During the month of August, we are exploring the wide world of places military families are stationed. Air National Guard spouse Rheanna shares a few of her favorites about living near Washington, DC. Further proof that military families get to live everywhere, as we made our Japan bucket list earlier this week. Enjoy! ~Rebecca
When my husband joined the military, we weren’t yet married. But it was a decision we made together, having been together since high school. I knew it was something that he wanted. When “we” began our journey as an Air National Guard family I never dreamed we would end up on the opposite end of the United States by choice! After leaving California for a full-time Guard position, we spent years in Nevada. We lived in the high desert not far from Lake Tahoe. We are connected to that place, its where our children were born and where we began our lives.
Washington, DC was a place that we always wanted to visit. The experience and opportunity for us and our children was exciting. It turned out that the moving part of being active duty military was something that we wouldn’t have minded. So, we created our own adventure by choosing where we wanted to go. DC feels big and crowded and is in the top five most expensive places to live in the United States. But we have grown to love it here. The landscape is beautiful, it’s centrally located for travel to many states, the amount of history present is sometimes daunting, and the opportunities are endless.
Washington, DC – The Land of Military
Being stationed here as a military family is a unique experience. There are so many bases in the area, and many people here choose to live off base. Two duty stations, The Pentagon and Fort Myer, have very few homes, and the Pentagon has none. So many people choose to live within the civilian communities, which is much like my life as a Guard family.
Bolling Air Force Base
8th and I Marine Barracks
The Navy Yard
The Naval Research Laboratory
3 Coast Guard Bases
Bolling Air Force Base
Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Nearby Maryland Installations Andrews Air Force Base
Marine Corps Base Quantico
Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall
Nearby Maryland Installations
Andrews Air Force Base
This isn’t even scratching the surface, and there are about ten other bases I could have included in this list. Another unique part about living in this area is that many people choose to live further away from their duty station so that they can have more property or larger houses for less money. The commute is going to be crazy anyway, might as well embrace it.
Visit the homes of presidents, monuments, libraries, the National Archives, and National Battlefields. We’ve been here seven years and have barely scratched the surface. My oldest’s favorite place to be is the Washington Monument. The opportunities that my children have had, some of which are regular field trips, most kids will never experience, and this is one of the reasons we love it here so much. I never imagined making a tradition of celebrating mother’s day at Mount Vernon’s restaurant. What I urge families to do when they move here is not to let the crowds or traveling into the city overwhelm you. Embrace your time here for all that it has to offer.
I never really knew I was a foodie until we moved here. Over the past seven years, we have eaten at some of the coolest and yummiest places. When you come visit with me in Northern Virginia, you can pick from one of the 10 pho places near me and you can’t go wrong. They are all amazing, and I’ve tried every single one. Here in the DC area, you can sample food from every culture. I recently tried Iranian food for the first time, at a place called Amoo’s, which is rated one of the best places to eat by DC Magazine.
You can sit where John F. Kennedy and other Presidents, Senators, Ambassadors, and DC celebrities have and try Martin’s Tavern. It’s our go-to place to take visiting friends and family. Visit Edgar’s, the former location of the private men’s club that J. Edgar Hoover made his own. Try Asian Fusion at MASA 14, home of the best brunch I’ve ever had in my life. Check out Ben’s Chili Bowl, where most presidents and those running for office stop to get a bowl of DC’s best chili.
Most importantly look for Restaurant Weeks. They have them in DC, the National Harbor, Alexandria, and other cities around DC. It’s the place where you can find extraordinary deals on places that you might never go to eat because the dollar amount is astronomical!
We love our beaches here in DC! You can travel 2-3 hours and find some beach fun in several different states. Visit them all and decide whether you are a Virginia, Maryland, or Delaware Beach family. Some of the top destinations are Virginia Beach, Dewey Beach, Ocean City, Rehoboth, and Bethany. You can even stay on the famed Misty of Chincoteague Islands and see the wild horses. While we have chosen to stay within the 2-3 hour limit, you can be a part of the more adventurous set that travels down to Topsail, Myrtle Beach, or the Outer Banks in the Carolinas.
The Great Outdoors
Visit the Blue Ridge Mountains and hike around in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. Rent a house or Cabin at Lake Anna or Smith Mountain Lake Resort. For a journey a little closer to home visit Great Falls on the Virginia or Maryland Side and see the beautiful falls and enjoy a family hike. Combine your love of history and hiking and visit Prince William Forrest, which the precursor to the CIA (the OSS) used the land for spy training during WWII. Lastly, you can’t live here and not experience the beauty that is the Shenandoah National Forrest, an 80,000-acre park established in 1935.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of what it’s like being stationed in the National Capital Region, but I hope you have a small taste of the fun that awaits you. As in all things, there are ups and downs, positives and negatives; but if you look at it as an adventure, it can be anything you want it to be. There’s something for everyone here so have fun!