Fort Meade & Annapolis Area PCS Guide
The Maryland/DC area can be a really tough area to navigate. It's hard enough to figure out the different cities, counties, and school districts. The best way to learn this information is from other military families. This PCS Guide to Ft Meade/Annapolis Area is a compilation of information from other military families. Download the full PCS guide with maps to see where the neighborhoods are located, metro maps, school boundaries and much more!
Military Bases in the Area
Aberdeen Proving Grounds
Things to Consider when PCSing to Ft. Meade. Annapolis, or Surrounding Bases
1. You need a realtor to help look for houses to rent or buy. The property market moves fast here. If you are looking at homes across state lines, make sure your realtor has licenses for different states (Virginia, DC, and/or Maryland). Find a recommended Military Friendly REALTOR near Fort Meade. Read real estate agent reviews from other military families.
2. Find out if the house has public utilities or septic tank and well water. This can make a big difference when power goes out with a hurricane or Nor’easter storms.
3. In Maryland, HOAs are the norm for the state. Some areas may not have any fees while other have monthly or yearly fees. If buying a home, HOA fees can be an important factor. If you are renting, make sure there isn't a clause about HOA fees. Again, this is why a real estate agent can really help you navigate this area!
4. Check flood zones
5. Your spouse will work long hours. There aren’t as many military run social groups in this area, so join social groups outside the military, such as Junior League, MOPS, etc. Get out and meet people and you will enjoy your time better.
6. Research the different counties and the school districts in the different counties.
7. Check current school boundaries before renting or buying a home.
8. There are more government contractors, retirees and reservists in the area than active duty.
9. Consider enrolling in US Family Health Care Plan for the area. You will have access to Johns Hopkins physicians. Read more.
10. Counties in Maryland near DC and Ft Meade:
Montgomery- Montgomery county is pretty much known for good schools. Read more about Montgomery County.
Howard- Make sure the school boundaries haven’t changed when you buy a home. The main population center of Columbia/Ellicott City was named second among Money magazine's 2010 survey of "America's Best Places to Live. Many of the most affluent communities in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area are in Howard County. Many areas of Howard County have high HOA costs.
Anne Arundel- Known for good schools, however the administration has been changing a bit, so do your research and make sure the schools are still up to par.
Prince George – A more diverse county with lower socio economics. Schools have been poor in the past, but administration has been changing so you may see improvement in the future. If you buy a house, you will pay state property taxes and county taxes in this county. It may seem houses are cheaper here, but consider the overall taxes and consider the schools. Prince George has the highest property taxes in Maryland.
Popular Cities Surrounding Fort Meade and Annapolis
ANNAPOLIS, MD Anne Arundel County
Annapolis, home to the US Naval Academy, is a very friendly and fun Navy Town. Situated right on the banks of the Severn River and the Chesapeake Bay, this colonial style town, which is also the Capital of Maryland, offers a very popular and fun downtown area with lots of historic sites, unique shops, and wonderful restaurants. Known as the Sailing Capital of the US, there are numerous marinas and water recreation is a large part of the community. There is also another side to Annapolis, which is newer and more suburban in feel. The recently developed Parole Town Center has a nice variety of higher end shopping and restaurant chains, and is nearby to the very popular and large Annapolis Mall. Schools in Annapolis are probably the biggest negative – the public schools are not regarded as very good, although there are lots of good private school options. The biggest drawback of the area is that if you aren’t stationed at the Naval Academy, you’re looking at a pretty long commute time, of at least 45 minutes to an hour to DC. If living in an extremely charming, waterfront town makes a commute on US 50 and the Beltway worth it for you, then go for it! It’s a wonderful place to live. Schools in Annapolis are aligned to Anne Arundel County.
Nearby Neighborhoods: Family friendly neighborhoods near Annapolis.
Commuting to DC – Commuter Buses on weekdays, driving a car can take 45 min – 2 hrs. (longest commutes are during tourist season because the main highway that extends to Annapolis is Route 50 which is the most commonly used route to access the beach.)
Commuting to Meade – 40-50 minute drive from Ft. Meade to Annapolis.
FT MEADE, MD Anne Arundel County
Ft Meade has on-base housing at the base. If you have school aged kids, the schools aligned to base housing are not the best. The elementary school is fine because it is made up of a lot of military kids who live on base, however the middle school and high school pull more from areas off base near Ft. Meade. A lot of people home school their kids if they choose to live on base. Check the water supply in nearby areas. Reports of contaminants have been reported over the past years. The base has a great commissary and clinic. Schools around Ft Meade are not DoD schools, they are aligned to Anne Arundel County.
Nearby Neighborhoods: Family friendly neighborhoods near Forte Meade.
ELLICOTT CITY, MD Howard County
Ellicott City, MD is located Howard County and is a bit more rural. The schools are very good there and the neighborhoods are a bit more diverse. This area is close to Baltimore so you are close to restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. Named Best Places to Live in 2010 by Money Magazine. Schools in Annapolis are aligned to Howard County.
Nearby Neighborhoods: Family friendly neighborhoods near Ellicott City, MD
COLUMBIA, MD Howard County
Columbia, MD is a master planned community comprising of 10 self-contained villages. It is a great area to live, especially when stationed at Ft. Meade. The city has great schools and it’s very nice. It’s a bit pricey and overcrowded, but a really popular area for military families to live. Named Best Places to Live in 2010 by Money Magazine. The city of Fulton is nearby and may be one of the wealthiest areas in the state. Schools in Annapolis are aligned to Howard County.
Village – Neighborhoods (in rough order of opening)
Wilde Lake – Bryant Woods, Faulkner Ridge, Running Brook, The Birches
Harper's Choice – Longfellow, Swansfield, Hobbit's Glen
Oakland Mills – Thunder Hill, Talbott Springs, Stevens Forest
Long Reach – Phelps Luck, Jeffers Hill, Locust Park, Kendall Ridge
Owen Brown – Dasher Green, Elkhorn, Hopewell
Hickory Ridge – Clemens Crossing, Hawthorn, Clary's Forest
Dorsey's Search – Dorsey Hall, Fairway Hills
Kings Contrivance – Dickinson, Huntington, Macgill's Common
River Hill – Pheasant Ridge, Pointers Run
Town Center – Vantage Point, Banneker, Amesbury, Creighton's Run, and Warfield Triangle
Nearby Neighborhoods: Family Friendly Neighborhoods near Columbia, MD.
Commuting to Ft. Meade – 32 West can get really crowded with traffic during rush hour.
LAUREL, MD Howard, Anne Arundel, Montgomery, and Prince George
Laurel is located in 4 counties; Howard, Anne Arundel, Montgomery, and Prince George. There are good parts and bad parts of Laurel and a lot depends on which section is in which county.
Nearby Neighborhoods: Family friendly neighborhoods near Laurel, MD.
CROFTON, MD Anne Arundel County
Crofton is a great community with great schools. The location is conveniently located between DC, Ft. Meade and Annapolis. Named the best place to live in 2007 by Money Magazine. “Old Crofton” was a planned commuter community located between Annapolis and DC. The neighborhood has sidewalks, playgrounds, and neighbors are very friendly. Schools are aligned to Anne Arundel County.
Nearby Neighborhoods: Family friendly neighborhoods near Crofton, MD.
Commuting to DC – 10 minutes to DC metro station – New Carrollton, then 40 mins
Commuting to Annapolis – 15 minutes to City Dock of Annapolis
Commuting to Baltimore – 30 minutes drive
SEVERNA PARK, MD Anne Arundel County
Severna Park is a great neighborhood with great schools. There is a little beach access in Severna Park and you are close to Annapolis for great shopping. It’s a pricey area, but really nice. Schools are aligned to Anne Arundel County.
Nearby Neighborhoods: Family friendly neighborhoods near Severna Park, MD
Commuting to Meade– 25 minute drive
Commuting to Annapolis – 15 minute drive
ARNOLD, MD Anne Arundel County
Arnold has great schools in the state. It’s a great place to live and conveniently located between Annapolis and Ft. Meade. Schools are aligned to Anne Arundel County.
Nearby Neighborhoods: Family friendly neighborhoods near Arnold, MD.
Commuting to Meade– 25 minute drive
Commuting to DC – 1 hour to 2 hours
BETHESDA, MD Montgomery County
Bethesda is a wonderful place to live if you are stationed at Walter Reed. Featuring some of the best schools in the area, Bethesda is a large and more metropolitan suburb with lots of high-end shopping, restaurants, and entertainment options. Downtown Bethesda has an urban feel with high rise condos and excellent walkability to shops, restaurants and outdoor plaza style activities. Bethesda is located just above Chevy Chase, which is one of the most expensive areas to live in DC. The cost of housing is higher in Bethesda than much of the surrounding areas, but it features lovely and safe neighborhoods, high walkability, and quick access to DC. Tucked just inside of the Beltway, you never need to get on a major highway to get to Walter Reed, all parts of the city, or into the District itself. Surface street traffic can be bad during rush hour, but with a short distance to go for most people, it is extremely do-able. Bethesda features a wide array of housing including trendy studio apartments, townhome style condominiums, small single-family homes, and large and impressive estates. Schools are aligned to Montgomery County Schools. Check school boundaries.
Nearby Neighborhoods: family friendly neighborhoods near Bethesda, MD.
Commuting to Walter Reed – short driving distance
Commuting to DC - Bethesda has several stops of the western branch of the red line of the Metro, which can easily convey you into the city.
Commute to other bases -it is necessary to commute on the beltway or go through the District, which can take a long time.
SILVER SPRING, MD Montgomery County
Silver Spring is a very diverse and large suburb just to the North of Washington, DC and a great option for anyone stationed at Walter Reed, and potentially the Navy Yard. Silver Spring occupies a large part of the map with lots of unincorporated parts of the town. They are cleaning up these areas, but many parts are still transitional. Downtown Silver Spring is a bustling, urban suburb. It is a very diverse and culturally focused city known for lots of public events and for its recently re-gentrified and vibrant Town Center. With a wide variety of restaurants, shops, and entertainment options, and numerous living options very close to the eastern branch of the Metro, it offers convenience to the District, with the advantages of the suburbs. The non-downtown part of Silver Spring is much more suburban and similar to Rockville and Gaithersburg in many ways. The schools are part of Montgomery County Schools, which are widely regarded as good, but the more urban schools in Silver Spring are not as good as others in the area. Schools are aligned to Montgomery County Schools. Check school boundaries.
Nearby Neighborhoods: family friendly neighborhoods near Silverspring, MD.
Commuting to DC - Silver Spring is very close to the red line and has 4 stops on the Metro. Silver Spring is a short commute (by car or Metro) to Washington, D.C. If you do drive, you're likely on city streets which move, but can become bottlenecks. Another option is the beltway which has lot of traffic during commuting hours!
Commuting to Walter Reed – 10-20 minute driving commute, depending on location
ROCKVILLE, MD Montgomery County
Rockville is a family friendly, large suburb just north of Bethesda with good schools, a lot to do, and safe neighborhoods. The schools are part of Montgomery County Schools, which are widely regarded as good. Rockville occupies a large area on the map, so commuting times vary greatly on which part of town you live in. Rockville has a large downtown known as Rockville Town Center with shopping, dining, and entertainment. There are also numerous smaller shopping centers featuring pretty much every major chain restaurant or store you can imagine. Housing types vary depending on the area of the city. The main thoroughfare through town is Route 355, or Rockville Pike. This is the busiest part of town and stretches south to Bethesda and north to Gaithersburg. Many luxury apartments and townhome communities can be found right along “the Pike” as it’s known. Once you veer off the Pike, there are quiet, single family home neighborhoods. Price ranges for these homes vary greatly. In general, the north and eastern parts of town are less expensive than the southern and western parts that border Bethesda. Schools are aligned to Montgomery County Schools. Check school boundaries.
Nearby Neighborhoods: Family friendly neighborhoods near Rockville, MD.
Commuting to DC -Rockville is serviced by several stops of the western branch of the Red Line of the Metro.
Commuting to Walter Reed can be by the Pike, or by the 270 Freeway. 270 is known for horrendous rush hour traffic, but is a trade off for larger housing.
Commuting toother bases - To commute to other Bases in the area, it is necessary to take the Beltway.
GAITHERSBURG, MD Montgomery County
Gaithersburg is very similar to Rockville, it’s southern neighbor, and features more “bang for your buck” with housing. The schools are part of Montgomery County Schools, which are widely regarded as good, though the actual ones in this town are not as strong as Bethesda or Rockville. Gaithersburg is more of your typical suburbs – lots of new developments with townhomes and single-family homes, and virtually every big-box and major chain store that you can imagine. Gaithersburg doesn’t have much of a “town” feeling and the atmosphere is more predicated by the actual neighborhood you live in. Schools are aligned to Montgomery County Schools. Check school boundaries.
Nearby Neighborhoods: Family friendly neighborhoods near Gaithersburg, MD.
Commuting to Walter Reed would be by freeway 270, which has horrendous rush hour traffic, but a trade off for the lower cost of living.
Commuting to DC - The southern part of Gaithersburg has the last stop on the western branch of the Red Line of the Metro. There is a large “park and ride” garage for those who wish to commute into Rockville, Bethesda, or the District.
Commuting to other bases in the area would be lengthy – with a good stretch on 270 and the Beltway.
KENSINGTON, MD Montgomery County
Kensington is a small town in the midst of one of the busier parts of Montgomery County, and a great option for anyone stationed at Walter Reed. With Rockville and Silver Spring to the North East and North West, and Bethesda to the South, Kinsington occupies a small plot of land, but is known for its involved citizenry, year round farmer’s market, and charming historic downtown area complete with antique shops, cafes, and Mom & Pop businesses. The incorporated part of Kensington channels students to the Bethesda schools, which is a huge plus for this town. The unincorporated part of Kensington sends students to the nearby Rockville or Silver Spring schools, which are good, but not as strong as the Bethesda schools. Most housing options in Kensington are single family homes in established neighborhoods. Schools are aligned to Montgomery County Schools. Check school boundaries.
Nearby Neighborhoods: Family friendly neighborhoods near Kensington, MD.
Commuting to Walter Reed is a cinch, with less than 5 miles from downtown Kensington to Walter Reed.
Commuting to other bases would be possible via the Beltway. While there is no Metro stop in Kensington, it does have a MARC train (Maryland commuter rail) station and is smack dab between the two branches of the Red Line with most nearby stations offering a park and ride garage.
For more information on areas in Northern Virginia or D.C, download our PCS Guide to DC Area
Many families refer to surrounding counties rather than city names. Below are maps of counties in Virginia and Maryland.
Pentagon Info - Read where to live reviews, find REALTORs, homes, and things to do near the Pentagon.
Annapolis Info - Read where to live reviews, find REALTORs, homes and things to do for Annapolis.
Quantico Info - Read where to live reviews, find REALTORs, homes and things to do for Quantico.
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