Day Trippin' to El Paso | Places to Visit Near Las Cruces |

Just east of Las Cruces along I-10 lies the bigger city of El Paso, Texas. With Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, as its nearest neighbor, El Paso is rich with culture, community, and history. Juan de Oñate came through a strategic mountain pass here in 1598 and named the area El Paso del Norte, or the pass of the north. Today, El Paso is a vibrant place to visit, with a lively downtown, museums, entertainment, an extensive food and cocktail scene, hikes, and fun for the entire family. One of the best things about El Paso is that it is nestled up against the Franklin Mountains, and breathtaking views make it one of the best cities from which to watch the sunset. You can plan multiple day trips to El Paso and each visit would be completely different but all equally memorable! We hope you enjoy exploring the Sun City.

Hiking and Outdoors

Olivia Belcher

El Paso has many hiking options, thanks to the beautiful Franklin Mountains running right through the middle of the city. There are far too many trails to mention them all, but we’ll share the ones that top our list!

First up is one of the most iconic hikes in El Paso: Mammoth Rock, also known as The Elephant. This is one of the most difficult hikes in the area (even though it is along the easier Ron Coleman trail) and should only be attempted by experienced hikers. If you just want to hike Mammoth Rock, you can access the trail via Transmountain Road.

One of the most popular places to hike is the Lost Dog Trail in west El Paso. Great for mountain biking as well, it features 7.7 miles of breathtaking views and wildlife.

Another favorite is the El Paso Tin Mine Trail. This easy 6.6-mile round-trip hike ends with a peek into the old mine shafts. Bring a flashlight, because it’s dark in there!

Mt. Cristo Rey, located in nearby Sunland Park, New Mexico, is another hiking trail but with a twist. At the top of the trail is a 29-foot-tall limestone statue of Jesus Christ standing in front of a cross. Many El Paso families hike to the top of Mt. Cristo Rey barefoot as an Easter pilgrimage.

Located in the middle of northeast El Paso is McKelligon Canyon. McKelligon features multiple hiking and rock-climbing trails, as well as a 4.8-mile paved road. You can get in an intense workout as you enjoy the gorgeous desert, or just ease on down the road. This spot is perfect for walking and biking.

On the far-east side in nearby Hudspeth County is Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site. This area boasts opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, rock-climbing, camping, and other activities; however, the park only allows 70 visitors for self-guided tours each day and guided tours are by reservation only. While visiting Hueco Tanks State

Park you can view pictographs and petroglyphs created by long-ago inhabitants. According to the park’s website, “Kiowa, Mescalero Apache, Comanche, Tigua, and the people of Isleta del Norte Pueblo consider the site to be a meaningful part of their heritage.”

If hiking in the desert isn’t appealing but you still want to enjoy some exercise and breathtaking views, Scenic Drive is closed to traffic every Sunday morning from 6 – 11 a.m. to allow access for cyclists and pedestrians only. This is the perfect alternative to hiking in the mountains.

We hope you enjoy exploring these El Paso trails! Remember to take more water than you think you need, especially in the summer months, and always let someone know where you are going. Happy hiking!

Family Fun

Olivia Belcher

When in the Sun City, one should get out and enjoy the sun! There are plenty of things to do with friends and family, so let’s get started! Kick off your day with a visit to the El Paso Zoo. With more than 35 acres filled with adventure and exotic animals from around the world, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

El Paso also offers popular destinations like Topgolf and iFly. Take the family out for dinner, followed by some friendly golf-inspired games. Or take the more daring members next door to iFly for a thrilling skydiving simulation (maybe best before dinner). If your family likes bowling, then you’re in the right city, because your two great options are Bowl El Paso and Oasis Lanes. If arcades, laser tag, and go-carts are more your jam, check out Adventure Zone and Bob-O’s. Looking for some indoor roller skating? Roll on over to Roller Bomb!

Put at least one El Paso Chihuahuas or Locomotive home game at the state-of-the-art Southwest University Park on your list — it is a must-do! You can chow down on delicious food and drinks while enjoying Triple-A baseball or professional soccer. If you are visiting off-season, be sure to check the Southwest University Park website because the ballpark often hosts special events.

The award-winning University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) Dinner Theatre stages musicals and plays throughout the year. The experience includes a cash bar, an intimate theater with great views of the stage from every seat, and food that is always over-the-top delicious. I have fond memories of seeing Cats there more than once as a kid and Friday Night Fever right before the pandemic took hold. The UTEP Dinner Theatre will not disappoint!

During the summer months, you can enjoy multiple public waterparks, pools, and splash pads throughout the city. Two of the area’s biggest summer attractions are Wet ‘N’ Wild waterpark located in nearby Anthony, Texas, and

Western Playland amusement park in Sunland Park, New Mexico. They are perfect for taking the family out for a full day of fun. Both Western Playland and Wet ‘N’ Wild feature rides that all ages will enjoy and have kid-friendly areas and shaded picnic grounds.

During the Christmas season, take a trip downtown via trolley to San Jacinto Plaza for the annual Winterfest. Celebrate the holidays by walking around and enjoying the beautiful Christmas lights, delectable food from local food trucks, and even outdoor ice skating right in the heart of downtown.

El Paso is a great place to explore and spend time with the family. Enjoy!

Star City and the Plaza for Music and More

Jackye Meinecke

How long must we wait to gather once again at our favorite venues for live music, performances, and films? In El Paso, at some venues the wait is over. Many are reopening, including the Plaza Theatre. I was thrilled to attend the Plaza Classic Film Festival again, and I am looking forward to holiday performances, too.

A few months ago, the Texas Music Office designated El Paso as a Music Friendly Community. Eric Boseman, manager/producer at Star City Studio and OM Gallery, was an active member of the El Paso International Music Foundation that advocated for the designation.

“This designation will give us just another incredible resource to further the mission of elevating the music scene in El Paso,” said Bryan Crowe, general manager of Destination El Paso.

The Music Friendly Community program fosters music business-related economic development, including local music venues, such as Star City Studio and the Plaza Theatre. Star City Studio, located at 120 W. Castellano in west El Paso, has an intimate space where local musicians record and perform, while the Plaza Theatre, located at 125 West Mills Ave., has more than 2,000 seats and attracts nationally known performers and traveling shows.

As El Paso moves into the fall and winter holiday seasons, the choices of performances at these venues and others will increase. For more information about upcoming performances at a variety of venues, visit the El Paso Live website at

In August, the Plaza Theatre presented its annual Plaza Classic Film Festival. Doug Pullen, program director for the El Paso Community Foundation, commented that in the coming months the foundation will begin making plans for holiday movies and events.

Performances at the Plaza Theatre from September through December include:
El Tri: Tour Las Piedras Se Vuelven a Encontrar; Franco Escamilla; the Lost in Love tour with MC Magic, Lil Rob, and Jayroxx; Marisela: La Dama de Hierro Tour; December ’63; Fab Four: The Ultimate Tribute; Pink Floyd Laser Spectacular; and Stomp, among others.

Boseman said Star City Studio will not reopen for public performances for many months. They also have curtailed classes and workshops, as well as bookings for special events. However, they still are available to local musicians for recording sessions. To keep up with local music performances, classes, and workshops, visit their website at

For me, holidays felt less than jolly with no musical concerts, local and professional performances, and holiday films. I look forward to the upcoming holidays and returning to traditions with music and performances.

A 24-Hour Tale of the Sun City

Daniel Gonzales

When my wife and I were looking for a quick weekend getaway, we escaped to the Sun City for some culinary experiences that didn’t include sippy cups or foods shaped like cartoon characters. What we discovered on our journey was a four-step gastronomic metamorphosis that occurred in those relaxing 24 hours of having grandma watch the kids.

1. The Herbivore
Driving into the west side of El Paso, we wanted to grab a quick snack before checking into our hotel, and Salata is one of our favorite stops for a healthy kickstart. Salata has a wide selection of fresh ingredients to choose from for either a salad or a wrap. Some of the choices are animal based, but most of the 50-plus ingredients at Salata are vegetable, fruit, or nut-based. (6450 Desert Blvd. N., Suites E101 – E102)

2. The Connoisseur
After check-in at the hotel and a peaceful nap with no interruptions, we used our Uber appointment to go to one of our favorite date spots: Mesa Street Grill. Mesa Street Grill has a nice atmosphere, excellent service, and a wide variety of well-made food and drinks with an excellent wine selection. Their bar staff does a great job with classic cocktails, so I enjoyed a Negroni while my wife tried their Watermelon Diablo. We had a glass of wine with our outstanding appetizers and entrees. For the main course, I loved the pechuga de pato (duck breast), and my wife had the cauliflower steak. Both were delicious. The food, plating, and service at Mesa Street Grill are always fantastic. (3800 N. Mesa St., Suite D1)

3. The Party Animal
Knowing we did not want to venture too far from the hotel, we asked our driver to recommend a place that would be fun and interesting. Just down the road we approached a stack of moving containers with bright lights and music emanating from inside. He dropped us off at The Electric Cactus, where we enjoyed drinks, a DJ, and even a slice of pizza for the ride home. There are a lot of energy and good vibes at Electric Cactus. The staff and cocktails were fun, and the unique environment was a blast. (4935 N. Mesa St.)

4. The Reality Recovery
During 2020, my wife and I discovered we enjoy golfing together, so before our getaway I booked a tee-time at Butterfield Trail Golf Club. Golfing is a great way to sweat out any of the previous night’s bad decisions, which we did while spending the waning hours of our getaway together in peaceful surroundings. The Trail’s End restaurant at the golf course was the perfect place to recover from the previous night’s few extra tipples and dance moves I haven’t tried since our wedding. The Bloody Mary and mimosa for breakfast were meant to help, but it was really the jumbo wings, fried pickles, and guacamole bacon burger that rescued us. The service was fantastic, and the food was prepared and executed perfectly. (1858 Cottonwoods Dr.)
We enjoyed being guests in each of these El Paso establishments and would heartily recommend any or all of them.

El Paso Museums

Bud Russo

When you visit El Paso, you can sample some of its history and culture, thanks to the downtown’s wealth of museums. Even more museums are close enough for an easy visit.
Here are some suggestions for what you can see and do in the Sun City.

Art lovers can roam the galleries of the 60-year-old El Paso Museum of Art and examine a rich sampling from European Baroque and Renaissance works to modern creations. The museum includes works of African art, Chinese rubbings, porcelain birds, and even paintings by Texas-born astronaut Alan Bean, who walked on the moon during Apollo 12.

Close by is the El Paso Museum of History, which chronicles the history and culture of the region. The museum houses artifacts from as long ago as 300 years to the 1922 wedding dress worn by the daughter of Adolph Schwartz, founder of the Popular Dry Goods Company. You can learn about the history of the railroad in El Paso and see dioramas highlighting the different neighborhoods throughout town.

Also close by is the El Paso Holocaust Museum & Study Center, founded in 1984 by Holocaust survivor Henry Kellen. He knew it was time to tell this story and educate the community of the horrors of Nazi concentration camps and the murder of millions of Jews in Europe. While the museum is a somber place, it’s an essential stop to understand the full range of cultures, ethnicities, and religions in El Paso.

These downtown museums are all within walking distance of San Jacinto Plaza, which is the memorial to the decisive battle for Texas independence against Mexican troops in 1836. See if you can find out about the alligators that once lived in a pond there!

A few blocks east is the Magoffin Home State Historic Site. Within its adobe walls, you can experience how James and Octavia Magoffin lived. James was instrumental in developing El Paso into a thriving community, and his sister-in-law Susan, who was married to his brother Samuel, claimed to be the first White woman to travel along both the Santa Fe Trail and El Camino Real. The home, with its furniture, art, and other artifacts from the period, tells the story of the Magoffins.

On the east end of Transmountain Drive, you’ll find two museums: the National Border Patrol Museum and the El Paso Museum of Archaeology.

The U.S. Border Patrol, which was founded in 1924, is often in the news, and this museum will help you understand its origins and mission. A fascinating feature is the museum’s collection of oral histories.

Next door is the Museum of Archaeology, which tells the story of El Paso before Europeans arrived. You’ll find pottery, ancient baskets and sandals, weavings, and ceramic figurines set among expressive dioramas that draw you back in time.

On The University of Texas at El Paso campus is the Centennial Museum, patterned after a Bhutanese fortress and surrounded by the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens. The gardens feature more than 800 Chihuahuan Desert plant species. A visit here is a way to immerse yourself in the area’s natural history, as the museum houses nearly 75,000 artifacts relating to border life and culture.

Those interested in military history can visit the Old Fort Bliss Museum with its focus on the time of the horse cavalry, and the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss Museum that tells the story of Fort Bliss from 1849 to the present and the history of America’s tank division. Both are on base and require passing through security checkpoints.

Finally, when it opens in 2022, the kiddos will want you to add the Children’s Museum and Science Center to the list of places to go, with its unique architecture and interactive exhibits that are both fun and educational.
To enjoy all El Paso has to offer will require more than one day trip — perhaps several!


Originally published in Neighbors magazine.

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