Situated in the far west corner of Texas and often overlooked as merely a place to pass through on a road trip elsewhere, there are actually lots of fun things to do in El Paso!
Nicknamed the Sun City, El Paso boasts over 300 days of sunshine each year. The area settled thousands of years ago by native peoples; the Spanish moved in as early as the 1600s, establishing a mission.
The city’s rich history then grew as it passed on to Mexico, The Republic of Texas, and the United States.
Due to the city’s location in West Texas and just across the Mexican border, it makes for at least a weekend or longer-term getaway. In this article, we will discuss the best things to do in El Paso when visiting this historic city and some of the top places to stay for every budget.
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Best Things to Do in El Paso
Take a hike at Franklin Mountains State Park.
Located on the northside of El Paso, Franklin Mountains State Park is one of the most popular El Paso attractions and a reprieve from the urban hustle and bustle. If you feel drawn to nature while visiting the city, be sure and visit the park.
Offering some of El Paso’s best hiking, bike trails, and rock climbing, you can easily spend an entire day in the park and not run out of fun things to do in the mountains.
For more adventure, the park also offers overnight camping.
Spend time on the El Paso Mission Trail.
For those who love history, the El Paso Mission Trail should be on their list of what to do in El Paso.
The trail includes historic missions such as the Ysleta Mission, Socorro Mission, and the San Elizario Presidio Chapel. Two of the chapels were built in the 1600s and the last just before the 19th century.
These unique historic structures offer a look into the past and provide a glimpse of the culture in El Paso during their prime years of operation.
Go for a ride along the Scenic Drive-Overlook.
Running along the southern tip of the Franklin Mountains, you will find the Scenic Drive-Overlook. This roadway meanders along the mountains giving the driver and passengers great views of the surrounding area. There are also trails for pedestrians to hike in the area.
Several viewing areas are available to park and take in the panoramic scenes of El Paso and its twin Mexican city of Juarez.
Wander through Keystone Heritage Park.
While most cities in Texas boast a beautiful botanical garden, El Paso’s is a bit different–it’s built for the desert climate that El Paso calls home, and therefore looks quite different from the famous gardens in, say, Dallas, while still being absolutely beautiful.
In addition to the botanical garden, Keystone Heritage Park is also home to a 4,500-year-old archaeological site, and wetlands.
Check out Hueco Tanks State Park + Historic Site.
Natural rock basins, also known as “huecos,” make up Hueco Tanks State Park. Known for trapping much-needed water in the desert, the tanks have been used for millennia to provide drinking water for humans living in the area.
Today, Hueco Tanks State Park is one of the most unique state parks in West Texas.
Outside of the wonderful aesthetics of the rock outcrops, the Huecos Tanks are revered for their pictographs painted on the rocks that date to 6,000 to 3,000 BC.
An interesting thing about the artwork is that it is made up of different cultures over time. As populations changed in the area, other native tribes, spanning thousands of years added to the last culture’s drawings.
Be sure to add this unique attraction to your list of fun things to do in El Paso!
Stop and smell the roses at the El Paso Municipal Rose Garden.
Roses might not be the first thing you think of when planning a trip to El Paso, but the El Paso Municipal Rose Garden is definitely worth adding to your list of things to see in El Paso.
Spread across 4 acres and home to around 1500 rose bushes, the garden is absolutely gorgeous.
Visit the El Paso Museum of Archaeology.
The Chihuahuan Desert surrounding El Paso has been home to humans for far longer than the city has been around–and the El Paso Museum of Archaeology works to tell part of that story, exploring the region’s pre-history with artifacts dating up to 14,000 years old.
Enjoy a ride at Western Playland.
Whether you enjoy roller coasters or large water slides, Western Playland has something fun for you to enjoy.
Technically located across the state line in New Mexico, the park spent its first few decades in the city of El Paso before moving down the street. Still only a 14-minute drive from the city, Western Playland continues to be a vital entertainment attraction in El Paso.
Take the short drive to enjoy the park’s 30 acres of rides, water adventures, and entertainment.
Take in the Casa de Azucar.
More of a quirky must visit, the Casa de Azucar is the embodiment of a man’s promise to his wife to build her a beautiful house.
Since 1973, Rufino Loya has used his spare time and retirement chiseling away at cement to create beautiful and colorful carvings around his home.
The patterns carved into the cement are so delicate that the house was given the nickname Casa de Azucar, or House of Sugar in English.
If you have time to take a look at this legendary local home, you will be amazed at the precision work that it took to create a masterpiece.
Pay a visit to Rio Bosque Wetlands Park.
Wetlands probably aren’t the first thing anyone thinks of when imagining the desert climate of El Paso, but as this 372-acre park displays, wetlands are an important part of the ecosystem of West Texas.
Seek out dinosaur footprints at Sunland Park.
There are only a few places in the world where you can go and visit where dinosaurs left their footprints millions of years ago.
El Paso is one of those places. Only recently discovered in geological terms in 2003, you can now see these prints dated to around 93,000,000 years old in person.
Owned by the El Paso Science Center, Sunland Park is over 200 acres of the Chihuahuan desert that have captured these fossilized footprints.
Daily tours are available that last a couple of hours and cover the dinosaur tracks and the local nature and animals of the area.
Learn about local history at the Chazimal National Memorial.
Dedicated to honoring the peaceful conclusion of a 100-year-long border dispute between the US and Mexico, the Chazimal National Memorial is run by the National Park Service. Visiting is one of the best things to do in El Paso, both to learn important local history and to enjoy a peaceful park setting.
The memorial includes an urban park with trails and memorials, as well as a museum, art gallery, and even a theater!
Check out the El Paso Museum of Art.
Home to works by familiar names like Dalí, Matisse, and Picasso, the El Paso Museum of Art bears the distinction of being the only art museum within a 250-mile radius and is one of the best places to visit in El Paso.
Enjoy a West Texas winery.
One would not think of El Paso as a wine country, especially as it is located within the Chihuahuan Desert.
With the abundance of sunlight throughout the year and human ingenuity, however, El Paso has its share of wineries to tour.
Wineries such as La Viña Winery, Sombra Antigua Winery, Sunland Winery, and Zin Valle Vineyards are a few local establishments to tour and taste some excellent local wine.
Soak in desert (and vineyard) views from horseback.
The Chihuahuan Desert is home to sprawling, interesting views, and one of the best ways to enjoy them is via horseback.
The local Miller Horse Farm is a great option for those looking to combine a couple of fun things to do in El Paso in one day–they offer horseback wine tours!
Catch a show at the Plaza Theatre.
Located in downtown El Paso is the historic Plaza Theatre. Established and built in the 1930s, this was the music event center of the city until it fell into disrepair years later.
Remodeled in the early 2000s to its earlier style and charm, the Plaza Theatre once again entertains the citizens and visitors to El Paso.
If you are in the mood for a concert or a broadway-style show, you can find it at the Plaza Theatre. The entire area has been revitalized and includes several places for good food and drinks.
When visiting El Paso, be sure and check out whatever is going on at the theatre for a fun night out.
Unique Places to Stay in El Paso, TX
Planning to spend a weekend in El Paso? Consider one of these properties!
While El Paso has plenty of standard chain hotels and motels to choose from, if you’re looking for something a bit more unique for your trip to West Texas, consider one of these popular options.
Stanton House El Paso — Centrally located near El Paso’s museums and the Sunbowl, this modern, airy hotel gets rave reviews and is one of the best places to stay in El Paso.
Hotel Indigo El Paso Downtown — With stunning views of the city skyline from its rooftop terrace, a perfect location within walking distance of the El Paso Museum of Art, and excellent reviews, this hotel is one of the best in El Paso.
The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park — Featuring a fantastic on-site bar and restaurant, beautiful architecture, magnificent views of downtown, and a wonderful location within walking distance of many fun things to do in El Paso, travelers looking for a unique place to stay will be thrilled with The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park.