El Paso Travel Guide

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Best Things To Do in El Paso

Whether you want to immerse yourself in history or hit the trails, El Paso has something for you. The area's history dates back thousands of years,

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Whether you want to immerse yourself in history or hit the trails, El Paso has something for you. The area's history dates back thousands of years, which you can learn more about at places like Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site and along the El Paso Mission Trail. To get a better sense of local history, hit up the Magoffin Home State Historic Site or the Centennial Museum. When you're ready to spend some time outside, Franklin Mountains State Park's trails can't be beat. Round out your trip by indulging in the local arts scene at either the El Paso Museum of Art or the Plaza Theatre.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated October 2, 2020

  • #1
    Things to do in El Paso
    View all Photos
    #1 in El Paso
    Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Hiking, Recreation
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Hiking, Recreation
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Sweeping mountain vistas await travelers who decide to hike through Franklin Mountains State Park. The park lies less than 18 miles north of the city center and provides visitors with a feeling of being worlds away from civilization. There are more than 100 miles of hiking trails across roughly 27,000 acres, plus rock climbing opportunities and multiple campsites. You can also partake in ranger programs, such as guided hikes, bike tours and art activities. Astute hikers may also see several species of birds or – if they're lucky –  mountain lions, among other animals.

    Past tourists raved about the park. Many enjoyed their hikes and loved the views, adding that future travelers should try to time their hikes around sunset. Others warned that it can get particularly hot here in summer, so be sure to pack plenty of provisions.

  • #2
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    #2 in El Paso
    Free, Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    El Paso's complex history can be experienced along the El Paso Mission Trail: a 9-mile stretch along the U.S.-Mexico border that passes by two mission churches and one presidio chapel. Each location has its own history and details the complex relations among the region's Native Americans, Spanish colonists and missionaries. The Ysleta Mission, which is closest to El Paso, has been in continuous use since 1682. Today, it is still an important religious site for the Tigua Indian Tribe. The nearby cultural center has a museum designed to educate visitors about the tribe's history. Come July, Ysleta runs a three-day music festival with live performances, games and delicious food.

    The Socorro Mission has been immaculately restored. Its architectural details like cottonwood ceiling beams, adobe walls and a bell tower all represent the comingling of Spanish and pueblo cultures. The final site along the trail, the Presidio Chapel of San Elizario, began as a military fortress in the late 1700s. By the end of the 19th century, the chapel was constructed, cementing the location's role as an important religious site.

  • #3
    View all Photos
    #3 in El Paso
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Details like murals, metal railings, carpets with intricate designs and mosaic tiles adorn the interior of this Spanish colonial-style theater. Located in the heart of downtown, the Plaza Theatre has been welcoming guests since 1930. Here, you can attend dance performances, live concerts and musicals fresh from a Broadway run.

    If you can't catch a show, there's another way to see this beloved site. The Plaza Theatre offers weekly guided tours that are free to the public.

  • #4
    View all Photos
    #4 in El Paso
    Parks and Gardens, Hiking, Recreation, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Hiking, Recreation, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Hueco Tanks is a series of rock outcrops that are thousands of years old. The area provided previous residents with food, shelter and places to farm. Today, visitors tour the site primarily to view the images past inhabitants left on the rock faces. Drawings include animals, masks, handprints, horses and humans, among others.

    In addition to looking at the pictographs and petroglyphs, travelers can go hiking, camping, bird-watching and rock climbing. However, it's important to note that certain areas of the park are only accessible via a guided tour and that self-guided activities (such as hiking) may require reservations. Know, too, that only 70 people can access the self-guided portion of the park at a time. Finalize your reservations well in advance to make the most of your time at the site.

  • #5
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    #5 in El Paso
    Free, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Unsurprisingly, El Paso's hot climate is a result of its location in the Chihuahuan Desert, which extends through parts of western Texas, southern New Mexico and northern Mexico. The Centennial Museum and the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, located on the University of Texas at El Paso campus, safeguard the desert's cultural and natural history. At the museum, permanent exhibits detail the Chihuahuan Desert's history. It also includes temporary exhibits that focus on various topics related to the area, such as children being held at Tornillo's detention center and life in El Paso during World War II.

    The Chihuahuan Gardens showcase more than 800 different plants that live in the desert. Visitors can walk through the gardens to view the plants in their natural habitat, enjoy a few water features or sit on one of the benches to simply take in the atmosphere.

  • #6
    View all Photos
    #6 in El Paso
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    For more than 60 years, the El Paso Museum of Art has preserved and displayed American, Mexican and European art for visitors to peruse. Sculptures, portraits, photographs and other mediums comprise EPMA's collection, which includes works by greats like Anthony van Dyck and Sandro Botticelli. The museum also curates a series of rotating exhibits by artists from around the world. These exhibits showcase everything from photographs of everyday life to light displays. Visitors can also try their hand at creating their own pieces by signing up for a class at the on-site art school.

    According to recent tourists, EPMA is a can't-miss attraction. They appreciated the variety of art on display, especially given the museum's small size. Many also loved that admission is free.

  • #7
    View all Photos
    #7 in El Paso
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Since 1849, Fort Bliss has been used by the Army to train troops, as well as handle operations for war efforts. Now, both military personnel and civilians can learn about the post's history at the Fort Bliss and Old Ironsides Museum. Visitors will find out more about the fort's role in supporting troops during conflicts like the Mexican Revolution and World War II. Additionally, the museum houses a large exhibit dedicated to the 1st Armored Division, the American military's tank division (called Old Ironsides). In this portion of the museum, visitors will learn about mechanized warfare's development and progression from the 1940s through the early 2010s.

    Reviewers enjoyed their trips to the museum, noting that the large space is informative and a can't-miss attraction for military buffs. Others were complimentary of the soldiers stationed at Fort Bliss, who provide good directions to get to the museum, should you get lost.

  • #8
    View all Photos
    #8 in El Paso
    Museums, Free, Parks and Gardens, Monuments and Memorials
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free, Parks and Gardens, Monuments and Memorials
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    For years, the boundary between the United States and Mexico was delineated by the Rio Grande. When the river shifted course in the mid-1800s due to flooding, it cut through El Chamizal, a piece of Mexican territory. Now that the river had moved, did that mean the boundary between the two countries moved, too? This question sparked a land dispute that lasted for a century. After years of arbitration and talks, the U.S. and Mexican governments resolved the dispute in 1963, though it caused a great amount of unrest from and uprooting for its citizens.

    Present-day Chamizal National Memorial commemorates the end of the dispute. At the memorial, visitors can stop by the museum to learn about the history of the argument or visit the site's art gallery to see works by area artists. Travelers can further engage with El Paso's history and culture by attending one of the memorial's numerous events, which are hosted at the indoor theater and the outdoor stage. Available programs include outdoor summer concerts that are part of the Music Under the Stars series and performances tied to the annual Siglo de Oro Drama Festival, which celebrates Spanish theater. For those who won't be in town for a performance, there are several trails to explore on foot or by bike.

  • #9
    View all Photos
    #9 in El Paso
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The El Paso Holocaust Museum was founded in 1984 by Henry Kellen, a Holocaust survivor who wanted to share his experiences with the community. What began as a small display tucked into the city's Jewish Community Center has grown to become the only bilingual Holocaust museum in the U.S.

    The museum's mission is to educate the public about the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany in the hope that similar acts will not happen again. Through its permanent exhibits, the museum traces life before, during and after the Holocaust. It also hosts events throughout the year to further engage with the community.

  • #10
    View all Photos
    #10 in El Paso
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Families cannot go wrong with a trip to the El Paso Zoo. It's a small facility, according to recent travelers, but there is plenty to explore. The zoo houses a variety of animals, including sun bears, tigers, orangutans, giraffes and zebras. There are also a carousel, a train and a playground for children. What's more, the zoo hosts special programs where, for additional fees, visitors can learn more about how the property cares for its animals, meet some of its elephants or spend the night and enjoy a guided tour before and after it opens.

    Previous visitors offered mixed reviews of the zoo. Many praised the high-quality care the zoo gives its animals and enjoyed the animal demonstrations. Others said the zoo was mediocre compared to others they'd visited and wished the facility had a wider variety of animals.

  • #11
    View all Photos
    #11 in El Paso
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Magoffin family was instrumental in developing the El Paso area. Following the Civil War, Joseph Magoffin, a wealthy local businessman, used his influence and land to help build the El Paso area's infrastructure, including railroads and a local bank. He was also El Paso's fourth mayor and helped care for the city's streets, implement a school system and more.

    His family's home was built in 1877. The home is made of adobe brick, and its walls are several feet thick. Wooden beams adorn the interior ceilings. As the home changed over the years, so did the interior styles. In some rooms, you'll find furniture from the 1800s, while others feature decor from the 1930s. Today, visitors can tour the house to learn more about the family and see its preserved art and furniture.

  • #12
    View all Photos
    #12 in El Paso
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    This museum preserves the history of the U.S. Border Patrol and the women and men who work for this organization. Inside, visitors will find several different exhibits. One details the vehicles used by officers, including planes, helicopters, cars, boats and all-terrain vehicles. Others display artifacts and information about how the Border Patrol completes its job, such as one about the Horse Patrol, which does all of its work on horseback and still rides today. Additional exhibits feature weapons seized at the border, as well as uniforms worn by officers from 1924 (the year the Border Patrol was founded) to 2007.

    Overall, past visitors were pleasantly surprised by the museum and found it to be an informative introduction to the agency. However, a few were less impressed by the museum and said it could use some upkeep.

  • View all Photos
    Free, Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • View all Photos
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • View all Photos
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

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