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Set on the far western corner of Texas, the city of El Paso stands on the banks of the Rio Grande, just north of Ciudad Juárez across the Mexican border. These 2 cities, along with Las Cruces in the neighboring state of New Mexico, make up a metropolitan area with the largest bilingual and binational workforce in the Western Hemisphere. El Paso’s diversity contributes to a vibrant cultural scene boasting numerous museums, historic sites, art galleries, festivals, and international cuisine. Sitting at the foot of the Franklin Mountains, Sun City also offers the stark natural beauty of the southwest, with copper-hued hills, prickly cacti, and soaring eagles. Whether you want dive into the history of the Border Patrol, go rock climbing among ancient pictographs, or stuff yourself with authentic Mexican eats, there are plenty of things to do in this dynamic Texas town.
In a city where Spanish is spoken just as much as English and cultural influences come from all across the globe, El Paso is home to neighborhoods that are just as diverse as the people who live here. Explore the city to uncover countless ways to expand your horizons, tantalize your taste buds, or become one with Mother Nature.
Broken up into 5 of its own distinct districts, Downtown is the cultural and economic heart of El Paso, booming with restaurants, hotels, shopping, and entertainment. Here are the 3 areas you need to know:
Starting at San Antonio Avenue and stretching all the way to the border, the city’s original shopping district buzzes with restaurants, boutiques, and markets that highlight the area’s multicultural atmosphere. Don’t forget to treat yourself to a pair of expertly crafted cowboy boots—after all, El Paso is known as the Boot Capital of the World.
The nucleus of the city’s art and entertainment scene, Las Plazas is home to the Abraham Chavez Theatre, the El Paso Museum of Art, and the historic Plaza Theatre. Appropriately named, the area has numerous plazas that host festivals and concerts throughout the year.
Once an industrial area, the Union Plaza district has been transformed into a hotspot for Downtown nightlife. It claims a diverse array of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, including several that cater to the city’s large LGBTQ population. On Saturdays, Anthony Street is taken over by the Downtown Artist and Farmers’ Market, which celebrates local art and food.
As an important border town, El Paso has a strong military presence, with Fort Bliss serving as the largest training area in the United States. Get close to tanks and other equipment used since World War II at the Fort Bliss and Old Ironside Museums. At the heart of the base is also Freedom Crossing, a first-of-its-kind complex with restaurants, retail, and year-round events. Civilians only need a day-pass to get access.
Just outside the center of the city is Franklin Mountains State Park, the largest urban state park in the country. It offers plenty of options for hiking, biking, and trail-running, as well as picturesque views that encompass 3 states and 2 nations. Here, you can also find the National Border Patrol Museum and the El Paso Museum of Archaeology.
Hop in a car for a ride along winding Scenic Drive on the south side of the park. The Scenic Drive Overlook offers views that stretch across El Paso and, if you’re traveling at night, sights of the Star on the Mountain illuminating the hillside with its 459 bulbs. For even more spectacular views, take a ride on the Wyler Aerial Tramway. Beginning at the height of 4,692 feet (1,430 m), the cable car whisks you away nearly 1,000 feet (305 m) higher to the top of Ranger Peak. Admire the beauty of the cacti garden before you board the tram, and upon reaching the top, gaze out upon 7,000 square miles (18,130 sq km) of Texas, New Mexico, and the landscapes south of the border.
With more than 400 years of history, El Paso is a haven of Texas nostalgia. Take a walk through Downtown to see the Trost buildings of the 1920s, visit the centuries-old Spanish mission of Ysleta, or scope out the striking adobe architecture at the Magoffin Home Historic Site. You can also travel through time within 16,000 feet (4,877 m) of diverse exhibits at the El Paso Museum of History.
El Paso’s more than 300 days of sunshine a year make the city an ideal spot for lovers of the outdoors. Hit the trails on foot or by bike at Franklin Mountains State Park or grab your clubs for a round at Butterfield Trail Golf Club. Thrill-seekers will also love Hueco Tanks, a world-class bouldering site where ancient pictographs adorn the rocks. Just a 90-minute drive over the state line into New Mexico is White Sands National Monument, a captivating landscape of rolling, bone-white dunes.
With it’s location on the border, it’s no surprise that El Paso is famous for its mix of hearty Texas cuisine and authentic Mexican flavors. Get ready for a finger-lickin’ plate of ribs at State Line or a cheesy enchilada at Avila, ranked one of the Top 50 Mexican Restaurants in the US by Hispanic Magazine. Though the city boasts many fine-dining restaurants as well, it’s the casual, family-run spots that really hit the spot. Don’t leave town without a stop for Tex-Mex at the old-timey H&H Car Wash.
Like many of the bigger cities in Texas, El Paso is a mecca for music. Between March and September, there are many music festivals ranging in styles from country to hip hop to EDM. If you’re looking to uncover local talent, head to hotspot venues like Lowbrow Palace and Tricky Falls.
If you’re traveling to El Paso with the family, there are plenty of kid-approved activities, as well. Make friends with more than 220 species at the El Paso Zoo, take in a baseball game at Southwest University Park, or cool off on the rides at Wet ‘n’ Wild Waterworld.