Free Things To Do in El Paso
- #2View all Photos#2 in El PasoFree, Churches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Churches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME 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.
- #3View all PhotosfreePlaza Theatre#3 in El PasoEntertainment and Nightlife, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and Nightlife, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME 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.
- #5View all Photos#5 in El PasoFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME 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.
- #6View all Photos#6 in El PasoMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME 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.
- #7View all Photos#7 in El PasoMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME 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.
- #8View all Photos#8 in El PasoMuseums, Free, Parks and Gardens, Monuments and MemorialsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, Free, Parks and Gardens, Monuments and MemorialsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME 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.
- #9View all Photos#9 in El PasoMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME 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.
- #12View all Photos#12 in El PasoMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME 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.
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