Los Alamos is a unique town in Northern New Mexico, poised between ancient history and high-tech development. Pueblo peoples—including Tewa and Keresan-speaking tribes—lived in the area more than 700 years ago and many of their descendants still call it home. In the early 1900s, its remote terrain was home to the private Los Alamos Ranch School, where a teen-aged boys from around the country were sent to receive a college-prep curriculum balanced with a rigorous outdoor life. In the midst of World War II, the town became a top-secret outpost where scientists developed the world’s first atomic bomb. Today, the town has one of the highest concentrations of PhDs per capita of any town in the U.S., but it also rich in outdoor space, delicious food, and unique shopping thanks to the diversity of its residents.
Here’s where insiders go, stay, and play while on The Hill.
Where to Go
Tap into the high-performance science happening at Los Alamos National Laboratory—which evolved out of the Manhattan Project—at the Bradbury Science Museum. The museum got its start in an old ice house on the bank of Ashley Pond, which was the only place in 1954 that had the security standards for preserving classified exhibits, but today there are 60 interactive exhibits that highlight the lab’s current and past research projects in defense and technology.
LANL’s research is wide-reaching, delving into archaeology, wildlife, and sustainability, and a temporary exhibit touts the lab’s contributions to the Mars mission. The room dedicated to memories of original Manhattan Project workers is definitely worth a look.
To delve further into the town’s history, walk through the life-size exhibits at the Los Alamos History Museum, set in a restored Los Alamos Ranch School Guest Cottage. Walking tour maps help you explore the rest of the museum campus, which treks along Bathtub Row—so nicknamed because these houses were some of the few in the 1942 town that included such luxuries as a bathtub. Along the way, the Hans Bethe House includes a gallery of more than 70 years of post-war history in the community.
Located on the edge of a mesa, overlooking a canyon, with a view of the Jemez Mountains, the Los Alamos Nature Center is the perfect spot to learn about the plants, animals, topography and the natural assets of the area, or take in the beauty of the area. From the paths through the demonstration gardens or through the floor-to-ceiling windows inside the center, you will find yourself surrounded by wildlife. This family-friendly spot has plenty of critters to meet, including tree frogs and salamanders. Take a reclining seat in the planetarium to watch constellations, planets or special feature films on a 360-degree digital projection dome. The center’s topographical exhibits and Los Alamos Trails App make it the best place to plan your outdoor adventures in the Los Alamos area.
One of the best ways to learn about the town is by hopping on an Atomic City Tour. The yellow bus departs from the Bradbury Science Museum most weekdays at 1:30 p.m. Then retreat to beautiful Ashley Pond Park, a downtown greenspace that’s perfect for lawn picnics.
Where to Eat
Downhome fare is tops in Los Alamos. The food counter at Los Alamos Co+op Market is a good place to start, offering grab-and-go sandwiches perfect for tucking in a backpack for a mid-hike snack. Pajarito Brewpub and Grill has bar favorites like fries and nachos, but with an elevated twist with truffle oil and beer-braised beef, respectively. Their build-your-own-burger options start with locally raised beef or bison, and then you can add cheese and other toppings. The colorful Blue Window Bistro is one of the best places in town for a pre-dinner cocktail, and it's a great place for a steak or plate of salmon, too.
Los Alamos hasn’t escaped New Mexico’s craft brewery craze, with Bathtub Row Brewing Co-op serving pints made in-house and taps from several of the state’s top breweries.
Pig + Fig Bakery + Cafe, in neighboring White Rock, is one of the newest additions to the local dining scene, but it’s quickly won over locals and travelers for its hearty breakfast burritos, colorful macarons, and evening tapas plates.
Where to Stay
A number of chain hotels line Los Alamos’ main thoroughfare, but for more local style, the Pueblo Canyon Inn offers a two-bedroom casita called the Redondo (a secluded studio in the forest built with adobe bricks in the traditional round style), and several comfortable, in-home rooms. There’s also the family-run North Road Inn. The owners (Cathy and Patrick) have welcomed visitors for 18 years, which means they can give you tips on anything and everything you might want to do in the area.
Where to Shop
The town’s art hub is the Fuller Lodge Art Center, set in a former Los Alamos Ranch School building and features changing exhibits throughout the year, from pastels to quilts. The gallery shop is a treasure trove of jewelry, scarves, notecards, and other items created by more than 100 local and regional artists. If you’re looking to pick up a piece of Southwestern fine art to take home, the Karen Wray Gallery is a short walk from the Bradbury Science Museum.
If you’re searching for a unique memento to remember your visit, the CB Fox Department Store carries a variety of Atomic City-themed clothing and other items. Gadgets, the gift store inside the Bradbury Science Museum offers one-of-a-kind "Secret City" souvenirs.
Now that you have the inside scoop on Los Alamos, there’s much more to explore in the surrounding area. Whether you’re staying just one day or several, there are plenty of suggestions for what else to see at VisitLosAlamos.org.
Originally written by RootsRated for New Mexico.