One of the greatest perks of military life is seeing the world, one duty station at a time. We polled military spouses around the globe asking them to share the “must-see sights” near their installations. Here are locations to add to your travel bucket list:
1. Location: Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia
Must see: National Museum of the Marine Corps
With such exhibits as the leatherneck gallery, “making Marines,” and the incredible Legacy Walk, the National Museum of the Marine Corps is often overlooked but shouldn’t be missed. It’s kid-friendly, informative, well kept and f-r-e-e.
2. Location: Joint Base Pearl Harbor – Hickam, Hawaii
Must see: Coconut Island
It’s hard to imagine finding anywhere in Hawaii that isn’t worth exploring, but you will definitely not want to miss a trip to Coconut Island. For starters, it’s where Gilligan’s Island was filmed. It’s also home to the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. The Institute hosts a “Sunday walking tour,” geared at families with children ages 5 and up. Take a boat ride and experience all the Institute has to offer, from touch tables and shark enclosures, to other exhibits.
3. Location: Joint Base San Antonio – Camp Bullis, Texas
Must see: San Fernando Cathedral
Built in 1731, this ornate cathedral is just as stunning on the inside as it is on the outside. We recommend you take your visit one step further and sign up for the Alamo City Ghost Tour that meets in front of the cathedral. If paranormal is your thing, this tour is for you.
4. Location: Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island
Must see: Castle Hill Lighthouse
Built in 1890, the Castle Hill Lighthouse and adjacent grounds are stunning. Perfect for family pictures or grabbing lunch at the Castle Hill Inn, you can’t miss this historic landmark from the water, and you’ll definitely want to see it by land.
5. Location: Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico
Must see: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
It’s the largest balloon event on earth, and it happens less than half an hour away from Kirtland Air Force Base. This annual event held in October also happens to be the most photographed event in the world.
6. Location: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Must see: Honda Point Memorial
On September 8, 1923, seven Navy ships ran aground at Honda Point, an area otherwise known as Devil’s Jaw or the Graveyard of the Pacific. Twenty-three were killed and numerous others injured in the worst peacetime disaster of Naval History. The memorial pays tribute to this oft-forgotten and frequently unknown event.
7. Location: Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California
Must see: Sky’s The Limit Observatory
With weekly star parties and a 19-acre campus, this observatory and nature conservatory frequently hosts free events to the public. Take advantage of 29 Palms’ remote location by basking in the open sky and learning about the world around you.
8. Location: Naval Support Activity Mid-South, Tennessee
Must see: National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel
Memphis is rife with civil rights history, and there is no better place to learn about it than at this remarkable museum. According to the museum’s website, it offers 260 artifacts, more than 40 new films, oral histories, interactive media and external listening posts that guide visitors through five centuries of history – from the Civil War and Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow, and the seminal events of the late 20th century that inspired people around the world to stand up for equality.
9. Location: Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia
Must see: Nauticus
With the USS Wisconsin on the tour, Nauticus is the perfect place to spend the day exploring. With an IMAX theaterplenty of activities for kids and the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, there is truly something for everyone at this incredible location.
10. Location: Fort Leonard Wood Army Base, Missouri
Must see: Meramec Caverns
The fact that Jesse James used these caverns as a hideout should be enough of a draw, but just in case it isn’t, go for the mesmerizing “jewels of nature” formed by minerals. Whether you take a guided tour or a riverboat ride, spend your time panning for gold or try your turn on the zip line, the Meramec Caverns are a gem of the Midwest.
11. Location: Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska
Must see: Alutiq Museum
With over 250,000 artifacts and an expansive “children’s corner,” the Alutiq Museum is a fascinating walk through history and culture. According to the website, their collections help to tell the Alutiiq story, reaching beyond written records to reveal details from all eras of Alutiiq history. This museum inspires the world to know more about the remarkable heritage of the Alutiiq people.
12. Location: Fort Knox (Army), Kentucky
Must see: Cumberland Falls
Often referred to as Little Niagara, these gorgeous waterfalls are perfect for a family outing. Opportunities abound for horseback riding, rafting, gem mining, and birding, or simply pack a picnic and marvel at the falls.
13. Location: Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota
While it’s not necessarily true that nothing says family vacation like “mutually assured destruction,” you won’t want to miss this fascinating dive into Cold War history. With guided tours and an informational video, there’s a reason this experience is rated 5/5 on Trip Advisor.
14. Location: Camp Smedley D. Butler (Marine Corps) – Okinawa, Japan
Must see: Churaumi Aquarium
This aquarium is one of the largest in the world. Aquarium goers can travel on a journey from shore to the sea, learning and exploring along the way. Exhibits are interactive and enticing, making learning more exciting than ever.
15. Location: Fort Carson (Army), Colorado
Must see: Royal Gorge Bridge and Park
Home to the country’s highest suspension bridge and zip line, Royal Gorge Bridge is the ultimate adventure destination. With breathtaking views, an aerial gondola, theater, and playland, you can easily spend an entire day at this fantastic and fun spot.
16. Location: Carlisle Barracks (Army), Pennsylvania
Must see: US Army Heritage Education Center
In “telling the Army story, one soldier at a time,” the US Army Heritage Education Center informs research while it honors soldiers past and present. With a focus on strategic leadership and the global application of land power, the center is both educational and captivating. Explore a cabin as you take a walk through the Army’s storied history.
17. Location: Hill Air Force Base, Utah
Must see: Antelope Island State Park
With sandy beaches and an inviting lake, this beautiful state park is perfect for a summer visit. In the offseason, take a stroll on one of the many trails and observe the free-ranging bison, mule deer, bighorn sheep, antelope and many other desert animals.
18. Location: Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma
Must see: Bombing memorial
On April 19, 1995, 168 people were killed in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, including two airmen from Tinker Air Force Base. Over 1,000 military and civilian personnel from Tinker took part in the rescue, recovery and relief efforts. The on base memorial pays meaningful tribute to the lives lost that day and to all who helped in the wake of the attack.
19. Location: Camp Pendleton (Marine Corps), California
Must see: Thursday Sunset Markets
In nearby Oceanside, the market comes alive on Thursday nights. With international food vendors, an area for kids, and live music, experience all California has to offer every week. Arts and crafts vendors, excellent people watching and gorgeous views of the ocean make the Thursday Sunset Markets a place you’ll never want to leave.
20. Location: Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio
Must see: Museum of the US Air Force
This impressive museum boasts over 70 aircraft and more than 30,000 artifacts. From photos and personal letters to flight gear and uniforms, this incredible collection has something for all ages. Come revel in the history of March field and learn about the aviators who pioneered the sky.
21. Location: Camp Murray National Guard Base, Washington
Must see: Arsenal Museum
In 1957, Mt. Saint Helens erupted so violently that it killed 57 people, destroyed 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways and 185 miles of highway. The Washington National Guard was immediately deployed. Their heroic search and rescue efforts are captured in just one of the several interesting exhibits at the Arsenal Museum. Museum goers will certainly learn something new as they travel through time with the National Guard.
22. Location: Naval Station Guam
Must see: Haputo Beach
Guam is known for its magnificent views around the island, but Haputo Beach has some of the best. More secluded than Tumon Bay, getting to Haputo requires a short (but fairly steep) hike. If you’re brave enough to go into the jungle, you can see where an ancient Latte Stone still stands.
No matter where PCS season takes you this year, every duty station has its charm, history and must-see destinations. We hope these will be at the top of your travel list.