and is located in one of the most beautiful areas of the northwest—Puget Sound.
Fort Lewis (named after Lewis and Clark) is one of the most extensive military reservations in the U.S., consisting of 87,000 acres of prairie land. The base supports more than 60,000 family members who reside on and off base, in addition to about 30,000 retirees who live within 50 miles.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord Military Housing
Moving to a new city is exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. Finding your dream house is one of the biggest considerations you’ll face, but with enough research, you’re sure to land in the perfect spot. Whether you choose to live on base in JBLM housing or branch out to surrounding neighborhoods, there are plenty of options to fit your preferences.
JBLM On-Base Housing
You won’t be disappointed if you and your family make the decision to live on base. Enjoy a sense of community and quality homes that make your move that much more worth it.
Since 2002, Lincoln Military Housing has partnered with JBLM to develop housing communities that rival many in civilian areas. With over 140 brand new homes and 3,100 renovated homes, the ideal house is just waiting for you! Choose from more than 20 Joint Base Lewis-McChord communities like Beachwood (Lewis North), Bricks (McChord Field), Cascade Village (McChord), and Town Center (Lewis Main).
Besides the family feel and convenience of JBLM housing, living on base has even more perks. Along with covering your rent, your BAH allowance covers all routine maintenance, on-call emergency maintenance, average utilities, trash, and recycling!
JBLM Off-Base Housing
While living on base is a great choice when moving to JBLM, it doesn’t hurt to explore other options like housing located in nearby areas. The three biggest cities you’ll want to check out when going through your search are Tacoma, Olympia, and Seattle. These neighboring cities are close to base, with Seattle being the furthest drive (around 50 minutes).
Even if you aren’t from the Pacific northwest, you probably have heard the rumors about the weather. It rains quite a bit up in Washington, so come prepared with raincoats and rainboots! The rainy season lasts from October through April.
Besides a good amount of precipitation and cloudy days, the weather isn’t too extreme year round. During winter (December-February), temperatures average about 30 degrees with a few inches of snow. Summers (May-August) can get pretty toasty at around 90 degrees with a relatively dry climate.
From grocery shopping to buying clothes and home decor, Joint Base Lewis-McChord has all of the stores you need for necessities and pleasure. Lakewood Towne Center is an awesome place to start. This large shopping mall has everything from restaurants (Red Robin, Applebees, Chipotle) and gyms (Crunch and 24 Hour Fitness) to retail stores such as Marshalls, Ross, and Target.
Another popular shopping destination for families living on Joint Base Lewis-McChord is the Lewis Main Exchange. The Exchange offers tax-free shopping and military-exclusive pricing for those that are eligible. With 121 department stores, 618 convenience and speciality stores, 1,700 fast food restaurants, and wellness services like optometry and dentistry, this spot has everything you could need plus more.
Other stores and shopping destinations located on base include:
- McChord Field Main Exchange
- McChord Thrift Shop
- McChord Auto Center
- Ft. Lewis Military Clothing Sales
- McChord Field Commissary
- McChord Express
Finding ways to stay entertained is easy as can be when you live in the beautiful Pacific northwest. No matter if you want a little weekend fun on Joint Base Lewis-McChord or need a trip off base, there are so many activities and destinations to be explored.
Cool Activities on Joint Base Lewis McChord
- Adventures Unlimited: A one-stop outdoor recreation headquarters where you can rent trailers and camping supplies, as well as equipment for skiing, snowboarding, and boating. In addition, they have a climbing wall perfect for the kids!
- JBLM Bowling: Make a quick drive over to the Bowl Arena Lanes and have fun with the family knocking down pins! The arena offers recreational bowling and leagues for adults and youth.
- Lewis Army Museum: Walk inside the Red Shield Inn and explore the historic building that dates back to WWI.
- Main Exchange Movie Theaters: Catch a flick and snack on popcorn at one of the 77 movie theaters at the Exchange.
Recreational Fun Near Joint Base Lewis McChord
- Mount Rainier National Park: Take a day trip to Mount Rainier and enjoy the breathtaking views of old-growth forests, gigantic glaciers, waterfalls, alpine meadows, and wildflowers.
- Pike Place Market: Buy delicious, fresh produce at Pike Place Market, the most famous market in Seattle. Browse through over 200 traders and lots of places to eat.
- Washington State Capitol: Learn more about the capital of Washington and take a tour of the impressive Capitol Building and campus.
- Washington Park Arboretum: Visit the shores of Lake Washington and take a scenic walk around the 230 acres that make up Washington Park Arboretum. Flowering cherries, dogwoods, and azaleas are just a few botanical treasures you’ll see.
If you are moving to Joint Base Lewis-McChord with children, education is sure to be one of your top priorities. Luckily, Washington state is ranked #4 for best education in the U.S. which is a pretty impressive rating. There are quite a few options available for you to research as you decide which school is best for your kids.
To give you an idea of what you’ll be working with, JBLM currently offers both on and off-base schools. On-base schools are part of the Clover Park Public School System. Preschool and elementary schools are available to you on base, but middle schools and high schools are located off base.
For more information on school districts and schools found on Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the surrounding cities, take a look here.
Besides getting around JBLM via car and walking, you should also keep in mind the GO Transit shuttle system. This shuttle runs every 20 minutes and stops at over 80 destinations around JBLM during the weekdays. The best part is that it’s free!
When you aren’t traveling on base, your best bet for transportation is by car. Yes, there’s lots of traffic in Seattle, but the convenience of driving your own vehicle can’t be beat.
Other than the traditional car commuting, here are a few other choices for getting around Washington:
- Boat: Ferries are a huge deal in the Pacific northwest and a great way to visit destinations you normally wouldn’t be able to. The main ferries include: BC Ferries, Black Ball Transport, Clipper Navigation, and Washington State Ferries.
- Bicycle: Cities in Washington, especially Seattle, have a big cycling community, so there are lots of accommodations to make this mode of transportation safe. Maintained roads, wide shoulders, and many bike routes make cycling a cool way to travel.
- Bus: Taking the bus is not ideal, but it’s there if you want it. Greyhound is a solid option, but keep in mind that the buses mostly stay on the interstate-freeway system.
Making the big move to Joint Base Lewis-McChord is definitely going to be a momentous change for you and your family, but this guide is sure to help you get more familiar before you step foot in your new home! Learn more about the Pacific northwest and all that there is to know by checking out our Regional Guide Series: Moving to the Pacific Northwest.