El Paso

If you have never been to El Paso, it is likely much different than you imagine. With its dry climate, rugged terrain, strong Mexican influence, and geographic isolation it is the least “Texas” of any big city in the state. With the combined population of El Paso and Juarez over 2 million people, it is a surprisingly big place. An interesting combination of Texan, Mexican, and Southwestern influences make El Paso one of the most unique cities in the country. As most people who have spent enough time in El Paso will tell you: if you know where to go it’s a surprisingly cool place.


There is a lot to do, see, and eat in El Paso. Like any urban destination, what to do depends on your interests.

What To Do

Franklin Mountain State Park


As the largest urban park in the US, it is a vast expanse of hiking and mountain biking trails, all with amazing views of the city. The park also offers picnicking, camping, and rock climbing.


Wyler Aerial Tramway


If you prefer a more direct path to the top of the Franklin Mountains, the tramway is a great way to get to the top quickly and take in the incredible views. On a clear day you can see almost 100 miles into Texas, Mexico, and New Mexico. It operates seasonally and not in high winds, so it’s wise to check first.


Hueco Tanks


Pronounced “Waco tanks”, this state park just outside the city is often described as an “archeologist’s paradise”. It was home to several groups of native Americans for thousands of years and contains a large collection of cave paintings and pictographs on the rock canyon walls. It is also known for the great rock climbing and attracts climbers from all over the country. Visitors can also enjoy hiking, bird watching, and limited number of overnight campsites.


Mission Trail


El Paso’s history dates back to the time of Spanish exploration in Mexico and what is now the western US. El Paso’s Mission Trail, originally established in the 1600’s, includes the Ysleta Mission, Socorro Mission, and San Elizario Chapel. Many of the original mission buildings were destroyed by flooding 1800’s, but have been rebuilt and opened as attractions. There is also the San Elizario National Historic District adjacent to the mission and contains one of the oldest villages in the country.


Concordia Cemetery


Dating back to the 1850’s and containing over 60,000 burials, the cemetery is also known as the resting place of the famous gunslinger John Wesley Hardin. Many wouldn’t consider a cemetery an “attraction”, but this sizable graveyard, now in the shadow of several freeway overpasses, is definitely unique.


Transmountain Road


Transmountain Road (Loop 375) connects I-10 from far east El paso to far West, and can be great way to drive across the city. As the name implies it cuts right through the Franklin Mountain range and has fantastic views from either direction.


Trost Tour


Henry Trost was an El Paso-based architect whose buildings dot the landscape throughout Far West Texas and New Mexico, including several recommended hotels on this site. There is a local society, created by an Architecture professor at UT El Paso, that celebrates the work of Trost and gives tours in the area. We recommend the self-guided walking tour of several central El Paso landmarks.

Where to Stay

There are a lot of hotels in El Paso, but generally speaking the best options are going to be downtown.


The Plaza


Designed by Henry Trost and built by Conrad Hilton, the Plaza is one of the signature buildings and hotels in El Paso. It has changed hands several times and underwent an extensive renovation in 2019, after which it is considered “the place to stay” in El Paso. The hotel restaurant (Ambar) is excellent, and the rooftop bar (La Perla - open Thursday-Saturday) offers amazing views of the mountains and the surrounding area.


The Gardener


Opening in 1922, the Gardener is the oldest continually-operating hotel in El Paso. It includes well-appointed rooms and an impressive collection of antiques in the common areas. A slightly more affordable option than the Plaza.


Hotel Indigo


For a more modern experience, the Indigo is one of the newer hotels downtown. It is centrally-located, has a great pool, and a good in-house restaurant.

Where to Eat

As with any city this size, there are a lot of restaurants in El Paso. The specialty cuisine is definitely Mexican food. For those that appreaciate a more New Mexican style (vs. Tex-Mex), El Paso has the best Mexican food in Texas. You can also get a fanstastic steak.




A family-owned restaurant that started in the 50’s, Avila’s is a staple on the west side. It is rated one of the 35 best Mexican restaurants in the country by Thrillist, and one of the top 3 by the creators of this site (for what that’s worth). The table salsa, the Tacos Al Carbon, and red enchiladas are all amazing.




On most of the “must see” lists for El Paso Mexican food, L&J is centrally-located (by Concordia Cemetery) and is always a safe bet. The red salsa is fantastic and can be purchased in jars to go.


The Tap


A staple of good (and cheap) Mexican food since 1956, the Tap is in a small space in the middle of a downtown strip center. A long way from “fancy” but great food and great atmosphere.




if you happen to arrive in El Paso from I-10 (from the east) or you don’t mind driving 30 miles out of town, Cattlemen’s Steakhouse and the adjacent Indian Cliffs Ranch provide a classic western experience. The restaurant is on a working cattle ranch and has hayrides, walking trails, and a small zoo. The steaks are fantastic, as is the overall experience. Given that they don’t take reservations and there is a lot to do on the property, we recommend planning to be there at least a few hours.


Ardovino’s Desert Crossing


Just across the New Mexico border and at the foot of Mount Cristo Rey, Ardovino’s is a unique dining experience. It has a great outdoor space and fantastic few of west El Paso and Southern New Mexico. They are best known for their wood-fired pizza, but the other options are surprisingly good. They also have a great outdoor farmers market (open seasonally).