12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in El Paso, TX
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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. Head for the Hills: 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.
For an excellent view of the desert scenery surrounding El Paso, the popular Wyler Aerial Tramway within the park offers superb views from atop the 5,632-foot-tall Ranger Peak. Maps and other info can be picked up at Park's main offices, along with permits for any one of the five campsites located within its boundaries.
Address: Tom Mays Park Access Rd, El Paso, Texas
Official site: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/franklin-mountains
2. Hit the 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.
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
Official site: http://visitelpasomissiontrail.com/index.html
3. Take in a Show at the Plaza Theatre
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
4. Get Your Art Fix at El Paso Museum of Art
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 prize 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 (check the museum's website below for details).
Address: 1 Arts Festival Plaza, El Paso, Texas
Official site: www.elpasoartmuseum.org
5. Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
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
6. Enjoy the Animals at the El Paso Zoo
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. There's also a Wildlife Amphitheater for special animal-focused shows.
Address: 4001 E. Paisano Drive, El Paso, Texas
Official site: www.elpasozoo.org
7. Visit 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/
8. The National Border Patrol Museum
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/
9. Magoffin Home State Historic Site
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
10. The El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center
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 survivor.
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
11. El Paso Museum of Archaeology
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/
12. 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 and is a combat training location for allied nations, and 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
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:
- About one mile south of Fort Bliss and near the airport, the Staybridge Suites offers two-room suites with kitchens, and an outdoor pool and hot tub.
- In a central location between Fort Bliss and downtown is the new Holiday Inn, with a popular restaurant and a free shuttle available for transport to local attractions within five miles.
- Located downtown, the new Hotel Indigo is stylish and edgy, with modern rooms and a rooftop pool. The El Paso Museum of Art is a short stroll away.
- On the east side of El Paso and just a couple of miles from the 17th Century Ysleta Mission, the Hampton Inn offers a free hot breakfast and a free shuttle to destinations within five miles.
- Near the University of Texas El Paso campus and within walking distance to the Sun Bowl stadium, the Hilton Garden Inn is great for sports fans.
- The TownePlace Suites is near the airport and offers large suites with kitchens, an outdoor pool with BBQ facilities, and a free continental breakfast.
- The Comfort Inn & Suites, near the 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 Inn 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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