Base Survival Guide Series: MCAGCC Twentynine Palms

Base Survival Guide Series: MCAGCC Twentynine Palms

This Base Survival Guide on MCAGCC Twentynine Palms is brought to you by a handful of Marine Spouses: Hannah Hicks, Steffanie McCauley, Angela Gillespie, Jen Fallon, and an another anonymous Marine Corps spouse. Hannah has been doing the military life with her husband since 2012. They spent 5 years in 29 Palms, just leaving this past July, and she misses it SO much. Steffanie is a marine wife, dog mom to a very spoiled German Shepard named Athena, book enthusiast, coffee shop/latte art lover and photographer. Her and her husband got married in 2018 and have been stationed at both Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms. Angela is a Marine Corps spouse of 29 years. They have two adult children living in different states and one fur baby still at home. They recently moved into their 5th wheel to save money and prepare to transition out of the Marine Corps, her husband will retire next year. He's the SGTMAJ for Twentynine Palms! Jen has been married to her Marine for 15 years this September. They have 4 kids together and she's a registered nurse who has semi-retired to work as a stay at home mom for the last 8 years. She was heavily involved in volunteering with Family Readiness, and is currently involved in her church, MSA, and PTO.


What's the weather like at this base?

HOT. We always joke it’s like walking into an oven! It’s a dry heat though. And you can’t understand that until you’ve lived in the desert. You can handle 115° for a while before you’re dripping sweat. The “fall” is nice for like a month then it gets cold. Cold relative to the desert of course. Winter is beautiful. We've gotten snow in the higher elevations a few times and only flurries on base for bit while there. The spring is the best time of year in my opinion. It’s comfortable for months and enjoyable. We are a land of extremes.

When we moved to 29 Palms in the middle of July I was filled with dread, panic, and sadness. It was 110º-115º EVERY DAY for the first couple of weeks we were there. It was like opening a giant oven door every time we walked outside. Nothing prepared me for the intensity of the heat, but also, no one told me that the weather is actually incredibly mild - actually, incredibly beautiful - half the year. I thought we were going to be hot for the entire time we were there. Thankfully, we have many wonderful memories of desert evenings, and beautiful winters soaking in some of the most beautiful landscapes I've ever seen.


What's your favorite time of year there?

Spring is my favorite! The comfortable weather lasts the longest in the spring. The desert blooms and you can enjoy the national park nearby!

Spring and fall. This spring because of all the rain we had during monsoon season, we had an incredible super bloom this April. Blankets of wildflowers in the desert. It was unlike anything I've ever seen.

Fall and winter are my favorites!

October - December. The weather cools, and everyone comes outside. The city does a light parade at Christmas time, and also a tour of homes with Christmas lights. Wandering Joshua Tree National Park, taking evening walks around the neighborhood, lingering outside. I loved it.


What's your favorite thing about living at this duty station? 

The unique nature in the area. We fell in love with the Joshua Trees and the national park nearby, the sunrises/sunsets, the mountains, and the stargazing. I could hike in that park all day everyday. Even if you don’t like nature you need to get out and experience it. We saw the Perseid Meteorite Shower in August and it was unbelievably beautiful. There’s nothing else like it! 

We are from small towns and we appreciated the slower pace of life. The proximity to Joshua Tree National Park, and the unique desert culture and history that becomes a part of your soul. The landscape, though hostile at first glance, becomes filled with life and a deep, soul-filling beauty. The sky. The mountains. The desert truly became a part of us.


What's your least favorite thing about living at this duty station?

The heat. It can get unbearable, but you adapt and find ways to enjoy yourself despite it. If you want to walk, you have to make sure you do it early in the morning or late in the evening.

It is a VERY small community, with limited access to shopping, but also with the same people everywhere all the time. I like so many of them. It is a wonderful community, but it can be a bit claustrophobic.

Crickets. Crickets everywhere in our houses. So stinking gross and obnoxious.


Is there anything you wish you knew about this duty station before your PCS there?

The desolation. People warn you it’s in the middle of nowhere. You don’t understand it until you get there and I wish people would have told me to mentally prepare more for feeling lonely, even when you know people.

Don't touch anything you squished a fire ant with!


What amenities are on base? And what are they like? For example: Is the commissary large or small? Well stocked? Pool on base? Parks? How many? Etc.

There are pools in every neighborhood including a salt water pool, but they tend to close for lots of reasons. MCCS pools are the same with very limited hours. The pools ARE great though when they're open. Commissary and Exchange are decent size for middle of the desert. They carry your typical stuff and are well stocked. There aren’t a lot of food options on base though. The town of 29 is starting to get some good ones, but still lacks especially if you're coming from a more built up area. There are lots of parks throughout the base neighborhoods and always options. Off base there are a few big ones but that’s it. There's also a large, well equipped, state of the art gym and a great football complex.

The staff of the commissary was incredible. They went above and beyond to stock any items we requested and were always super helpful, welcoming, and honestly, encouraging (Mom shopping with 3 tiny kids here). We lived off base for the first 3.5 years we lived in Twentynine Palms, but came on base often for parks and the library. The base housing parks are generally in good shape and have sun shades to keep things cool. There are also a couple of parks in the mainside area, and most importantly an INDOOR park in the library. Super important for those hot desert days. The splash pad was a wonderful on-base perk as well, and there are multiple pools to enjoy and take advantage of. There aren't a ton of restaurants, but we always enjoyed Frontline Grill for dine-in or take-out. Jersey Mikes and Carl's Jr are convenient. DiCarlo's, an Italian and pizza restaurant was okay. There was a Starbucks in the PX. The best eating was out in town.


What tips or hacks would you give a  military spouse who just PCSed to that base?

GET INVOLVED. I cannot stress this enough. Find something you love and go get involved in a group that does it. The spouse group has lots of "subclub" options to cover every hobby. There are a decent amount of volunteer opportunities and there are also organizations to get involved with to meet people.  

Join LINKS, get involved in various community events and meet people. Go to the Welcome Aboard brief. Enroll in Tricare West and select a PCM right away.

Find your community as soon as you can. People are what truly make the duty station a beautiful place. Also, embrace the desert. Go outside in the evening and look at the stars. Embrace the quiet. It's healing.

Your view of the base will ENTIRELY color your experience here. It's a very polarizing place. If you go in hating it and decide to continue to hate it... you will have a horrible time. Look for the good. GET INVOLVED and find your people, positive people.

There are limitations of the base. If you or a family member has special medical needs, you will likely need to be prepared to drive. It's okay to be a little terrified at first. As with all bases we have been to, there is an adjustment period. Bring your sense of adventure, embrace it, and share it. It is definitely what you make it.


Do you live on or off base? What is/was your experience like?

We lived off base the first time. We had no kids so we loved being able to shoot down to Palm Springs and lo desert with ease! The second time we lived on base and had our two kids. I loved the security of being on base but the community was like a mine field. There are people who love the desert and people who don’t. There was ALOT of drama in every neighborhood on base and I never expected that after living on three other bases before that. People bond quick in the desert because of there being nothing to do. But, then true colors come out and drama happens. Enlisted and officer neighborhoods alike. If you're looking for community, security, and proximity to things to do on base, then base living is where it’s at! If you want to be closer to things to do and places to go then off base is more your style.  

We lived both off base and on base and both have pros and cons. Our first 3.5 years, we lived in town. We enjoyed the larger yard compared to on-base homes, and an incredible view of the mountains that we soaked in every day. Our house was small, but nice. We lived in a quiet neighborhood that we could walk around every day. Some neighborhoods are better (and safer) than others, so do what you can to get to know the area before making a decision on where to go. Living in town allowed us to plug into the general community, not just military, and we were able to get to the National Park and other surrounding areas a little easier.

We moved on base when our landlord decided to sell the house we were renting. Our neighborhood was a little bit of a drive away from the main area of base, so honestly, my husband's commute was not any shorter. Walking around the neighborhood was a huge perk. We got to know so many wonderful people that we could count on for support, or a Tablespoon of oregano when needed. Curb alerts helped us fill our homes and our closets. Twentynine Palms has some of the best curb alerts. We also had several parks within walking distance, allowing us to do a park tour any day we desired. It felt a little safer than out in town. I never hesitated to walk with my young boys, even in the evenings.


What are your favorite hang out spots on base? Why?

Splash pad or family pool all summer. Kickball fields fall and spring. There really isn’t much to do in the area, so those places are where you were guaranteed to have fun with someone you know. Indoor playground was also a great place to go if you were willing to play the sickness roulette.  

Christian Womens Fellowship at the Protestant chapel, the Family Service Center to include Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, and Armed Services YMCA, community center.

There's a bar, Brass & Rockers and a restaurant Frontline that are occasionally open, but that's really it for social hangs.

I loved volunteering at Navy Marine Corps Relief Society - does that count as a hang out spot? Ha! It was a great place to be.


Did you do a DITY move or military move?

We moved ourselves the first time which was easy. Then DMO moved us the second time.

We did a military move when we PCS'ed and had to move ourselves partway through our time due to our landlord selling our rental home.


Are there any base specific traditions that take place? What is the culture like?

Yes, the USMC ball pageant. Jack-o-lantern Jubilee. Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. Summer concert series.

We actually embraced the off-base culture and traditions more so than on base. Unfortunately, we were at 29 during COVID, and at the time we left in the summer of 2023, some traditions and events were still in the process of being rebuilt.


Are there any base FB pages, bloggers, or accounts/websites people should follow for the base or area?

Friendly Marine Wives of 29Palms (but there can be some drama so beware) and the base Facebook page.

The USO on base as well as the Military Spouses Association.

@joshuatreenps @cityof29palms @highdeserthappenings


What is your favorite coffee shop there? Why? What is your favorite order?

Starbucks. Clean, cool, comfy seating.

Masomenos: Iced Caramel Latte.

Starbucks: I'm not a big coffee drinker, but I enjoyed a chai now and then.


What are your favorite spots for date night?

Bowling alley, Mara, theater, or drive in movie. 


What are your favorite restaurants? What is your go to order?

Kitchen in the Desert.

29 Palms Inn: We love the salmon. They have the best hummus and veggies from their own garden.

Grnd Sqrl


Campbell House

Joshua Tree Saloon

Jelly Donut

Campbell HIll Bakery

Sam's Indian Food (Curry Pizza - AMAZING)

Lenny's Tacos when he's doing pop-ups

Algoberto's in Yucca Valley


Are there any fun things to do in the area or close to base like amusements parks etc?

Within 2-3 hours: Disney, Universal Studios, Knott's Berry Farm, Temecula Wine Country, Sea World, San Diego Zoo, Coronado Island, and Los Angeles. You can rent beach cottages in Pendleton and Coronado. There's so much to do!

Less than 2 hours: Palm Springs and Big Bear Lake. Palm Springs has almost all the shopping/restaurants you could want. Big Bear is great for hiking and skiing. They also have an Oktoberfest.

Within and hour: Joshua Tree National Park and it's wildly beautiful! Pioneertown is also 30 minutes up the road and has a neat old western vibe and concert bar called Pappy & Harriet's. Coyote cone about 45 west is neat too. Also 29 Palms and Joshua Tree both have adorable farmer's markets with good food and local craftsman every Saturday morning year round. Joshua Tree has a whole stretch of bohemian, eclectic shops as well and a night market once a month.


What are some of the things you would put on a bucket list for other military spouses coming to that base?

Stargazing in Joshua Tree National Park (go as much as possible!), Sunrise at the Cholla Cactus Garden, and  basically anything you can do in Joshua Tree National Park. Join a hiking club, or walking club like “Stroller Warriors” or “Woot- women on and off trails.”

Climb Chocolate Drop Hill for a beautiful view of the town and base. Use long-weekends to travel to other National Parks within driving distance - most of the Utah parks, the Grand Canyon, etc. Big Bear cabin weekend. Visit Raven's Bookshop. Learn as much as you can from Pastor David Squyres and the rest of Palms Baptist. Christmas light tour. Glass Outhouse Gallery. Pioneer Town. Drive up to Eureka Peak and watch a sunset - bring your sense of adventure as it's a little isolated, but WOW. One of my life highlights. Read Sand in My Shoe - Helen Bagley and other local books. It’ll make you appreciate the people of the desert even more. Chase the snow when it falls (approximately once a year). The national park is particularly beautiful. 


Are there any cities you recommend for weekend getaways? Why? What did you do there?

Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, Lake Havasu, Phoenix, anything in that radius makes for great weekend getaways within a few hours.  Coronado Island and Seal Beach are favorites!


Best places or activities for kids? Why?

The pools on base

Joshua Tree National Park - get them outdoors!

Library Park

Splash Pad in the summer.

Children's Museum in Palm Springs

Lucky Park

Knotts Sky Park  

Various places for horseback riding lessons


Any local festivals/traditions held for the holidays in that area?

Date festival in Indio. Pioneer Days is the local festival in October has some unique events like the Outhouse Races, which was actually the very first thing we did in 29 Palms. Light parade. Light tour. Base has Santa come around on the fire truck.

Local Recommendations:



A Fox Salon with Tanya or Anthony. 


Primary Care Doctor

We had some incredible doctors during our time, but they rotate too, of course, so none of our favorites are there any more



We had an incredible experience going through three pregnancies and two births at the Naval Hospital. Of course, staff rotates, but we always felt like the Labor and Delivery Ward was one of the best areas in the hospital



Dr. Alan Shih at Morongo Basin Community Health System.



Dr. Yane Levy in Yucca was fantastic. Easy going, not pushy.

Pediatric Dentist in Yucca.

Orthodontist Schantz and Moranda in Palm Springs and Yucca.

For kiddos - Dr. Gutenberg in Yucca Valley - hands down the best option!



On base. If you have a speciality need or trauma case, you can go down to Palm Springs or Loma Linda Children's Hospital (2.5 hrs away but great care).  



 VCA in Yucca Valley



Wilburn (on base) 



There are no DODEA schools on base. Keep in mind there is one school on base though, Condor Elementary School. Apparently kids from out in town are also allowed to attend this school. All other kids will go off base in the Morongo Unified School District, unless you choose to homeschool. 



We rented through Inspire Realty and had a great experience.



Steffanie McCauley Photography

Website, Facebook, and Email:



Campbell Hill. Delicious! We went weekly. Pastries and also lunches, juices, breads, appetizers!


Grocery Stores

Commissary on base.

Grocery Outlet.

Stater Bros in 29.

Aldi in Yucca.

Walmart in Yucca. 


Ball Dress Shop

There is generally a dress giveaway each year.


Shops + Boutiques

Donahlue Boutique, Hi Desert Daydream, Desert Nest, and Habitat 29 in town.


Overall I would rate this base at a... (1-10, 1 being the worst and 10 being the best)

K: 4/10

Angela: 7/10

Jen: 4/10

Steffanie: 7/10

Hannah: 10/10


If you'd like to learn more, have any questions, or want to follow along on Steffanie's journey you can follow her on IG here!



Slideshow 29 Palms


You can also get a PDF version of this guide here!

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