What are the best military bases for families? There is no one single installation that is “the best”, but there are plenty of military bases that are ideal for families who PCS together. This list is for stateside bases–if you anticipate a new assignment in the United States you may find your base or one of your options on this list.
Joint Base San Antonio, Texas
The Joint Base concept means there are multiple military installations under this umbrella in San Antonio including Lackland Air Force Base, Fort Sam Houston, and Randolph AFB. That means three different options for commissary, BX/PX, Child Development Centers, etc.
San Antonio as a city has much going for it for military spouse employment including options with State and local government, contractor work or Civil Service employment at any of the bases in the area, and San Antonio is also the headquarters of USAA, one of the biggest military-friendly employers in the city.
What else makes this a great place for families? San Antonio is a long-standing military town and the community here is full of retirees, those who have separated from military service, Reservists, and National Guard members.
Naval Base San Diego
Some would automatically rule out California as a place for military families because of the high cost of living. But for some, the ability to put down roots in a place might have a higher priority if the money issues are squared away.
That is one reason why some might consider PCSing to Naval Base San Diego, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Camp Pendleton, etc.
There are so many bases in the local area that an assignment at more than one of them concurrently might be possible depending on a number of variables including the job, mission demands, and other needs.
But with so many bases in the area it is hard to ignore the added value when looking for a Child Development Center, on-base housing, BX/PX/Navy Exchanges, etc. Not to mention the spouse employment opportunities on post at any one of these installations.
Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina
Joint Base Charleston is roughly 10 miles from downtown Charleston, South Carolina and has a large military retiree community. The cost of living here is considered moderate and while hurricane season can be a concern, there are plenty of perks to living in the area that might offset those issues.
They include full service programs for incoming families, Family Centers, and something called the “Key Spouse program” can help new arrivals PCSing to the area. Military housing is privatized here and offered to new arrivals and there are three school districts to choose from in the local area.
In terms of higher education, you have much to choose from including:
- Trident Technical College
- Medical University of South Carolina
- The College of Charleston
- Charleston Southern University
Winters here are said to be “mild and short” and those who like to get the most out of the good weather with their family could find much to love here. Being on the East Coast, this location is well suited for travel all the way up to New York or all the way down to Florida.
Eglin Air Force Base, Florida
Florida has a large number of bases. Some are on the coast, some are inland, all have unique options for families. Eglin AFB in Valparaiso, Florida offers a large number of on-base amenities for families including a 45,000-foot BX and Commissary operation.
Families who want to live on base have many options–there is military housing for E1s all the way through the officer ranks and no portion of the base is rank-restricted.
This Air Force Base features more than two thousand family housing units on base. Nearby, four elementary schools, and two high schools are close to the base with many private school options available, too.
Eglin Regional Medical Center is said to be among the busiest Air Force medical centers and those who prefer off-base care can use in-network TRICARE options.
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
Not all military families will appreciate this location as much as those who love the great outdoors. Life in Alaska is unique and this base has a reputation that makes it tricky to get assigned here–you may have to get in line behind many others vying for the opportunity to live in Anchorage.
Elmendorf has a sizable Exchange and Commissary and that is a benefit people here do not take for granted–much of Alaska’s food supply arrives by plane or by boat and that can raise prices. The lower cost of food and furnishings via the BX/Commissary can be a good perk.
Alaska does not tax individual income and the state also has zero sales tax but some localities may feature a local sales tax instead. This base also features an active Space Available passenger terminal for destinations both in CONUS and outside the United States.
Fort Hood, Texas
Fort Hood might seem a bit underrated to some–it’s true that people tend to cringe at the notion of Texas heat, but this base, just 70 miles from the state capitol, Austin, is a large training base with a good selection of family housing and generally a lower cost of living than you might expect.
The Texas real estate options are more affordable than in other states, and the travel possibilities are excellent–Dallas and Waco are accessible and Oklahoma City is only five and a half hours away by car. There are plenty of attractions here including festivals and farmer’s markets in the city of Harker Heights, and the City of Killeen also features annual events including a rodeo and the Celebrate Killeen fest.
Fort Carson, Colorado
There are multiple military bases in the area, which makes Colorado Springs a great destination for military families who want to find the best of on-base amenities, as well as a thriving local culture and plenty of outdoors adventure.
Just minutes from the city of Colorado Springs, Fort Carson is said to have a population that is mostly families with children who are still in school–some 80% according to some sources!
There is plenty of on-post housing and those PCSing here may send their children to Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, which has four elementary schools and a middle school.
Fort Carson’s options are supplemented by Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, as well as Cheyenne Mountain. Of the local attractions, Cheyenne Mountain State Park and the Garden of the Gods are big attractions.
Naval Station Mayport, Florida
Naval Station Mayport might seem similar to many other options in Florida–it’s a large Navy base, there is lots of recently renovated family housing, the weather is gorgeous and can’t be beat and there are plenty of opportunities to travel up and down the coast, or deeper inland toward Alabama and Georgia.
But the real draw according to some sources? This Navy base features an impressively large military family population. How large? One publication cites a military population of more than 32,000 military families. That isn’t quite as surprising when you learn that the base has expanded over the years and today is said to be the third-largest U.S. Navy fleet concentration in the country, at least where “surface warfare” is concerned.