Living in Fort Lewis WA (2020) | The ULTIMATE Moving to Fort Lewis Guide

Fort Lewis in Pierce County, Washington supports tens of thousands of retired and active military personnel and their families. Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) is one of the most sought-after U.S. military installations thanks to the amazing views of Mt. Rainier, Olympia Mountains, and the Cascade Mountains and it offers plenty of on-base amenities including a huge park with a skate park and splash pad, movie theater, indoor pools, and a bowling alley. While living in Fort Lewis, you won’t be far from the amenities of Tacoma and Seattle but you’ll enjoy more affordable living if you decide to buy a house nearby.

After moving to Fort Lewis, Washington, you can even enjoy plenty of outdoor activities like fishing, kayaking, and boating accessible from the base at Russell Landing Marina on American Lake! Get ready for a great quality of life for the entire family at Fort Lewis.

Fort Lewis, WA Demographics & Population

Located in Pierce County southwest of Tacoma, Fort Lewis has a population of 14,000 and it’s located in the 98433 zip code and the 253 area code. Joint Base Lewis-McChord, however, has an active population of 130,000 which makes it the 5th largest military installation in the world by population and the largest single employer in the state of Washington. This includes over 45,000 family members living on and off the post and 32,000 military retirees plus 52,000 active-duty military and Department of Defense civilians.

While many people living in Fort Lewis are in privatized housing owned and managed by Lewis-McChord Communities, LLC or living in Unaccompanied Housing, a large share of retired and active military personnel are in community housing in surrounding cities and towns like Tacoma, Lacey, Lakewood, and Olympia.

The median age in Fort Lewis is just 22 with a median household income of $42,782.

Fort Lewis Climate – Embrace the Rain

Fort Lewis is in a warm Meditteranean climate with warm, dry summers between May and August with cool temperatures the rest of the year. Like many areas of Washington, Fort Lewis gets plenty of rain and overcast days but not much snow. You’ll get about 48 inches of rain per year and 138 sunny days a year, below the average of 205 sunny days across the U.S.

During the summer, it gets up to 77 degrees while winters get as cold as 35 degrees in January. That’s more comfortable than most of the country!

Cost of Living in Fort Lewis, WA

How much does it cost to live in Fort Lewis? While Washington is known for its high cost of living, Fort Lewis is in one of the more affordable areas around Tacoma. The average home price in Washington state is $428,000 but Fort Lewis is near more affordable areas like Lakewood where the average home price is $232,000, Lacey ($242,000), and Olympia ($265,000) which are all within 10 to 20 minutes from post.

Living in Fort Lewis, utilities and transportation are lower than the national average but housing can still be higher than the national average.

Best Fort Lewis Neighborhoods You’ll Love

There are many communities around Fort Lewis popular with military relocation buyers. The closest communities to the Fort Lewis gate near I-5 are Dupont, Lakewood, and Steilacoom. These popular Fort Lewis neighborhoods offer unbeatable convenience plus great schools. Steilacoom is just minutes from post and a small town of just 6,000. Lakewood, a larger city of 58,000, has plenty of neighborhoods to explore. It’s also home to some of the most affordable neighborhoods near Fort Lewis if you’re planning to buy a home. From Lakewood, you’ll be just 15 to 20 minutes from anywhere on post.

Lacey is one of the most popular places to live near Fort Lewis. It’s just south of post and 10 minutes from the main gate. Hawks Prairie, the northern area of Lacey, is home to many active and retired military families, although it has an Olympia post address thanks to somewhat confusing boundaries between Olympia and Lacey which have run together. It’s also home to Aspire Middle School for the Performing Arts, one of the region’s best-rated schools!

Fort Lewis Schools & Higher Education

After moving to Fort Lewis, WA, you can take advantage of off-base and on-base schools. There are on-base preschool and elementary schools as well as Woodbrook Middle School, Clover Park High School, and Lakes High School plus some private school options.

If you live off-base in a nearby community, you will be served by the closest school district. There are dozens of communities surrounding Fort Lewis served by the largest districts of North Thurston School District, Bethel School District, and Olympia School District.

Considering higher education for yourself or your family after relocating to Fort Lewis? There are plenty of colleges and universities near Fort Lewis like Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom just five miles away plus higher education opportunities in Tacoma such as Tacoma Community College, the University of Puget Sound, and the University of Washington Tacoma Campus.

Top Things to Do in Fort Lewis, WA & Best Restaurants

Fort Lewis is just 11 miles from Tacoma and 41 miles from Seattle for all of the action and excitement of the big city. Here’s how easy the drive is from Fort Lewis to Seattle, WA when you feel like enjoying a night out.

Still, you don’t need to go far for fun; there are plenty of interesting things to do in Fort Lewis without leaving JBLM. There’s also plenty of convenient shopping in the area such as McChord Field Commissary, McChord Food Court, GNC, McChord Field Main Exchange, H&R Block and McChord Express. Here’s a look at some of the best Fort Lewis attractions to keep the whole family busy.

Sounders Lanes

Sounders Lanes is one of the best things to do in Fort Lewis with kids! There’s 12 lanes of bowling and bowling leagues are available for all ages. Plus, there’s a Warrior Zone Annex with Playstations and Xboxes free to use and an indoor playground and Laser Maze for younger kids!

Sounders Lanes, 737 Jackson Blvd, Steilacoom, WA 98388 (253) 982-5954

Heritage Hill Airpark

The McChord Air Museum is comprised of two parts: the museum and the Heritage Hill Airpark, both of which offer free admission although non-military visitors must obtain a visitors pass first. See relics and displays like the B-25 Mitchell nose positioned to view the bombardier’s space while the Heritage Hill Airpark features fifteen aircraft in mint condition.

Heritage Hill Airpark, McChord AFB, WA 98438

Flight Kitchen DFAC

The Flight Kitchen is open 24/7 delivering boxed meals for Department of Defense employees, dorm residents, flight crews, and active duty members. Choose grab-and-go meals with sandwiches and salads right on the flightline for easy access.

Flight Kitchen DFAC, DFAC, Building #548, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA 98438 (253) 982-2828

Brittany’s Gourmet Coffee

Start your morning right with fresh coffee, sandwiches, and pastries from Brittany’s Gourmet Coffee right on JBLM.

Brittany’s Gourmet Coffee, 690 Barnes Blvd, Lewis McChord, WA 98438

Economy & Jobs in Fort Lewis, WA

Of course, the economy of Fort Lewis revolves around Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington’s largest employer with over 52,000 Department of Defense and active-duty military members. Support for the base and services for military personnel and dependents also creates many jobs in the area especially in:

  • Health care
  • Food services
  • Education
  • Real estate services
  • Retail
  • Transportation
  • Construction

Moving to Fort Lewis Tips

  • Explore surrounding areas like Olympia, Lacey, Steilacoom, and Dupont if you’re going to live off base
  • Explore on-base amenities including a great park and splash pad, bowling, air museum, a movie theater, pools, and restaurants
  • Choose from many highly rated schools in the area
  • Enjoy a lower cost of living than surrounding areas of Washington
  • Learn to love the rain and overcast days living in Fort Lewis!

Ready for the adventure of moving to Fort Lewis, WA? The trusted movers at All Ready Moving are here to help! We do it all, including local, long-distance, international, and military moves to help you settle into your new home without the stress. Call us or fill out the Request a Quote form to get started with a free moving estimate!

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