Los Alamos National Lab
Los Alamos, New Mexico
We lived in Los Alamos for one year, 2018-2019, for my husband to work as a guest scientist at the lab. Dave was in awe every day to work at the site of the Manhattan Project and walk where some great scientists like Oppenheimer walked. We found an amazing church with a great group of people in the same walk of life as us, and Dave had the time of his life. It wasn’t my favorite move, just because our housing situation was rough, but we did get to have some unique experiences.
Where to live: This is a tricky one because Los Alamos as a whole is pretty much always in the throes of a housing crisis. Los Alamos (as you probably know) is the site of the Manhattan Project, and it wasn’t designed to be some huge thriving metropolis. The location was chosen for seclusion and secrecy, not for scalability. So the issue you’ll find out that way is that it’s completely locked on a mesa with no way to expand, and yet the lab keeps bringing in more and more people. So that means there is only one house or apartment for every three families or individuals arriving. This drives up housing prices and decentivizes landlords from maintaining their properties. If you’re lucky enough to find any housing in Los Alamos, I’d say just take it (assuming it’s habitable). Another option is White Rock. The commute isn’t too bad; just make sure your car is reliable for heavy winter driving. I would avoid Española at all costs. Just trust me on that.
Where to eat: Right in Los Alamos, there is a definite lack of solid restaurants. My favorite was the Blue Window Bistro — they have really good French onion soup and limoncello cake. Fleur de Lys is cute for a one-off experience in what feels like a real Parisian storefront. Pajarito Brewpub is also decent. Besides those three, I wouldn’t go out of my way to dine right within Los Alamos proper. Head out to Santa Fe, I promise the Rio Chama Steakhouse won’t disappoint. They had a heavenly cheese fondue appetizer, and their rotating entrees were always on point. India House is also delightful — it is pretty Americanized but still delicious. Their Chicken Makhani is second to none.
Local activities: There are limited activities right in Los Alamos, but the people are incredibly friendly, so it’s easy to make friends and spend time together. A few of the local breweries will have trivia nights, and during the summer, they will have some outdoor music nights. Besides that, just be willing to drive and explore surrounding locations. Santa Fe, for instance, is home to Kakawa Chocolate House. “Our passion is authentic and historic drinking chocolate elixirs. Historic drinking chocolate elixirs include traditional Pre-Columbian, Mesoamerican, Mayan, and Aztec drinking chocolate elixirs; 1600’s European drinking chocolate elixirs, Colonial American and Colonial Mexican drinking chocolate elixirs.” Not to mention there is a Meow Wolf, a super trippy….museum? Art installation? Playground? Combination of all three? You also have the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, and down further south is the White Sands National Monument, which is very cool. There are awesome and relaxing hot springs all over, and several allow you to rent out private baths for the day. One of the highlights of living in NM: the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. We got to go on opening day, and it was magical. That experience in and of itself would draw me back to New Mexico, and I highly recommend everyone experience that magic.
Travel opportunities: I highly recommend traveling to Las Vegas while you are just a cheap plane ticket away. It’s cheap to travel there and cheap to stay, so just budget for food and entertainment. My favorite resort by far is the Venetian – their corner suites are absolutely lovely! The fountain suites at the Bellagio are also a must — the rooms aren’t as luxurious at the Venetian, but watching the water show from our room each night was great. I found my all-time favorite restaurant, Sugarcane Raw Bar. Their roasted date appetizer was one of the best things I’ve ever had, and their seafood dishes were phenomenal. I also recommend splurging (just once) on Japanese Wagyu at Cut. Check out the High Roller Ferris Wheel, got see a show like Penn and Teller (you can meet them after the show!) and just stroll the strip. Don’t be afraid to do touristy things. Another recommendation is Scottsdale. There are a ton of hiking opportunities, the cactus gardens are beautiful, and the spa experiences are unparalleled.