By Carla Olivo, Marine Spouse
The Fort Belvoir homepage states: “A list of the organizations who call Fort Belvoir home reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the Department of Defense.” Often in the shadow of the Pentagon, there is perhaps no other Army installation in the world that can compare to Fort Belvoir’s diverse mix of commands, activities and agencies. This northern Virginia military installation provides logistical, intelligence and administrative support to a wide range of United States military organizations.
Here is PCSgrades‘ list of all the things you need to know before relocating to northern Virginia and the National Capitol Region.
More than the Pentagon?
Fort Belvoir is home to nearly twice as many workers as the Pentagon. Fort Belvoir is the largest employer in Fairfax County. The Post is actually comprised of three geographically distinct properties: the main post, Davison Army Airfield, and the Fort Belvoir North Area.
Agencies headquartered at Fort Belvoir include: the Defense Logistics Agency, the Defense Acquisition University, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the Defense Technical Information Center, the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command, the United States Army Military Intelligence Readiness Command, the Missile Defense Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, all agencies of the United States Department of Defense.
The main post at Fort Belvoir is located off Interstate 95 (exit 166), 12 miles south of Washington, D.C., 9 miles south of Alexandria, 7 miles north of Woodbridge and 5 miles west of Lorton. There is one school on post – Fort Belvoir Elementary School. Two off-post public schools include: Walt Whitman Middle School and Mount Vernon High School. Fort Belvoir Community Hospital is northern Virginia’s home for world-class military healthcare with satellite health centers in Fairfax and Dumfries. Fort Belvoir also features a Commissary, Post Exchange, Class Six store and two joint service spouses clubs: the Belvoir Officer Spouses Club (BOSC) and the Belvoir Enlisted Spouses Club (BESC).
Housing in and around Fort Belvoir
On-post housing on Fort Belvoir is privatized with two to five bedrooms available in new and historic housing in 15 different villages. Homes are available for military families from all branches of service assigned to duty stations in the National Capitol Region to include Fort Belvoir, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, and the Pentagon. Select homes are also available for geographical bachelors and single soldiers E6 and above. All homes offer dishwashers, refrigerators, high-speed Internet connection and electric washer/dryer connections. If you have lived in on-post housing on Ft. Belvoir, we would love to hear from you. Leave a review of your housing experience here.
There are five state-of-the-art Community Centers on post that offer free Internet access, copying and faxing services, along with free meeting and party facilities. There is a free community pool located in Woodlawn Village along with picnic pavilions, fitness trails, basketball and volleyball courts, a dog park, and playgrounds. Other amenities of living on-post include: an 18-hole golf course, a marina, field house, bowling center, movie theatre, Officer’s Club and pool, and skate park.
There are many options for housing off-post. But get ready for some sticker shock as the D.C. suburbs feature 7 of the country’s 10 richest counties. Single family homes, townhouses, condos, and apartments can be found in both urban and rural settings a short distance from Ft. Belvoir.
NOVA (Northern Virginia)
- Fairfax County, Virginia (Falls Church, Reston, Tyson’s Corner, McLean, Great Falls, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Lorton, Oakton, Springfield, Burke, Annandale, Chantilly, Centreville and Clifton) is the largest county in the Washington, D.C. area. It falls inside and outside the beltway and is home to George Mason University.
- Arlington and the city of Alexandria, Virginia are inside the beltway.
- Prince William County, Virginia includes Woodbridge, Dumfries, Haymarket, Occoquan, Lake Ridge, Manassas, and Manassas City.
- Loudoun County, Virginia includes Sterling, Ashburn, Potomac Falls, Countryside, Middleburg, South Riding, Hamilton and Dulles International Airport.
Prices vary widely depending on the county you choose to live in. If you work with a PCSgrades reviewed realtor, you’ll find there is a rental or mortgage to fit every BAH.
Traffic in and around Washington D.C. is the worst or near the worst in the nation according to most traffic studies. A typical NOVA commuter spends an additional 82 hours behind the wheel annually due to traffic delays which is why many commuters use public transportation. Families choosing to live off-post often select housing in Fairfax Station, Lorton, Woodbridge, Alexandria, Springfield and Burke to avoid daily traffic snarls.
Flying in and out of the area is relatively easy. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is approximately 15 miles from Ft. Belvoir. Dulles International Airport is 33 miles from post and Baltimore/Washington International Airport is 55 miles away.
Enjoy the Outdoors!
Despite being close to a major urban area, there are many outdoor areas to enjoy including:
- Ft Belvoir Marina – Located on the beautiful Potomac River – takes boaters past Mt. Vernon, the home of George Washington, and north to the nation’s capital, offering a view of the city’s monuments and parks.
- Mason Neck State Park – southern Fairfax County, about 20 miles from Washington, D.C. – hiking trails, a large picnic area, a playground, a car-top canoe launch, visitor center, canoe, kayak, bicycle rentals and bird watching
- Great Falls National Park – 800 acres along the banks of the Potomac River in northern Fairfax County, Whitewater kayaking and canoeing – Fifteen miles of scenic hiking trails, five of which are multi-use for horseback riding, hiking, and biking. – Rock climbing on the cliffs in Mather Gorge above the Potomac – The falls total 76 feet (20 m) over a series of major cascades.
- Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park – Dates back to the 18th century – The canal and towpath trail extends from Georgetown, Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland, a distance of 184.5 miles- outdoor recreation, picnicking, bicycling, fishing, boating and hiking
- Georgetown Waterfront Park – along the Potomac River – picnicking, bicycling and skating
- Rock Creek Park – extends 12 miles from the Potomac River to the border of Maryland. The National Zoo is located within Rock Creek Park. Lots to do including: picnicking, hiking, biking, rollerblading, tennis, fishing, horseback riding, concerts, planetarium shows, animal talks, exploratory hikes, crafts, and junior ranger programs.
There are four distinct seasons in Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and surrounding areas. Winters are relatively mild with an average snow fall for the region of 15.4 inches with three quarters of it falling in January and February. In the spring, people come from around the world to see the Cherry Blossoms along the Tidal Basin in downtown D.C. Summers are hot and humid with temps often rising above 100 in July and August. The mild temps tend to stick around in September and October, but by Halloween the fall foliage is in full view with the vivid colors of autumn.
Customs & Traditions
One of Ft. Belvoir’s largest events of the year is the annual Oktoberfest, a four-day festival highlighting authentic German food, beverages, music, and dancing. Fun events geared towards the whole family include: a carnival, Volksmarch 10K Walk, and a Craft Show.
If you want to venture off-post, you won’t be disappointed! Fall is a beautiful time to visit downtown D.C.! From mid-September until Thanksgiving, and again from about mid-January to June, Congress is in session which means the hotels are full of guests and the restaurants and bars are doing a booming business. In January of 2017, downtown hotels and restaurants will be especially packed when the new President is inaugurated. It is the highlight of several weeks of special events, parades and balls. From mid-March through June, families and school groups pack the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms and enjoy Washington’s monuments. This is also high season for protest marches.
May features a month-long celebration called Passport DC, which showcases more than 70 embassies and cultural organizations with tours and open houses. A summer highlight is the annual Fourth of July festivities. There is an Independence Day Parade along Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Streets NW, A Capitol Fourth Concert featuring world renowned musicians and singers at the U.S. Capitol west lawn. And of course, fireworks over the monuments! Fort Belvoir hosts a Fourth of July concert on-post as well as fireworks after dark.
From seeing all the names on the Vietnam Memorial wall to climbing the massive steps to the Lincoln Memorial to visiting the National 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon, Washington’s monuments never get old! If you are lucky enough to have the chance to volunteer either at the airport or at the World War II Memorial during an Honor Flight, do it! And bring the kids! It is a special moment you will never forget seeing these brave men and women visiting their memorial for the very first and for many the last time.
Variety is the key word when it comes to cuisine in the northern Virginia/Washington D.C. area. With an international flavor and the fact that many of those living in and around D.C. are originally from somewhere else, the cuisine is eclectic to say the least. In the mood for Salvadoran food…its here! Want to try Ethiopian cuisine? We got it! How about Indonesian? Yep! Regional specialties include: blue crabs from Maryland and peanuts and country ham from Virginia.
Things To Do
Virginia may be for lovers, but it’s also for WINE lovers! With over 250 wineries, you might be hard pressed to visit each of them in one 3 year tour! But it’s worth a try!
Within an hour or two of the politics and the history, you can have your toes in the sand of the Delaware coast or immerse yourself in the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania! The excitement of New York City is a 3 hour train ride from historic Union Station.
Ft. Belvoir Leisure Travel Services offers deeply discounted tickets to many local and national attractions, vacation packages, Disney tickets, ski lift tickets, amusement parks and much more! They also offer frequent bus trips to New York City. Check it out here!
Annapolis, Maryland – 32 miles; 1-hour drive – Gorgeous town, quaint restaurants and the Naval Academy!
St. Michael’s, Maryland – 79 miles; 1.5-hour drive – Maryland’s Eastern Shore features crabs and scenic water views like no other!
Gettysburg (84 miles), Hershey (130 miles), Lancaster (120 Miles) Pennsylvania – Three unique Pennsylvania cities within 3 hours of the metro area – Relive the civil war in Gettysburg Learn the unique story of Milton Hersey and immerse yourself in the life of the Amish in Lancaster, PA.
Shenandoah National Park & Luray Caverns, Virginia – 3 hour drive; 120 miles – Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, west of Washington, D.C. Skyline Drive is the only public road running through the Shenandoah National Park. Nearby Luray Caverns is the largest series of caverns in the east. This eerie underground world of stalactites and stalagmites is worth a day trip from NOVA.
Richmond, Virginia – 108 miles; 2-hour drive – Virginia State Capital with a thriving restaurant scene and craft beer breweries.
Lewes/Rehoboth Beach, Delaware – 121 miles; 2.5-hour drive – What can we say? It’s the beach! Bring your lotion and your bathing suit and enjoy!
Philadelphia, PA – 138 miles; 3-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. Delicious local Philly cuisine is available at the historic Reading Terminal Market.
Chincoteague Island, Virginia – 170 miles; 3.5 hour-drive – Do not miss watching the ponies at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on the quieter side of the Eastern Shore!
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