Joint Base Lewis-McChord is home to more than 40,000 Military personnel and their families. Situated on the Puget Sound in Washington, this populous Military base puts you right between the cities of Tacoma and Olympia.

Looking for some Pacific Northwest fun? Whether you’re visiting the area or call it home, there are plenty of indoor and outdoor activities for both kids and adults.

Here are some of the top things to do near Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

1. Children’s Museum of Tacoma

For Military Spouses with energetic and eager kiddos, the Children’s Museum of Tacoma is just a 15-minute drive up I-5 N from JBLM.  This giant playground-classroom combination gives kids from birth to age eight the opportunity to develop their creative, social, and emotional skills, while also focusing on critical problem solving and literacy learning.  

Explore a variety of playscapes among the museum’s five main areas: Water, Woods, Voyager, Invention, and Becka’s Studio. From now through September 2, Becka’s Studio is featuring a “Shapes” class, where kids and their adult supervisors can create splatter shapes on the wall, build 3D sculptures, and learn new geometric patterns.

2. Lakewold Gardens

Sometimes you just need a peaceful escape. Dubbed an “inspirational experience,” Lakewold Gardens is a charming retreat on the edge of Lakewood, WA. This historic estate garden features lush gardens, structures engulfed in winding vines, fresh smells, vibrant colors, and a plethora of walking trails. Trails can be wet or uneven, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes. The venue is free for kids under 12 and they offer a Military discount.

For a rainy day, you can head into the indoor grounds where you’ll stumble upon a library, full kitchen, and winding staircase. Stop by the garden shop before you leave and snag a few plants for your own garden. There’s a good chance you’ll leave Lakewold Gardens with a greener thumb than when you came!

3. Debbie DoLittle’s Indoor Petting Zoo

What’s better than going to the zoo? Going to a petting zoo. Debbie DoLittle’s Petting Zoo lets you get up close and personal with a plethora of well-loved rescue animals. From lizards and snakes to baby goats and cows, kids, teens, and adults can enjoy interacting with unique wildlife. Snag a cup of carrots for $3 and feed the animals, then refill your cup for $2.

Visitors rave about the friendliness of the animals and the kindness of the staff, which is why this Tacoma gem is a popular destination for birthday parties and family get togethers. Note that although the indoor petting zoo location is closed for renovations until September 8, 2018, their traveling petting zoo services are still available.

4. Grand Prix Raceway

If you and your friends or kids are in search of an exhilarating activity, take a spin (or five) around the track at Grand Prix Raceway. This indoor kart racing facility boasts real competitive racing karts, wide racing surfaces, a computerized scoring system, and a climate-controlled viewing lounge.

Racers can compare lap times and scores and take trophy photos. Dubbed one of the fastest indoor tracks in the country, this is a must-do activity for thrill seekers.

5. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is a three-thousand acre refuge featuring loads of salt and freshwater marshes, lush grasslands, and wooded forests. Walk along the flat boardwalk to soak it all in, or opt for one of the off-the-beaten-path trails for a scenic and peaceful hike. You’re sure to spot a wide range of migratory birds, including eagles, owls, and waterfowl.

Expert bird watchers and boaters recommend visiting within two hours of high tide to see the most wildlife. If you’re looking for more information about the estuarine habitats you visit, stop in the museum or grab a book from the gift shop.

6. Lakewood Playhouse

Do we have any theater buffs? Even if you’re not constantly humming along to Hamilton or re-reading Shakespeare’s classics, Lakewood Playhouse is an entertaining venue for all who enter its doors.

This charming community theater features an intimate ambience, comfortable seats, weekly classes and performances, and summer camps for aspiring actors. Another perk? Unlimited popcorn for $3. Season tickets and flex passes are available now for their landmark 80th season!

7. Discover Nature

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to really immerse yourself in the beauty of Washington, booking a personalized tour of Mt. Rainier National Park is sure to fill that void. Discover Nature tours offers small, intimate tours, manageable for all fitness levels.

In the fall and summer, you can travel from temperate rainforests to sweeping mountains and meadows — all in the same day. The full day tour features waterfalls, giant trees, and of course, endless amounts of wildlife.

During the winter months, Mt. Rainier is a snowy wonderland.  You’ll strap on a pair of snowshoes and trudge through glistening, crisp terrain.

8. Gig Harbor Gondola

If you’re in the mood for a tranquil, history-inspired activity, hop in a Gondola and cruise down Gig Harbor. As the only Venetian gondola operation in the Pacific Northwest, Gig Harbor Gondola will transport you right to the canals of Italy.  

As you make your way down the harbor, an authentic gondolier will guide you through the history of Gig Harbor while you nosh on snacks like grapes, cheese, and crackers. Some of the gondoliers have been known to serenade passengers in Italian.

9. Charlotte’s Blueberry Park

The name of this destination isn’t a coincidence. Once a family farm, this 20-acre public park features hundreds of blueberry bushes, offering fresh berries ready to be picked and savored. 

Charlotte’s Blueberry Park welcomes patrons looking for a healthy treat, brisk nature walk, or scenic family picnic.

Bonus: This Tacoma gem is free!

10. Road Trip to Seattle

Last but certainly not least, Military Families living near Joint Base Lewis-McChord can take advantage of being nearly 40 miles away from Emerald City — more commonly known as Seattle.

Take a day-trip or spend a weekend exploring all that Seattle has to offer. Also known as the Coffee Capital of the World, there’s no better way to start your trip than to snag a fresh cup of Joe at Pike Place Starbucks (a.k.a. the original Starbucks!). Once you’re fueled up for the day, you can visit hotspots like Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, and the Sky View Observatory before making the short trek back home.

Whether you venture on a mini road trip to the big city or stick around and enjoy local charm, there’s no shortage of things to do near Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

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