Learning to live life anywhere is the trademark of any successful military family. Yet even with today’s resources helping you navigate everything from mortgages to school zones, the all-important question of how to start loving life in your new hometown has gone unanswered — until now.
The faster you are willing to immerse yourself into the local scene, the quicker a strange place starts to feel like home. Make the absolute most of your next military move by embracing everything each place has to offer.
How to live like a local at Joint Base Lewis–McChord and NAS Whidbey Island (Washington State)
How to “PNW” — Yes, even when it is raining
Step one for Pacific Northwest (PNW) life is to buy yourself a solid rain jacket, beanie, and a warm pair of socks. You’ve probably heard it drizzles there, yet a quick glance around tells you that does not stop the locals. A mild climate means light jacket weather year-round, with warmer, drier conditions during the summer. Gearing up guarantees never missing a day to play.
What is there to do at JBLM and NAS Whidbey Island?
With a down coat in hand, PNW is all about getting outdoors — and then indoors again to enjoy a killer line-up of craft beers, coffee, wine, and a bomb food scene that is as rad as you’ve heard.
Both Joint Base Lewis–McChord (JBLM) and NAS Whidbey Island border the Puget Sound region of Washington. While Seattle is an amazing destination, there is much more to Washington state. Taking full advantage of the incredibly diverse landscape is a must while living here. So, pick a spot on the map, hop on a ferry or two, and work up an appetite as big as your daytime adventure.
Washington is home to major outdoor recreation spots, including three major National Parks. Discovering turquoise lakes in the Cascades, catching a glimpse of the purple starfish and anemones during low tide at Ruby Beach, or experiencing an internationally recognized hiking trail in the Hoh rainforest is all possible here.
Day trip on Whidbey Island
Whether you hopped a ferry from JBLM or are rounding the curved island roads from NAS Whidbey Island, make plans to stop at these hidden island gems. Driving the length of the island takes about 2 hours, but plan for the entire day so you have plenty of time to pull off and explore.
Venture to Deception Pass State Park with a stop at Rosario Beach (make sure to check the tide charts for low tide). Grab lunch to go at Pickles Deli just outside of Clinton for crave-worthy artisanal options. The northern town of Anacortes is as picturesque as it gets with sails luffing and seagulls mewing, and on clear days you can view the tops of the Cascades.
Hit the slopes
With access to beaches all year round on the coast, come winter you may want a change of scenery. Holidays in Leavenworth, a Bavarian-style mountain town offers charm for all ages and is just east of Stevens Pass — one of several skiing options available.
Eat and drink like a local
The PNW is a mecca for foodies. Answering the question, “Where should I eat?” is easy — everywhere (so long as it’s a local place). If you don’t know where to start, try one of these routes.
- Coffee- The first-ever Starbucks is located in the heart of Pike Place Market in Seattle and it may be the most famous place for java, but the PNW is also known for micro coffee stands sitting conveniently alongside almost any major roadway. Washington takes its coffee seriously, so there is hardly a way to go wrong. A local favorite? Whidbey Coffee.
- Be an adventurous eater- Ditch your next scheduled pizza night and opt to please your palate with options like pho, a Vietnamese soup that puts all others to shame; teriyaki — not the sauce, but the charbroiled plate option; or alder wood-smoked salmon if you’re feeling fancy. The best place to grab a slice, hands down, is Alfy’s Pizza.
- Date night drinks- Washington is home to more than 900 vineyards, 400 breweries, and counting. Use one of the linked interactive maps to drink from the source, or simply dine locally and try a flight of the unique spirits grown here.
Local Pro Tip
Getting used to traffic flows year-round is an important thing here, and for good reason, too. Ferry schedules and availability, work traffic on I-5, and snow conditions on the pass will absolutely dictate your next trip. Plan ahead and save yourself hours.