If your family just got word that you’re moving to JBLM (Joint Base Lewis McChord in Tacoma, Washington, you’ve come to the right place.
But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill guide.
You won’t discover what schools are the best, where you should live, or the best doctor; instead, this Duty Station Spotlight will fill you in on things you want to know about like favorite day trips, radio stations, and all the yummy places to eat.
This Duty Station Spotlight is from Sarah, a 30-something army wife, bonus mom to one, and a former social worker turned PA student who’s trying to keep it all together with the help with seltzer water.
And great news: she’s lived in Tacoma for 9 years, and her husband’s been in the area for 14 years; they have a wealth of knowledge to share. Keep up with their adventures as they cruise around the PNW in their vintage VW bus! So if you’re moving to the JBLM area, she has all the info.
First Things First: The Basics
What were your first impressions of the area after moving to JBLM?
I absolutely adored Tacoma from the first moment I saw it. I visited a friend stationed here 2 years before I officially moved here. We have the best of everything–city, ocean, mountains, mild climate, amazing summers and awesome people.
How did you feel at the end of the tour? Did your impressions change?
Tacoma definitely has its ups and downs. Over the last 9 years its gotten more expensive and the traffic has gotten way worse. But, with that being said, I cannot imagine living anywhere else.
I’m super used to the rainy winters by now but I always plan a trip someplace warm end of Feb/beginning of March because the gray starts to wear on me.
What is ONE THING you wish you had known before moving to JBLM?
People in Washington don’t use umbrellas!
Good (Local) Eats
If someone came to visit you, and you had to take them out to eat, what would your TOP THREE favorite places be?
Oh. Man. I LOVE food so this is really hard.
1. Duke’s Chowder House (the views and the food make it some of the best)
2. Royal Thai Bistro it’s a pretty nondescriptive-looking restaurant in a strip mall but we eat here almost every week and it’s amazing.
3. Red Elm Cafe because what is Washington without hitting a great coffee shop? Their avocado toast is amazing!
Favorite place(s) for coffee and/or dessert?
Okay. I’m the weirdo who doesn’t love coffee. I’m more a chai latte girl. My favorite drive-up coffee shop is Cafe Elite which has locations all over the JBLM area.
If we’re really wanting to spoil ourselves for dessert I’m going to drive you the 45 mins up to Seattle to have a molton chocolate cake from Hot Cakes. But if we don’t want to make that drive we’ll head into Metropolitan Market in the Proctor District for “The C0ookie”
Is there a farmer’s market scene in there? Tell us about it!
There are several throughout the area but the biggest one is in the Proctor District. But remember the growing season in Washington is later than you’d find on the east coast so don’t expect tomatoes and cucumbers until late July early August.
Best place for brunch? And your favorite thing to order, please!
Brunch is my love language.
My favorite thing to get is ALWAYS french toast. And you cannot miss Dirty Oscar’s Annex (featured in Diner’s Drive in and Dives). They have a captain’s crunch French toast that is TO DIE FOR. My husband likes their Stuffed Pancake which we always call, “the football,” because its stuffed with eggs, hash, bacon, etc.
We also love the Waffle Stop for their bacon stuffed waffle (bacon is my husband’s love language)
How about a fun night out on the town for a date night?
We love hitting McMenamins Elks Temple. They’ve got multiple themed bars (including a hidden one), a concert venue, pinball etc.
Get Around (and out of) Town
Top five favorite things to do in Tacoma:
Picture this: You have a whole weekend to go somewhere within driving distance: Where are you going and what are you doing?
Our other favorite is drive two hours south to the Columbia River Gorge. We got engaged here and its got hiking, wineries, several hot springs, and a bunch of waterfalls. We’re working our way through this book and any route is great!
What was your favorite park in town?
Point Defiance is like our Central Park!
Any museums worth checking out?
All the Extras
Favorite radio station?
I mostly am an NPR girl, but 107.7 plays alternative, 93.3 is Hip Hop, 92.5 is pop, 98.9 is country
Info on your favorite hair salon/hair dresser, please and thank you.
I’ve been getting my hair cut by Alisha at Che’mel salon for 7 years. I won’t recommend anyone else! My favorite place for a mani pedi is V Nails. But my husband (who gets more pedicures than I do) swears by Luxury nails on Center Street.
Like a Local
Were there any instagramers, bloggers, or specific non-military affiliated Facebook groups you followed?
JBLM has a couple of groups that are about the same as any other duty stations. If you love food then I would recommend getting into the “Where to Dine Pierce County” group. Recommendations out the wazo!
Any festivals, fairs, or events worth checking out?
The Washington State Fair is held the next town over and held every September. Monday’s are military Monday and you get in free with a military ID. Make sure to get a scone.
That being said, the Greek Festival is my FAVORITE thing that tacoma has to offer. Held the first weekend of October it has food, dancing, greek products. It’s AMAZING.
Tell us about the weather.
So. Yes. it does rain here. But it’s not a soaking east coast rain. Think more drizzle and gray from November-June. It never gets much colder than 45. July-November it’s in the 70s and gorgeous with very little rain. The summers more than make up for any gray.
If you’ve been stationed at JBLM in Tacoma, Washington, please share your favorites in the comments!