The Best Things to do in New Mexico: A Secret City in the Mountains

The Best Things to do in New Mexico: A Secret City in the Mountains

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Looking for one of the Best Things to do in New Mexico?:

A city up in the high desert of New Mexico, unknown to all but a few, select people in the world outside?  An epic secret, hidden from the entire world?  Sound like something out of a movie, or something that your local conspiracy theorist would come up with?

Would you be surprised to find out that this was a very real part of world history that happened right here in the United States?

The Background:

It all started with a letter from a familiar genius with frazzled looking white hair and glasses.  Albert Einstein warned then President Rooseveldt of the growing threat posed by the nuclear research being done by the Germans.  There were growing fears that the Germans were close to developing an atomic bomb.

Los Alamos Einstein Letter things to do in new mexico

The Manhattan project was created to win the race to creating the atomic bomb as a means to end World War II.  Thousands of scientists and other support personnel as well as their families were shipped off to an unknown location in the NM desert, to the place that would eventually become the town of Los Alamos, NM.  Their communications with the outside world were censored and all of their mail was sent to one anonymous post office box in Santa Fe.

You might already know the end of the story.  The world didn’t learn about the existence of the atomic bombs that were created by the Manhattan Project until they were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan killing as many as 250,000 people within 4 months and arguably ending one of the world bloodiest conflicts.

Planning your Visit

Los Alamos is one of the best things to do in New Mexico and it is a very easy day trip from Santa Fe, with a lot to do and see.

A great place to start your exploration of Los Alamos is by doing the free, self guided Los Alamos walking tour.  This will give you an introduction to some of the important sites involved in the daily life of those involved in the Manhattan Project.

The Los Alamos Historical Museum, right at the center of the walking tour, is definitely worth a stop.  It explains a lot about the ranch school that became the home for those moving into their new, unknown home in the desert.

Your next stop should be the Bradbury Science Museum, right down the road.  There, you will find a great collection of interactive exhibits that give details about the process of building the world’s first atomic bombs as well as the incredible work being done at the Los Alamos National Laboratory today.

Best of all..the museum is  free (plan for a minimum of 1-1.5 hours, more if you really like to dig into all of the details and to take in the educational films showing in the museum’s auditoriums) !

things to do in new mexico

Once you are done exploring the historical sites of Los Alamos, grab a picnic  lunch at Ruby K’s Bagel Cafe and head up into the mountains surrounding town for the spectacular views from the top of Los Calderas, an ancient volcanic crater just outside of town.

Los Alamos Caldera things to do in new mexico

As the grand finale of your day trip to Los Alamos, head towards Bandelier National Monument on the way out of town.  Less well known than the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, this unappreciated historical site is a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch and learn about the ancient history of the Pueblo dwellers who have made this area home for 11,000 years.  There is a great 1 mile loop from the visitor’s center, as well as longer hiking trails to more remote cliff dwellings if you are looking for more.

What is on your list of the best things to do in New Mexico?  Have you been to Los Alamos?



Shanna Schultz

We are Shanna and Aaron + kiddos. We are a travel addicted family of four who love to escape at every possible opportunity. When we travel, we love to focus on creating meaningful travel experiences that help us all learn about the world together and bring us closer as a family. Shanna also writes about travel in the Midwestern part of the United States at her blog A Midwest Travel Companion

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. The landscapes from this part of the US are always so impressive!

  2. Great article! Very interesting about the Albert Eistein letter, I had no idea! Looking forward to visiting this place sometime.

    1. Yeah, the Einstein thing was new to me, too. I kind of knew that he had played some sort of role in things, but had never been sure exactly what kind.

  3. We never made it to Santa Fe while we were living in Arizona, but we did enjoy hiking around Albuquerque.

  4. Interesting! Never knew about any info about the creation of the atomic bomb prior this post.

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