El Paso stands on the Rio Grand in the furthest western corner of Texas, and across the border from Chihuahua, Mexico so you can imagine how many Mexican influences exist in the city, and anything and everything from delicious spicy food to a generous helping of cultural attractions. El Paso’s inhabitants make up about 700,000, as of 2015. There is plenty to see in this interesting city which is surrounded by amazing desert and diverse flora and fauna. From vibrant art galleries to famous historic sights, why not follow the trail I’m about to lead you down!
1. The Mission Trail and Ysleta Mission
As you set out on the Mission Trail make sure you don’t leave out the oldest one of all, Ysleta Mission, built in 1682 by the Tigua Indians. Now a historic landmark of its own, it is certainly worth a visit. You will be able to learn all about the history and mixing of cultures, and why it is looked upon as representing over 300 years of Texan history. As you drive through the area you can see some of the stunning desert scenery that surrounds the area. In fact, why not stop and enjoy a picnic along the way at one of the many available picnic areas?
2. Hueco Tanks State Historic Site
This historic site is known as a Sacred Desert Sanctuary, honoring the fact that, for thousands of years, people trekked through these hills to collect rainwater in natural rock basins. Nowadays visitors can hike, rock climb, study nature, picnic and bird watch there. There is an interpretive center within the park, housed in a historic ranch house, and from there guided and self guided tours can be arranged. There are also memorable gifts to buy too. If the family enjoy camping, why not stay overnight at one of the available 20 campsites? You must firstly watch the site’s video which will outline how the park protects its delicate resources. Remember to bring your own supplies as there are no stores on site.
3. El Paso Museum of Art
The Museum not only houses a variety of beautiful and unique art, it also offers some very interesting hands on activities for the kids! Built in 1959 it is actually the only accredited art museum within 250 miles and draws in approximately 100,000 a year. The exhibits regularly showcase noted artists so there’s always something new and of interest to see here. The kids will love the museum’s kite building workshop, one of the many attractions on offer! Admission is free though donations are gratefully accepted.
4. Plaza Theatre
This historic building is much loved by its locals and is known as one of the city’s best known landmarks. The theater’s original owner, Louis L. Dent had brought the property in 1927 stating that he wanted “to do something good for the city”. The theatre still puts on wonderful shows, including Broadway productions, concerts and sole artists. One of the nicest things about the theatre must be its extravagant furnishings, including its Spanish mission style exterior and three tier domed tower, as well as its mosaic tiled floors and wrought iron banisters. Treat the family to a theater visit, old fashioned style!
5. National Border Patrol Museum
This fascinating free to enter museum is surely a must-see for all the family! The museum will enable you to travel through the history of the U.S. Border Patrol reaching right back to Old West times, through Prohibition, WWII and into today’s technological times. The U.S. Border Patrol began its journey in 1928, with 450 Patrol Inspectors implemented to secure borders between inspection stations. The museum showcases the various types of vehicles the border patrol utilized or actually seized; for example, a man made bike large enough to hold 9 people to transport over the border!
6. The El Paso Holocaust Museum
For a sobering but enlightening visit, drop into the El Paso Holocaust Museum which was founded in 1994 by Nazi Holocaust survivor Henry Kellen. The museum documents the horrifying years of the Nazi regime, with interesting artifacts and history from which you can learn about the Third Reich, the museum’s mission being to educate the public in the hope similar acts will never again be repeated. The museum also honors those who died in the Holocaust, as well as those who survived. The docents are very knowledgeable and available to answer questions.
7. Municipal Rose Garden
If you’re planning on a visit to the city between March and October, make sure you reserve some free time for a visit to the fragrant Municipal Rose Garden! You will be amazed and impressed at the variety of the garden’s 1460 rose bushes, made up of over 320 varied aromatic roses, with new roses added each year after having been evaluated for their climate adaptability. The roses are lovingly tended by volunteers, keeping the garden a welcome oasis in the searing El Paso desert heat. There are benches placed throughout the garden to sit and just enjoy a moment, or have lunch.
8. Western Playland Amusement Park
The kids will love this amusement park in nearby Sunland Park if they love roller coasters – and what kid (and many adults!) can resist the thrill of one? Enjoy the popular El Bandido roller coaster and Tsunami, which actually shoots up a massive 50 ft, generating a gigantic 70 ft tidal wave! (Be prepared to get a little wet!) And don’t worry, there are plenty of young kiddie rides available too, suitable for ages 1-8, so everyone gets to have fun! There are some great snacks to choose from too, including hamburgers, hot dogs and nachos.
9. Sun Bowl Stadium
Known for its fun family experience, the Sun Bowl Stadium is home to the UTEP Miners of Conference USA and the late December college football bowl game, The Hyundai Sun Bowl. It’s a great place to spend an enjoyable afternoon watching some outdoor college football! The stadium has a seating capacity of 51,000 and is nestled in the mountains that adjoin the UTEP campus. Although fairly old now by modern standards there have been a few remodels which keep the stadium a comfortable arena.
10. Fort Bliss and Old Ironsides Museums
This is an amazing venue for those in the family interested in all things military. Before you even enter the museum you will see the awesome display of armor which includes a German V-2 rocket, some artillery pieces and several helicopters! The museum houses remarkable exhibits which include weapons, artifacts and other vehicles, together with plenty of information about the histories of the U.S. Army at El Paso as well as the 1st Armored Division. You can even touch the outside of most of the tanks (though there are no hands on or climb on displays, sorry kids!). Next to the museum is the Old Fort Bliss which is a reproduction of the first post of that name.
11. Bob-O’s Family Fun Center
Bob-O’s offers a fantastic variety of fun and entertainment for the whole family. From Go Karts to Double Go Karts, a 18 hole miniature golf course, kiddies rides which include dizzy drums, mini Go Karts and a small train, and bumper boats and batting cages with ranges from 45 mph to 80 mph for the teens and adults, there won’t be a chance to be bored for a minute! Round off the fun with some of the venue’s delicious pizza.
12. Viva El Paso
If you’re in town at the time, treat your family to the show Viva! El Paso, the city’s annual returning musical which celebrates its rich cultural history through drama, dance, and songs. The two hour outdoor musical includes 50 dancers performing the story of the early Indian settlement right up to the wild South West, taking in the Spanish conquest and Mestizo Mexican control. Throughout the performance the dancers perform acrobatics, cannon fire, with an Indian shooting a lit arrow to the mountain to illuminate the VIVA sign, which is then followed by the Parade of the Six Flags of Texas. Performances are shown from Thursday to Sunday in June, July and August and enjoy audiences of over 25,000 every year. A wonderful chance for everyone to learn all about the history of this interesting city!
13. Disaster Room 915
When you and your family are in the mood to test your powers of deduction, why not spend some time working out the clues at Disaster Room 915, El Paso’s escape room attraction? There are at least two pulse quickening scenarios that you and your family or team has to work out, with minutes to spare before disaster befalls! As you examine pointers (which ones to use and which ones that will put you off the scent!), decipher codes and solve mind stretching puzzles, you’ll bond and pull together like never before! This is best for adults and mid teens upwards.
14. Downtown Artist and Farmer’s Market
If you’re in town on a Saturday think about paying a visit to the city’s downtown art and farmer’s market, which is held every Saturday morning from 9am to 1pm. The market was set up in 2011 and very popular for locals and visitors interested in the original arts and crafts on display as well as fresh regionally grown agricultural produce. Live entertainment from local artists adds to the pleasure and your kids will love the colorful sights and sounds, and the free art activities available (including some face painting opportunities by genuine artists!).
15. El Paso Event Center Ice Skating Rink
If you feel like getting out of the heat for a while, why not take the family to cool off at the Event Center Ice Skating Rink? It’s a great idea for all the family and somewhere for everyone to enjoy, and very affordable too. As you glide around the ice remember there are some great snacks and drinks to enjoy afterwards. And if you’re into hockey at all, you’re in the perfect place to attend a Rhino’s Hockey Game! This semi pro team certainly take their ice hockey seriously!
16. Keystone Heritage Park and Botanical Gardens
The 52 acre Keystone Heritage Park and Desert Botanical Gardens is a bird lover’s paradise, with over 206 species of birds having been sited here in the park’s wetlands! And there are plenty of other interesting things to see too, including the botanical garden’s desert vegetation and the park’s Archeological Site, discovered in the late 1970s by the Corps of Engineers when they were constructing flood control dams. Something far more interesting was discovered, a hut that, after preliminary research, showed it was part of a larger village at least 4000 plus years old! There are so many interesting things for the family to see and enjoy so take a meander around the park to discover more!
17. Jungle Jaks
Bring your kiddies to this exciting indoor playground featuring all sorts of activities, from climbing, bumper boats, Go Karts, Coconut Tree Climbing as well as an amazing mix of games for the very young members of the family! Jungle Jaks have their own specialties like Jungle Jaks Ladder and the Foam Factory, a state of the art 3,000 sq ft play area in which to enjoy tipping baskets, foam balls and foam ball guns. If your child is on the creative side they will want to stop at the arts and crafts section for some face painting time! The location is very clean with plenty of space for the kids to run around. And when they run out of energy, there’s time to enjoy some of the venue’s tasty food!
18. Magoffin Home State Historic Site
This historic site relates and outlines the stories of a multicultural family who actively participated in U.S. expansion and settlement, military service, the Civil War turmoil and U.S.–Mexico relations along with other fascinating events. The home, built in 1875 is a prime example of Territorial style architecture, and still houses plenty of the original furniture, including a magnificent grand piano! Magoffin House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and definitely worth a visit for those who want to learn all about the area’s first settlers!
19. Insights Science Museum
The Insights Science Museum is a terrific venue for all your youngsters with some fantastic exhibits for them to enjoy and learn from. Rehoused, it is now large enough to offer many more interesting exhibits including dinosaurs, bones and fossils and also provides an interactive area for kids to play. There is a fire house front half for the kids to have fun with and many interesting science attractions, ranging from biology to zoology to astronomy and so much more! Though predominantly aimed at the younger child, even your teens are bound to enjoy a visit here!
20. Ascarate Park and Golf Course
Ascarate Park is the biggest recreational park in El Paso County and a great place to enjoy a day of family fun. The park’s 400 acre leisure area is made up of 48 acres of surface lake within the park which offers playgrounds and sports fields with 280 acres of golf course featuring an 18 hole 72 par golf course and a 9 hole executive course called the Delta 9. This is really a lovely park, with plenty of picnic opportunities too. Remember to bring some bread to feed the many ducks!
21. St. Patrick Cathedral
This lovely Cathedral is one of El Paso’s historical landmarks, its construction beginning with the first stone being laid and blessed by Father Edward Barry S.J. and Father Francis Roy, S.J. on July 31, 1914. The Cathedral was built in an attractive blended style of Byzantine and Romanesque architecture. After the death of Pope Pius X in 1915, Pope Benedict XV appointed Rev. Anthony J. Schuler, S.J., as the first Bishop of the Diocese of El Paso, who later declared that upon his arrival in El Paso he would take the new St. Patrick Church as his Cathedral. Whether coming to worship or simply to admire the beauty, the Cathedral is well worth a visit.
22. Chamizal National Memorial
The 54.90 acre memorial park serves mostly as a cultural center, containing a theater, art galleries and an amphitheatre as well as a museum which outlines the history of the U.S.–Mexico border. The park honors the peaceful outcome of the Chamizal Dispute, the 100-year border dispute between the United States and Mexico which resulted from the (natural) change of course of the Rio Grande between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. The park itself has plenty of green space for your kids to play and hosts many cultural events throughout the year with summer concerts held on Sunday evenings from June to August.