17 Epic Things to Do in El Paso On Your Texas Vacation

Want to add a dash of Old West spice to your swing through the Lone Star State? Then head on down to El Paso to get your fill. With its lively cultural scene, rich history, and stunning landscapes, you’ll have a heaping helping of things to do in El Paso, Texas.

Nestled in the foothills of the stunning Franklin Mountains, El Paso is a vibrant and diverse community with a family-friendly feel. Brimming with beautiful parks, famous historical sites, fascinating museums, and delicious Mexican cuisine, “Sun City” is a must-see.

Not sure where to start? Grab this complete guide to the best places to visit in El Paso, TX, and hit the trail for the Old West!

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El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens

On the hunt for a spot that’ll be a surefire hit with the kids? Put the El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens at the top of your list of things to see & do in El Paso. This awesome 35-acre facility is home to exotic animals from around the world, and a haven for critically endangered species.

The El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens offers exciting Zoo Adventure Programs and daily animal encounters, where you’ll enjoy up-close experiences with eagles, monkeys, sea lions, and many more.

Check out fun attractions like the African Star Train, the Family Splash Pad, and the Tree House Playground. When you want a breather, stroll the beautiful gardens, then head to the Wildlife Amphitheater for some fun programs featuring the zoo’s fascinating residents.

San Jacinto Plaza

When El Pasoans want to mix and mingle, San Jacinto Plaza is where they go. The heartbeat of the city, this century-old gathering place hosted the historic first meeting between the American and Mexican presidents following the Texas war for independence.

San Jacinto Plaza

Today, San Jacinto Plaza is ranked as a Lone Star Legacy Park, and it offers an irresistible array of open-air activities. (Sorry, the Plaza’s original star attractions – alligators – are long gone.)

At San Jacinto Plaza, you can romp in a splash pad, play a round of ping-pong or chess, stroll scenic paths and bridges, and enjoy the park’s eye-pleasing fountains and sculptures. Then chill at the plaza cafe, sip a cucumber lemonade, and watch the world go by.

Franklin Mountains State Park

When in El Paso, you can’t ignore the lure of its mesmerizing mountain backdrop – so give in! Head to Franklin Mountains State Park, where you can indulge your inner alpine enthusiast. For outdoor adventures, it’s one of the most exciting places to go in El Paso.

Franklin Mountains State Park

Franklin Mountains State Park offers over a hundred miles of trails for both hiking and biking. Up for a challenge? Take on the 8-mile trek to North Franklin Peak, El Paso’s highest elevation point. When you hit the summit at 7,192 feet, catch your breath and feast your eyes on an unforgettable view.

Test your rock-climbing skills at McKelligon Canyon or Sneed’s Cory. This rugged desert terrain was home to ancient indigenous populations, so be on the lookout for ancient rock etchings that date back millennia.

Prefer to stay grounded? Explore the park’s beautiful nature trails, and keep your binoculars handy for wildlife sightings.

Want to max out your visit to Franklin Mountains State Park? Just book yourself a campsite!

Ascarate Park

Looking for a family-friendly crowd-pleaser on your El Paso trip? Gather the gang and head out to Ascarate Park. The largest recreational park in El Paso County, this 400-acre gem is home to vast expanses of lakes, playgrounds, picnic spots, sports fields, and golf courses. What’s not to like?

Stroll Ascarate Park’s lakeside boardwalk, or take to the water in a pedal boat or canoe. Cast a fishing line into the crystal-clear water. Hit the courts for a round of tennis, handball, or basketball, take to the fields for a game of baseball or soccer, or tee up on the 18-hole golf course.

Phew! Time to cool down? Check out the Olympic-size pool at the Ascarate Aquatic Center – and dive in!

Chamizal National Memorial

Craving a tranquil getaway? Carve out some time for the Chamizal National Memorial. Spanning nearly 55 acres, this memorial park honors the peaceful end of a century-old border dispute between the US and Mexico.

Chamizal National Memorial

This multi-tasking urban park is great for folks who want to max out their vacation time. Browse the galleries, catch a show at the theater, and explore the museum to learn more about the intriguing history of the US-Mexican border. Take to the nature trails for outdoor activities like hiking and biking adventures and take in amazing views of the Franklin Mountains.

Stick around after dark and treat yourself to the Chamizal National Memorial summer concert series, Music Under the Stars. You’ll end your day on a magical note.

El Paso Museum of Art

If you’re looking for a bright cultural hotspot, look no further than the El Paso Museum of Art. This sunny art complex houses a vibrant collection of 7,000 works highlighting the genius of legendary artists like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Salvador Dali.

Browse an eclectic collection of works ranging from 13th–century sculptures to European modernist paintings. And do make time for some of the site’s most-prized possessions: the works of Frederic Remington, the acknowledged painting master of America’s Old West.

The El Paso Museum of Art regularly showcases works by noted artists; be sure to check out their schedule. It also hosts hands-on activities for all ages so you can unleash your inner artist.

Southwest University Park

Sports enthusiasts agree: Southwest University Park is a winner! Nestled in the heart of downtown, this is one of El Paso’s most popular attractions. The stadium is home to the El Paso Chihuahuas, a San Diego Padres affiliate. Fans can get their game fix while taking in fantastic views of the Franklin Mountains. Talk about the best of both worlds!

Southwest University Park does double duty as a venue for other sports, concerts, and special events. So check out their event calendar, see what grabs you, and swing by.

While you’re there, treat yourself to some refreshments at the City Hall Grill or Sun Kings Saloon, and bask in the panoramic views from the open-air Santa Fe Pavilion. Score!

El Paso Municipal Rose Garden

If you’ve got the urge to stop and smell the roses, take it all in at the El Paso Municipal Rose Garden. Considered one of the most beautiful places in the US, this color-filled oasis is a balm for the senses.

El Paso Municipal Rose Garden

Featuring nearly 2,000 bushes and 500 varieties of roses, this lush garden invites you to linger. Wander around the vivid flower beds, stroll past waterfalls, explore the walking paths, and savor the sight of shimmering fish in the Koi pond.

Got some fledgling horticulturalists? El Paso Municipal Rose Garden regularly hosts hands-on educational events for kids. Bound to sprout some green thumbs!

Magoffin Home State Historic Site

History buffs, here’s a no-brainer to add to your El Paso sightseeing list: Magoffin Home State Historic Site. Built in 1875 for pioneer, civic leader, and four-time mayor Joseph Magoffin, this 1.5-acre site is an official Texas Historical Landmark. This striking adobe structure reflects the Native American Pueblo architectural style – and it happens to be El Paso’s only historic house museum.

Step inside and explore the world of one of El Paso’s leading 19th-century families. Movers and shakers of their time, the multicultural Magoffin clan took an active part in early settlement, the Civil War, and cross-border politics.

Stroll through the 19 rooms of the Magoffin Home State Historic Site to view its original furnishings, paintings, photos, and Victorian decor. You’ll get a fascinating insider’s look at how the region’s first non-native groundbreakers lived. (HINT: Very comfortably.)

Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site

Are you ready to rock? (Climb, that is.) Then pack up your pitons and swing over Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site. Just 30 minutes outside El Paso, this world-renowned rock-climbing and bouldering paradise deserves a top spot on your bucket list of things to do in El Paso.

Hueco Tanks State Park

Spanning 860 acres, Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site was named for the vast natural rock basins that supplied the area’s earliest inhabitants with trapped rainwater – a nice perk to have when you live in the desert!

No pitons? No problem! This recreational hotspot is a magnet for hikers, campers, bird enthusiasts, and all-around nature lovers. And if ancient history’s your thing, you’re in the right place. Early indigenous peoples gathered here for thousands of years – and hundreds of breathtaking rock and cave paintings are a testament to their presence.

El Paso Museum of History

Ready to explore El Paso’s history up close and personal? Get in touch with the past in a unique way at the El Paso Museum of History. For history buffs, the popular museum is one of the top tourist attractions in El Paso.

Step inside the El Paso Museum of History and you’ll be jazzed by the museum’s interactive wall. This “Digital Information Gateway” includes five touch-sensitive screens that display thousands of videos and images exploring El Paso’s past and present. Users can view and co-curate with the touch of a finger.

And there’s more to experience at the El Paso Museum of History. Check out their interactive exhibits and workshops. Browse fascinating collections of photographs and artifacts.

Take a journey through landmark events that changed the course of American history – and made El Paso the vibrant community it is today.

National Border Patrol Museum

If you’re looking for something off the beaten path on your El Paso trip, here’s something that qualifies as out of the ordinary: the National Border Patrol Museum. This one-of-a-kind site traces the history of border patrol in the US from its origins in the Old West through WWII to the present day.

Check out displays of weapons, artifacts, documents, and photographs for an intriguing behind-the-scenes look at the workings of this formidable law enforcement agency.

And the star of the show at the National Border Patrol Museum? Hands down, it’s the eye-popping collection of vehicles that border patrol crews have used or actually seized.

Get a closeup look at everything from jeeps to helicopters to Miami Vice-style speedboats. And would you believe – a bicycle built for nine? You can get creative – but you’ll still get caught!

Keystone Heritage Park and the El Paso Desert Botanical Garden

Think of deserts as desolate landscapes? Visit Keystone Heritage Park and the El Paso Desert Botanical Garden, and think again. You’ll discover a rich, vibrant ecosystem of flora and fauna that will open your eyes.

Keystone Heritage Park and the El Paso Desert Botanical Garden are home to archeological treasures, archaic wetlands, botanical gardens, and a portion of the Chihuahuan Desert – the largest desert in North America.

Indiana Jones wannabes will be thrilled by the 4,000-year-old archaeological site, while bird lovers will be captivated by wetlands that teem hundreds of migratory birds.

History buffs will want to hike a one-mile trail that parallels the historic El Camino Real, a path that was traveled by indigenous peoples, conquistadors, and settlers for centuries. And nature lovers can explore the park’s gardens to take in vivid displays of native plant species.

El Paso Mission Trail

Up for a scenic tour? Then it’s time to hit the El Paso Mission Trail. One of the top points of interest in El Paso, this legendary historical route connects the most significant surviving Spanish mission sites in Texas.

San Elizario Chapel at El Paso Mission Trail

Put the Ysleta Mission at the top of your bucket list. Erected by the Tigua people in 1682, it’s the oldest structure of its kind in Texas. You’ll also want to stop by the Socorro Mission, built in 1691, and San Elizario, which features an impressive Spanish garrison church dating back to 1789.

But the El Paso Mission Trail is about more than just missions. Be sure to make time for some of the route’s other offerings, including art galleries, local eateries, and browse-worthy attractions like the Tigua Indian Cultural Center.

El Paso Mission Trail is a nine-mile journey through time – and a great way to explore the rich multicultural heritage of Texas.

Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens

Want to learn more about El Paso and its unique desert surroundings? Drop into the Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens for a refresher course: El Paso 101. Set on the campus of the University of Texas, this educational site will bring you up to speed on the amazing natural and cultural history of the Chihuahuan Desert area.

Learn about the diversity of the region and its people through permanent exhibits highlighting the indigenous and colonial cultures of the Southwest. Browse a fascinating collection of artifacts to see the past brought to vivid life.

Then explore the surrounding gardens, a certified Texas Wildscape Site that’s home to over 800 species of unique native plants. End your visit to the Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens on a reflective note in the Contemplative Garden.

El Paso Museum of Archaeology

History buffs: looking for your happy place? You’ll find it at the El Paso Museum of Archaeology. Set on the north side of the city, this striking structure offers an intriguing glimpse into the Southwest’s ancient past and is one of the coolest places to see in El Paso.

At the El Paso Museum of Archeology, discover a treasure trove of artifacts and works of art by the region’s early Native American settlers. Browse a rich array of wood carvings, pottery, and textiles. View fascinating dioramas and other exhibits that tell the story of life in this part of the world as far back as 14,000 years ago.

Step outside and hike the nature trails that wind through 15 acres of gardens that surround the El Paso Museum of Archaeology. About 250 native plant species are spread throughout the outdoor exhibits.

When you’re ready for a breather, take a seat in the gazebo, enjoy a picnic, and take in the spectacular view of the Franklin Mountains, circa 2022.

Western Playland

Looking for a spot that spells “fun” for the entire family? Then head out to Western Playland Amusement Park. Spread across 25 acres, this giant amusement park is jam-packed with attractions that will satisfy even the most demanding thrill-seekers.

Roller coasters top the list – so test your mettle on the heart-stopping, El Bandido, a fan favorite. Want some water with your Wow? Take the plunge at the Tsunami, where you (and onlookers) will be showered by the spray from a 70-foot tidal wave.

The small-fry set can have fun at the Western Playland Amusement Park on rides like Bumper Cars, The Flying Scooter, and the Tilt-a-Whirl. And grown-ups can indulge their fondness for the ponies at nearby Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino in New Mexico.

When it’s time to regroup, hit the food trucks for hamburgers, hotdogs, or nachos – then head back for more action!


Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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