As part of a military family, you’ve probably been to your local base a few times. But you may not know that your local military installation provides many free or discounted services and activities that are available for the entire family.
So what exactly is on base for military families? Programs vary by location so check with your local installation, but the following is a list of what you can expect:
Bowling is a fun family activity available on base for great prices. Some locations also have arcades and snack bar facilities, as well as availability for children’s birthday parties.
Equestrian Services and Horse Stables
Some installations have horse stables with services like guided trail rides, pony rides, horseback riding lessons, birthday parties and boarding for private horse owners.
Family Support Centers
The Navy calls it Fleet and Family Support (FFSC). The Army calls it Army Community Services (ACS). Regardless of the name, most bases have family support centers that provide a wealth of free services, including relocation assistance, spouse employment resources, new parent education, transition assistance, financial planning and deployment support. The helpful employees know just about all there is to know about military life!
Fitness Centers and Gyms
Gyms off base are expensive. That’s why the free fitness centers on base are perfect for your workout needs. Not only do you have access to things like free cardiovascular and weight-lifting equipment, basketball and racquetball courts, and group classes like spinning, yoga and zumba, but you can also sign up for fitness events like 5k runs.
Information, Ticket and Tours Office (ITT)
You can find the latest information about local events like concerts and athletic games at the Information, Ticket and Tours or ITT office. They also provide discounted tickets to parks, museums and vacation spots like Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios. (Depending on the service, it may also be called the Leisure Travel Office or Information, Ticket and Recreation.)
Almost every military installation offers free legal assistance to servicemembers and dependents. Military lawyers, or JAGs, can help you by drafting wills and powers of attorney, reviewing contracts and leases, notarizing documents and providing tax advice.
MWR libraries are great places to bring the kids for story time, computer access, study rooms, summer reading programs and other events and activities for both adults and children.
Military installations offer cheap temporary lodging that’s perfect for when you’re traveling. But bases can offer more than that. Some installations have cottages, cabins and townhomes used for vacation rentals. And some have campgrounds and RV parks that provide BBQ areas, laundry and kids’ areas.
Many bases have movie theaters that offer free or reduced prices. Check on your base website for movie schedules and special free events like family movie nights.
Outdoor Equipment Rentals
Many Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) locations rent outdoor equipment for personal use. Rentals include many items including boats, kayaks, bikes, camping equipment, grills and even campers.
Pools and Water Parks
Most bases have indoor and/or outdoor pools that families can use for both fitness and recreational needs. Some bases even have water parks that are open in the summer that have snack bars. Great for birthday parties!
Thrift shops are great ways to find cheap treasures like clothes, home furnishings, kids’ toys and uniform items. Most thrift shops on installations are operated by the base spouses’ organization or the services’ relief society (like the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society), and profits support charitable causes like scholarships and youth activities. Most of the goods are donated so even if you’re not in the market for new stuff, it’s a great place to donate those unused items sitting around your house.
What do you and your family like to do on base?
-- Heather Sweeney can be reached at Heather.Sweeney@monster.com.
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