Perched on the Pajarito Plateau in Northern New Mexico, Los Alamos mixes outdoor recreation with a dose of Atomic Age history. A tour of the area’s marquee attractions takes visitors back in time to tour Ancient Puebloan dwellings at Bandelier National Monumentand explores the town’s high-tech present at the Bradbury Science Museum, the public side of the town’s Los Alamos National Laboratory. While most tours of the Secret City focus on downtown Los Alamos, there are plenty hidden gems to discover a bit farther afield. Here are 10 of the best.
1.White Rock Canyon Overlook
Set in the neighboring community of White Rock, the overlook provides 270-degree views of the Rio Grande as it runs along the Jemez Mountains. Many visit the overlook for the scenery spread out below, but rock climbers may want to bring their gear along, too. The steep cliff faces near here contain the most popular lines in the area.
2. Don Quixote Distillery and Winery
New Mexico is swept up in the craft brewing craze (check out Bathtub Row Brewing, a.k.a., "the brew tub," one of the first co-op breweries in the nation), but craft distilling isn’t far behind and Don Quixote Distillery and Winery is one of the tastemakers. They serve top shelf bourbon, whiskey, gin, brandy, and sipping vodka. Many of their recipes incorporate local ingredients, such as the blue-corn vodka, and in recent years they’ve expanded to wine, sangria, and ports. Stop by the tasting room and you may meet the company’s master distiller, Olha Dolin, a third-generation distiller and one of the only female master distillers in the country.
3. Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center and Los Alamos County Ice Rink
Los Alamos has water sports for every season, starting with a community pool that offers open high altitude lap swims at 7,300 feet elevation that draw Olympic training teams from around the world, as well as warm water weekends and "dive-in" movies for families.
The Los Alamos County Ice Rink is the only refrigerated, NHL-regulation outdoor ice rink in the state. Usually, the rink is open November through February and offers public skating, hockey games, and skate lessons against a scenic backdrop of pine trees.
4. El Parasol
Known for casual New Mexican food, this taco joint has been a Northern New Mexico favorite for more than 50 years. El Parasol’s recipes have been featured in national publications such as Gourmet magazine and the New York Times, but don’t expect fancy items. This is a downhome restaurant with prices to match. It has several locations, including one in Los Alamos.
5. Pots Drive in White Rock
The community of White Rock is next to San Ildefonso Pueblo, known for its distinctive style of pottery. White Rock teamed up with 10 San Ildefonso artists, asking them to paint larger-than-life pots that reflects traditional—in some cases, nearly lost—designs. The giant pots are installed along a half-mile stretch of NM 4 in the heart of White Rock’s business center and can easily be viewed while cruising past, but it’s worth the time to check them out up close.
6. San Ildefonso Pueblo
Set at the base of the hill that climbs to Los Alamos, the San Ildefonso Pueblo traces its history in the region back to 1300 A.D. when the people of Bandelier moved to the adobe village’s current location along the Rio Grande. The pueblo is known for its black-on-black pottery with a highly polished finish, made famous by artist Maria Martinez and her son, Popovi Da.
The talented pueblo members also create red and polychrome pottery, paintings, jewelry, and weavings. Many travelers visit the pueblo exclusively to shop for at-the-source Native American art. For a truly special experience, plan your trip around the Pueblo’s feast day on January 23 when the approximately 750 tribal members celebrate by performing traditional buffalo, deer, and Comanche dances.
7. Ski Pajarito
One of New Mexico’s nine alpine ski areas, Pajarito Mountain just seven miles outside of town is arguably the state’s best-kept winter secret. Non-existent lift lines and affordable ticket prices make this area a favorite among locals, while mogul connoisseurs flock here for some of the best bump skiing in the state. The 300 acres of skiable terrain also offer excellent tree skiing and a killer fall line that challenges even the most seasoned skiers. It generally opens after Thanksgiving, and the area’s winter calendar includes popular Beer and Band weekends, Skiesta, and a New Year’s Eve torchlight parade.
8. Los Alamos County Golf Course
Set at the base of the Jemez Mountains, this 18-hole course is known for panoramic vistas and clear mountain air. At an elevation of 7,400 feet, drives will go a bit farther here. Built in 1947 by the Atomic Energy Commission, this is also one of the oldest 18-hole golf courses in the state.
9. Cave of the Winds
This under-the-radar-to-visitors hike is a local favorite. The small cave is reached via the Quemazon Trail and a short spur (details are available on the Los Alamos Trails App). It’s a two-mile, out-and-back hike with about 500 feet of elevation gain. The cave may be small, but it’s dark all the way in the back, so bring a flashlight or headlamp with you.
10. Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway
One of eight official byways in the state, the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway whisks travelers along a 132-mile loop that will take you to all three National Parks in Los Alamos, as well as every scenic point in between. From Los Alamos townsite, the location of Manhattan Project National Historical Park, head west, following the sinuous mountain path that winds past Bandelier National Monument (National Park #2, known for its cliff dwellings) and the Valles Caldera National Preserve (National Park #3, where a collapsed crater now makes for prime hiking and fishing terrain) as you head towards the town of Jemez Springs. Along the way, you’ll pass trails that lead to natural hot springs and the Jemez State Monument, where you can wander the ruins of a 500-year-old Spanish mission.
Whether you’re just passing through or planning to stick around for a couple days, there are plenty of options to maximize your time here. For even more ideas of things to do on your next trip to Los Alamos, download your free Visitor Guide here.
Originally written by RootsRated for New Mexico.