El Paso is the largest United States city on the southern border, making this list of things to do in El Paso, Texas worthy of an entire weekend getaway. Most of the residents live on one side of the border and work on the other. Perched on the hillocks of the grand Franklin Mountains, El Paso is the picturesque home to a variety of cultures unlike anywhere else in the Lone Star State of Texas.
El Paso is nicknamed “Sun City” for having year-round sunshine and because it is a utopia for those who enjoy nature, history, architecture, the arts, and savory food.
History is one of El Paso’s main attractions and part of what makes Sun City so extraordinary. Native American tribes, Spanish explorers, the decline of a once-great European power, and the emergence of a new republic have all left a permanent mark on El Paso.
Other attractions of El Paso are the legendary music fiestas, a reborn downtown with new hotels, and an easy-going desert vibe. El Paso is a destination with something for everyone.
COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN EL PASO
- Best With Casino: The Hotel at Sunland Park Casino El Paso, Ascend Hotel Collection, is a boutique hotel located just minutes from downtown El Paso. Guests are just moments from trying their luck at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino, featuring horse races, a selection of slot machines, electronic table games and video poker.
- Best for Foodies: The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park is a landmark property that has been reborn as El Paso’s most luxurious boutique hotel. Since the 1930s, it’s hosted A-listers like Elizabeth Taylor and Conrad Hilton. Ámbar Restaurante, El Paso’s top wood-fired Mexican restaurant, reimagines centuries-old ingredients.
- Best Tried and True: Holiday Inn Express & Suites – El Paso North, an IHG Hotel is located in El Paso, within 8 miles of Chamizal Park. It offers a buffet breakfast and a swimming pool.
DOWNTOWN EL PASO
A culinary and cultural destination like no other, Downtown El Paso brings to life the magnificent sights, sounds, aromas, and tastes of both sides of the Rio Grande.
Downtown El Paso is not a traditional American city center. It is a rare blend of clambering skyscrapers, luxurious hotels, and popping bars alongside well-preserved historical streets and plazas, making it a must-stop in El Paso.
While in Downtown El Paso, appreciate the art around you with vibrant, sprawling murals on walls and buildings. Local magnets include the El Paso Museum of Art, cultural institutions like the Plaza Theatre and the El Paso Zoo. Your time here will be impossible to forget.
FRANKLIN MOUNTAINS STATE PARK
Soaring above the city of El Paso is Franklin Mountains State Park, the largest urban park in the United States. This is a haven for those who love scouring the great outdoors.
Jagged trails and glorious sights can be admired at the 27,000-acre Franklin Mountains State Park. While here, enjoy the rugged hike terrain in 37 square miles of desert wilderness, scrub vegetation, and open space. Alternatively, take on the 125 miles of multi-use trails and push your limits on a mountain bike. Franklin Mountains State Park is also popular for its rock climbing.
Make a convenient escape from the city and meet animals like ringtail cats, coyotes, and countless other reptiles. The North Franklin Peak (7192ft) looms overhead for adrenaline junkies and rock climbers.
Set up a camp, go picnicking or simply wander to one of 14 tent sites or find your way at any of the five RV sites.
CHAMIZAL NATIONAL MEMORIAL
Chamizal National Memorial sits proudly on 54.9 acres of land. It is a memorial built to remember the 100-year boundary dispute between the United States and Mexico. The Chamizal includes a museum, theater, art galleries and hosts many festivals and events throughout the year.
Celebrate the cultures of the borderlands and gain a new understanding of the different communities. The monument includes a museum, theater, and art galleries. Admission is free.
The memorial hosts different programs and festivals throughout the year, and all are open to the public. Chamizal is more than just an urban park.
HUECO TANKS STATE HISTORIC SITE
Isolated deep in the heart of the Chihuahua Desert, not far from El Paso, is a group of massive natural rock basins known as “huecos.” These unusual rock formations gather and trap water in an otherwise arid region and are a must-see at Hueco Tanks State Historic Site.
The huecos have been a dependable water source for local communities and sojourners from time immemorial. The huecos are found on the 860-acre Hueco Tanks State Park, and tours of the tanks and pictographs are free with entry to the park.
There are over 3000 rock drawings on these natural rock basins. Some pictographs date to as early as 6000-3000 BCE and are in the early archaic styles. History enthusiasts will be in for a treat.
NATIONAL BORDER PATROL MUSEUM
At the heart of El Paso, Texas, is the National Border Patrol Museum, proudly located on 10,000 square feet of land. It is the only museum that honors the Border Patrol.
Take a walk through the US Border Patrol’s robust history from the Old West, prohibition, WWII, up to the current high-tech Patrol. View the awe-inspiring park Willis exhibitions of paintings, weapons, documents, artifacts, and ‘hands on’ vehicles like the Jeep, scarab boat, ATV, snowmobile, and helicopters. Get ready to be amazed.
Guided tours are available, and admission is free.
MAGOFFIN HOME STATE HISTORIC SITE
The Magoffin Home State Historic Site is one of the best-kept secrets in Texas. This El Paso landmark was built in 1875 for Joseph Magoffin, a politician and businessman.
Self-guided and guided tours are available in this home. Original art and heirloom furnishings are on display and help haul visitors back in time.
You can also admire the home’s restful landscape, where you can sit or enjoy a picnic under the shelter of trees.
EL PASO HOLOCAUST MUSEUM AND STUDY CENTER
The El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center was founded by local survivors of the Holocaust and holds thoughtful and moving displays imaginatively presented for maximum impact.
Through emotional displays, the museum traces life before, during, and after the Holocaust. It also hosts events throughout the year to promote understanding within the community.
The Museum pays tribute to lives lost in the Holocaust and those who survived it. One is reminded of the importance of acceptance. The value and dignity of human life are also reinforced. Emotions run high here.
EL PASO MUSEUM OF ART
Located in downtown El Paso, the El Paso Museum of Art holds the record of being the only art museum accredited within a 250-mile radius since it first claimed the honor in 1972.
Walk into the Victorian-style mansion and wonder at the 19th to the 20th-century art collection. The ambiance, wall-to-wall art, simplicity, and tranquility within these walls will make you want to hang around for just a little bit longer. All this is free.
SCENIC DRIVE OVERLOOK
Known as the city’s best view accessible by car, Scenic Drive wows visitors every time. The spiraling road snakes around the mountain’s east side, exposing you to some of the city’s most dramatic views.
The road is cut along the periphery of the hills and crawls across the Franklins in a mix of twists and turns. On one side of the winding road is a view of beautiful majestic homes, and on the other is an incredible view of El Paso and Juarez.
Get the most out of your drive by making a stop at the small park and scenic overlook. Do not forget to bring your camera to capture these views.
EL PASO ZOO
The El Paso Zoo sits on 35 acres of wildlands and is home to many threatened animals — more than 670 animals representing over 200 species.
Worth a mention is the Asian elephant, Sumatran orangutan, Malayan tiger, and the rare Amur leopard.
Do not miss the free-flight bird show in the new Wildlife Amphitheater. With an additional 4000 sq ft for birds, mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates, a visit here can be a great learning experience.
Other attractions include the African Star Train, the Hunt Family Desert Spring water feature, and the Foster Treehouse Playground.
EL PASO MISSION TRAIL
The El Paso Mission Trail is home to three historic missions and the oldest parish in Texas. Appreciate the area’s culture, faith, and history with a fulfilling yet educational visit through the El Paso Mission Trail.
Worth a mention is the Ysleta Mission: A Parish that Never Perishes. It is located within the Tigua Indian community, where faith and culture run strong. Though the oldest, it is still operational.
FORT BLISS AND OLD IRONSIDES MUSEUMS
Since 1849, the Army has used Fort Bliss to train troops and handle operations for war efforts. Both military personnel and civilians can now learn about the post’s history at the Fort Bliss and Old Ironsides Museum.
All of the histories of Fort Bliss in El Paso are well captured here. While here, trace the history of the 1st Armored Division from its organization before World War II to the present day. You must find your way to the exhibit holding over 40 tanks and other armored vehicles.
The museum also holds a massive exhibit devoted to the 1st Armored Division, the American military’s tank division (Old Ironsides). Military buffs will be in for a treat!
MOUNT CRISTO REY
Mount Cristo Rey is a mountain found in Sunland Park, New Mexico. It faces El Paso, Texas, the border wall, the United States, and Mexico.
Each year on the last Sunday of October, thousands of worshipers take a pilgrimage to Mount Cristo Rey. For decades, believers have been going up the steep and rugged terrain to ask for a miracle.
At the mountain’s peak is the famous 29-foot limestone statue of Jesus Christ. This monument erected in 1934 has become a shrine for the faithful.
BILLY THE KID JAIL
You have probably heard of legendary outlaws who ruled the old Wild West, like Buffalo Bill, Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok, Billy the Kid, and others. Despite their history of violent crime, their iconic status endures, but in El Paso, Billy the Kid reigns supreme.
Legend has it that on April 28, 1881, Billy the Kid escaped from the jailhouse in Lincoln, New Mexico. Others claim that he broke into the Lincoln prison and staged a prison break for one of his partners in crime.
He avoided capture until July 14, when he was entrapped and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett at a ranch house. Billy the Kid, was then buried in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, though some believe he lived on.
Listen to tales of this renegade of old and myths surrounding him as you visualize those gunslinger days at the Old County Jail Museum.
WESTERN PLAYLAND AMUSEMENT PARK
Western Playland Amusement Park is located across from Sunland Park and is nothing but 25 acres of fun, excitement, and more.
This amusement park is home to aptly named terrific rides like The Hurricane, Paratrooper, Tsunami, El Bandido Roller Coaster, Roundup, Tilt-a-Whirl, Pharaoh’s Fury, Scrambler, Himalaya, and more. You will scream yourself hoarse from hair-raising experiences while a tidal wave refreshes onlookers.
The park offers excellent carnival food, games, prizes, a low general admission fee, and an unlimited ride pass. Fair warning: The kids may not want to leave!
TAKE ON A WATER PARK
El Paso is the ultimate camp for water fun, with four great aquatic locations to choose from. These spaces are great for some lazy summer fun and all-day celebrations. A cool dip in any water park will be a welcome relief from the hot Texan sun.
Each site is a one-of-a-kind destination spotlighting distinct themes blended with spiraling water slides, cruising lazy rivers, sensational kiddie playgrounds, and more.
Camp Cohen Water Park offers adventure. You can do laps in Endurance River, scale the Warrior Wall, ride high-octane Thunder Run, Lightning Bolt, or Monsoon Plunge slides. Little ones will enjoy the Poppy Island water playground within the Wild Lagoon.
Life is one big party at the fiesta-themed Chapoteo Water Park. Vivid colors and festive designs are everywhere, creating an atmosphere of light, music, and celebration. Go down slides, try the gentle lazy river, or any water escapades available.
The Lost Kingdom Water Park is the perfect fantasy spot, where you can explore the ruins of the lost Mayan Kingdom and enjoy zip and twisting water slide thrills. Challenge yourself on The Ruins climbing wall and the Mayan Lanes, or splash around in the Macaw Lagoon with interactive water features for endless hours of playtime.
Oasis Water Park is located at Eastside Regional Park, El Paso’s newest and largest park. This is an ideal spot for a summer retreat for family fun and a water park staycation. Boasting El Paso’s only surfing machine, Oasis is one of the best places to beat the summer heat. Try the Flashflood Rush and cool off in the meandering lazy river. The climbing wall, leisure pool, or rain puddle should not be missed.
This well-kept secret that is El Paso is full of many hidden surprises that will keep all who venture here well entertained, informed, and replenished. Your first visit will not be enough.
Ascarate Park is the largest recreational park in El Paso County — with 400 acres!
This amazing park is a must-visit, and is perfect for those who enjoy the outdoors. With picnicking, golf courses, fishing, boating, a 48-acre surface lake, an aquatic center, and a lakeside boardwalk, there is something for everyone here.
Also at Ascarate Park, you will find the new Healing Garden, a peaceful space dedicated to the 23 lives taken during a shooting at an El Paso Wal-Mart on August 3, 2019.
EL PASO MUSEUM OF ARCHAEOLOGY
The El Paso Museum of Archaeology takes you back through 14,000 years of prehistory of the El Paso area, the Southwest, and northern Mexico.
Enjoy exhibits and artifacts from many different cultures in the North Gallery, including basketry, ceramics, textiles, stone tools and ornaments. In the South Gallery you’ll find dioramas depicting American Indians from the Ice Age through the 20th Century.
The El Paso Museum of Archaeology also has changing exhibits throughout the year, so there’s always something new to see here.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO TEXAS:
- YOUR TEXAS VACATION
- CORPUS CHRISTI: 15 Fantastic Things To Do In Corpus Christi You’ll Adore
- WEEKEND GETAWAYS: 11 Amazing Kid Friendly Weekend Getaways In Texas
- SPI: 21 Captivating Things To Do In South Padre Island (+ Our Tips)
- WACO: 11 Fantastic Things To Do In Waco (+ 8 ‘Fixer Upper’ Rental Homes)
WHERE TO STAY IN EL PASO
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