Looking for the best things to do in El Paso Texas? Don’t miss these spots!
El Paso has been on our map for a while because of Hueco Tanks State Park. Ask any seasoned climber (more specifically, boulderer), and they will tell you it’s the best bouldering in the US and perhaps the world. Even though we first visited El Paso and Hueco as a starting and ending point for our West Texas Road Trip, we only scratched the surface. Like Las Vegas, most people don’t realize it’s the perfect home base for those who love the outdoors.
Here’s everything we discovered on our recent trip, plus tips to help you plan your trip to El Paso.
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Last Updated: March 27, 2023
What You Need to Know Before You GO
- Weather and Climate: El Paso has a desert climate with hot summers and mild winters. Make sure to pack accordingly, especially during the summer months. In the summer, highs will be in the high 90s and low 100s, and lows will be in the 70s. In the winter, highs are in the high 50s, and lows are in the 30s.
- Sunny Days: El Paso is one of the sunniest locations in the US, with 302 days of sunshine a year.
- Culture: The city has a unique blend of American and Mexican cultures. Expect a mix of Spanish and English languages, cultural traditions, and cuisines.
- A True Border Town: Unlike any other city we’ve been to, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez border each other. If you get an overlook of El Paso, you can see it was once one bigger city.
- Border Crossing: If you plan on crossing the border, remember your passport or other forms of identification.
- Food: El Paso is known for its Tex-Mex cuisine, a fusion of traditional Mexican dishes with American ingredients and cooking styles. Be sure to try local favorites like enchiladas, chile con carne, and margaritas.
- Public Transportation: El Paso has a public transportation system, but most likely, you still need to rent a car or use ride-share services.
- Time Zone: El Paso is the only major Texas city on Mountain Standard Time.
- Nicknames: El Paso is known as Sun City for all the sunshine but was also known as the Six Shooter Capital and Sin city in its early years. It’s also the boot capital of the world.
The Best Things to Do in El Paso
1. Scenic Drive Overlook
The scenic drive overlook is a place to watch the sunset and see El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. Starting a trip at viewpoints is a great way to help you visualize and understand the geography of a city.
Local Tip: Be careful if you walk on the slick rocks at the viewpoint! There’s limited parking at the overlook. We went on a Monday, and only a few spots were left. On weekends, it fills up quickly.
2. Franklin Mountains State Park
This is the largest urban park in the US. In Franklin Mountains State Park, locals can escape the city to hike over 100 miles of trails, mountain bike, horseback ride, camp, and rock climb. It is the largest urban park in the United States, covering over 24,000 acres of mountainous terrain. You can also do a guided hiking tour of old mines (reservations required).
Entrance fees are $5 per person (13+) per day, or you can purchase a Texas State Parks Pass for $70 to save money if you go often.
Local Tip: They can reach capacity when the weather is nice and on weekends and holidays. To guarantee entry, reserve passes online.
See More: All the Best Things to Do in West Texas Road Trip Guide
3. Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site
6900 Hueco Tanks Road No. 1, El Paso, TX 79938, map
If you climb, you’ve probably heard of Hueco Tanks, a 40-minute drive from El Paso. It’s arguably the best bouldering spot in the US and the world.
Even if you don’t climb, Hueco Tanks is still worth visiting if you hike or want to experience a living museum. We would have never noticed it, but our guide, Dan, showed us 700-800-year-old pieces of pottery lying around and native American rock art as old as 6000 BCE, which can be found in over 200 locations.
Hueco Tanks is divided into four areas: North Mountain, East Mountain, East Spur, and West Mountain. Because of its archaeological significance, they have strict park access. The North Mountain is the only area you can explore without a guide, but it still requires reservations.
You will need a guide to climb or explore the latter three areas. We highly recommend Blue Lizard Climbing and Yoga, who our friends also went with years ago.
Entrance fees are $7 per person (13+) per day, or you can purchase a Texas State parks Pass for $70. In addition, you can add tours or guides.
Local Tip: It’s hot if you visit during the summer (May to September)! Although you can find some shaded spots for climbing, most people avoid this season. If you plan on hiking, go in the early morning or late afternoon.
See More: 17 Practical Gifts for Rock Climbers They’ll Love and Use
4. El Paso Museum of Art
1 Arts Festival Plaza, El Paso, TX 79901, map
The El Paso Museum of Art is a free museum in the heart of downtown with over 7,000 works of art in its permanent collection and various special exhibitions. They feature many El Paso and Juarez artists, plus Southwestern artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Fritz Scholder.
Local Tip: Even if you don’t stop by the museum, you should walk the area to see all the street art and murals.
5. See a Show at The Plaza Theatre →
125 Henry Trost Ct, El Paso, TX 79901, map
The Plaza Theatre looks like any typical historic theater from the outside, but once you step inside, you quickly realize how special it is. This beautiful theater was built in 1930 and designed in a Spanish Colonial style, and much of the original design remains intact. They even have some of the original furniture. The theater gives the illusion that you are seated outdoors in a Spanish courtyard, and when the lights dim, the ceiling lights up with stars reflecting the Southwestern sky in June.
We hope to be back during one of their shows. They also hold weekly tours open to the public on Tuesdays at 12:00 PM, which is what we did. See their upcoming show schedule here.
See More: Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Broadway Musicals and Shows
6. Explore the El Paso Mission Trail
Visitor Center: 9065 Alameda Ave, El Paso, TX 79907, map
The El Paso Mission Trail is a historical and cultural route in El Paso, Texas that follows the path of several Spanish missions established during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Missions were founded by Spanish Franciscan friars to convert the local Native American populations to Christianity and to establish a Spanish presence.
The trail includes three primary missions: Ysleta Mission, Socorro Mission, and San Elizario Chapel. Ysleta Mission, founded in 1682, is the oldest mission in Texas and the closest to the city center. Socorro Mission is the most photogenic and the second closest. It’s the one we went to. All three are still active churches.
- Yselta Mission (131 S Zaragoza Rd, El Paso, TX 79907, map)
- Socorro Mission (328 S Nevarez Rd, Socorro, TX 79927, map)
- San Elizario Chapel (1556 San Elizario Rd, San Elizario, TX 79849, map)
- Guadalupe Mission / Misión de Guadalupe (32000 Cd Juárez, Chih., Mexico, map)
Local Tip: The Guadalupe Mission is also on this trail in the Juarez side. If you plan on crossing the border, it’s an easy stop.
7. Tour Rocketbusters Boots
115 Anthony St, El Paso, TX 79901, map
This was our favorite hidden gem in El Paso, and now I’m making it a life goal to get a pair of these boots. Rocketbuster Handmade Custom Boots has been crafting bespoke boots for 31 years and has a client list that includes Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, Hugh Jackman, Paul McCartney, Johnny Depp, and Clint Eastwood, to name a few.
You can stop by for a tour of their workshop to learn more about the care and artistry that goes into each boot. It was inspiring to hear Nevena Christi’s story, and we also learned what to look for when shopping for quality vintage boots. There are cute photo ops, including one with the largest boots in the world. Drop-ins are welcome, although appointments are preferred (call ahead if you have a group larger than 4).
If you want to order a pair of custom boots, they start at $1000 and can run up to $16,000, depending on how intricate the design is.
8. Stroll THrough the COncordia Cemetery
3700 Yandell Dr, El Paso, TX 79903, map
The Concordia Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in Texas and has been the final resting place for many notable people from the American Southwest since 1842. It covers 52 acres and has over 60,000 graves.
Look for John Wesley Hardin’s gravesite, a notorious gunfighter and outlaw. There’s also an area dedicated to Buffalo Soldiers.
Local Tip: Check out one of the ghost tours if you want to hear cemetery stories. It’s also within walking distance from L&J Cafe, an El Paso staple.
9. Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens
500 W University Ave, El Paso, TX 79968, map
The Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens is a great place to escape the heat and learn more about the region. It is free to the public and small enough, so you don’t need a full day.
The museum exhibits focus on the flora, fauna, geology, and human history of the Chihuahuan Desert. The gardens outside the building feature over 600 species of plants native to the desert. The best time to visit the gardens is April, when many plants bloom. Go during the FloraFest plant sale (April 1, 2023) to help support the museum and bring home some new plant babies.
While enjoying the museum and gardens, pay attention to the surrounding architecture. The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) campus is modeled after Bhutanese architecture with massive sloping walls, overhanging roofs, and mosaic-tiled mandalas. You can even find a Bhutanese prayer wheel in the garden.
Local Tip: To get to the museum, you must go through a gated entrance at the UTEP. Just let them know you are headed to the Centennial Museum, and they will point you in the right direction.
10. Cross the Border and have lunch in Juarez
910 S Santa Fe St, El Paso, TX 79901, map
El Paso and Juarez are sister cities, and when you look at the two cities from the El Paso Overlook, you can see that they were once one city. You can even walk over the border to Ciudad Juarez to grab lunch.
Four bridges cross the border from El Paso, but if you’re walking, the one close to downtown is the best because you end up right in the heart of Juarez. To cross into Juarez, you need 50 cents. On the way back, you need 35 cents and your passport. It’s quicker if you bring exact change.
Once you make it to Juarez, you can walk the square, browse shops, see street performers, visit the market, see the Guadalupe Missions, and more. Also, check out the Kentucky Bar, where according to legend, the margarita was invented (a few other places also claim to have invented the margarita, so we’ll have to try them all).
Most established shops will take credit cards but bring cash for the market or street vendors. Most vendors will accept US dollars.
Local Tip: Walking across the border is typically faster than driving. Weekday traffic hours and weekends get busy at the border. There are a lot of people who cross the border for daily commutes and visit family over the weekend.
11. Visit a National Park
El Paso is a great home base for the outdoors and visiting National Parks. Four are within driving distance, and you can easily take day trips to three of them.
We’ve linked to our complete guides below (with a couple more coming soon) and how long we recommend visiting.
- White Sands National Park (19955 US-70, Alamogordo, NM 88310, map) – 1.5 hours away. Recommend a half day to a full day to see the park.
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park (727 Carlsbad Cavern Hwy, Carlsbad, NM 88220, map) – 2.5 hours away. We recommend a half day to see the caverns and a full day if you want also to hike surface trails (most were closed when we visited after a flash flood). Be sure to make reservations for the cave tours.
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park (400 Pine Canyon Dr, Salt Flat, TX 79847, map) – 1 hour 45 min away. Recommend two days to hike and explore the park.
- Big Bend National Park (310, Alstate Ave, Big Bend National Park, TX 79834, map) – 5 hours away. Recommend at least three days to see this park.
Local Tip: Pay attention to time zones. El Paso, White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, and Guadalupe Mountains are in Mountain Time. Big Bend is in Central Time.
See More: Complete List of National Parks by State
More Things to DO in El Paso
If it’s not your first time, here are more things to do in El Paso, TX. We didn’t get around to them, but we’ll let you know how they are on our next visit!
- Chamizal National Memorial – national park unit.
- Chinati Foundation – sculptures, paintings, art installations
- Downtown Artist and Farmer’s Market
- El Paso Event Center Ice Skating Rink
- El Paso Holocaust Museum – one of 16 Holocaust Museums in the US
- The El Paso Municipal Rose Garden
- El Paso Museum of Archaeology
- El Paso Museum of History
- The El Paso Zoo
- Fort Bliss and Old Ironsides Museum
- Insights Science Museum
- International Museum of Art
- Keystone Heritage Park and Botanical Gardens
- Magoffin Home State Historic Site
- National Border Patrol Museum
- Red Sands
- St. Patrick Cathedral
- Sun Bowl Stadium
- Western Playland Amusement Park
Map of the best Things to Do in El Paso
What to Eat in in El Paso
- 1700° Steakhouse (💰💰💰, Steakhouse) – Great place to have a nice steak dinner.
- Ambar Restaurante (💰💰, Mexican) – Didn’t love the avo toast, but you must try the churro pancakes.
- Kentucky Bar (💰, Mexican) – Located across the border in Juarez, this is where the margarita was invented.
- L&J Cafe (💰💰, Mexican) – This local landmark has been around since 1927. Most locals and visitors in El Paso will point you to L&J for delicious Tex-Mex fare.
- Los Bandidos de Carlos and Mickey’s (💰💰, Mexican) – fun spot with classic Tex-Mex fare and Texas-sized margaritas.
- Kiki’s Mexican Restaurant (💰💰, Tex-Mex) – Hole-in-the-wall tex mex spot and popular with locals.
- Park Tavern (💰💰, American) – Had their lunch menu – sandwiches were solid.
- Podium Finish Sport Boutique & Cafe (💰💰, Cafes) – We didn’t get a chance to stop in, but it’s a bike shop and cafe. Get breakfast/lunch while fixing your bike. Now, people just go to eat, too.
- Salt + Honey Bakery Cafe (💰💰, Cafes) – Cute shop with delicious food and drink. Be sure to try the Salt + Honey everything, but especially the fries.
- Savage Goods (💰💰, Cafes) – We took their food to go – good burritos and sandwiches.
- Taconeta (💰💰, Tacos) – Our favorite meal of the trip. The tacos were all delicious, and the sides were even better. Our favorites were the fish tacos and the elote.
- Taft & Diaz – Located in the Stanton House hotel, this upscale restaurant has a rotating menu. Though we didn’t love the food, it’s a nice spot to grab drinks. Don’t forget to look up, as there’s an art installation above you that dances from time to time.
Best Places to Stay in El Paso
We’ve stayed at two different hotels in El Paso. On our recent stay, we were at Hotel Paso Del Norte. The location is right in the heart of downtown. The rooms were comfortable, and they have a rooftop bar that gets lively and great restaurant options conveniently in the hotel. It’s easy walking distance from the Plaza Theatre, the Art Museum, and many downtown attractions.
Here are photos of breakfast in bed with the girls vs. boys. Who did it better?
We’ve also stayed at the downtown Stanton House, a newer, chic hotel. They have a great rooftop that gives you a view across the border, an art gallery inside, and beautiful rooms to make you feel at home.
Essential Tips for First Timers
- You should always apply sunscreen no matter what time of year. The sun is intense, even if it doesn’t feel warm.
- Bring a reusable water bottle with you so you can always stay hydrated. It’s so helpful at hotels and airports.
- El Paso is in Mountain Time, even though most of Texas is in Central Time.
- Layers are vital for packing in desert climates. Temperatures can vary based on how much sun you get, and I always like having a jacket I can throw on.
- If you plan on doing any outdoor activities, wear hiking boots with solid grip and support. These are our favorites.
- Don’t forget your passport if you plan on crossing the border.
- Get comprehensive insurance for your trip.
- Find a great deal on El Paso hotels.
- Arrange a rental car for your trip.
- Book a tour for your visit.
- Get airport lounge access.
- Buy a travel charger to keep your devices charged.
- Get a new backpack for your trip.
- Buy a El Paso travel guide.
- Pack the appropriate shoes for your trip.
- Don’t forget your in-flight essentials.
Any things to do in El Paso that we missed? What would you most want to do?
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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust
Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.
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