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11 Great Communities for Military Families

Moving soon? Here are a few places you’ll want to have on your radar.  

By Lindsey Hyde on March 6, 2023

Military mom receiving a warm welcome from her husband and kids. American servicewoman reuniting with her family after serving in the army. Female soldier returning home from deployment.

If there is one group who has relocating down to a T — from scouring the internet for available homes and honing a packing and unpacking system to removing the orange moving stickers from nearly every item they own — it’s military families. And while it doesn’t take them long to become expert movers, they also quickly become aware of what they want out of every new community they call home. Think safe neighborhoods, affordable housing, welcoming residents, family-friendly activities, outdoor recreation options and much more. 

To give families a bit of a leg up when it comes to their next move, we’ve compiled a list of cities/towns near bases that are overflowing with positive qualities. Curious to learn more? Here are just a few U.S. communities that are perfect for military families. 

Rapid City, SD

Rapid City, South Dakota - Street corner with bars open late night, few people in the street. Rapid City is a great place for military families to live.

Newcomers and locals quickly intermingle in Rapid City, a tight-knit community near Ellsworth Air Force Base ripe with activity. Here, community events (psst…great places to meet new friends) are always on the calendar. Think ice skating during the winter, beer and trivia nights for those 21+, live music at local watering holes, a chili cook-off and much more. In addition to events, the city is gushing with excellent eateries that are sure to please the whole family. Examples include Bokujo RamenColonial House Restaurant & Bar and Delmonico Grill, known for its decadent steaks.  

Several good schools can also be found in Rapid City, like Rapid City Catholic School System and Southwest Middle School. Plus, while here, families can find several educational activities to take part in together, such as exploring The Journey Museum & Learning Center, which features information about Native American culture and the Black Hills, or driving just 30 minutes to Keystone to check out Mount Rushmore. 

As for housing, families can find homes within a range of price points here, though its median listing home price is about $342,000, according to realtor.com. 

Abilene, TX

Rooftop at The Grace Museum in Abilene, Texas
The Grace Museum / Courtesy of the City of Abilene

Approximately 15 minutes from Dyess Air Force Base is the fun and charming city of Abilene. Home to roughly 125,100 people, this bustling city is full of friendly people, family activities and tons of attractions, making it a great place for military families — even if it’s just for a few years. 

Your whole crew will love Abilene Zoo and Abilene State Park, and if there is a four-legged friend in your family, a stop at Camp Barkeley, an off-leash dog park, might just become part of your Saturday morning routine. Other great parks to visit in the area include Grover Nelson Park and Arthur Sears Park

Airmen at Grain Theory in Abilene, Texas
Brandon McNeil Photography / Courtesy of Grain Theory

Housing prices in the city are pretty reasonable, with the median listing home price coming in at about $250,000, according to realtor.com. Plus, Abilene boasts several friendly, welcoming neighborhoods. Though Abilene hosts some great family-friendly events, like the Inspired Goods Craft & Vendor Market, trivia and live music can also be found at one of the city’s breweries or restaurants. 

Leavenworth, KS

"Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the historic clock tower that can be seen for miles"

Flourishing with outdoor fun, plenty of restaurants and a calendar full of events, Leavenworth is an excellent community for military families. Plus, it’s located less than 10 minutes from Fort Leavenworth

Kids of all ages and their parents are sure to thrive here. The City of Leavenworth Parks and Recreation offers youth sports and several classes for adults, from basic dance and boxing to PiYo. Not only does this provide ways for families to stay active, but it’s also a great way to connect with their new community. Additionally, the area allows for several outdoor activities. For example, families can walk or bike Three-Mile Creek Walking Trail or spend the weekend camping at Riverfront Park & Campground. As for restaurants, the city is home to a variety of establishments, like Baan ThaiAcapulco Mexican Grill and Luigi’s 418 Italian restaurant. 

When it comes to community events, it seems like there is always something on the schedule. Examples include a cocktail and charcuterie party at Next to Nature Farm and First City History Festival, which highlights the history of the community and features food trucks, music, games and more.  

As for securing a house, Leavenworth is home to a variety of reasonable options. In fact, the median listing home price is $192,000, according to realtor.com.

O’Fallon, IL

Several advantages come with making O’Fallon home. It’s less than 15 minutes from Scott Air Force Base, making it the perfect location for service members and their families. Plus, the community is warm and friendly. Several summer camps are available for kids through O’Fallon Parks and Rec and youth and adult sports leagues. The community also hosts events like the Vine Street Market and Micro Market

When it comes to education, the city has a variety of well-rated schools, like O’Fallon Township High SchoolHinchcliffe Elementary School and Scott Elementary School. O’Fallon is less than 40 minutes from St. Louis, opening families up to a wealth of attractions and activities.   

O’Fallon’s food scene has several great options, as well. Peel Wood Fired Pizza serves up delectable tacos, pizzas, salads and soups, and Bella Milano O’Fallon is a favorite that offers a menu filled with hand-battered shrimp scampi, Cajun gouda chicken, fettuccini alfredo and much more.   

San Diego, CA

Naval Base navy guard boat patrol against modern nuclear aircraft carrier in San Diego, California, USA

While San Diego is close to several military bases, like Naval Bases San Diego and Coronado and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, the city has far more to offer service members and their families than just proximity. For example, the San Diego area is home to several excellent schools, such as Coronado Unified School District and San Dieguito Union High School District — both of which have landed on lists for the best school districts in California.  

When it comes to family time, the city is booming with activities that appeal to all ages. Examples include the San Diego ZooSafari ParkUSS Midway MuseumSeaWorld San Diego, and plenty of outdoor spaces, like Balboa ParkSunset Cliffs Natural Park and Civita Park. And when residents get hungry, San Diego’s wide selection of cuisine will make every family night out an adventure. A few recommendations include Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, which takes TV dinners to a new level, and Farmer’s Table Bay Park, which serves American and Italian dishes. 

Families can make friends quickly when it comes to getting involved, as the area is home to several non-profits that offer volunteer opportunities. The community hosts many events throughout the year, like Lane Field Park Market, which features food, fun and music.

Warner Robins, GA

Water tower overlooks the town of Warner Robins, GA.

Just outside the gates of Robins Air Force Base is the bustling city of Warner Robins. Many military members often plant roots here post-service, and it’s easy to see why. The community of more than 81,400 people offers a friendly, small-town vibe, though it’s overflowing with amenities. Families can enjoy Rigby’s Entertainment Complex, which offers mini golf, laser tag, roller skating, bowling and more, a water park called Rigby’s Water World, the Museum of Aviation and the Elberta Train Depot and WWIII Museum, among other things. In addition, the city is full of cute shops and delicious eateries, like Metropolis Grill and Thai Pepper

jet on display

While the amenities here are excellent, one of the city’s best attributes is its attitude toward newcomers. Families are met with open arms, and it doesn’t take long for them to feel at home. The city hosts several events, from farmer’s markets and 5Ks to a Fourth of July celebration, where people can congregate and get to know their neighbors. 

Plus, when it comes to housing, Warner Robins is the perfect place to find both temporary and forever homes — its median listing home price is just under $215,000. 

Clarksville, TN

Clarksville is a city in and the county seat of Montgomery County, Tennessee

About 15 minutes from Fort Campbell is Clarksville, home to about 171,000 people. While fully stocked with your basics — think Target, Walmart and all your go-to chain restaurants — the city’s hub (it’s cute and quaint downtown) exudes a homey atmosphere that the locals love. Here, the community gathers for the Clarksville Downtown Farmers Market, outdoor yoga, live music events and much more. Plus, it’s also where you’ll find several beloved local restaurants, like Strawberry Alley Ale Works, which offers a delicious weekend brunch, and Blackhorse Pub & Brewery, serving up mouthwatering specialty pizzas. Another great spot less than 15 minutes from downtown is Black Rifle Coffee Company, a veteran-owned coffee shop with a menu full of delicious beverages. 

In addition to its great food/drink scene, Clarksville offers several outdoor gems. For example, the Clarksville Greenway and Dunbar Cave State Park are great places to get out and walk. Plus, while it’s pretty common to meet new friends at downtown events, the city is also home to several non-profits where newcomers can volunteer and get better acquainted with their new community. 

Also worth mentioning? Clarksville is less than an hour from Nashville, meaning weekend trips to Music City are a must!

Dayton, OH 

Gorgeous Dayton, with its Midwest flair, bourgeoning arts scene and collection of local shops and eateries, is approximately 20 minutes from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

One of its top perks? Its cost of living is pretty reasonable. The median listing home price is just under $130,000, according to realtor.com. Plus, thanks to the city and its surrounding region’s outdoor attractions — think 340+ miles of trails and the Mad River — families can find plenty of free or low-cost activities to fill their time. 

Green and blue space only begin to scrape the surface when it comes to Dayton-area amenities. It is home to a plethora of family-friendly activities, like the National Museum of the United States Air ForceThe International Peace Museum and America’s Packard Museum. Plus, with Dayton’s long list of restaurants, every family member (even the pickiest eater) will find a spot they love (check out Agnes Eats and Amber Rose Restaurant & Catering). 

Additionally, it won’t take long for families to find their place in Dayton. The city is home to groups like the Downtown Dayton Partnership, which is always looking for volunteers to help put on its numerous events.

Fairfax, VA

A sunny suburban view across the water of Fairfax

Nestled in northern Virginia, Fairfax boasts the perfect location. It’s roughly 30 minutes to Fort Belvoir, 30 minutes to Washington, D.C., and approximately 70 minutes to Baltimore. Not only does this open families up to a long list of activities, but with a population of roughly 24,300, Fairfax offers more of a cozy, small-town scene compared to some of its big-city neighbors. 

Though Fairfax elicits an infectious, hospitable vibe, it also creates opportunities to connect newcomers with their community. Volunteer Fairfax, a local non-profit, pairs individuals and families with volunteer options that fit their lifestyle. Not only is this a great way for families to learn about and explore their new community, but they often meet new friends in the process. 

The area is filled with plenty of ways to recreate. Families can walk, run or bike along the 45-mile Washington & Old Dominion Trail, eat at local favorites, like Bellissimo Restaurant and Hamrock’s Restaurant, and enjoy the arts at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts.

Columbus, GA 

Uptown Columbus, aka downtown Columbus, GA
Courtesy of Georgia Power

The jovial city of Columbus is less than 15 minutes from Fort Benning, making it an easy commute for service members. The prices here won’t break the bank — the median listing home price is $165,000, according to realtor.com — and families can choose from several safe neighborhoods. Columbus also boasts many excellent schools, such as Rainey-McCullers School of the Arts and Columbus High School

As far as outdoor attractions, families can walk or run along the Chattahoochee RiverWalk, fish at West Point Lake or try their hand at whitewater rafting at Whitewater Express. Plus, the city is home to an amazing arts scene, which includes the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and phenomenal restaurants, like Mark’s City Grill and Ruth Ann’s (the classic French toast is a must-try).

Making new friends comes easily here, as Columbus hosts several community events, like Market Days, every Saturday morning from April through November. 

Southern Pines, NC

Roughly 35 minutes from Fort Bragg is the quaint community of Southern Pines. Its flourishing downtown is lined with local shops and restaurants, and with less than 16,000 people, the area offers a small-town feel that the locals love. Activities run the gamut here, as the community hosts family-friendly events like First FridaySpringFest and Halloween Haunt, and many establishments like The Wine Cellar and Hatchet Brewing Co. often host live music. 

Southern Pines makes the transition simple when it comes to getting involved in the community and offers something for everyone. The town is home to Pace Yourself Run Company, which has a run/walk club, and the Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities hosts lecture series, book clubs, writer-in-residence readings and much more. Families also have plenty of options for spending time outdoors, as the area is home to Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve and Reservoir Park — both offer excellent hiking trails. 

While Southern Pines has much to offer, it is also in a great location. It’s only a little over an hour from Raleigh, should families want to get out and explore. 

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