Arlington County in Northern Virginia is home to a famous and easily recognizable duty station - the Pentagon. The Pentagon and its surrounding base, Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall, serve more than 150,000 service members and their dependents. The Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) region has some of the highest military populations in the United States, making it an excellent place to live for service members and their dependents.
The Pentagon/Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall duty station and its surrounding area (the DMV) was one of my favorite places to live because of the activities to do, the community, climate and geography, academics, and the duty station itself. I lived there for two years and through COVID-19, but I was still able to experience some incredible things. In this two-part article, I've included information about the subject topics listed above, as well as recommendations and suggestions for individuals moving to/near this station or for anyone simply curious about the duty station.
Activities To Do
The DMV region is full of exciting places to go and things to see. There are many options for eating out, visiting museums and historical sites, and shopping.
Due to the cultural diversity of the region, it is easy to find good food, especially exotic food from different countries like Thailand and Nigeria. There are niche places with fusion food and cute, Instagrammable food like the Magnolia Cafe in Vienna, Virginia. Places like the Eden Center in McLean, Virginia, offer a wide selection of international food in one convenient location.
The DMV region has many interesting places to visit and explore. I loved going to museums and shopping around Georgetown. If you’re in the area, I recommend you take time to see some of the historic monuments and learn more about the history of the area. There are many historical sites throughout the region, including the Capitol Building, the Library of Congress, the Arlington National Cemetery near Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, and the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. My favorite thing to do was living out my Designated Survivor and Madam Secretary dreams by walking around the Washington Monument and National Mall. Additionally, the Pentagon is located near Pentagon City Mall, a massive shopping complex and retail district. Some other well-known malls include Tyson’s Corner Mall and Springfield Center.
Outdoor activities such as the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C., the United States Botanical Garden, and zip-lining in Rock Creek Regional Park in Maryland were some of my favorite things to do. There are also many national parks nearby such as Manassas National Battlefield Park and Prince William Forest Park. In general, the area is well equipped for exercise with an abundance of parks and recreation centers scattered throughout neighborhoods. Finally, don't forget to swing by Commanders and Nationals games and show your DMV spirit!
The significant military presence in the DMV region is certainly seen throughout the community. Schools supported a large population of military teens, diversity was ever-present around me, and patriotism was abundant.
When I lived in the DMV region, I experienced the largest amount of military brats I've ever encountered living off-base. Many service members and their dependents chose to live off-base because the DMV region has many excellent neighborhoods and schools. I got a chance to experience somewhat of a normal life living off-base while still being connected with milteens in the area. I became close with many other military brats at my school, and many of us keep in touch even through our PCS's.
In my school, I had around 50 military-connected teens, making the adjustment a lot easier. My school was well-equipped to support PCS's and deployments, had ambassador programs, and recognized not just my father's service but also my service. While I cannot speak for all the schools in the area, I have found that most are welcoming and understanding of our situations.
The cultural diversity of the region and being located near the capital allows different cultures and experiences to mix. I've had the pleasure of meeting the children of diplomats, government officials, and numerous other interesting individuals. Meeting such a diverse group of people with different life experiences led to me considering different things, and sometimes even changing my opinions. I have a more open perspective and have learned more about different cultures and movements.
In addition, the patriotism of the area is also notable. I’ve noticed many individuals are very proud to be American and live close to the capital.
The DMV community is truly unique in its diversity, the support of the military community, and its patriotism.
Climate and Geography
The DMV has four distinct seasons - humid summers, crisp autumns, freezing winters, and rainy springs. However, it can be a bit erratic. For example, it is common to snow on Sunday, be 75 degrees on Tuesday, and storm with 30mph winds on Thursday. I recommend you make the most out of it and enjoy your random three-day weekends by hiking and walking alongside the Potomac. The area is very pretty after it rains or snows.
The region has clusters of urban spaces and rural farmland. While the Atlantic Ocean is no Malibu beach, things like the beach-fronts of Ocean City, Maryland and forests farther inland kept me busy. Skiing and snowboarding are also very popular due to the close proximity of mountains. You can travel to New York City and Chicago within a day.
You can get the best of all worlds by living in the DMV region, just be sure to watch out for cicadas when they awake from their four-year slumber!
The DMV region is an activity-dense, military-friendly, unique area. Stay posted for part two, which includes information on the academics here and specifics on the duty stations!