El Paso is a city in the western part of Texas that sits on the Rio Grande River. The river separates El Paso from Mexico and its closest city, Juarez. El Paso means ‘the pass’ in Spanish and is commonly the city the people pass through to reach the US from Mexico and vice-versa. El Paso is known for its strong military presence. It’s home to Fort Bliss, Bigg Army Airfield and the William Beaumont Army Medical Center. Fort Bliss is one of the largest army bases in the US. This might help explain why El Paso is consistently one of the safest cities in America. It has a population of 682,000 people and is nicknamed ‘Sun City’ for its excellent year-round weather.
So, let’s take you on a quick journey and explore all the great things to do in El Paso on your visit.
Franklin Mountains State Park
Franklin Mountains State Park spans more than 24,000 acres, stretching from Texas into New Mexico. The highest peak of the range is North Franklin Mountain, which sits at an elevation of 7,192ft. The mountains are the highest range in the state of Texas. The park forms part of the Chihuahuan desert and has miles of hiking and walking trails. Discussions are currently underway that could see an additional 100 miles of trails built for public use. The park is an accessible and popular location for rock climbing, due to its mountainous landscape. Franklin Mountains State Park is home to an impressive array of native plants and animals, many of which are usually only found in the desert. Taking a walk or a hike in the park is a great free thing to do in El Paso during your visit.
Chihuahuan Desert Gardens
The Chihuahuan Desert Gardens and Centennial Museum are located on the grounds of the University of Texas at El Paso. The museum focuses on the geological, paleontological, and archeological natural history of the South Western United States. The gardens are home to more than 600 species of native plants, and these are presented in various themed areas. The area is an exciting and educational place to take a walk and is one of the great free things to do in El Paso.
El Paso Zoo
El Paso Zoo takes up 35-acres of real estate and is one of the top things to do in El Paso with kids. The zoo is home to more than 220 species of animals and provides a haven for many threatened species. It offers some great interactive activities, such as the daily Sea Lion show, which is always a draw for visitors. The zoo has many themed areas, including sections for Animals of Asia, Animals of the Americas and Animals of Africa. Children are particularly fond of the zoo’s rides, such as the African Star Train. There’s also the added bonus of being able to visit some of the zoo’s special events, such as the popular Zoofari Nights program. This allows visitors to enter El Paso Zoo in the evening and get a better idea of what the animals get up to after dark.
Tickets required, available online or from the ticket office, $7.50-$12
El Paso Museum of Art
El Paso Museum of Art is located in downtown and is famous for its large collection of Southwestern and Mexican contemporary art. It also has a considerable collection donated by philanthropist, Samuel Henry Kress. Kress agreed to give more than 770 works from his enormous collection of European art to various regional galleries around the country. El Paso Museum of Art was one of the chosen few and has 57 pieces on display. There’s also a great educational program on offer at the museum, as well as art classes for all ages. As there is no admission fee for the museum, it’s one of a range of great free things to do in El Paso.
Holocaust Museum and Study Center
This facility was established in 1994 by Henry Kellen, a survivor of the Holocaust. The museum and study center were designed to educate visitors and residents about the evils perpetrated by Nazi Germany and the Third Reich. It is proud of its place as the only fully bilingual Holocaust museum in the US, as well as one of only 13 stand-alone museums dedicated to these historic events. The museum has an extensive collection of footage of El Paso residents who survived the Holocaust. In the center, you can hear their testimonies and listen to first-hand experiences of one of the darkest periods in history. The Holocaust Museum and Study Center also runs various education programs and camps throughout the year. A visit to the center is another free thing to do in El Paso during your stay.
The El Paso Mission Trail is a stretch of 9 miles in the city’s Mission Valley. The trail is named for three beautiful historic missions from the 17th and 18th centuries. These are San Elizario Chapel, Socorro Mission and Ysleta Mission. These missions are the oldest in the state of Texas and all are still in use today. Although the trail was named for the missions, there’s far more to do along its nine miles than just visiting the churches. The Mission Trail has museums, galleries and other landmarks to explore. Los Portales Museum, San Elizario Old County Jail and San Elizario Historic Art District are several more key stops along the way. In particular, the Old County Jail is a great place to stop as it’s the only jail outlaw, Billy the Kid, ever broke into.
Off-beat El Paso
El Paso has a lot to offer in the odd attractions’ category, so you’re in for a good time if this is your bag. A trip to Casa de Azucar, for example, has to feature near the top of the pile on a list of off-beat things to do in El Paso. The property, known as the Sugar House in English, is the result of some pretty hard work. Starting in 1973, the owner began to carve sculptures out of concrete and he has been doing it ever since. Now, the house is a work of art in its own right, with so many intricate and colorful designs surrounding it.
On a slightly more somber note, if you like your tourist attractions dark, head up to the Franklin Mountains to see the wreckage of a B-36 bomber that still lies on a hillside. The plane struck a mountain in December 1953 during bad weather and nine people on board were killed.
Frequently Asked Questions by Travelers About El Paso
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the top things to do in El Paso. The questions cover a range of topics and will help you research and plan your next trip to the city.
What are things to do when you’re alone in El Paso?
If you’re in the city on your own, there are still many things to do in El Paso that don’t require company. Take a leisurely walk around some of the excellent museums, such as the National Border Patrol Museum, The El Paso Museum of History, or the Chamizal National Memorial. El Paso also has a good choice of quality coffee shops for a relaxing afternoon of people watching. Among the best are Hillside Coffee and Donut Co and the hip Joe Vinny and Bronsons Bohemian Cafe.
What are some things to do in El Paso when it’s raining?
Although the city is known for its sunshine, there’s plenty of things to do in El Paso on the off-chance the weather is playing up. Taking in a show at the iconic Plaza Theater is a popular activity. This vintage and historic theater is one of the city’s most beautiful attractions. Paying a visit to St Patrick Cathedral to see the fantastic stained glass windows and the delicate frescoes is also a great way to spend some time. St Patrick is one of the oldest churches in El Paso and offers daily mass.
El Paso is a sunny and historic city. It’s proud of its heritage and determined to put it all on display for the pleasure of residents and visitors alike. It’s one of the safest cities in the US and has a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. It shares a long history with Juarez, just across the Rio Grande River in Mexico and El Paso’s Border Patrol Museum is the only one in the world. It offers a wide range of accommodation options for visitors. The city is served by El Paso International, one of the largest airports in Texas.