Which duty stations are on your “dream sheet”? When military families receive their PCS orders for a new duty station, it’s both exciting and stressful. Where is this military base on the map, and why haven’t they heard of it before? The location of their next base (or post, for the Army) can significantly impact their family’s quality of life. The right bases for military families can make all the difference.
Luckily, the 10 bases on this list are well-known, and their reputation makes them popular choices for military families. These bases are known for their family-friendly environments, abundant amenities, and the sense of community they offer. Let’s explore the top 10 military bases for families based on the most preferred locations for each branch.
You Want to Be Stationed at These 10 Best Bases for Military Families
1. Fort Carson, Colorado: Army
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Nearest Metropolitan Area: Colorado Springs, CO
Number of Service Members: Approximately 25,000
Popular Base Amenities: Exceptional schools, childcare services, plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities
Why Military Families Love It Here: Fort Carson offers a unique blend of outdoor adventure and community support. With the stunning backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, the post provides numerous opportunities for hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities. The nearby city of Colorado Springs offers excellent schools and plenty of family-friendly events and attractions, making it an attractive destination for Army families. You’ll find Air Force and Space Force families stationed here too, at nearby bases and the Air Force Academy.
2. Naval Base San Diego, California: Navy
Location: San Diego, California
Nearest Metropolitan Area: San Diego, CA
Number of Service Members: Over 20,000
Popular Base Amenities: Beautiful beaches, top-notch healthcare facilities, numerous family-oriented activities, employment opportunities
Why Military Families Love It Here: San Diego boasts a year-round temperate climate, which is perfect for outdoor family adventures. The city’s vibrant culture, numerous restaurants, and educational opportunities make it a welcoming place for military families. The picturesque beaches and proximity to attractions like Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, and LEGOLAND add to the appeal. Marines and Coast Guard families can also get orders here. Be sure to start a family budget as soon as you get orders here, because you’ll find that all these activities are expensive.
3. Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington: Army and Air Force
Location: Tacoma, Washington
Nearest Metropolitan Area: Seattle, WA
Number of Service Members: Approximately 56,000
Popular Base Amenities: Highly-rated schools, diverse housing options, outdoor recreational opportunities
Why Military Families Love It Here: Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) offers a wide range of activities for families in the Pacific Northwest. Tacoma and nearby Seattle provide cultural fun and educational opportunities. Families can explore nearby national parks, such as Mount Rainier, or enjoy the many hiking and outdoor activities the region offers. You can even take a day-trip to Canada! You’ll meet many Navy families stationed at nearby Kitsap and Whidbey Island bases. Housing costs are high here, so make a plan to save up for a home.
4. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California: Marine Corps
Location: Oceanside, California
Nearest Metropolitan Area: San Diego, CA
Number of Service Members: Over 42,000
Popular Base Amenities: Excellent schools, beachfront access, healthcare specialists, cabin and RV rental, large lake and campground
Why Military Families Love It Here: Sprawling along the Southern California coastline between Orange County and Oceanside, Camp Pendleton offers military families the chance to enjoy a beautiful climate and beachfront living. The base is known for its excellent hospital and quality schools. With San Diego and Disneyland each a short drive away, there’s no shortage of entertainment, cultural events, and outdoor activities to enjoy.
5. Langley Air Force Base, Virginia: Air Force
Location: Hampton, Virginia
Nearest Metropolitan Area: Norfolk, VA
Number of Service Members: Approximately 9,000
Popular Base Amenities: Great schools, historic sites, water recreation opportunities
Why Military Families Love It Here: Langley AFB is steeped in history and offers a variety of educational opportunities for military families. The Hampton Roads area is a hub of cultural and historic sites, providing enriching experiences for families. Water lovers will appreciate the base’s proximity to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
6. Fort Belvoir, Virginia: Army
Location: Fort Belvoir, Virginia
Nearest Metropolitan Area: Washington, D.C.
Number of Service Members: Over 30,000
Popular Base Amenities: Excellent healthcare, renowned schools, cultural attractions
Why Military Families Love It Here: Situated just outside the nation’s capital, Fort Belvoir provides access to world-class healthcare facilities and top-rated schools. Families can explore the rich history and culture of Washington, D.C., as well as the nearby Mount Vernon estate. The base itself offers numerous recreational opportunities and a tight-knit community. Living this close to the nation’s capital provides endless job opportunities for military spouses. Washington, D.C. is a popular area for families to live after leaving the military, so you’ll find a strong Veteran community here.
7. Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii: Navy and Air Force
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Nearest Metropolitan Area: Honolulu, HI
Number of Service Members: Approximately 66,000
Popular Base Amenities: Pristine beaches, water sports, cultural events
Why Military Families Love It Here: Who wouldn’t want to be stationed in paradise? Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam offers military families the chance to live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. With year-round warm weather, stunning beaches, and countless water activities, it’s a dream destination for Navy and Air Force families. Marine families stationed in Hawaii are nearby on the other side of the island of Oahu. The cost of living is higher than average, but Hawaii counts as an overseas location, so you’ll receive COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) here.
8. Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City, North Carolina: Coast Guard
Location: Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Nearest Metropolitan Area: Norfolk, VA
Number of Service Members: Approximately 1,200
Popular Base Amenities: Close-knit community, quality education options, water-based activities
Why Military Families Love It Here: While smaller in size compared to some other bases, Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City is known for its close-knit community. The surrounding area offers quality education, and its location along the Pasquotank River provides opportunities for fishing, boating, and water-based family fun.
9. Fort Stewart, Georgia: Army
Location: Hinesville, Georgia
Nearest Metropolitan Area: Savannah, GA
Number of Service Members: Over 18,000
Popular Base Amenities: Quality healthcare, excellent schools, historical sites
Why Military Families Love It Here: Fort Stewart provides a warm, family-friendly environment in southeastern Georgia. The nearby city of Savannah is known for its historic charm and cultural attractions. And you’re close enough to the beach to spend a weekend there (a rare privilege for Army locations!) The post offers quality healthcare and access to top-notch schools, making it an ideal destination for Army families.
10. Travis Air Force Base, California: Air Force
Location: Fairfield, California
Nearest Metropolitan Area: San Francisco, CA
Number of Service Members: Approximately 10,000
Popular Base Amenities: Exceptional schools, outdoor recreation, access to cultural events
Why Military Families Love It Here: Travis AFB is conveniently located near San Francisco, providing military families with access to quality healthcare, cultural events, and numerous outdoor recreational opportunities. The base itself offers excellent schools and a strong sense of community. Plus, it’s a hub for Space A travel, which allows military families to fly affordably to other military locations, including those overseas!
Military families don’t always get to choose where they will live next, but it’s true that their duty station can significantly impact their quality of life. Local options for schools, spouse jobs, childcare, and healthcare all factor in to overall family satisfaction.
The top 10 military bases for families mentioned here offer a combination of exceptional amenities, educational opportunities, and a strong sense of community that make them highly desirable for service members and their loved ones. Whether it’s the beautiful beaches of California, the stunning landscapes of Colorado, or the cultural richness of Washington, D.C., there’s a base to suit the preferences of every military family.