Large navy boat on the water in Coronado, CA

Best Military Bases in the U.S. for Families

Looking for the best military bases for your “dream sheet” that both you and your family will love? There are tons of bases located in the U.S. that have awesome schools, budget-friendly homes, and endless fun both on and off site. While your new station in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard is mostly determined on the needs of a specific base or job, it’s possible to get a preferred location. Below, we’ve compiled a list of U.S. military bases for your family to consider.

  • Fort Carson
  • Fort Sam Houston
  • Fort Story
  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson
  • Joint Base Lewis-McChord
  • Marine Corps Base Hawaii
  • Naval Base Coronado
  • Naval Station Mayport

Fort Carson

Lake view with mountains in the back at Fort Carson, CO. Photo by Instagram user @soluda_
Photo via @soluda_
  • Location: Fort Carson, CO
  • Military Branch: Army
  • Biggest Draws: Mountains, move-in ready housing

Located about five miles south of Colorado Springs, Fort Carson is one of the best military bases for families who want fresh mountain air, on-base housing, and great schools nearby. Known as the Mountain Post, Fort Carson’s population is 80% families with kids under 18, so this Army base and its surroundings are focused on family-friendliness, a tight-knit community, and activities for all-ages.

Those who move here will find that two, three, and four-bedroom townhomes or single-family homes are readily available and fully equipped with appliances on  base. Not to mention, care services and community events are also provided to help create a hometown feel for military families. The post is served by the Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, which has four elementary schools and a middle school on site with a bus that transports kids to Fountain-Fort Carson High School in Fountain, CO.

Things to Do Near Fort Carson

Attend the Colorado Springs Labor Day Lift Off to watch over 50 colorful hot air balloons ascend into the sky. Hand-feed an elephant, watch an orangutan paint a beautiful picture, or see penguins waddle around at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Venture to Cheyenne Mountain State Park to take advantage of the archery range and hike the Dixon Trail. Go horseback riding or rock climbing at Garden of the Gods. Visit the North Pole to see Santa, enjoy amusement rides, or pick out holiday ornaments. Take a tour of the Olympic Training Center to see where U.S. Olympic swimmers practice for their medals. Feast on Drunken Noodles or Chicken Param from Thai Satay. Try a creative take on seafood like a crab grilled cheese or crab-covered fries at Krabby’s Seafood. Have a slice of Lucy Sunshine or Caspian pizza at MOD. Or grab a Black Forest Torte or German Chocolate Cake at Edelweiss.

Fort Sam Houston

Large tower on a sunny day at Fort Sam Houston Army Base. Photo by Instagram user @_dkerr
Photo via @_dkerr
  • Location: San Antonio, TX
  • Military Branch: Army
  • Biggest Draws: On-base amenities, great schools

Known as the “Home of Army Medicine” and the Army branch of Joint Base San Antonio, Fort Sam Houston is one of the best military bases in Texas for families, thanks to its many on-site schools, activities, and housing options. Military families newly stationed can choose from duplexes and quadplexes to detached houses in eight different neighborhoods all with community centers and outdoor recreation areas. If your family prefers to stay off base, however, Fort Sam’s central location in San Antonio means easy commutes to base from suburbs like Alamo Heights and Universal City.

Fort Sam Houston also has its own school district, Fort Sam Houston ISD, which has an elementary school, middle school, and high school. If you’re looking for family fun just outside of your front door, the Fort Sam Houston Bowling Alley, Fort Sam Houston Theater, and Fort Sam Houston Golf Course are just a quick walk or bike ride away!

Things to Do Near Fort Sam Houston

Let your little one roam around The DoSeum to learn about the environment, train to be a secret agent, or play with robots. Take a drive to Kiddie Park, America’s oldest children’s amusement park that has spinning rides, carnival games, face painting, and a snack bar. Visit The Riverwalk to go on a boat tour, shop for new clothes, or have a few drinks at Howl at the Moon. Watch the San Antonio Spurs shoot nail-biting buzzer-beaters at AT&T Center. Learn all about the Texas Revolution and San Antonio’s role in Mexican-Texan history at The Alamo. Check out Fiesta San Antonio, an 11-day festival full of parades, dancing, fireworks, and delicious food. Indulge in Sopa de Tortilla or Flautas de Pollo at Rosario’s. Order a pitcher of Famous Root Beer, Hanchenschnitzel, and Chicken & Dumplings at Schilo’s. Or sample some finger-lickin’ Texas barbecue like pulled pork and brisket from Smoke Shack.

Fort Story

Grassy beach area on a sunny day at Fort Story Beach. Photo by Instagram user @brookebuccieri
Photo via @brookebuccieri
  • Location: Virginia Beach, VA
  • Military Branch: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard
  • Biggest Draws: Beaches, on-base amenities

Looking for a military base with sun, sand, and a family-oriented community for your next PCS move? Consider Fort Story! Part of Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, this station located about six miles north of Downtown Virginia Beach is a top spot for military housing and training Expeditionary Forces. Not to mention, it’s rooted in deep American history, as it’s the location where the first permanent English settlers landed in 1607.

Fort Story on-post housing is made up of four different areas with more than 250 two-story townhomes and single-family homes that have fully-equipped kitchens and oceanfront views. This installation also offers the Fleet and Family Readiness program, which helps families adjust to their new environment by providing amenities like childcare, counseling during deployments, a fitness center, tours of historical sites, and much more!

Things to Do Near Fort Story

Build sandcastles, go swimming in Chesapeake Bay, or hike 20 miles of trails at First Landing State Park. Pack a picnic and listen to live music at Neptune’s Park. Stop by the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art to see rotating exhibits of film, photography, and sculptures. Spend the day speeding down waterslides or relaxing in the lazy river at Ocean Breeze Waterpark. Get your adrenaline pumping on the go-kart track or thrill rides at Atlantic Fun Park. Taste unique burger dishes featuring bourbon chili, Tabasco onion strings, and pan-fried lobster at local favorite Bourbons & Burgers. Have brunch at Bay Local and sip on Sorbet Mimosas while feasting on Fried Chicken Bennie or Jamaican Dark Rum French Toast. Or dig into decadent Maine lobster rolls full of juicy claw meat at A Bite of Maine.

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson

Lake and mountains under purple sky in Anchorage, AK. Photo by Instagram user @1000swordsbystelly
Photo via @1000wordsbystelly
  • Location: Anchorage, AK
  • Military Branch: Army, Air Force
  • Biggest Draws: Tight-knit community, unique neighborhoods

Harsh winters aren’t for everyone, but if your family loves the snow and all of the outdoor adventure that comes with it, then Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is the perfect post for you! Just 20 minutes from Downtown Anchorage, JBER is home to 20,000 families and offers tons of on-site services like medical care, dental care, employment assistance, and education programs through 13 local schools.

Active military and their families typically find that living on base is the more affordable option when stationed here. Fortunately, there are 19 different neighborhoods to choose from at this station. The base also has Moose Run Country Club and Tikahtnu Commons for residents who need to grab some groceries or want to play a round of golf when the weather is favorable.

Things to Do Near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson

Go cross-country skiing, let the kids monkey around on one of 82 playgrounds, or go fishing at the Far North Bicentennial Park. Watch seals float in the water, black bears munch on some berries, or flying squirrels jump from trees at the Alaska Zoo. Zip through Chugach State Park on a snowmobile during the colder months or kayak in the summer time. Watch as mushers set out on a 938-mile journey across Alaska for the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Create your own pizza or order a slice of the Avalanche with a cold beer from Moose’s Tooth. Sample crab omelets, salmon benedict, and hummus platters at Snow City Cafe. Or check out the American, Frankenstein Dog, or North Carolinian from local food stand International House of Hotdogs.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Grassy area with Mount Rainier in the background. Photo by Instagram user @tim.eggen
Photo via @tim.eggen
  • Location: Tacoma, WA
  • Military Branch: Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps
  • Biggest Draws: Outdoor recreation, no state income tax

Breathtaking views of Mount Rainier National Park, quick commutes to Seattle, and a lively community make Joint Base Lewis-McChord a sought-after location in the Pacific Northwest for active military and their families. Recognized as one of the largest military bases in the U.S., JBLM offers something for everyone stationed here, ranging from fantastic medical care and childcare programs to commissaries and family events like trivia night.

Military families can choose to either live on base in small duplexes, single-family homes, and four-bedroom homes by American Lake, or they can settle down in the tree-lined city of Dupont to take advantage of its friendly community and quaint downtown area. For families that reside on the post, kids usually attend Woodbrook Middle School, Clover Park High School, and Lakes High School, while kids off post go to schools closest to their area within Pierce County Schools.

Things to Do Near Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Let little ones climb through treehouses, splash in waterfalls, or paint a masterpiece at the Children’s Museum of Tacoma. Learn about the art of glassblowing and marvel at stained-glass windows at the Museum of Glass. Shop for new shoes, buy video games, or pick up some workout gear from the Tacoma Mall. Rent jet skis or get a tan on the beach at American Lake Park. Grill your own food right at your table at Cham Garden Korean BBQ Buffet. Head to Marzano, an Italian restaurant serving savory dishes like Nduja Mussels & Clams, Chittare al Mare, and Lasagna Bolognese. Or share some Parmesan Tots and Bacon Candy for appetizers with a Moonshine Flight at Dirty Oscar’s Annex.

Marine Corps Base Hawaii

Crystal blue water fall in the ocean in Hawaii. Photo by Instagram user @hyperheather
Photo via @hyperheather
  • Location: Kailua, HI
  • Military Branch: Marines
  • Biggest Draws: Beaches, affordable on-base housing

With tropical weather, cozy oceanfront housing, and plenty of local parks in and around Kailua, it’s easy to see why Marine Corps Base Hawaii is one of the most ideal U.S. military bases for families. Residents love the variety of floor plans and housing styles that are located in the city, on hilltops overlooking Kaneohe Bay, and on the beach with views of the crystal-clear water. More importantly, families have access to gymnastic classes, scuba training, a skate park, miniature golf, a movie theater, and more!

Marine Corps Base Hawaii also provides military families with resources to find employment on and off base, and it even offers places to buy groceries, get a massage, have your clothes hemmed, grab a coffee, or enjoy Sunday brunch all within the post. But if you’re looking to spend some time away from base, Honolulu is just a short drive away, and it’s full of delicious places to dine and unique shops to browse.

Things to Do Near Marine Corps Base Hawaii

Hop aboard the Pineapple Express Train to explore the grounds, wind through the Pineapple Garden Maze, and get up close with Hawaii’s flora at the Dole Plantation. Venture to Waikiki Aquarium to see jellyfish, giant clams, and octopi. Take a relaxing stroll through 400 acres of lush green space at Ho’omaluhia Botantical Garden. Take a drive to Waikele Premium Outlets to shop at stores like Armani Exchange, Calvin Klein, Barneys New York, and Levi’s. Grab a Spam & Cheese Omelette or Banana Pancakes for breakfast at Boots & Kimo’s. Order an Adoba Dip or Lemongrass Shrimp Bahn Mi from Kalapawai Market. Or fill up on Kapahulu Tacos and handcrafted milkshakes like Coconut Cream Pie or Lava Flow at Kono’s.

Navel Base Coronado

A view of the Coronado bridge from above. Photo by Instagram user @matthew_j_davis
Photo via @matthew_j_davis
  • Location: Coronado, CA
  • Military Branch: Navy
  • Biggest Draws: Weather, Fleet & Family Readiness Program

Situated on the other side of the San Diego Bay across from Downtown San Diego, Naval Base Coronado is a Navy base comprised of eight different facilities. Each facility that’s part of Naval Base Coronado has its own neighborhood with tons of features for the whole family to enjoy like basketballs courts, barbecue pits, pools, golf courses, and trails that lead to the beach.

Other on-base amenities that are available to active military families are beauty shops, gas stations, commissaries, and fast-food restaurants, as well as local events, youth sports, and financial services through Fleet & Family. While there are no schools directly on the different installations, Coronado Unified School District serves the area for military kids to attend.

Things to Do Near Naval Base Coronado

Let your four-legged friend frolic in the ocean or observe aquatic critters in the tide pools at Coronado Beach and Dog Park. Hit the links and get a round of golf in at the Coronado Municipal Golf Course. Rent a double surrey from Wheel Fun Rentals and go exploring around the island. Cross the Coronado Bridge and head into Downtown San Diego to watch the San Diego Padres hit home runs at Petco Park. Pick out a dozen unique donuts like Butter Beer, Mexican Hot Chocolate, and Big Poppa Tart from the award-winning Donut Bar. Have a few Wheel in the Sky margaritas while you enjoy Carne Asada Tacos at La Puerta. Or experience dining with a view at Bluewater Grill, a boathouse restaurant that serves dishes with freshly-caught seafood like Pan-Seared Sea Scallops, Prawn Linguine, and San Francisco Cioppino.

Naval Station Mayport

Beach sunset at Naval Station Mayport. Photo by Instagram user @gruszczynskipphotography
Photo via @gruszczynskipphotography
  • Location: Jacksonville, FL
  • Military Branch: Navy
  • Biggest Draws: Weather, expansive housing community

Not only is Naval Station Mayport one of three large Navy stations in Jacksonville, but it’s also one of the greatest U.S. military base locations to plant roots with your family! In fact, around 32,000 families call this post home. If you’re thinking about living on base, newly-renovated and newly-constructed homes that include all major appliances are available in four different neighborhoods: Bennett Shores East, Bennett Shores West, Ribault Bay Village, and Marsh Cove.

Staying on Naval Station Mayport, you’ll find that the base has the same amenities as many cities, such as a golf club, community center, bowling alley, RV parks, Olympic-sized pool, gyms, and restaurants. However, Downtown Jacksonville is just short drive west, in case you want a quick weekend getaway!

Things to Do Near Naval Station Mayport

See sloths, cobras, rhinos, and other exotic animal species at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Pet baby goats and wander along the paved trails at Tree Hill Nature Center. Get your mind and body moving with interactive exhibits about electricity, Florida’s wildlife, and the solar system at the Museum of Science & History. Snack on popcorn and hot dogs at TIAA Bank Field while you cheer on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sit on the outdoor patio of Safe Harbor Seafood Restaurant and order a Soft Shell Crab Po’ Boy or Conch Fritters. Try Edgar Allen Poe-inspired burgers like the House of Usher or the Tell-Tale Heart at Poe’s Tavern. Or share a Caprese Plate before digging into Neopolitan-style pizza at V Pizza.

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Best Military Bases in the U.S. for Families