Los Alamos is a small town in northernNew Mexico, about an hour northwest of Santa Fe. Its claim to fame is the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), where Oppenheimer and other physicists created the world's first atomic bomb during World War II. Many of Los Alamos's 12,000 residents work at the laboratory. White Rock, with about 6,000, is formally a part of Los Alamos, but is separated from the main town by LANL. Most of LANL is closed to the public. The Bradbury Science Museum located downtown, is a good place to learn about Los Alamos as is the Los Alamos Historical Society found next to Fuller Lodge.
From US 285 north of Santa Fe, take NM 502 west, which leads directly to the town. This is a highly scenic drive, with photo opportunities from the Clinton P. Anderson Scenic Overlook outside of town. From NM 502 a side road, NM 4, leads to White Rock and Bandelier National Monument.
You can rent a car or passenger van from Hertz elsewhere and return it in Los Alamos, or rent it in Los Alamos and return it elsewhere, without paying a drop-off fee (if you rent by calling the Los Alamos office, 505-662-8907). Residents and visitors alike find this convenient and inexpensive for getting to and from airports. The Los Alamos office is inside the tiny main building at the the Los Alamos County airport on NM 502 just east of town. Enterprise/National also rents cars at the Los Alamos Airport (call 505-662-1987 to see if they require extra fees.)
Passing through the main LANL tech area East or West Jemez Roads (e.g. when entering town from the west) is allowed for the general public, but requires passing a security checkpoint; procedures vary. As of 2013, the driver may be required to show a photo ID, and your vehicle may be subject to a random search. There is a bypass via Camp May Road and West Road which passes through Los Alamos Canyon and is completely open to the public (unless closed for flood danger).
Los Alamos is served by public commuter bus and commercial shuttle from several other cities in northern New Mexico.
New Mexico Park & Ride has direct bus service to Los Alamos from both Espanola and Santa Fe. This is popular with commuters and occasional travelers alike. The Los Alamos terminus is a bus shelter on Central Avenue between 19th St and 20th St. It is in front of Mesa Public Library and a skate park and tot lot, in sight of the Reel Deal movie theater, and one block from the Aquatic Center. The nearest public toilets are in the library lobby. The Santa Fe bus can be used to make connections via Santa Fe to the Albuquerque airport using the Rail Runner Express train or the Sandia Shuttle Express. Connections can also be made in Pojoaque with shuttle services that run between Albuquerque and Taos.
By appointment, Roadrunner Shuttle and Charter (505-424-3367) will take you from Santa Fe (airport or downtown), Lamy (Amtrak train station) or Albuquerque airport to Los Alamos. Los Alamos tour company Buffalo Tours and some Los Alamos bed-and-breakfasts may also be available to pick you up.
North Central Regional Transit District "Blue Buses" provide free bus service Monday through Friday with routes that connect the counties and communities of Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Taos and Rio Arriba.
If you don't want to make the 2000 foot climb from the Rio Grande up the "big hill", you can hitch a ride on the commuter coach buses that serve Los Alamos. They have front racks and luggage compartments.
Horse friendly trails abound in and around Los Alamos. Travel through Santa Clara Pueblo requires a permit; the permit is easy to obtain but must be obtained in advance. Travel through Valles Caldera also requires advance permission, and may be iffy to obtain. Travel around Valles Caldera, via its rim, is largely feasible although a consolidated rim trail is in the proposal stage.
Los Alamos County Airport (LAM) has commercial service from New Mexico Airlines with daily flights to and from Albuquerque, and its approach is extremely scenic: cross the Rio Grande Valley to perch on top of a narrow mesa with canyons on either side. To attract travelers, initial pricing is only $49 each way. Check the website for schedules. Hertz and Enterprise/National rent cars from desks in the airport terminal. Atomic Transit bus Route 2 will stop at the airport terminal on request. Call 505-661-7433 for a pickup, or specify the airport for a dropoff.
LAM also has a significant General Aviation community. The 6000' runway can accommodate most private aircraft, but the 7200ft elevation and restricted airspace (for noise and national security) to the south and west can be challenging. Avgas (but no jet fuel), maintenance, parking, and flight planning are available. The terminal also has free WiFi.
Albuquerque (ABQ, 2 hours away by car) is the airport of choice for most travelers to and from Los Alamos. However, ABQ is a smaller airport with relatively few direct flights, so driving (~6 hours one way) to Denver for a direct flight may be an option.
The downtown area is compact, and the museums and most restaurants are within easy walking distance of the main hotels and many of the B&Bs. Public transportation by Atomic City Transit is free and includes both fixed routes and an on-demand service.
Many Los Alamos residents bicycle to work and around town. Cycling is feasible for visitors as well, but be aware that the town is at an elevation of about 7320 feet (2231 meters) and quite hilly. Puffing up the hills before you've acclimated to the altitude can be a surprisingly exhausting experience.
Road cycling is popular here, and some competitive road bicycle racers come here to train. Popular routes include NM 502 between Los Alamos and Pojoaque, and Camp May Road up to Pajarito Mountain Ski Area. White Rock is nearly a thousand feet lower and about 10 miles (16 km) away by road; riding to it on a bike can be a thrill, but oh, that hill coming back! From White Rock you can take a bus back to townsite: Atomic City Transit buses are equipped with bike racks.
Los Alamos County has an extensive trails network that is open to mountain bikes. The network is especially well developed around townsite, and connects to trails in Santa Fe National Forest and Pajarito Mountain Ski Area. In summer and fall the ski area offers lift-served mountain biking: ride the lift up and bike down easy sideslope trails or bomb down very challenging trails designed specifically for mountain biking. The ski area also has a mountain biking terrain park.
The Black Hole
The downtown area contains a number of artifacts of the early days of the "Manhattan Project" to build the bomb, and the even earlier days "when Los Alamos was a ranch school" (the title, incidentally, of an interesting little booklet on the history of the town that is available in local bookstores). Start at pretty Fuller Lodge, one of the old ranch-school buildings and a local landmark, and work your way out. An historic walking tour with guide markers begins just outside at the History Museum.
The Bradbury Science Museum, 15th St. and Central Ave, Los Alamos, 87545, (505) 667-4444 . Sa-M 1PM-5PM, Tu-F 9AM-5PM. Explains the principles behind atomic energy and its uses in peace and war. Also presents the historical and social issues surrounding atomic energy. Adjacent bookstore (Otowi Station, good selection of regional and technical books) and gift shop. Free admission.
The Los Alamos Historical Society maintains a small museum on the history of the area, with associated bookstore containing a number of books written by Historical Society members on local culture, history, recreational opportunities, etc., including the one listed below under "References." 1921 Juniper (next to Fuller Lodge), (505) 662-6272 (24-hour information line).
The Fuller Lodge Art Center maintains an Art Gallery with exhibits that change nine times a year. The Art Center promotes the development of local and regional artists. The center provides art classes and hosts an Arts & Crafts Fairs in August on the weekend of the Los Alamos Rodeo, and another in late October. Special interest groups meet at the Art Center for photography, Life Drawing and Painting. The Art Center operates a Gallery Gift Shop that specializes in hand made art works including jewelry, picture postcards, paintings, ceramics and more. Regular Hours are 10AM to 4 PM Monday-Saturday. The Art Center's website has class and exhibit schedules. (505)662-1635.
Ashley Pond, or is it Ashley Pond Pond?
One of the downtown landmarks dating to ranch-school days is a little puddle, fed by runoff from the mountains, called Ashley Pond. The visitor might surmise that this lakelet was named for someone significant in the ranch school named Ashley, but would be only half right: the founder of Los Alamos Ranch School was named Ashley Pond. Punning students attached Pond's name in toto to the body of water, which should perhaps be called "Ashley Pond Pond" or "Pond Pond," but history and wit trump accuracy. Whatever you call it, Ashley Pond has undergone a transformation from its muddy stock-tank origins to a pleasant and well-kept little park just south of Fuller Lodge that's a nice place for picnics in the warmer part of the year. Tend small children carefully, as the pond has no constructed barriers to keep them from getting into the water. During the summer and fall of 2013, Los Alamos County will be rebuilding the pond area to improve water quality and accessibility .
Overlook Park in White Rock contains athletic fields and a wheelchair-accessible scenic overlook of White Rock Canyon, the Rio Grande, and the mountainous country to the east, with a moderately rugged trail leading into the canyon. Pleasant for picnics, particularly in the fall; White Rock's lower elevation compared to Los Alamos proper means that it can be hot in the summer.
The Black Hole, a surplus/salvage/junk lot at 4015 Arkansas (and more formally known as "Los Alamos Sales Company," although absolutely nobody among the locals, even its proprietor, uses the name), is known locally as the best place to see genuine LANL artifacts and get a real feel for the contrary nature of the town. Unfortunately, this store has closed; the long-time proprietor, one of the most notable eccentrics in a town well endowed with the breed, passed away, and his family was unable to maintain the business. Much of the surplus and artifacts remain, and rumors abound that The Black Hole will re-open.
Pajarito Environmental Education Center PEEC is free and open to the public Tuesday through Friday noon to 4PM and Saturdays 10AM to 1PM. The nature center offers residents as well as visitors to the plateau: Exhibits on amphibians, birds, butterflies, fossils, energy and more ; A classroom, herbarium and library; Connections to the LA County trail system; Live local critters and demonstration gardens; Friendly volunteers to assist you; books to purchase on the local flora, fauna and trails written by local experts.
Casa Mesita Thrift Shop, 747 Central Ave., +1 505 662-7235, is another interesting "local color" business. It doubles as a second-hand store and repository for the townsfolk's odds and ends, some of them very odd indeed. Proceeds from sales support a group home for girls from difficult domestic environments.
Visit Bandelier National Monument, (505) 672-3861, , nearby and contains many Pueblo dwelling ruins to visit and other hiking opportunities. Don't forget to visit the separate Tsankawi unit of Bandelier, which is equally fascinating, but less visited. The latest hike to be opened at Bandelier is the Cerro Grande hike that rises up to the rim of the Valles Caldera National Preserve. The hike climbs 900 feet through beautiful forest and meadow and provides spectacular views of the surrounding area for miles around. During summer, drive-in access to the main park area is limited to large groups and the disabled. Free shuttle service is offered from the White Rock Visitor's Center. Enjoy the easy parking and great views along the drive to the park.
Explore Valles Caldera National Preserve, a brand-new unit of the national park system in the Jemez Mountains. Recreational opportunities at the Preserve are still being developed; inquire locally. When driving up to the Jemez Mountains from Los Alamos on HWY 501/W. Jemez Rd., you will encounter what is locally known as "Bodman's Blocked Colon," a kink in the road with a "toll booth" like structure that provides security for the Los Alamos National Laboratory . Do not fear proceeding through the security entrance as it is open to the public unless security warning levels rise to most extreme levels. You will be able to continue on 501 unhindered; no stop is required under normal security conditions. How many places can you go and drive through a high security National Nuclear Research Laboratory site?
Hike everywhere. Los Alamos County boasts 58 miles of trails through town and connecting to hundreds of miles of cross-country trails in the surrounding Santa Fe National Forest. Trails west and north of townsite were damaged severely by the catastrophic Cerro Grande and Las Conchas forest fires in 2000 and 2011, but thanks to the hard work of many volunteers, much of the trail damage has been repaired. Since 2006, each spring a 50-mile ultramarathon foot race has been held on these trails. A pleasant (at least until summer heat sets in) set of connecting trails lead into White Rock Canyon from several points around White Rock, they are know as the Red Dot & Blue Dot trails. Beware of rattlesnakes in White Rock Canyon. Free maps are available online and at the Visitors Centers and museums in Los Alamos and White Rock. Other maps can be purchased, and the Mesa Public Library has a complete collection of USGS topographic maps of New Mexico.
Bike on most County and National Forest trails. They offer a wide variety of challenge levels and lengths. Pajarito Mountain Ski Area has a complete network of downhill trails. In summer and fall, Pajarito offers lift-served mountain biking: ride the lift up and bike down easy sideslope trails or bomb down very challenging trails designed specifically for mountain biking. The ski area also has a mountain biking terrain park. Many trails were damaged by the Las Conchas fire, so some limitations exist. A good resource for mountain bike riding is the local mountain biking club, The Tuff Riders who know the area inside and out and are always willing to provide information.
Santa Fe National Forest lies west and north of the town and offers many recreation opportunities such as hiking and exploring four-wheel drive roads. The reference book below gives more details. SFNF trails connecting to the Los Alamos trails network include:
Alpine and Nordic Skiing A very good (and surprisingly challenging) downhill ski area is on Pajarito Mountain Ski Area just outside town. Snow conditions can be marginal (indeed, during the drought years at the end of the 20th century, there were seasons when the area didn't open for months, or even at all), but when the snow is good, it's excellent value for dollar, with very small crowds. A snow-making project has been started, but water and coverage are limited for now. Rentals are available and a good lunch can be had. Cross-country ski trails are accessible from the same parking lot as services the downhill area; however, snow conditions are more likely to be marginal or not skiable than on the higher downhill runs. The area often runs its lifts on summer weekends to allow hikers, mountain bikers, etc., access to the top of the mountain. Camp May is a county park just beyond the ski area that is nice for picnics during the height of early summer heat, but skip it if you're prone to respiratory problems, as it's at very high altitude.
Swim at the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center, an international, high-altitude training facility and public pool. It is an indoor facility. On Wacky Wednesdays, Freaky Fridays, and Warm Water Weekends, the aquatic center has special recreational programs featuring pool toys and floating obstacle course. The separate warm therapy pool is very popular with families with small children all week long. In summer months, one-month family memberships can be purchased for use of one of several outdoor pool clubs. Golf Course Pool and East Park Pool serve lunch.
Soak in the hot therapy pool at Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center. The therapy pool water is cholorinated; to soak without chorine travel to one of the undeveloped hot springs on the mountain above town, to developed hot springs in Jemez Springs or Ojo Caliente, or to Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe.
Golf at the Los Alamos County Golf Course, an exceptional golfing experience at 7,400'. Operated by the Los Alamos County Recreation Division the Golf Course offers a full driving range, passes and daily fees, carts, a full concession, and is able to host any and all tournaments.
Putt-Putt at East Park, a small, free 9-hole course, located next to the park's playground, picnic facilities, dog park, and public restroom. Bring your own clubs and balls, or rent them from the County Recreation division at the Walkup Aquatic Center.
Skate at the Los Alamos County Ice Rink, a seasonal outdoor NHL regulation size ice skating facility. Operated by the Los Alamos County Recreation Division the Rink offers youth and adult hockey, public skating, skating lessons, holiday events, and a full concession stand. During the summer, the rink hosts a local roller derby team.
Listen. For a small town, Los Alamos attracts some very good musical groups, particularly in the classical genre. The Los Alamos Concert Association runs a subscription series of concerts by internationally-known classical performers. The professional Santa Fe Desert Chorale and non-professional but very good Sangre de Cristo Chorale and Coro de Camara perform choral music. Popular concerts occur frequently in the main community shopping center, and there are "coffeehouses" on several Friday nights a year at Fuller Lodge; inquire locally for details.
Los Alamos Festival, Fair and Rodeo. On the second weekend of August (Friday-Sunday), Los Alamos holds it's annual Festival, Fair and Rodeo. Musical and Rodeo events happen each day. On Saturday, an Arts & Crafts Fair can be found on the east lawn of Fuller Lodge, sponsored by The Art Center at Fuller Lodge. A hometown parade goes down Central Avenue on Saturday.
Orienteer. From Spring to Fall (and occasionally Winter) the New Mexico Orienteers hold monthly public orienteering meets in the scenic local canyons and forest. No experience needed; training is provided. See Orienteering in New Mexico.
Fly. Take lessons from a private instructor or take a ride with a charter pilot operating out of the tiny but Air Force One capable Los Alamos airport.
Bring your dog. This is an extremely dog-friendly town, with 3 dog parks (map). Most county trails allow well trained dogs to walk off leash, but beware of the coyotes, black bears, and mountain lions that roam the area. Dogs have been attacked with alarming frequency.
Los Alamos Events Calendar. Check this calendar for current or future events.
Los Alamos High Altitude Sports. Check this calendar for sports and recreation opportunities in the area.
Tune in to KRSN AM1490 (live streams available) to listen to interviews with local movers and shakers and Topper Time, hosted by LAHS students. Check their website for a calendar of who's on and to see what time your flavor in music plays.
Clubs and organizations
There are a surprising number of club and organizations in Los Alamos, something for everyone. Here are just a few to connect with (in no particular order).
Our Los Alamos provides information about the town, business, events & activities, and some local news.
The Los Alamos Mountaineers. Founded in 1952 the club is devoted to Mountain Climbing, Hiking, Travel and Hut Trips. The Mountaineers' monthly meetings are at Fuller Lodge generally on the third Wednesday of every month, at 7:30PM. The meetings provide information on recent club trips and on new trips coming up on the schedule. They also feature a slide show program on an outdoor activity by club members or invited speakers. Members of the public are welcome to attend these meetings. The Mountaineers run a top notch climbing school program each spring. If you are looking for Climbs in the region, these are the folks to contact.
The Triatomics is a multisport / triathlon club. Organizers of the Atomic Man Duathlon which is held the last Sunday in April.
Los Alamos County Recreation Division is a County run recreation division that offers a world class Aquatic Center, outdoor regulation NHL size ice skating rink, and a competitive golf course. Additionally the Los Alamos County Recreation Division hosts the longest continuously running triathlon the Los Alamos Triathlon held the third Saturday in August. They also host the Los Alamos Kids Triathlon held the third Sunday in August.
The Tuff Riders encourage and participate in responsible mountain biking while working to preserve access to recreational trails. Don't let the name fool you, they welcome all new members, including beginners. If your trying to get a handle on the regions plethra of mountain biking trails, these are the folks to talk to.
Los Amigos de Valles Caldera or "Friends of the Valles Caldera" is devoted to supporting the Valles Caldera National Preserve through fundraising and volunteer programs. The group is currently preparing for an environmental restoration project on the Preserve as well as other projects. Activities and outings into the Valles Caldera are scheduled periodically.
Caldera Action! The organization fosters active citizen participation in the restoration, protection, and appreciation of the Valles Caldera National Preserve, for the long-term benefit of the place itself, the American public, and visitors from around the world. The group keeps it's membership appraised of any proposed activities and action of the Valles Caldera Trust Board and provides opportunites for input into the public decision making processes of the Trust, including those based on National Environmental Policy Act (or NEPA) process activities.
The High Altitude Athletics Club is devoted to long distance running. The following events are planned: Jemez Mountain Trail Runs 50 mi, 50k, Half-marathon in May 17, 2008, the Pajarito Trail Runs Festival Oct. 11, 2008, Run the Caldera! (in the Valles Caldera National Preserve) date TBA.
The Southwest Nordic Ski Club The purpose of the club is to encourage involvement in cross country skiing, both recreational and racing. They accomplish this by holding clinics and races, maintaining a trail system, and providing information on the XC ski scene in Northern New Mexico.
The Los Alamos Community Winds is a wind ensemble made up of members of the Los Alamos, NM community. They are comprised of both amateur and professional musicians of all ages and backgrounds from middle and high school students to retirees in our area.
LA Walks a citizens' group supporting pedestrian safety, accessibility, convenience, and comfort throughout the community.
Pajarito Environmental Education Center. PEEC offers classes for all ages, books, local & regional hiking maps, activities, lectures, events and more. If caring for the environment is your thing, this is the place for you.
Pajarito Astronomers hold public observing sessions (Dark Nights), where you can observe selected solar-system objects, colorful double stars, galaxies, gaseous nebulae, open star clusters, and globular star clusters.
Los Alamos used to have a well-deserved reputation as a culinary wasteland, but things have improved considerably in recent years. As with many communities in New Mexico, it makes sense to categorize restaurants as "New Mexican" (specializing in enchiladas, stuffed sopaipillas, etc., with the usual "red or green?" choice of chile -- red is usually hotter, green more flavorful, but inquire) or otherwise. One thing to note: most of the restaurants cater to the community more than to the tourist, and consequently, many are closed on Sunday and some even on Saturday(!), and some are open for breakfast and/or lunch only. Check on open days and hours before deciding where to eat.
Check out fyiLA for an up to date guide to Los Alamos and White Rock. A local search engine, events calendar, business directory, news source, and job board.
Chile Works, 1743 Trinity Drive, 662-7591. A take-out joint that looks like (indeed, used to be) an old used-car lot. Open for breakfast and lunch only, closed on Sunday and Monday. Lunches respectable, and the breakfast burritos are excellent; you'll have to wait in line with commuters and students heading for high school who flock here to start their days. Although it's mainly take-out, a few outside tables are available.
Viola's, across Trinity from Chili Works (the local phone book's Yellow Pages entry for its address is incorrect), 662-5617. Standard New Mexican fare in a busy diner-like setting, run by a long-standing Los Alamos restauranteur family. Very good service with very fast turnaround. Excellent breakfast, good enchiladas and sopapillas. Open for breakfast and lunch, Monday through Saturday.
De Colores, 2470 East Road (on highway 502 east of town), 662-6285: Standard New Mexican fare done quite well, if a bit heavy, with pleasant service and a nice setting. The stuffed sopapillas with green chile are particularly good. Its location on the road into town makes it somewhat remote from the hotels/B&Bs, but there is a striking view to the east as compensation. Open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday only; expect to wait a while on Fridays.
Ruby-K's Bagel Cafe 1789 Central Avenue, Suite 2, 505-662-9866: Bagels, Bagel Sandwiches, Soups, Salads, Breakfast Bagels, Coffee, Smoothies, Cupcakes and other goodies. Indoor/Outdoor seating. Very tasty! Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7am-7pm Mon-Sat, 7am-3pm Sunday.
El Parasol Restaurant 1903 Central Ave (next door to Ruby-K's and Starbuck's) : Tasty Tamales and Tacos, Regular & Breakfast Burritos, Chips & Salsa, Green Chile Stew and other Mexican fast food dishes. A Lab lunchtime favorite. 7am-6pm weekdays, 8am-2pm Sat, 9am-2pm Sun.
El Rigoberto's Taco Shop 166 Central Park Sq, 505-661-9603: Tacos, Burritos, and all the usual. Fast and tasty. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Mon-Sat 6am-10pm, Sunday 8:30am-8pm.
Bob's Bodacious BBQ, 3801 Arkansas Avenue, Suite G, 505-662-4227: Located a bit off the beaten path, particularly for out-of-towners, this take-out or eat-in Texas-style barbeque joint is in a small strip mall hidden behind a gas station in Los Alamos's "North Community" neighborhood. From the Trinity/Diamond intersection at the west end of town, go north on Diamond Drive about 1.5 miles and take a left at the light near the Conoco station and onto Arkansas. Order at the counter from a choice of tasty, slow-cooked offerings such as beef brisket, pulled pork, and smoked chicken, together with a variety of down-home sides like potato salad or cole slaw. The place clearly aims primarily at the take-out market (paper plates and plastic forks), but several tables are available, as is a reasonable selection of bottled beers, including several good microbrews. Open for lunch and dinner on weekdays (11-2, and 5-8).
Coffeehouse Cafe – Breakfast, lunch, and treats. Take home a supply their locally-roasted, high altitude coffee blends or try one of Los Alamos’ best breakfast burritos … red or green. Small-batch roasting of 100% Arabica beans from around the world means full-flavored coffees. Enjoy exceptional coffees, outstanding people, and tremendous conversation at Los Alamos’ premier caffeine dealer. 723 Central Avenue, 505-662-2233, M-F 6-3, Sat 7-3, Sun 8-3.
Bandelier Grill, 11 Sherwood Blvd, White Rock, NM 87544, 505-672-4083 White Rock's Family Restaurant. Burgers, Enchiladas, Chicken, Steaks, Salmon, etc. Open for lunch and dinner. Mon-Sat 11-2 and 5-8. New Owners as of 2013. Give them a try.
Cafe Sushi, 3801 Arkansas Avenue, 505-662-7131: This tiny hole-in-the-wall sushi bar offers some of the best sushi in the state, the fish always remarkably fresh (considering the location is 1000 miles inland) and expertly prepared. Located in the same out-of-the-way strip mall as Bob's BBQ, above. Open M-F for lunch and dinner. Be warned that seating is scarce and that the hours for this mom-and-pop operation can be rather arbitrary, particularly for dinner: they close as soon as the day's ration of fish and rice is exhausted, which often can be as early as 6:45, so go early.
Dixie Girl, 1789 Central Avenue, 505-662-1436: French-inspired and upscale. Service can be ponderously slow; recommended for a leisurely meal with friends, not an eat-and-run business lunch. Full bar.
China Moon, 121 Central Park Square (shopping center in the middle of town), 505-662-2883: One of several surprisingly good Chinese restaurants in town. This one is subpar for dinner, but the lunch buffet (open M-F) is very good value for dollar. Come here for lunch, but for dinner, instead try
China Palace, 759 Central Avenue, 505-662-4433: The best Chinese dinners in town, with pleasant service. The various clay-pot dishes are excellent. Take-out is available. So-so for lunch (M-F), but strongly recommended for dinner (7 days).
Chin Shan, 124 Longview Drive (White Rock), 505-672-1433: Weaker than the other recommended Chinese restaurants, but its location in White Rock, en route to Bandelier, is convenient for the traveler who's just passing through, and the fare is passable. Take-out is available. Open for lunch M-F, dinner M-S; the owners often take a long vacation in summer and close up shop.
Hill Diner, 1315 Trinity Drive, 662-9745: CLOSED. Try Dixie Girl or Dixie Pub for a few favorites.
Hot Rocks Java Cafe, 4200 W. Jemez Road, 505-663-5282: The only eating place on the "Laboratory," as opposed to "town," side of the bridge separating LANL from the community (other than the lab's own cafeteria, where the public is grudgingly accepted), and hence convenient if you're driving into the mountains, although parking is a headache. A reasonable mixed bag of lunches, with good breakfast burritos and coffee, but usually very busy as it serves the LANL workforce. Breakfast and lunch M-F only.
Origami, 182 Central Park Sq., 505-661-2592: Excellent sushi and Japanese fare and other dishes.
Pyramid Cafe, 751 Central Ave., 505-661-1717,. M-F 11AM - 8PM. Good Greek and Mediterranean choices.
Morning Glory Bakery, 1377 Diamond Dr, : The place for donuts in town. They serve full breakfast and good burgers and sandwiches for lunch.
Pajarito Mountain Cafe, Pajarito Ski Area, 505-662-5725: Burgers, burritos, and more. Magnificent views. The cafe is open for lunch on days when the ski area is open (Friday-Sunday, plus holidays during the winter), on bike-and-hike weekends during the summer, and during the summer Tuesday-Friday. Call or check the website for hours.
Pajarito Brewpub and Grill, 614 Trinity Dr, 505-662-8877, New for 2012. Pub fare, updated american entrees, and great appetizers. Full bar. Open for lunch and dinner every day, 11am-11pm (kitchen closes at 10pm), open late Thu-Sat until 1am.
Blue Window Bistro, 813 Central Avenue, 505-662-6305: American-meets-Continental fare with some creativity. Lunch M-F, dinner M-Saturday. Experienced a severe fire in November 2005, but reopened in July of 2006. Decor is unique, homey and eclectic, with great pieces of Santa Fe inspired artwork adorning every wall. The Pork Adobo and Fillet Mignon are outstanding. Plan to relax (you'll have to for dinner whether you intend it or not, as service then can be glacially slow) and stay for the dessert, which is out of this world.
Los Alamos contains more churches than bars, which is a probably sufficient commentary on the night life. Some of the restaurants occasionally offer live entertainment on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Aspen Lounge at the Best Western Hill Top House Hotel (see below). Monday— Sunday 4:00 to Close. Serves Burgers and such from 5-9PM.
Dixie Pub at Dixie Girl restaurant (see above). Mon-Tue 4-8:30, Wed-Sat 4-10. Serves bar and a bit of diner fare.
De Colores Cantina at De Colores restaurant (see above). Weekdays 3:30 to "close". Appetizers, and the full restaurant menu when the kitchen is open. Patio seating is available when the weather permits.
Try Don Quixote Distillery & Winery, New Mexico's first licensed distillery. This distillery’s signature libation is its unique, award- winning Blue Corn Vodka. Also a winery, they produce several wines including Angelica, a very sweet dessert wine first made in Northern New Mexico in 1628. Don Quixote’s specializes in high quality wines, ports, brandies, spirits, and extracts. Visit their tasting room, have a taste, and learn about their distillation processes. Many of their products can be purchased at the Smith’s grocery stores in Los Alamos and White Rock as well as at Don Quixote’s online store and their tasting rooms. Visit them in White Rock at 236 Rio Bravo, or their Pojoaque tasting room on the way to Los Alamos at 18057 U.S. 84 in Pojoaque.
A caution: accommodations can be hard to find during the second week of October, when Albuquerque, 90 miles away, hosts the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. If you're visiting at that time and planning to stay in a hotel or B&B, reserve well in advance.
There are curiously few hotels/motels in town, given the number of travelers (mainly professional) who pass through the area. The following list is complete as of May 2013, and is presented without recommendations; all are adequate, none outstanding. The main business of hotels in town is business travel to the laboratory, so prices are often based on federal government rates. There are also several bed and breakfasts in Los Alamos and one or two in White Rock.
Primitive camping in the nearby Santa Fe National Forest is convenient. The forest is big, the people are few, and the campsites are great. Explore back on the dirt roads until you find a fire ring. Seasonal closures due to fire hazard are common (see under "Stay safe"). Call 505-667-5120 for information on current closures/restrictions. Horses are welcome.
An undeveloped campground at Camp May, above the Pajarito Ski Area, is open for overnight camping except during winter (when the access road is blocked by deep snow). Horses are welcome here and at the transient pens at the County Rodeo Ground on North Mesa. At both locations, permits are required for any overnight use.
Developed campgrounds are available at Bandelier National Monument. Juniper Campground caters to families/small parties while Ponderosa Campground is reserved for large groups (by reservation). See the Bandelier WikiTravel page for more information.
A small RV park is located at East Gate on NM 502 just east of town and the municipal airport; perched on the tip of a mesa, this RV park has stunning views. A larger RV park is located in White Rock, next to the Visitor's Center, which is much more suitable to larger vehicles and trailers. There's even a tiny dog run. Water, power and sewage are available at both parks. There's a $10/night fee for RV parking at both sites.
The Roadrunner RV park is located 20 minutes away, on US 84/285 in Pojoaque; opened in 2007, this RV park has hookups and is within easy walking distance of several restaurants.
Violent crime is almost unknown in Los Alamos; it is one of the safest communities you'll ever visit. The biggest lawbreaking threat to life and limb is drunk drivers. Northern New Mexico has an unfortunate, and well-deserved, reputation for DUI problems. Los Alamos is no exception. Be alert when driving on the arterial roads after 10PM or so, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights. Another driving hazard is wildlife, particularly deer and elk. Mule deer can be seen around town all year long, day and night. Herds of elk come down from the Jemez Mountains during the winter and often congregate around the roads, particularly NM4. If your car hits an elk at highway speed, the elk may lose, but you will most assuredly not win. Again, be careful driving after sundown during the winter months.
Believe it or not, one of the most important types of fatal accident sustained by townspeople is falling off a cliff -- sometimes a cliff literally in the victim's back yard. The sheer canyon walls that give the area much of its natural beauty also pose traps for the unwary recreational hiker. If you're out enjoying the many hiking trails around town, stay on the trail when around a cliff unless you're doing roped climbing.
Also, there are nearly a half dozen volunteer Search and Rescue teams in Los Alamos County alone for a reason. And they get plenty of practice rescuing overconfident hikers. Follow basic high-altitude hiking safety tips. Most importantly, make a plan and share it with someone who can call for help. Cell phones might work, or they might not.
One final note: bubonic plague is endemic to northern New Mexico, and plague-bearing fleas and rodents have been trapped from within the city limits. As cautioned in the article on Bandelier National Monument, if you see a distressed or dead rodent or other small animal, leave it alone; buzzards are immune to plague, you are not.
The Jemez mountains and Los Alamos have experienced several recent, disastrous forest fires, including the Cerro Grande fire (43,000 acres burned, 260 homes destroyed, over $1B in damages) in May 2000, and the Las Conchas fire (156,000 acres, 63 homes destroyed) in June/July 2011. These fires can happen quickly and move fast (Las Conchas burned 43,000 acres in less than 24 hours). Fire season runs from April to November, but can happen ANY time!
When the fire danger is highest, national forests, parks, monuments, BLM areas, state parks, and other public or private lands will restrict camping and/or forbid open flames, smoking, and even fires in designated firepits and grills. PLEASE comply with posted all restrictions! Many fires will start from unattended campfires, cars parked on dry fuel, and discarded cigarette butts. You may have to seek your accommodations somewhere else.
Los Alamos Medical Center is a small municipal primary care hospital. Most serious injuries are sent on to larger hospitals in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and more distant points by ambulance. Helicopter transportation is common, and the medical center hosts a dedicated helipad. The hospital offers a complete range of care, but the Emergency Department, like many small towns, is often inadequate.
Los Alamos Urgent Care is a popular choice for residents and visitors alike who need urgent but not emergency medical care.
Los Alamos is served by two mobile large animal veterinarians, High Desert Equine (505-455-1001, based 15 minutes east of town) and Oso Mobile Veterinary Services (505-695-0052, based in town). The nearest large animal clinic is Valley Veterinary Clinic (505-455-2228) on US 84/285 just north of Pojoaque. The nearest colic surgery is Thal Equine (505-438-6590) south of Santa Fe.
Santa Fe is one of the world's great travel destinations and is only about 35 miles (55 km) away by road. It would be silly to make a vacation stop to see Los Alamos and not see Santa Fe.
Taos, another fine travel destination, is a little over an hour away. Retrace your path down NM 502, but before reaching Pojoaque, turn off on NM 30 to Española by way of Santa Clara Pueblo. NM 30 leads you to NM 68 and eventually Taos via a beautiful drive along the Rio Grande. Or, take the "high road" to Taos through a series of tiny Colonial Spanish mountain villages.
Abiquiu, immortalized by Georgia O'keefe and other painters, offers terrific scenery and plenty of outdoor activities. An hour away via NM 502, NM 30, and US 84.
Chama, on the border with Colorado, home of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, gateway to the San Juan mountains. 2 hours from Los Alamos, and an hour further along US 84 from Abiquiu, this little town is a historic hidden gem.
If traveling to Albuquerque on the way home from Los Alamos, consider forsaking the highway route (NM 502 to US 84/285 to I-25) in favor of the "back road" through the Jemez Mountains. Take NM 501 west out of Los Alamos and proceed past the Camp May road to a T intersection with NM 4. Left leads back to Bandelier; instead turn right, climbing steeply and spectacularly into the mountains and through Valle Grande, the largest grass meadow of the Valles Caldera. On emerging on the west side of the mountains, NM 4 connects with NM 44 (US highway 550) which leads back to the interstate close to Albuquerque. This takes up to half an hour longer than the highway route but is worth it for the mountain scenery. Be wary of radar traps, and skip it in winter after a snowstorm, as the road through the mountains may be temporarily impassable.
Also along the "back road", Jemez Springs is nestled in the San Diego canyon an hour from Los Alamos. This little town hosts galleries, spas, fishing, and good food.
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