The Almost Complete Guide to El Paso
Art, Culture, History, and more in El Paso.
Sep 13, 2019 at 8:00 AM in Things to Do
In addition to its culture and heritage, nature also serves as a big draw for El Paso. The Chihuahuan Desert presents a stunning backdrop for exploring the outdoors.
Climbing, hiking, camping, wildlife viewing and other forms of outside fun are popular year-round in Franklin Mountains State Park, a huge park located within the city of El Paso. North Franklin Mountain, a towering 7,192 feet above sea level ranks as the park’s main attraction. It’s a great destination for athletic types as well as an iconic beacon for all of El Paso, one that can be seen from more than fifty miles away.
If you like scenic drives there’s a good one for you in El Paso. It’s on Scenic Drive–but of course! Take this roadway to enjoy wide, sweeping views of El Paso and Juárez (in Mexico). Be sure to stop at the overlook and step out to capture some great shots, or while away some time on the benches or even explore a little on the footpaths. The U.S. and Mexico are stars in this show.
Want to know more about the U.S./Mexico border? It is a hot topic of conversation these days. Many stories are told–mostly from a historical point of view–at the National Border Patrol Museum. Exhibits showcase aircraft, vehicles, weaponry, uniforms and more used over the years in guarding this much-talked-about border.
So much about El Paso is about tolerance. This is perhaps partly why this Texas city plays home to the El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center. Here, the story of this WWII genocide is played out in a bilingual (English and Spanish) narrative through photos, artifacts and other historical pieces of evidence from a very dark period for humanity. Founded in 1944 by a Nazi Holocaust survivor, it’s also a research center.
More colorful vistas may be found at Keystone Heritage Park and the El Paso Desert Botanical Garden. It’s a 52-acre park that encompasses botanical gardens, wetlands and the remains of an ancient village. You can delight in more pretty blooms at the El Paso Municipal Rose Garden.
El Paso’s landscapes seem perfectly suited for the more than 220 species of animals contained within the El Paso Zoo. This thirty-five-acre facility is divided into three main sections:Animals of Africa, Animals of Asia and Animals of the Americas. And soon there’s going to be a special Chihuahuan Desert area. Best of all:It’s a great place to go to cool off when the Texas heat feels like its too much. Bring your bathing suit and water shoes and save time for their Splash Pad–it’s a blast.
Don’t miss San Jacinto Plaza, an historic park in the heart of downtown El Paso. It’s a tranquil plaza filled with green spaces, shade trees, park benches and a snack bar. It’s also good for play for young and old, since there is outdoor chess and checkers, ping pong, a splash pool and a huacha court. (Huacha is a game similar to playing horseshoes.) In many ways, it’s the heart and soul of El Paso.
There are many options near this beloved plaza for fine dining, including the more-than-a-century-old Cafe Central, one of the top restaurants in El Paso. (When an establishment has been around that long, you know it’s good.)Anson Eleven and Park Tavern also offer tasty and memorable dining experiences.
Looking to do a little bar-hopping? Hope and Anchor is a great place to start. Their large back patio festooned with lights and cheery lanterns seems especially well suited for sipping colorful cocktails on a hot summer’s evening. Then later go to Tricky Falls to catch some local bands and touring acts. El Paso boasts a vibrant nightlife, so be sure to check local listings to see what’s happening in and around town.
If you don’t stay out too late, get up early and head out of town along the historic Don Juan de Oñate Trail to check out some wineries. Vintners have found that El Paso’s blazing sun renders the grapes just right for delicious zinfandels. Taste some at Zin Valle Vineyards and La Viña Winery. They’re both worth the excursion.