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Amusement parks near JBLM

Your summer hot spots for rides, games and attractions

Wild Waves is the largest amusement park in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Christian Carvajal

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Some military installations around the world seem to luck out with their proximity to awesome amusement parks. If you're lucky enough, you may end up within a short drive from Six Flags, Seaworld, Busch Gardens, or even a Disney Park. Here in Washington state, the national parks and forests are our playgrounds, but if it's rides and games you're seeking, then fear not, we've got that, too. Here's your list of amusement parks within a reasonable drive from Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM).

Wild Waves Theme and Water Park

Located right off I-5 in Federal Way, Wild Waves is the largest theme and water park in the Pacific Northwest. You can enjoy the entire park during their summer season (water park is open only during the summer), Fright Fest in the fall, and then again for the Christmas Lights exhibits in December (with limited rides open). You'll find dozens of rides, from exhilarating roller coasters to an antique carousel, certain to please thrill-seekers of all levels. Tickets are spendy, but if you are looking at visiting multiple times in the year, then a season pass will be your best bet, and don't forget to check out their Military Appreciation Days and discount.

Tukwila Family Fun Center and Bullwinkle Restaurant

A little further north near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the Family Fun Center, a great place to visit any time of year as the attractions are sprawling inside and out. Your family can enjoy bowling, laser tag, bumper boats, batting cages, arcade games and so much more. Admission is free, but you pay on a points system for games, rides and other attractions. The more points you buy, the better the deal. You can certainly expect to spend the entire day here, especially with the Bullwinkle Restaurant on site serving up pizza, burgers, salads, sandwiches and more. 

The Rides at Long Beach

While Long Beach may be a bit of a drive (about two-and-a-half hours from JBLM), trecking out to the coast is definitely worth your time. The Rides at Long Beach are the closest you'll find to anything reminiscent of the boardwalk amusement parks lining the east coast. These rides, however, are more vintage and include the Tilt-a-Whirl, carousel, giant slide and bumper cars. The Rides are located in downtown Long Beach, where you can also enjoy the day discovering new shops, restaurants, and of course, the beautiful sandy beach. If old-school family fun is what you're looking for, then Long Beach should be on your summer bucket list.

Great Wolf Lodge

If you've ever been to one of these chain hotels then you know, it's a favorite for many families. About an hour south of JBLM it's just far enough away that you can justify the overnight stay. Spend the weekend at this indoor water park equipped with water slides, pools, and wading areas suitable for all ages. Let your fingers de-prune at the Howler's Peak Ropes Course, a MagiQuest adventure, glow golf, arcade, or unwind at Elements Spa Salon. Great Wolf Lodge also offers a military discount for up to 30 percent off -- just look up the Howling Heroes Discount.

Dave and Busters

Sometimes it rains here, and it's okay to take the kids to an arcade for the entire day. Dave and Busters is up in Auburn, and definitely worth the drive if you have some older kids looking to spend the day racking up tickets (their prize counter is epic). For the moms and dads who like to enjoy a cold brew while the kids play games, then Dave and Busters is your new favorite hangout. With hundreds of games to play, from skee-ball to Deal or No Deal, and a full-service restaurant and bar with awesome happy hour deals, you may never leave.

Be sure and check the websites for any amusement park or game center for specific deals and discounts. Many of them also feature discounts on Groupon. Indoor arcades and play centers are great spots to hang out for the day when the rain kicks in. With a little budgeting and planning, this summer will shape up to be the best one yet.

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