The time has come. You’ve received your orders for a new permanent change of station: you’ll be moving to Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville.
NAS Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Florida occupies approximately 3,400 acres along the St. John’s River and employs more than 17,000 active duty and civilian personnel. Commonly referred to as NAS Jax, this base was the recipient of the 2012 Presidential Excellence Award and 2013 Commander, Navy Installations Command Excellence Award. You’ll be in good company.
But what about the city of Jacksonville? With over 840 square miles, Jacksonville is the largest city by population in Florida and the largest city by area in the U.S. With miles of beaches, world-class entertainment and countless shopping options, you and your family should never be bored when you have some down time.
So what do you know about your new home-to-be? You may have heard that NAS Jax is the birthplace of the Blue Angels, an aviation team made up of 16 volunteers from the Navy, or that Jacksonville is home to the St. Johns River, one of only two rivers in North America that flows north instead of south. To make your transition more comfortable, we’ve compiled a few things you’ll want to know before your move.
8 things you need to know before moving to NAS Jacksonville
1. There are a ton of housing options.
As you probably already know, when you have to relocate you are given two housing options: living on base or using your basic allowance for housing to move off base. If you choose to move off base, there are many options in Jacksonville and in the surrounding communities that you can choose from.
If you chose to live on base: The Balfour Beatty Communities are a great option. The community offers 302 homes and they are 98 percent occupied year-round.
“Families really have everything on base,” Cynthia Brannan, assistant community manager for NAS Jax, says. “From commissaries, navy exchanges, post offices, laundromats, hair salons, car shops — there are just so many advantages. It’s like its own small city here.”
Aside from offering the safe, welcoming environment of a suburban neighborhood, this community has a variety of free social and learning activities for its families, such as LifeWorks. LifeWorks has programs in seven core areas: life management, physical, mind-building, social, community service, personal safety and environmental.
If you chose to live off base: For those wishing to rent off base, jacksonvillenavalhousing.com has a database for rentals in Jacksonville and its surrounding cities.
2. Moms aren’t alone.
Moving to a new, big city is tough — which is why two mothers–turned-mommy-bloggers created a unique way to get to know people in the area. Vicky Lane and Megan Kilis began Mom Groups, a community for women to connect with other moms, make playdates for their children and meet new people.
These groups meet once a month and are currently in 13 neighborhoods, including:
- Downtown/San Marco/St. Nicholas
- Mandarin/Julington Creek
- St. Johns/210
- Orange Park/Fleming Island/Oakleaf
- Riverside/Avondale/Ortega/Murray Hill
- St. Augustine
- Fernandina Beach/Amelia Island
There are also groups based on lifestyles, including expecting moms, single moms, homeschool moms, working moms, moms of special needs children, military moms and book club moms.
3. Your kids will have the school resources they need.
You want the best for your kids — especially when it comes to their education. This is why NAS Jax has a school liaison officer to serve as a primary link between schools and families.
“The job of the SLO,” the base’s website states, “involves informing and linking military families to the resources and information needed to maximize the educational opportunities to ensure academic success for all military children.”
This includes transitioning information, special needs assistance, post-secondary preparation and other student resources for students in the four surrounding districts:
4. You don’t even have to leave the base …
“The biggest advantage to living here on base is that families have 24-hour maintenance,” Brannan says. “We work directly with the Navy to make sure sailors have every amenity that they need. We also have programs designed for people who don’t necessarily want to live on base.”
Some of these amenities include:
- Dining options: Whether you want to eat at Dewey’s, a full service restaurant and bar with a friendly atmosphere for everyone; Flight Line Cafe, which offers a hot, main course, soup/salad bar, speciality bar and desserts, along with a variety of food to go; Gutterball Grill, a bowling alley snack bar that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner; Mulligan’s, a full-service eatery that overlooks the golf course; or want to host a function at River Cove Catering and Conference Center or Officer’s Club T Bar, there’s something to satisfy your taste buds.
- Recreation: The base is full of things to do in your spare time. Love to bowl? NAS Freedom Lanes has daily specials, summer and winter leagues, intramural leagues, young at heart leagues, command functions and birthday parties. There is also a flying club with private aircraft instruction, a golf course that accommodated people of all skill levels, an auto center to freshen up on your skills and a skeet range, among other things.
- Fun with nature: For those who love to explore the outdoors, there are multiple parks, equipped with playgrounds, shelter and restrooms, scattered around the base. The base is also home to the Mulberry Cove Marina, a place along the St. Johns River where families can learn to fish, sail canoe, etc. For the adventurous, rental options are available for powerboats, surfboards, kayaks and more.
- Programs for the kids: Spring Break Day Camp, Summer Day Camp and Holiday Camp are all available through the Youth Activities Center. Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., kids are entertained with swimming, arts and crafts, hikes, bowling and field trips. There is also a School Age Care Program, which helps kids aging kindergarten to 12 years old with homework, a Child Development Center, a full-time and drop-in care program.
- Athletic opportunities: NAS Jax has three on-base gym facilities: the NAS Jax Gymnasium, Fitness Center and Family Fitness Center; intramural sports for softball, flag football, golf, tennis, racquetball, basketball, indoor volleyball, sand volleyball and soccer; and indoor pool and an outdoor pool; and a softball complex, tennis courts, an outdoor running track and a multi-purpose field.
5. … but you certainly can.
“Jacksonville is a city of neighborhoods, with each area of town having its own personality,” Patty Jimenez, leisure communications specialist for Visit Jacksonville, says. “From historic shopping districts, to vibrant nightlife, fantastic cuisine districts, great parks, easy access to our white sandy beaches, you can always discover something new. That is the beauty of Jacksonville, this is a city where you can experience a new side of it no matter how long you have lived here.”
Whether you want to spend on night on the town, an afternoon exploring the city’s history or a day out with the family, Jacksonville has everything you need to keep you captivated.
- Jacksonville Landing: Located downtown along the St. Johns River, Jacksonville Landing has waterfront dining options, an inside shopping mall and over 350 events a year.
- The Florida Theater: Also nestled along the St. Johns River is The Florida Theater, a historic entertainment center that holds over 200 events from ballet and opera to contemporary pop, jazz, rock, country and blues each year.
- EverBank Field: For the football lovers, EverBank Field is the home stadium of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Once called the best football facility in America by NBC broadcaster Don Criqui, EverBank Field was built faster than any major-league stadium in North America and held the Super Bowl XXXIX.
6. Jaxsons love their festivals.
“In 1990, Sam Veal and a handful of friends held the first Springing the Blues Festival in a small pergola near the old Jacksonville Beach Flag Pavilion,” the event’s website notes. “The event featured six acts and lasted one day. Twenty-five years later, George’s Music Springing the Blues Festival, presented by Sight & Sound Productions, is one of the most highly anticipated music events in Florida.”
This year, the event had 23 artists performing over 45 hours of music on two stages.
Similarly, since 1979, jazz-lovers from around the country visit Jacksonville each Memorial Day weekend for the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. The festival has featured some of jazz music’s elite, including Miles Davis, Chuck Mangione, Najee, George Benson, Kenny G. and Noel Friedline.
If you love seafood, don’t miss the Great Atlantic festival, a free event that combines regional music, seafood from the area’s vendors and Jax Beach sunshine. This past year, the festival celebrated its 26th year in February.
For the fashion addicts, the Belk Music Fest, which was held in March 2015, highlights modern Southern music and styles.
The third annual Community First Seawalk Music Festival returned in June this year, utilizing a variety of local resources. The festival included local artists, vendors, volunteers and musicians.
7. Jacksonville boasts their beaches.
Jacksonville is home to three beaches that encompass 22 miles: Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach (not including the historic fishing village of Mayport).
These beaches don’t just have wide, open sand, either (although they do have that!). When you’re not relaxing on the beach during the day or watching the stars at night, you can:
- Visit Beaches Town Center: This area offers shops, dining, nightlife and other attractions right alongside Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach.
- Take a trip to Adventure Landing & Shipwreck Island Waterpark: Along with an arcade, this area houses mini-golf, laser tag and go karts. In the summer, it features a waterpark, and in the winter, it has an outdoor skating rink.
- Plan a Intracoastal Eco-Tour: At these eco-tours, visitors can dolphins, birds and manatees and enjoy Jacksonville’s natural habitat.
- Enjoy the Victory Cruise Casino: Seven days a week, this sailing casino takes off from Mayport Fishing Village.
- Go to the Beaches Museum and History Center: Celebrate Jacksonville’s boardwalk history with exhibits, photos and more.
8. There are 90+ Food Truckies
It’s no surprise that downtown Jacksonville has over 50 amazing restaurants, but what is impressive is its cohort of food trucks, commonly referred to as food truckies. There are over 90 licensed food trucks in Jacksonville, and they came together to form a collaboration of entrepreneurs. Since 2012, the alliance has gained over 30,000 followers on social media, where they communicate their food truck locations and menus. The food truck’s names range from Butt Hutt Smokehouse, to Funkadelic, the Happy Grilled Cheese and everything in between.
Nervous about managing your PCS move?
Moving is a part of military life, and there are plenty of resources available to make your transition as painless as possible for you and your family.
One thing you want to consider: storing your possessions. In fact, the Department of Defense helps cover many costs related to your PCS, including shipping or space for storing up to 18,000 pounds of household goods when moving.
Life Storage is here to help. Check out our website for information on self storage options, such as climate controlled facilities, and free moving truck rental opportunities. In Jacksonville, we have locations on Manotak Avenue, Old Sunbeam Road, San Jose Boulevard, 103rd Street, Girvin Road, Beach Boulevard and more in the surrounding areas.
If you have any questions about military-related storage, feel free to leave them in the comments section below, contact us at 1-800-242-1715 or tweet us @LifeStorage.