14 Top-Rated Things to Do in El Paso, TX

Written by Bryan Dearsley and Anietra Hamper
Updated Oct 27, 2022
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Located at the western edge of Texas on the left bank of the Rio Grande, which here forms the frontier with Mexico, El Paso is the largest American city on the Mexican frontier. Its unique desert landscapes are home to diverse flora and fauna, and the city is rich in cultural attractions.

Fun things to do in El Paso and great places to visit include the El Paso Museum of Art with its fine collection of pre-Columbian and Indian art, the Mission Trail, and the Magoffin Home State Historic Site.

Within the city limits, occupying the site of a military post established in the mid-19th century, is Fort Bliss, today one of the largest air defense centers in the world and home to fascinating military museums.

For those interested in exploring El Paso's outdoor recreation, Franklin Mountains State Park and Hueco Tanks State Historic Site are ripe for adventure.

To learn more about other things to do in this part of Texas, read through our comprehensive list of the top attractions and places to visit in El Paso.

See also: Where to Stay in El Paso

1. See the Views from the El Paso Scenic Drive

View over El Paso, Texas at dusk

For the best views of the city and its border landscape along the southern edge of the Franklin Mountains, El Paso Scenic Drive is a must-experience.

Take your time to enjoy the winding road as you increase in elevation with panoramic views. Pack a lunch and plan a picnic at the scenic overlook where you can see the city lights of El Paso and even into Juarez, Mexico. You can reach the El Paso Scenic Drive from Rim Road.

There are a few other scenic routes in El Paso worth doing by car, like a road trip through the Franklin Mountain State Park on Transmountain Road. There are several access points from the northeast and northwest sides of El Paso. This route has many picnic tables and scenic spots that are popular for watching the sunsets.

Highway 28 is another charming drive with the rural scenery of chile farms, pecan trees, orchards, and rustic cattle ranches. This is a beautiful countryside drive on a two-lane road that is nice for a day outside of the city.

2. Enjoy the Animals at the El Paso Zoo

El Paso Zoo | University of College / Shutterstock.com

El Paso Zoo offers an entertaining day for families as they explore the Animals of Africa, Animals of Asia, and Animals of the Americas exhibits, each housing large numbers of creatures big and small.

The zoo also features fun Zoo Adventure Programs for children and adults alike, along with daily animal encounters where visitors can get up close to sea lions, eagles, monkeys, tortoises, and other animals (check the events calendar to see what's on prior to arrival).

Other family-friendly attractions at the zoo include a massive treehouse playground, year-round water play area, and an African Star Train. Kids will enjoy the extras like the splash pad that operates in the summer, a carousel, and a treehouse playground.

Address: 4001 E. Paisano Drive, El Paso, Texas

Official site: www.elpasozoo.org

3. Head for the Hills: Franklin Mountains State Park

Franklin Mountains State Park
Franklin Mountains State Park

The spectacular Franklin Mountains are a common sight on the El Paso skyline. They're also a very welcome recreational outlet, not just for the entire El Paso community, but for out-of-state visitors, too.

Easily accessed on the north end of the city and one of the country's largest urban parks, the 27,000-acre Franklin Mountain State Park is a popular venue for hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing.

Other fun things to do at this sprawling state park include geocaching, ranger-led programs, and participating in the extensive wildlife watching opportunities on offer. For those pressed for time, the Franklin Mountains offer a variety of scenic drives, too.

Maps and trail information can be picked up at the park's main offices, along with permits for any one of the campsites located within its boundaries.

Address: Tom Mays Park Access Rd, El Paso, Texas

Official site: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/franklin-mountains

4. Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site

Hueco Tanks State Park
Hueco Tanks State Park

Located just over 30 miles northeast of downtown El Paso, Hueco Tanks is another recreational hot spot near El Paso that caters to hikers, climbers, campers, and bird-watchers. It's also a must-visit for those interested in the region's history.

The park is named after the immense rock formations and natural basins that collect rainwater, and people have gathered at this unique area for thousands of years. Evidence of this early human presence remains today through ancient pictographs on the rock wall.

Due to the fragile resources of the park, there is a cap on the number of people who can visit in a day. Reservations can be secured by calling ahead of time. Guided tours of the pictographs can also be scheduled during your visit–and take a picnic.

Address: 6900 Hueco Tanks Road Number 1, El Paso, Texas

Official site: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/hueco-tanks

5. Take in a Show at the Plaza Theatre

Plaza Theatre | EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

Located in the heart of downtown, the Plaza Theatre stands proudly as a testament to El Paso's musical past. Originally constructed in 1930 and returned to its original grandeur in 2006, the Plaza Theatre Performing Arts Center showcases some of the best live entertainment and attractions in El Paso.

The theater is built in Spanish Colonial Revival style, and part of the experience here is simply appreciating the intricately decorated auditorium space. Mosaic-tiled floors, ornamental metal railings, and antique furniture add to this atmospheric theater, as do the painted stars on the ceiling that reflect a summer night's sky.

Today, the Plaza hosts a wide range of shows, including big-name country stars, traveling mariachi bands, and Broadway performances. Fun free tours of the building are held each Wednesday at noon, and are well worth doing.

Address: 125 West Mills Avenue, El Paso, Texas

Official site: http://elpasolive.com/venues/plaza_theatre

6. Hit the El Paso Mission Trail

El Paso Mission Trail
El Paso Mission Trail

Encompassing the most important surviving Spanish mission stations in Texas, the Mission Trail starts in El Paso and is one of the best ways for tourists to explore the state's rich multicultural heritage. It is a nine-mile historic trail honoring the oldest missions in Texas, which existed in the 17th and 18th centuries.

A highlight of this popular scenic driving route is the Ysleta Mission. Consecrated in 1682, it's the oldest such structure in Texas. Others you'll see along the way are the Socorro Mission, first built in 1691, and San Elizario with its Spanish garrison church from 1789.

Many other authentic cultural highlights surround the missions, including local eateries, art galleries, and institutions like the Tigua Indian Cultural Center.

Address: 9065 Alameda Avenue, El Paso, Texas

7. Get Your Art Fix at El Paso Museum of Art

El Paso Museum of Art | Marisol Rios Campuzano / Shutterstock.com

The El Paso Museum of Art houses an impressive collection of more than 7,000 pieces focusing on American, European, and Mexican art from the 12th century to current times. The American art collection features many fine examples from the southwest.

Among its prized possessions are works by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, as well as important portraits by Rembrandt Peale, Thomas Sully, and Gilbert Stuart.

Modernist artists represented include Milton Avery, John Marin, and Max Weber. The museum also displays Impressionist pieces by Edward Bannister, Frank Boggs, William Merritt Chase, and Henry O. Tanner, to name just a few.

There's also an extensive collection of prints, drawings, watercolors, posters, and photographs. Workshops and educational programs for all ages are also held frequently.

Address: 1 Arts Festival Plaza, El Paso, Texas

Official site: www.elpasoartmuseum.org

8. Visit the Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens

Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens
Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens

Built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the independence of Texas from Mexico, the Centennial Museum features displays related to the natural and cultural history of the Southwest and Mexico.

On the campus of the University of Texas at El Paso, the museum houses both permanent and changing exhibits dealing with archeology, ethnology, geology, and paleontology, as well as the arts and sciences.

A visit also includes the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens with its more than 800 species of native plants in specially themed gardens, along with exhibits dealing with water conservation.

Also part of the facility, The Lhakhang Cultural Exhibit is known as "UTEP's Cultural Jewel," and features traditional Bhutanese architecture, murals, and other fine details.

Address: 500 West University Avenue, El Paso, Texas

Official site: www.utep.edu/centennial-museum/

9. Stop in at the National Border Patrol Museum

The National Border Patrol Museum
The National Border Patrol Museum | Visit El Paso / photo modified

Don't be fooled by appearances. The unassuming looking National Border Patrol Museum, located just outside El Paso, offers a fascinating look at the history of this important branch of the US government.

Highlights include a large collection of patrol vehicles, from rudimentary boats, motorcycles, and jeeps to sophisticated helicopters and other aircraft (static displays include an OH-6 helicopter, a Piper Super Cub airplane, and a Conquistador speedboat).

Also of interest are exhibits of weapons, uniforms, badges, photos, and artwork. Another attraction worth visiting is Chamizal National Memorial, a 55-acre site celebrating the settlement of disputes between Mexico and the US.

Address: 4315 Woodrow Bean Transmountain Road, El Paso, Texas

Official site: https://borderpatrolmuseum.com/

10. Magoffin Home State Historic Site

Magoffin Home State Historic Site
Magoffin Home State Historic Site | Visit El Paso / photo modified

This 19-room adobe homestead was constructed in 1875 in Territorial style and boasts three wings, each constructed in different periods.

Built for one of El Paso's leading families, the house features original furnishings, textiles, and photos, along with many fine paintings and splendid mid-Victorian décor.

The pleasant one-and-a-half-acre grounds are also worth a visit. Operated by the Texas Historical Commission, the first stop on any visit to this historic home should be to the adjacent Visitor Center, where patrons can get signed up for a guided tour.

Address: 1120 Magoffin Avenue, El Paso, Texas

Official site: www.visitmagoffinhome.com

11. The El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center

The El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center
The El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center | Visit El Paso / photo modified

The El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center, a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, also contains permanent exhibits with information covering all aspects of WWII, as well as life in Europe before the rise of the Nazis. There's also a gallery of El Paso Holocaust survivors.

This museum is one of only 13 of its kind in the United States, and the only bilingual Holocaust museum. Also on-site is the Robert and Sara Shiloff Library and Study Center with books and research on the topic. The museum offers educational workshops and presentations throughout the year.

Address: 715 N. Oregon Street, El Paso

Official site: www.elpasoholocaustmuseum.org

12. Go Horseback Riding

Horseback riding in El Paso | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

An exciting way to experience the open landscape and mountainous views of El Paso is on horseback. Just outside of the city center are several family-owned ranches that offer trail rides for all skill levels. Spend an hour or two outside, guided through farms and fields.

This is an interactive way to learn about local culture and agriculture as you ride through tree farms and desert with the border of Mexico off in the distance.

Many of the ranches in the area have been in operation for decades and are able to tailor rides for both children and adults. For an added adventure, you can plan an overnight camping trip by horseback or spend time at the facilities learning about the working ranches.

Most of the horse ranches are located on the Texas/New Mexico border, so you will get to experience the landscape and mountains of both states. Go West Stables, El Paso Trail Rides, Chihenne Ranch and El Paso Valley Trail Rides are some of the ranches close to El Paso that have trail rides.

13. El Paso Museum of Archaeology

El Paso Museum of Archaeology | Grossinger / Shutterstock.com

There is a lot of fun to uncover at the El Paso Museum of Archaeology, including detailed dioramas and galleries of life in the region for the last 14,000 years.

Located on the north side of the city near the base of Franklin Mountains, this eye-catching museum is free, and the facility often hosts special lectures, events, and family programs in its auditorium.

The museum also oversees 15 acres of land surrounding the facility and provides walking trails that meander next to more than 250 native Chihuahuan Desert plants.

Address: 4301 Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive, El Paso, Texas

Official site: https://archaeology.elpasotexas.gov/

14. Fort Bliss and Old Ironsides Museums

Fort Bliss and Old Ironsides Museums
Fort Bliss and Old Ironsides Museums

Established as a US Army post in the mid-19th century, Fort Bliss later served as a base for Confederate forces during the Civil War. Today, the camp is home to the Army Air Defense Center, is a combat training location for allied nations, and is home to a number of interesting museums.

The Fort Bliss Museum features air and missile defense exhibits and other military artifacts covering the period from 1861 through to Desert Storm, along with the fort's long history.

The Old Ironsides Museum, dedicated to preserving the history of the 1st Armored Division, also contains many fascinating exhibits and vehicles.

Address: 1735 Marshall Road, Fort Bliss, Texas

Official site: https://home.army.mil/bliss/index.php/my-fort/all-services/fort-bliss-and-old-ironsides-museu

Where to Stay in El Paso for Sightseeing

El Paso's attractions are spread out in all directions, so choosing a place to stay is closely correlated to what you are primarily interested in seeing. To the east of downtown is the 17th Century Mission Trail, and to the west are the El Paso Zoo and the Wet-N-Wild Waterpark. In the north is Fort Bliss, and downtown is where many of the museums are located. Below are some highly rated hotels in convenient locations:

Luxury Hotels:

Mid-Range Hotels:

Budget Hotels:

  • The Comfort Inn & Suites I-10 Airport offers spacious rooms at a fair price and provides complimentary appetizers and beverages Monday through Thursday in the late afternoon.
  • Within walking distance to the airport, the Best Western El Paso Airport Entrada Hotel offers straightforward rooms and suites with separate living rooms.
  • To the east of the city center, the pet-friendly Red Roof PLUS+ El Paso East is just a short drive from the Tigua Indian Cultural Center. This hotel features an outdoor pool and is within walking distance of a variety of chain restaurants.

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