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Hidden gems near JBLM

Quaint historic towns and fun activities

The Steilacoom Pub and Grill is a fun local spot to watch the Steilacoom 4th of July Parade. Locals know this is where the parade starts and you are likely to get the most candy thrown. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Quaint towns and fun activities surround Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Traffic can be challenging and its nice to have places to visit that don't involve getting on Interstate 5.

Most people are familiar with the city of DuPont, but they are thinking of the modern, planned community of Northwest Landing with its vibrant neighborhoods and industrial development. I am often surprised how many people have not visited the historic village of DuPont, which is just across the highway from the DuPont Gate. DuPont Village was home to the workers and families of the DuPont explosive manufacturing plant. Explosives produced here were used to build the Panama Canal and the Grand Coulee Dam. Visit the DuPont Historical Museum to learn about the history of the area. You can pick up a brochure for a walking tour of the village, and also one for the little-known Sequalitchew Creek Trail. The creek trail is very popular and is a three-mile round trip ending with great views of the Puget Sound. Both guides are also available on the museum website.

DuPont Historical Museum, 207 Barksdale Ave., DuPont, 253.964.2399,

Another town worth visiting is Steilacoom, located just minutes from JBLM at the end of DuPont-Steilacoom Road. Driving into this quaint town is like stepping back in time, and it's not surprising it is a top choice for retiring military. Steilacoom was the first incorporated town in the Washington Territory. Summer events include the Wednesday Farmers Market with live music, and an annual 4th of July Parade and fireworks show that everyone in the town chips in to pay for. Fall brings the Steilacoom Apple Squeeze. People are also drawn to Steilacoom for the views, especially at sunset. The town has three parks on the waterfront perfect for sunset viewing, and Topside Bar and Grill -- with its rooftop deck -- brings in the crowds on sunny evenings. Other local offerings include the Steilacoom Pub and Grill just known as the Pub, the Steilacoom Tap Room, The Bair Bistro, and an upscale French restaurant, De La Terre, a farm-to-table restaurant with locally-sourced ingredients.

Heading out the East Gate on the other side of JBLM is the little town of Roy, which hosts the Roy Pioneer Rodeo twice a year during the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. This harks back to the early days of JBLM with the 91st Division, nicknamed the Wild West Division. Heading out the East Gate through Roy also cuts off some time on the drive to Mount Rainier and Paradise.

Another East Gate town is Spanaway. Not far outside the town you can visit the LeMay Family Collection at Marymount, which was an old military academy. Harold LeMay was a famous collector of automobiles. In addition to the autos, there is Americana and other collectables, and a Rodin Sculpture Garden. Spanaway really shines as it gets closer to the holidays with the annual Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park, which kicks off Nov. 22.

LeMay Family Collection at Marymount, 325 152nd St. E., Tacoma, 253.272.2336,

There is plenty to see, and do, around JBLM without getting on the highway. Most local towns have websites with upcoming events, many of which have been going on for years. It's a nice way to get out and meet your local community.

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