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The 20 Best Things To Do In El Paso For First-Timers

St. Patrick Cathedral

If you're planning to be in El Paso, Texas, and it's your first time visiting the city, there are some interesting things about this are that you really should know about. El Paso is filled with numerous tourist attractions and amazing activities. The culture is outstanding but if you're not familiar with the area you may not know where to go for fun and enjoyment, or even worse, the best places to eat. We've prepared a small guide to point out the most popular and highly recommended tourist attractions, and things to experience while you're there. Here are the 20 best things to do in El Paso.

Plaza Theater

20. Go to the Plaza Theater

The Plaza Theater is located in the heart of downtown El Paso. It is a historical reminder of the past of El Paso's music. The structure was completed in 1930 and restored in 2006. The theater is constructed in a Spanish Colonial Revival style with mosaic tiled floors, antique furniture, stars painted on teh ceiling and ornamental metal railings. There are still a great variety of events that are held in the theater including Broadway performances, country singers, traveling mariachi bands and more.

Franklin Mountains State Park

19. Franklin Mountains State Park

The Franklin Mountains State Park is an excellent place to go if you crave recreation. It's located on the city's north end and consists of 27,000 acres of the natural landscape. There are multiple hiking trails that are good for walking, biking, and more. There are also great places to go rock climbing in the Park. There are even ranger-led programs along with wildlife watching and more.

El Paso Mission Trail

18. Visit the El Paso Mission Trail

The El Paso Mission Trail is one of the most popular Spanish mission stations in the state of Texas. The trail begins in El Paso and features Ysleta Mission which was consecrated in the year 1682. It stands as the state's oldest structure of its kind. On the trail, you will also see the Socorro Mission which was constructed in 1691 and later buildings including the Spanish garrison church constructed in 1789. Bring extra cash because there are tons of eateries along the way as well as art galleries and other interesting attractions.

El Paso Museum of Art

17. Tour the El Paso Museum of Art

While you're in El Paso stop in and tour the Museum of Art. This gallery is home to a collection of over 7,000 pieces of art that date back to the 12th century through modern ages. The art is from Europe, Mexico, and America. There are several works from Rembrandt Peale, Gilbert Stuart, Frederic Remington, Thomas Sully, and many more famous artists through the ages.

Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site

16. Visit Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site

If you're a history buff then you won't want to miss out on visiting this famous attraction. This is a historic site that bird watchers, hikers, climbers, and history enthusiasts flock to. The park is filled with unique and interesting rock formations. There are ancient pictographs preserved on the rock wall. You need to call ahead of time to reserve your spot for a guided tour because the pictographs are fragile so large numbers of tourists are not allowed in at the same time.

El Paso Zoo

15. Visit the El Paso Zoo

The El Paso Zoo is an amazing place to take the entire family. There are animals from Asia, Africa, as well as from the Americas. There are realistic exhibits that showcase these beautiful creatures that will thrill adults and children. There are eagles, monkeys, sea lions, and tortoises that you can get very close to if you like. There is also a year-round water play area, a wildlife amphitheater with animal-specific shows and an African Star train for your further enjoyment of the day.

Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens

14. Tour the Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens

This is an attraction that was built in commemoration of Texas' 100th anniversary of Independence from Mexico. There are interesting displays that reveal the cultural and natural history of Mexico and the Southwestern states. You'll find exhibits that deal with paleontology, geology, ethnology, archeology, the arts and sciences and more. While you're at the museum step out the door to enjoy the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens with over 800 different species of native plants and themed gardens. There are also themed gardens, Bhutanese architecture, murals, and the Lhakhang Cultural Exhibit.

National Border Patrol Museum

13. Go to the National Border Patrol Museum

The National Border Patrol Museum features a huge collection of vehicles that have been used by border control agents. There are also exhibits of artwork , photos, badges, uniforms, and weapons. There is even a speedboat, a helicopter, an airplane motorcycles, jeeps and more. Here you can learn more about the history of the National Border Patrol.

Magoffin Home State Historic Site

12. Tour the Magoffin Home State Historic Site

The Magoffin Home is a 19-room homestead made of adobe material in the year 1875. There are three wings to the home and each was made in a different time period. Here you'll find original furnishings along with fine paintings mid-Victorian decor, old photos, textiles, and more. If you call ahead you can sign up for a guided tour of the home and learn the history of the building, the people who called it home, and the region.

El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center

11. See the El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center

This is an amazing and popular tourist attraction that was established as a memorial to the people who were victims of the Holocaust that took place during World War II. The museum features exhibits that cover life in Europe before the Nazis came into power and there is a gallery of Holocaust survivors from El Paso. Educational workshops and presentations are offered throughout the year. There is also a library and study center with books that are available on the topic as well as research articles. This is a must-see for history buffs who take an interest in the World War II era and the Holocaust.

El Paso Museum of Archaeology

10. See the El Paso Museum of Archaeology

The El Paso Museum of Archaeology is a lot of fun and entertainment for the entire family. It starts with the dioramas and galleries that exhibit how life was dating back to 14,000 years ago. There are frequently special lectures, family programs and other events that are held in the auditorium. In addition to the museum, there are 15 acres of walking trails and gardens featuring over 250 native Chihuahuan Desert plants.

Fort Bliss and Old Ironsides Museums

9. Visit Fort Bliss and Old Ironsides Museums

Fort Bliss was established in the middle of the 19th century as a US Army post. It was later used by Confederate soldiers in the Civil War period. The camp is currently being used as an Army Air Defense Center and is used for combat training for allied nations. It also serves as the home of the Fort Bliss Museum. There are military artifacts displayed at the museum that dates back to 1861 through more modern times. The history of the fort is also exhibited. The Old Ironsides Museum is a preservation of the 1st Armored Division's history through the years with multiple exhibits, some of which include vehicles.

International Museum of Art

8. Tour the International Museum of Art

El Paso, Texas is the home of the International Museum of Art. This museum is housed in a historic residence that was for the former home of state legislator William Ward Turney who occupied the home in 1908. The structure was designed by Henry C. Trost. There are several events held at the museum from time to time, but in between, it is an excellent resource for learning the history of the region.

San Jacinto Plaza

7. Visit San Jacinto Plaza

San Jacinto Plaza is another popular tourist attraction in El Paso. This is a historic park that is situated in the center of the downtown part of the city. There are frequently exciting and fun events held at the plaza on Saturdays including interactive fun like the El Paso Scavenger Hunt, and much more.

Chamizal National Memorial

5. Tour the Chamizal National Memorial

When you're in El Paso, you absolutely must-see the Chamizal National Memorial. This is a National Park Service site that was established to celebrate the Chamizal boundary dispute's peaceful settlement. You'll learn yet more about the history of the area's rich and storied history.

El Paso Downtown Artist and Farmer's Market

4. El Paso Downtown Artist and Farmer's Market

The Downtown Artist and Famers market is an event that you won't want to miss. The streets are lined with vendors who offer a variety of goods for sale at reasonable prices. Here you'll find everything from fresh fruits and vegetables that are grown locally, to artisans' crafts and handiwork. You might even find some interesting souvenirs to take back home with you as many local artists proudly display their works and offer them for sale.

Cielo Vista Mall

3. Go to the Cielo Vista Mall

One of the best places to shop in El Paso is the Cielo Vista Mall. The mall is situated on the east side of El Paso at Hawkins Blvd and Interstate 10. There are a total of five anchor stores featuring four major brand names. In addition to this, there is a collection of 134 specialty stores all grouped together in one convenient location for your shopping enjoyment. If you love shopping then it's a good idea to set aside at least two to three hours or maybe more. There are so many unique shops that it might take a few days to see everything that there is to browse through in the mall.

Surreal Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden, Ho Baron Artist

2. Tour the Surreal Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden, Ho Baron Artist

The Surreal Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden is one of the most popular attractions in the city of El Paso. The principal artist is Ho Baron. Mr. Baron has spent the last fifty years of his life creative surreal figures and images for the enjoyment of an adoring public. In addition to the medium of cast stone and bronze sculptures, Baron also works with photography, pen and ink drawings and more. His works are anthropomorphic and whimsical creatures that fall under the surreal category. If you want to see something very different and even enjoyable, we recommend touring this unique gallery with one of a kind art specimens. The museum is only officially open on Saturdays from 12 pm to 5 pm but you can also call for an appointment.

St. Patrick Cathedral

1. Visit St. Patrick Cathedral

St. Patrick Cathedral is one of the most beautiful church structures in the city of El Paso and it is another popular tourist attraction that is a must-see. This is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Texas. This is the mother church for nearly 670,000 Catholics. The exterior of the cathedral is simply gorgeous but if you venture inside it will blow your mind. The architecture is designed in a Romanesque Revival style and just seeing the building is like taking a step backward in time. This is one of the most highly recommended sites to visit when in El Paso and don't forget to bring your camera to take pictures.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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