Nestled near the tip of Southern Maryland lies Naval Air Station Patuxent River better known as PAX River, home to Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and Naval Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), it is called the place where the future of naval aviation begins.
While being in the forefront for naval aviation is NAS Pax River's claim to fame, the area itself holds a unique charm and beauty. With a host of restaurants, chain and independently owned, parks, beaches and lively community, the area known as St. Mary's County is not one to bore. It has the small city with a touch of country charm that appeals to those who love the city and those who feel more at home in the country. It's just over an hour from our nation's capital and two hours from Baltimore.
ARRIVAL AT PAX RIVER
When you first arrive, you can stay at the pet-friendly Navy Lodge or the Navy Gateway Inn. If those are not available, there are a host of hotels out in town that are military and pet-friendly.
Housing is abundant. Owned and operated by Lincoln Military Housing, Pax River has six housing areas in all. The three located on base are:
• Lovell Cove – newer with 3-4 bedroom spacious homes
• Carpenter Park – historical and renovated, also hosts 3-4 bedrooms
• Gold Coast – Officers housing – lies in the heart of the Patuxent River
For those looking to live off base, there is:
• Glen Forest – right outside of Gate 2 with 2-4 bedrooms
• Challenger Estates – 10-15 minute drive from the main base – officer single family homes and enlisted duplexes ranging from 3-4 bedrooms
• Columbia Colony – Officer housing right behind Target – single family homes with 3-5 bedrooms – about 5-10 min from the main gate.
You can check out more info on Pax River Housing here.
Schools are highly rated and are all a part of the St. Mary's County School District where per their website "Over 94% of our students graduate ready to take on the challenges of college or careers. With almost 18,000 students, our school system is large enough to offer a wide variety of academic programs and services, yet small enough to maintain an atmosphere of friendliness, helpfulness, and personalized service."
With a host of early childhood education programs, 19 elementary schools, 5 middle schools and 4 high schools, there is room for your children no matter their grade level. There are also abundant extracurricular activities for your students to explore their hobbies and interests. For more information, head over to St. Mary's County Schools to gain more insight.
PARKS AND BEACHES
Probably the BEST part of St. Mary's County is the parks and beaches! They are plentiful and there is one of each to suit every need. Lancaster Park located on Willows Road right outside of Gate 2 has two dog parks for both large and small furry family members. Other amenities include a beautiful jogging trail, football fields, basketball hoops and baseball fields. It is also home to the Little League football team the Pax River Raiders!
NAS Pax River has some of the best parks in the area. Many are nestled on the beach n base (more on that in a minute) or in hidden areas. They are all clean and all provide seating areas, grills, and a scenic view. Who knew?! St. Mary's River State Park is $3 per vehicle. It boasts a long trail that you can walk, ride a bike or horse on, or have access to the water. Nicoleti Park is $2 per person per day. They also have the option to purchase season passes for the family or single individual. This park is a water fun type that has plenty of spray and fountain fun for the kiddies to enjoy.
There is also Greenwell State Park where admission is on the honor system. It hosts trail rides and a historical home where weddings take place. It is also a favorite spot for those that like to fish and for photographers who enjoy the scenic setting for their clients.
My absolute favorite park, Pointe Lookout Park is the gem of the parks in the area. It sits at the southern tip of Maryland and hosts not only a park, but a fabulous beach as well. There are plenty of spots for fishing, camping and just all-out family fun. There are 143 wooded campsites and 6 camper cabins available for overnight stays. Did I also mention this park is also a civil war museum? All around the park there are historical markers to educate you on how that area participated in the war. We have been twice in two years and have yet to touch it all. Admission varies and it's on the honor system.
Speaking of beaches, remember when I mentioned that the Base has a great one? I was not kidding. NAS Pax hosts a gorgeous beach along the back end of the base. It also has a beach house that has a private beach as well.
PAX RIVER WEATHER
Maryland experiences the four distinct seasons of fall, winter, spring and summer. Winters are relatively mild with an average snowfall for the region of 14 inches with most of it falling in January and February. Summers are hot with high temperatures reaching 87 in July. Mild temps stick around in September and October, but by Halloween the fall foliage is in full view with the vivid colors of autumn.
ENTERTAINMENT AND SHOPPING
A host of restaurants along the main strip (Three Notch) include: Outback, Applebee's, Texas Roadhouse, and Olive Garden. There is also the local owned and loved Linda's café who makes the BEST breakfast in SoMD and Bollywood Marsala, a fabulous Indian restaurant that never disappoints. There are plenty more restaurants in the area to please your palate.
Shopping isn't sparse either! While the closest mall is 45 mins away in Waldorf, MD, there are still PLENTY of shops! JC Penny, Belk's and Kohl's are the major Department stores in the area, along with a Target, Wal-Mart, Marshalls, Ross, Best Buy and a slew of other stores. The Base also hosts a Navy Exchange (NEX) for service members to take advantage of savings on otherwise high priced products. For groceries, there is a small commissary. Weis is coming soon to replace two local Food Lions. There is also a Giant, Aldi, and Shoppers which offers a 10% military discount on total purchases on Mondays and a 15% military discount on Shoppers brand products all other days and a Harris Teeter coming soon.
• Washington D.C., – 85 miles; 1.5-hour drive
Monuments, Smithsonian, the White House, history comes alive at the Nation's Capitol!
• Annapolis, Maryland – 85 miles; 1.5-hour drive
Gorgeous town, quaint restaurants, and the Naval Academy!
• Philadelphia, PA – 185 miles; 3.5-hour drive
Make like Rocky and take a run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. History comes alive on Independence Mall and at the Liberty Bell and local Philly cuisine is available at the historic Reading Terminal Market.
• St. Michael's, Maryland – 112 miles; 2.5-hour drive
Maryland's Eastern Shore features crabs and scenic water views like no other!
• Lewes/Rehoboth Beach, Delaware – 150 miles; 3.5-hour drive
More beaches! Bring your lotion and your bathing suit and enjoy!
All in all, NAS Pax River is a great place to be stationed. You can enjoy 'quiet city living' all while not being too far from the big city to get your thrill. And this is coming from a big city Girl!
Welcome To NAS PAX RIVER!
This post sponsored by PCSgrades.
In military life, there is really nothing more stressful than a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). Deployments are a close second, but a PCS takes the cake. Combine a PCS with a deployment and not only do you want to eat all of the proverbial cake, you want to guzzle copious amounts of wine, too. We see you. Cheers.
One company, PCSgrades, is trying to make the PCS process feel more like a three-letter acronym than a four-letter expletive. Founded by veteran Todd Ernst, PCSgrades is the epitome of the military community taking care of its own. "PCSing has an emotional connotation," said Ernst. "We use it as an adverb, adjective, a noun and even as a cuss word."
Ernst started PCSgrades in 2015 after seeing friends struggle with unethical real estate agents and being taken advantage of by moving companies who knew DoD would be a paying customer no matter how poorly the companies treated their clients - us.
Here are 4 resources PCSgrades provides that you need to make moving easier:
1. Housing reviews
Does it get any more stressful than finding out where you're going to be stationed, Googling base housing at that station and getting results from 15 years ago (if you find anything, at all)? Nope, no it doesn't.
PCSgrades is changing the game on that by having military families who live in an area provide honest, candid reviews of their housing so incoming families can benefit. With reviews of both on and off base locations, families can finally get the truth about housing, whether it has black mold or the best views in town.
2. Moving company reviews
Great, you've figured out where to live; that's half the battle. The other, larger, more complex half? Figuring out how your stuff is going to get there. Knowing someone else will be handling your personal property and driving away with it for the foreseeable future is stressful enough. But not knowing what that company's background is, well that's a whole different ball game.
PCSgrades has countless reviews of moving companies provided by military families who have used them. Let's be honest: You wouldn't try a new Chinese delivery place without looking at reviews … why should picking a moving company be any different?
3. Area guides
The giant Google machine can only get you so far in life when you're researching your new duty station. We know you're busy and you want one-stop shopping on the interwebs. What you really need is aggregate data of things like schools to attend, restaurants to try, day trips to take and neighborhoods to avoid.
Introducing Area Guides, which offer exactly that: a holistic view of where you're moving and what to do once you get there. The best part? These are written by military families who have done it, for military families who are doing it.
4. Network of realtors and resources
PCSgrades has a nationwide network of A-graded realtors who know and understand the military and veteran lifestyle. Many of the realtors are veterans or spouses themselves, which takes the empathy to a whole new level. Having a realtor who gets the pressures of PCSing and the challenges of a military move is key to finding the right home for your family.
"I have friends who are hundreds of thousands of dollars upside down after bad home choices," Ernst said. "Housing choices can be pretty limited. Our moves are way more expensive than the typical civilian move." This is why Ernst created a way to alleviate the pain points for military families through PCSgrades.
In addition to a network of realtors, PCSgrades partners with "HomeScout," which allows you to search up-to-date home listings nationwide. Simply create an account with PCSgrades and the realty world is your oyster.
Whether you're looking for a new neighborhood, trying to find a vetted realtor, need a PCS checklist (let's be honest, is it on your radar to look at the expiration date of your military ID card two months before you PCS? Yeah, we know the truth; download the checklists here), or you're just wanting to know more about where you're heading, PCSgrades is making moving easier for every military family. Pay it forward by leaving reviews and be sure to take advantage of their excellent resources, today.
This post sponsored by PCSgrades.
Yeah! You got orders to (insert foreign country overseas)! You can already picture your kids in the international school, speaking with cute little accents and wearing local garments. Adorbs. You've got your housing picked out, adventures planned and passport photos taken. You're ready for your epic move ... except for that 13 hour plane ride. Have you wrapped your head around that yet? Before you grab for a paper bag and start hyperventilating, use our travel hacks to help make the emotional turbulence you're experiencing a little lighter.
We've all said it: "We'll drive. It won't be that bad." We picture the adventure, the memories, the nostalgia of car trips when we were younger.
But if we're really being honest with ourselves, think back to those car trips. Someone was crying. Someone was puking. Someone was whining. That person very well may have been your poor mother. True story, my mom once got out and walked along the highway when all six of us kids wouldn't stop fighting. A long car trip can be daunting, but with our tips and tricks they don't need to be.
WE ALL HAVE OUR SHARE OF HORROR STORIES WHEN IT COMES TO MILITARY MOVING!
Name the most disgusting item erroneously packed by your movers… for me it was used coffee grounds and of course, trash. For others, I've heard everything from wet towels to dirty diapers. I've caught movers raiding my fridge, lounging on my mattress in my front yard, and throwing out items that they've broken. Raise your hand (or have a drink) if you ever had packers show up late (or not at all). Ever had packers get into a shouting match among themselves as they were packing your china? Or have you caught your movers throwing boxes down the stairs to the basement? That would be me!
With each military move, there are "lessons learned". For instance, I won't go into great detail but let's just say after watching one packer go directly from using the restroom back to packing my kitchen without washing his hands, we now use gigantic ziplock bags to "pre-pack" all my kitchen utensils. A packers' bare flesh has never again touched one of my kitchen utensils.
My family's last military move was by far the shortest, only 1½ miles up the road. We were moving from a rental to a home we purchased. It was by far the worst in terms of damage and overall angst. I think because we were only "moving up the road" the pack job left a lot to be desired. I found one box of dishes which had not one piece of wrapping paper! Instead two throw pillows from my family room were used as a buffer! Amazingly, nothing was broken! Go figure!
When I heard glass shatter in the moving truck, I asked one of the guys what shattered.
There are any number of reasons why in a given situation renting might be better than buying or vice versa. For military families, it might make more sense to buy at one duty station and then rent at the next. Up for consideration with each PCS is whether to buy or rent, to stay on-base or off. In making these decisions, there are numerous pros and cons to consider.
PROS TO BUYING
- Purchasing the right home can be a great financial investment that can grow in value over time.
- Tax deductions such as mortgage interest and property taxes can greatly reduce your overall income tax burden if you itemize.
- Being a homeowner can give you pride of ownership and a sense of stability, rare in the military life which can seem nomadic at times.
- A mortgage payment that is lower than your BAH can result in a boost to your savings.
- You can decorate however you want! Goodbye white walls! Hello, Color!
- Anyone can stay with you at any time. So it is not a problem when your Mom or sister comes for an extended stay during a deployment or following a PCS.
- You can do (almost) whatever you want….host a late night party, plant a garden, knock a wall down!
- There are no security or pet deposits when you buy a home.
- You have the opportunity to become a landlord when military orders arrive and you have to move. Your home can become an investment property, providing a source of income which can partially or totally offset your mortgage, taxes, and insurance payments.