If you are planning a visit to El Paso, Texas keep reading, because this is everything you need to know before your trip. Below are my top 14 things to do in El Paso, Texas as well as my top hotel choice and favorite restaurants in the city.
El Paso is located at the westernmost point of West Texas and straddles the Rio Grande on the U.S.-Mexico border. El Paso is known for its large military presence that is anchored by Fort Bliss, but on the flip side has an up-and-coming culinary scene. With a growing list of top-notch restaurants, museums, and theater this is a town worth getting to know.
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Best Things To do in El Paso: Where to Eat & Stay & Have Fun
Where To Stay In El Paso
During my trip to El Paso, I stayed at Hotel Indigo. The boutique hotel is located in the heart of downtown El Paso, which is the best area to stay in. It’s an easy walk to many restaurants, bars, and landmarks.
The hotel has a very hip vibe and mixes El Paso history through a great collection of art and photography with a modern updated feel. The 5th-floor has a rooftop pool and bar, lots of open-air space, and views of the El Paso skyline.
The rooms are large and offer a great view of downtown El Paso. The hotel does a turndown service and offers a delicious breakfast, great happy hour snacks, and delicious drinks.
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17 Fun Things to do in El Paso, TX
El Paso’s nickname is Sun City because of its 300+ days of sunshine each year. It’s nestled among the foothills of the majestic Franklin Mountains within the Chihuahuan Desert in far West Texas, El Paso is a city with plenty of fun things to do.
1. Visit the El Paso Mission Trail
Visiting the El Paso Mission Trail plunges you straight into the history of the area and allows the discovery of some of the oldest missions in the United States.
In 1598, the Spanish colonial government sent Don Juan de Onate on an expedition to settle the lands north of New Spain (Mexico) and establish a “new” Mexico. He took 600 colonists with him as well as 12 Franciscan missionaries. 16 missions were set up along this trail, three along a nine-mile route along the Socorro Road which is the oldest road in North America.
The three missions are Ysleta, Socorro, and the presidio chapel of San Elizario. Due to opening times, the best way for you to see them is by starting at the San Elizario presidio and chapel which was created in 1789 in a Spanish military garrison. While here, don’t miss out on going to one of the nearby art galleries where you will be able to see beautiful paintings by local and regional artists.
The next mission to visit is the Socorro which was completed in 1691 and named Nuestra Señora de Limpia Concepcíon de los Piros de Socorro Del Sur. Today it is known by parishioners as San Miguel, after their patron saint. Socorro Mission contains a replica of Michaelangelo’s sculpture, “La Pieta.” It was sanctioned by the Vatican and donated to the mission in 2015.
Lastly, go to the Ysleta Mission which is thought to be the first and oldest mission in Texas and the second oldest in the United States. It is in the midst of the Tigua Indian community where you will find that faith and culture are strong.
Fun Fact: These three missions were once in Mexico, but with the changing course of the Rio Grande River, they finally ended up in Texas.
Related Article>> Exploring the Mission Trail
2. Take the Elizario Historic State Walking Tour
The village of Elizario dates back to 1850 and was once a busy and prosperous town. It is the birthplace of the American Southwest and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In the 1850s there were 100 bars and brothels in the village, but the construction of the railroad to the east stopped the growth and prosperity of Elizario.
If you love history and exploring historic buildings, you will be in your element here. You will find plenty of historic buildings to wander around; the most notable being the jail. It was the first jail in the area and was used until the 1940s. According to tradition, this was the jail Billy the Kid broke into to rescue his friend, Melquiades Segura in 1876.
Don’t leave the town without visiting some more notable buildings, such as the San Elizario Chapel, the Adobe Horseshoe Theater, the old cemetery, and the San Elizario Placita, where festivals and political rallies are still held.
3. Border Patrol Museum
Don’t miss out on a visit to the Border Patrol Museum. It is one of a kind as it is the only museum of this type in the United States. Here you can take a journey from the inception of the border patrol in 1924 through Prohibition, World War II, and onto the modern well-oiled machine of today’s border patrol which works under the Department of Homeland Security.
In the National Border Patrol Museum, among other exhibits, you will find seized weapons, vehicles built to cross the border, and border patrol uniforms. Also available are movies and documents showing how people are processed at borders. There is also a Memorial Room that has been set up to honor the brave agents who have lost their lives while on duty.
4. Take the Lucchese Boot Factory Tour
Are you looking for a new pair of boots or are you interested to see how they are made? If so, head over to the Lucchese Boot Factory. They offer tours Monday through Friday which last approximately one and a half hours.
This is a fascinating place to visit and you will see why El Paso has become the boot capital of the world. This factory has as many as 250 staff and many are third or fourth-generation employees of the factory.
65% of boots produced are custom made and they can cost up to $1000 a pair. If you buy off the rack, boots will cost around $450. Despite the cost, you will appreciate the quality and attention to detail; not surprisingly as 600 hands touch a pair of boots before they are finished.
Every boot is hand-sewn and it is interesting to note that in the 1930s, boots were made for every state in the United States. Some of them can now be seen in museums and others are back on display at the Lucchese factory.
5. Visit the Magoffin Home State Site
If you want to see history brought to life, visit the Magoffin Home State Historic Site. The house is beautiful and well-preserved. It was one of the original ranches in Franklin (before it became known as El Paso). The home was built for Joseph Magoffin and his family in 1875. It is a particularly striking adobe building measuring 6,000 square feet, with 20 acres of grounds.
Visiting the historic building and home takes you on a journey into the lives of a multicultural family. Joseph Magoffin was a prolific man; he started the railroad in El Paso, traded on the Santa Fe – Chihuahua trail, and got involved in US and Mexican relations. His descendants lived in the house for over 100 years.
The house and the contents represent the history of El Paso. Some parts of the house are still original from the 1890s while others were built in the 1930s.
Be sure to go to the Visitor’s Center across the road where you will find exhibits and very knowledgeable staff who are more than keen to tell you about the house and family.
6. Visit Concordia Cemetery
If you are looking for a ghostly experience, head over to Concordia Cemetery. It was founded in 1858 by Hugh and Juana Stephenson. It covers 52 acres and there are over 60,000 people buried here.
This graveyard is special in that it houses gunslingers, Mormon pioneers, Chinese immigrants, Mexican revolutionaries, and war veterans. There is a section devoted to the Buffalo Soldiers as well as a Jewish section and a children’s section.
You will find the graves of many famous people such as Kit Carson’s older brother and members of Bing Crosby’s family. The most famous person buried here is John Wesley Harding and it’s estimated that up to 7,000 people visit his grave each year.
7. Take a Ride on the Wyler Aerial Tramway
If you love a great view take a ride on the Wyler Aerial Tramway. It is located in Franklin Mountains State Park and the tramway complex covers 196 acres of rugged mountains and rock formations.
The four-minute ride soars way above a deep canyon and the park ranger accompanying you will describe the rock formations and point out wildlife and cacti below. You will reach a stunning elevation of 5632 feet and will have a view of 7,000 square miles covering three states and two counties. It is a truly spectacular experience.
8. Visit Rosa’s Cantina
Sitting in between a laundromat and a garage, Rosa’s Cantina in El Paso doesn’t look impressive from the outside. Even so, people come from all over the world to visit because it was immortalized and made famous by a Marty Robbins classic country and western song, “El Paso”, about a love-struck cowboy who guns down another man in a fit of jealousy.
The line associating it with Rosa’s Cantina is this; “Nighttime would find me at Rosa’s Cantina”.
If you visit you can be assured of a cold beer and some food, but don’t put the song on the jukebox. The locals have heard it enough times already!
9. Visit the 3_D Digi Wall
Located at the entrance to the El Paso Museum of History, you will find a 3-D Digital Wall where you can learn about El Paso’s past and present as well as learn about the different cultures of the area on giant 3-D touch-sensitive TV screens.
10. El Paso Museum of History
Learn all about the importance of the multicultural and multinational history of this border region which is known as ‘The Pass of the North’. Many of the artifacts exhibited here are not actually from El Paso, but are items brought by the people who moved here. There are also interactive activities that will keep kids happy and entertained.
11. Go to a Chihuahua Game
If you love baseball, why not go to a game during your visit to El Paso? The El Paso Chihuahuas are a minor league baseball team that is AAA affiliated with the San Diego Padres. They play their home games at Southwest University Park.
12. Visit Licon Dairy
If you love Azadero cheese, Licon Dairy is a great place to visit. They make one of the best Azadero cheeses in America and sell it at their shop on the premises. It’s also very family-friendly and even has a petting zoo. There is also a western-style saloon and grill with specialty dishes made from their own cheeses.
13. El Paso Holocaust Museum
The El Paso Holocaust Museum was founded in 1994 by Nazi Holocaust survivor, Henry Kellen. It was established to educate people about the Third Reich, the concentration camps, and the resistance movement. There are virtual exhibits telling the story of the Holocaust and you can’t fail to be moved by this experience. It’s one of the best places in Texas to learn about the Holocaust.
Related Article>> 24 Things You Don’t Know About El Paso
14. El Paso Museum of Art
Founded in 1959, The El Paso Museum of Art is located in downtown El Paso and is the only accredited art museum within a 250-mile radius.
EPMA is home to an inspiring collection of art from the region and beyond the U.S. border. There are regularly changing special exhibits as well as permanent collections. The permanent collection includes European, Modern, American and Latin American art exhibits.
EPMA’s American collections is the largest museum collection of West Texas artwork in the country—nearly one thousand paintings and prints made between the 1850s and 1970s by artists living in and passing through the state.
The museum is free and guided tours are available by appointment.
Address: 1 Arts Festival Plaza, El Paso, TX 79901
15. El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens
The 35-acre zoo is home to animals representing over 220 species, including such critically endangered species as the Amur leopard and the Aruba rattlesnake. It’s not a big zoo, but well worth a visit if you have youngsters. It takes about 2-3 hours to walk through the entire zoo.
Address: 4001 E Paisano Dr, El Paso, TX 79905
16. Hueco Tanks State Historic site
Hueco Tanks State Park has guided and self-guided areas as well as 20 campsites. The park is 860 acres and named for the large rock basins or “huecos” and igneous rock present.
Hiking Tours are offered Wednesday through Sunday by advanced reservation. Birding Tours are offered Wednesday through Sunday by advanced reservation and based on guide availability.
Rangers will share lots of information about the rocks, the history, and how the area is still very important to Native Americans and their tribes. The tour is about 2 1/2 hours through sections that only could be seen with a ranger.
Guided tours should be booked a minimum of one week in advance by calling (915) 849-6684.
Address: 6900 Hueco Tanks Road No. 1, El Paso, TX 79938
17. Visit Juarez
Juarez borders El Paso and the two towns are separated by the Rio Grande River. It has a reputation for being dangerous, but this has turned around since 2011. Places to visit include the Mission de Guadalupe and Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral, and the Museum of the Revolution.
You will find great traditional Mexican food here such as Burritos de Centenario and the Kentucky Club for amazing tacos. In addition, Flor de Nogal is rated a top restaurant in Mexico by Tripadvisor.
Where to Eat in El Paso
If you are looking for a healthy and nutritious breakfast head over to the Downtowner at the Hotel Indigo. They offer dishes featuring area-grown produce, delicious egg dishes, and great coffee.
Toro Burger is rated #4 of the top burger bars to be found in Texas by Texas Monthly. They have 50 cold beers on tap, great nachos, and even vegetarian options.
Try out the famous huge margaritas at Carlo’s and Mickey’s and their authentic tex-mex cuisine.
The Salt and Honey Café is run by a family from Lebanon and the dishes have a Mediterranean flair. They serve breakfast all day. In addition, they have a great lunch menu. All the dishes are family recipes.
The L & J Café has been voted El Paso’s best Mexican restaurant. They serve a great tex-mex breakfast. But, beware! The kitchen is said to be haunted by occupants of the Concordia Cemetery!
Dinner at Cattleman’s Steakhouse at Indian Cliffs Ranch
If you are looking for the best steaks in town combined with a true Wild West experience head to Cattleman’s Steakhouse at Indian Cliffs Ranch where you will be transported back to the 1800s. The steaks are world-famous and everyone is hand-cut and aged on-premise.
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Not only can you enjoy a great steak, but you can also visit the Western Town, the old working stables, a petting zoo, an aviary, and a maze. There’s even a playground for the kids.
As you can see there is plenty to do in El Paso and I’ve only skimmed the surface. Enjoy your trip!