25 Best Things to Do in El Paso (TX)

Source: Wikimedia / Kristiansr | CC BY-SA 3.0

El Paso was kindly nicknamed as “Sun City” due to its 302 days of sun per year. The city is also known as the largest American city on the Mexican border. Situated in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert and on the margins of Rio Grand, El Paso has a very unique and diverse fauna and flora.

Located in Texas, the city is also close to the border with New Mexico. Because of its unique location, the Mexican culture can be spotted in several aspects around El Paso. From the touristic attractions to the deliciously spicy food that mixes Texan food with Mexican cuisine.

Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in El Paso (TX)

Source: Map data @2022 Google

1. El Paso Zoo

El Paso Zoo
Source: Flickr / Nick Amoscato | CC BY 2.0

Home to 220 African, American, and Asian species, El Paso Zoo is a 35-acre park featuring many natural habitats. With a great variety of animals, the zoo has a cool and unique Chihuahuan desert exhibit. It also has wonderful new additions including a jaguar who has a large enclose with overhead bridges to roam and a larger space for the wolf who seems to enjoy running around. The flood simulation is great, and the parrots who live near it seem to love it when the water starts splashing.

Even though it is a small zoo, there are play areas for the kids to cool down including a splash pad and a treehouse. Not to mention the train ride around the zoo.

2. San Jacinto Plaza

San Jacinto Plaza
Source: Flickr / Visit El Paso | CC BY 2.0

Located in the heart of El Paso, the tranquil city plaza of San Jacinto features quaint, tended green spaces, park benches, shade trees, and a snack bar. The square will show you where El Paso started and how it has slowly evolved into the nice downtown it is today. If you are into history, just walk around and take a look. You will not be disappointed by all the turn of the century architecture. They also have good Mexican snacks at the Placita Cafe that you must try if you are visiting.

The space also counts with ping pong tables and other outdoor games and you can ask the concession stand for the tools to play.

3. Chamizal National Memorial – Park Grounds

Chamizal National Memorial - Park Grounds
Source: Flickr / daveynin | CC BY 2.0

The 55-acre park of Chamizal National Memorial is home to a US-Mexico-border museum as well as an amphitheater and a visitors’ center. The location is interesting because of it being within sight of the Bridge of the Americas so you can watch people crossing between the two countries.

The museum itself is a little historical building telling the history of the border and the story of friendship and compromise between the US and Mexico. Also, you can learn about the culture of the border controversy. You can easily spend 90 minutes there, just strolling the grounds and soaking up the history.

4. Ascarate Park

Ascarate Park-1
Source: Pixabay / Photos_kast

The 400-acre recreation area of Ascarate Park offers sports fields, a lake, 2 pools, playgrounds, and 18 holes of golf. There is a walking path around the man-made lake that makes for a nice walk on the gravel path. Around the park, you can easily spot many ducks and other birds too.

The Ascarate Lake itself is very calm and nice to look at. Even though the water has a greenish color, it is still see-through. The water is well-taken care of as well as the bottom of the lake thanks to the constant cleaning of the algae and trash that occasionally fall in. This is also a lovely place to go fishing.

5. The Plaza Theatre

The Plaza Theatre
Source: Wikimedia / Carol M. Highsmith | Public Domain

The renovated 1930s Plaza Theatre now offers live performances, an original Wurlitzer organ, and weekly tours. With unique architecture, it has ornate fixtures, ceilings, and a functional organ. The theatre is not only used as a movie theater but also as a venue for plays, music concerts, and events.

Even though the auditorium seats 2000 people, it still has an intimate vibe to it. The bar serves drinks in cute collectible El Paso cups. Whether you are there for a Broadway show or the symphony, you will be sure to have a great time.

6. Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino

Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino
Source: B575 | CC BY-SA 3.0

The entertainment complex of Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino features a track for horse racing, a casino with slots, and 2 restaurants. With electronic slots and roulettes, the casino offers a great atmosphere. The restaurants serve great quality food which are well-priced.

The casino, the horse races, and the hotel are all wonderful, but what puts this place over the top is the security team. For a casino, the customer service is really good. Everyone is helpful, even if you have beginner questions.

7. Wet ‘N’ Wild Waterworld

Wet 'N' Wild Waterworld
Source: Flickr / Visit El Paso | CC BY 2.0

Featuring thrill slides, kiddie rides, pools, volleyball, and more, Wet ‘N’ Wild Waterworld is a seasonal, family-friendly water park. In fact, the park has the largest wave pool in Texas and 25 slides including a 7-story drop one. The park also counts with the kids’ water play area of Atlantis Adventure and the relaxing lazy river Little Rio.

Overall, the water is warm, and you can get on the rides in a matter of minutes. They also feature special events such as live band performances. And make sure to get there early for the best tables or reserve a Cabana and a grill. 

8. Western Playland

Western Playland
Source: Flickr / Martin Lewison | CC BY-SA 2.0

Western Playland is a family amusement park with an old-school vibe featuring classic park concessions, rides, and games. It is much like a traveling carnival, except it is in a permanent area. The park is especially fun for the kids in the “sweet spot”, those that are not tall enough for big rides and yet not small enough for the kids’ play area.

If you want the thrill of the crazy roller coasters this place is not for you. But if you want a variety of fun rides for all ages, you will enjoy it. The games are fun and if you want to win a prize to take home, “Guess Your Name” is the easiest game and you are almost always guaranteed to win.

9. Scenic Drive – Overlook

Scenic Drive – Overlook
Source: Flickr / Nick Amoscato | CC BY 2.0

The Scenic Drive offers wide views of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, on the other side of the border. This rocky overlook offers benches and paths so you can make the best of your trip. You can see two countries and three states from up there and there is no other place that gives out such amazing views in all of El Paso.

There are several plaques to read and learn from on this site as well. While driving along this mountain you get beautiful views of the cities’ skylines on one side and El Paso’s prestigious old neighborhood on the other.

10. Franklin Mountains State Park

Franklin Mountains State Park
Source: Flickr / John Carkeet | CC BY 2.0

Franklin Mountains State Park covers 24,247 acres of scenic desert offering climbing, hiking, wildlife, camping, and views. If you are looking for a solid climb with desert scenery and very few people, this is the place to go. There are plenty of trails to accommodate various skill/fitness levels, and there are also spots for climbing.

You can hike up to Aztec Caves and stroll around the Agave Loop which is a fairly easy trail. Or you can choose to hike to North Franklin through Mundy’s Gap and the West Cottonwood Spring scenic route. It will take you around 2 hours to reach the summit.

11. El Paso Museum of Art

El Paso Museum of Art
Source: Flickr / Visit El Paso | CC BY 2.0

El Paso Museum of Art showcases works in 5 galleries reflecting the area’s American, Mexican, and European roots. From large sculptures to changing exhibits, you really get a feel of the pride and heritage of the city. There, you can admire a wide range of art pieces from local El Paso artists to 1600’s Italian painters.

And even though it is a small museum focused on local artists, they also display artwork from big-name artists such as Jeff Koons. Since it is located in downtown El Paso, it is a great spot to stop while walking around and enjoying the scenery the city has to offer.

12. El Paso Museum of History

El Paso Museum of History
Source: Flickr / Visit El Paso | CC BY 2.0

Featuring 5 galleries examining 400 years of border life, the El Paso Museum of History features artifacts, narratives, photos, and videos. This museum does a good job reflecting some of the histories of El Paso.

Showing many historic elements, clothing, photos, equipment, letters, the museum offers so much to see and read. For example, the baseball exhibit is surprisingly comprehensive and covers more than just El Paso memorabilia. They even have a portion of the museum dedicated to the Federal Reserve. Also, there is a nice outside relaxing park with benches and the front entry has a digital display to explore before you enter the museum.

13. Huecos Tanks State Historic Site

Huecos Tanks State Historic Site
Source: Flickr / Charlie Llewellin | CC BY-SA 2.0

Huecos Tanks State Historic Site offers guided and self-led tours of ancient rock imagery, plus picnic spots and 20 campsites. The park also features a great little hike with huecos everywhere, which are gigantic natural potholes. The trails are short but there are some nice views once you climb some rocks. The climbing itself is quite fun, nature is unique and special, and the cave and petroglyphs give you the feeling of ancient holiness.

The site offers year-round camping. It is relatively close to El Paso if you need to go shopping, but still far enough away that the scenic views are breathtaking

14. Bridge of the Americas

Bridge of the Americas
Source: Wikimedia / U.S. Customs and Border Protection | Public Domain

Also known as the Córdoba Bridge, and the Free Bridge, the Bridge of the Americas is the best way to cross back and forth between the US and Mexico in a timely manner. This is also a Customs and Border Patrol station. So, be patient and respectful when crossing it.

Because it is the free bridge, sometimes it has a much longer wait than expected. And compared to other crossing stations, this is usually less militarized

15. Wyler Aerial Tramway

Wyler Aerial Tramway
Source: Wikimedia / B575 | CC BY-SA 3.0

Wyler Aerial Tramway offers gondolas traveling to and from Ranger Peak plus a gift shop, restrooms, and viewing platforms. You will be impressed with the mechanics of the tramway and enthralled with the views at the top. The ascent is around 900ft with the gondola moving at a speed of around 9mph, so it is nothing extreme.

Overall, the mountain provides great views of nearly the entire city, Mexico, and New Mexico without the need for hiking. So, once you are at the top, you have the option of staying and doing some sightseeing or if you are up to it, go on an awesome hike. From there, you will have access to a trail way above the desert sky.

16. El Paso Holocaust Museum & Study Center

El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center
Source: Flickr / Visit El Paso | CC BY 2.0

El Paso Holocaust Museum & Study Center features a bilingual narrative of WWII genocide with photos and artifacts in a center for tolerance and research. The museum offers such a vivid account of the Nazi regime and life in concentration camps. 

They have many artifacts and displays that are both heartbreaking and very intriguing. The section about Jewish El Paso history is informative. Even though it is a self-guided tour, the staff members will be very happy to share stories and offer historical context. At the end of your visit, the museum patrons are allowed to pay respects by placing a stone on a memorial. There is also a nice little bookstore at the entrance with an interesting collection of books.

17. El Paso Municipal Rose Garden

El Paso Municipal Rose Garden-1
Source: Flickr / Visit El Paso | CC BY 2.0

Offering romantic city views, El Paso Municipal Rose Garden is a well-organized and wonderful garden. Whoever designed it, really used the space to the best of its ability and thought about the future growth of some of these plants. A lot of the roses are labeled, and it is very fun to see all the names.

This is a nice place to relax and contemplate the beauty of life. The smell is intoxicating. There are walking paths between plants, which make everything accessible. It even has a small water cascade.

18. National Border Patrol Museum

National Border Patrol Museum
Source: Flickr / John Carkeet | CC BY 2.0

Featuring historical aircraft, electronics, weaponry, uniforms, vehicles, and more, the National Border Patrol Museum has an extremely thoughtful layout. The many exhibits and memorabilia will take you on a journey through the history of the U.S. Border Patrol from the beginning in the Old West, through the high-tech Patrol of today. They even have interesting items that were accumulated during the ever-present war on drugs, with pictures of the acquisition.

There are a gift shop and a room honoring service persons who have died in the field. This is an amazing way to see how the brave men and women in Border Patrol keep us safe from the dangers across our great American border.

19. El Paso Downtown Artist and Farmer’s Market

El Paso Downtown Artist and Farmers Market
Source: Flickr / Visit El Paso | CC BY 2.0

El Paso Downtown Artist and Farmer’s Market is a delightful medium-sized venue with a variety of foods and goods being sold. Besides fresh produce, there are many handmade, artisan products and crafts from local people. This is a great way to support the local economy.

They set up downtown in the Union Plaza area every Saturday and have an entire street full of local vendors and food trucks; from local farmers and authors to artistic creators of all backgrounds you are sure to find something of interest. There are also vendors with sweets, jewelry, stones, art, and knitted items. And depending on the day you visit, there might be some live music performances happening right there.

20. War Eagles Air Museum

War Eagles Air Museum
Source: Flickr / Visit El Paso | CC BY 2.0

Focused on the aircrafts of WWII and the Korean War, War Eagled Air Museum collects, restores, and displays historic artifacts. The War Eagles Air Museum is located at the Doña Ana County Airport at Santa Teresa, New Mexico, only 30 minutes from El Paso.

Their collections include a great combination of cars, planes, and great history. Not to mention the massive hangar filled with historic airplanes and vehicles from the 1930-1980s era. One of their highlights is an exhibit telling the story of WASP (Women Air Service Pilots), a huge salute to America’s finest female pilots of WWII. The self-guided tour takes around 90 minutes.

21. El Paso Museum of Archaeology

El Paso Museum of Archaeology
Source: Flickr / Visit El Paso | CC BY 2.0

Featuring exhibits on the ancient history of the Southwest & northern Mexico, El Paso Museum of Archaeology is a small museum situated in a wilderness park of the Northeast of El Paso. The museum was founded in 1977 in a site where a number of archaeological sites have been found. 

Overall, the museum offers a great collection of artifacts that focus on the prehistory and culture of the region. Their exhibits are very educational and they also host conferences open to the public. In the spring, the museum has a festival of the Yellow Poppy. The area also offers great mountain views as well as trails.

22. Keystone Heritage Park and the El Paso Desert Botanical Garden

Keystone Heritage Park and the El Paso Desert Botanical Garden
Source: Flickr / Visit El Paso | CC BY 2.0

The 52-acre Keystone Heritage Park features the El Paso Desert Botanical Garden, wetlands, and the remains of an ancient village. The gardens are relatively small but very beautiful. They have a charming central fountain, a variety of cacti, some of which flower, regional medicinal plants, and surprisingly a water lily pond with live Koi fish. They also have a gazebo and grill you can use.

Besides the local history and nature, the salt cypress maze adds a bit of fun to the experience. And across the parking lot is a place you can buy rescued native plants. They go on sale at the end of the summer.

23. Fort Bliss Museum

Fort Bliss Museum
Source: Wikimedia / ForgottenColorado | CC BY-SA 4.0

Fort Bliss Museum is a great place to visit for military history covering a wide number of eras and years. It has some amazing replicas and artifacts if you are into anything to do with the military. During your visit, you will learn about the origins of Fort Bliss and the Old Ironsides.

The museum’s collections include a large array of tanks such as M1 Abrahams and Russian T72. Not to mention all the machinery, jeeps, rockets, and guns. Overall, it is a nice museum with interesting facts about the life of the first armored division.

24. Cielo Vista

Cielo Vista-1
Source: Unsplash / Heidi Fin

Cielo Vista is a 2 story mall that is great for shopping high-end and on budget products. The mall features over 140 stores including sports shops, kiosks, Geek stores, massage centers, hair and nail shops, portrait studios, and all kinds of fun shops. 

So, grab a bite to eat in the food court, tea, pretzel snacks, or even ice creams from the side shops. This is also a great place for walking indoors to get in shape with ample security. There is a free kids’ play area downstairs, with fun motorized animals and train rides. Also, Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurants are located outside on the parking lot.

25. L & J Café

L and J Café
Source: Flickr / Visit El Paso | CC BY 2.0

The family-run L&J Café is a local landmark dating back to 1927 that serves regional Mexican dishes and beers. The very modest exterior hides the well-decorated restaurant whose air is filled with the smell of deliciousness. Curiously, the restaurant has quite an interesting story, being opened during Prohibition as Tony’s Place. It was not until 1968 that it became L&J Café. Although the new owners kept the traditions and delicious Mexican food of the place.

Everything they serve there is excellent, from the chicken enchiladas with green sauce to potato tacos. Not to mention the very best picadillo burritos.