El Paso doesn’t get as much international attention from travelers as major hubs like Dallas, Houston, or Austin. But this city is truly unlike any other in the state in that it shares an international border with Mexico, creating a unique cultural fusion between Texas, USA and Chihuahua, Mexico. We recently had the chance to visit El Paso and narrowed it down to 10 reasons why travelers should plan their trip to this border town as soon as possible.
10/10 Amazing hotels
The interior of the Hotel Paso Del Norte in El Paso, Texas is gorgeous.
El Paso has some top hotels that will make any traveler’s stay in the city comfortable. We stayed at The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park and Hotel Paso Del Norte, Autograph Collection during our recent trip to El Paso and were impressed with the architecture, hospitality and aesthetics of both locations.
The Plaza is a gorgeous 5-star hotel where Elizabeth Taylor once lived (for a short time). There is a nod to the hotel’s Hollywood allure in its decor. The Plaza also has a rooftop bar called La Perla that offers incredible views of the city and Juarez. Hotel Paso Del Norte is across from The Plaza and is a 4-star hotel with an impressive, grand lobby and ultra-modern room decor.
9/10 Unique Fusion Cuisine
A student at the Texas Culinary School in El Paso holds up her Churro French Toast creation during class.
The shared border between El Paso and Juarez has resulted in a shared culture and food scene. Travelers may have heard of Tex Mex before, but there’s no place to experience it like El Paso. The best part of learning about the cuisine there was the opportunity to do it ourselves at the Culinary Institute of Texas. We spent a few hours with Chef Hannahe Romero making our own huevos divorciados and churro french toast, both delicious.
8/10 El Paso Museum of Art
Inside the El Paso Museum of Art during a tour of the exhibit led by docent Darlene Luna.
El Paso has given the world many great artists, and many of these works can be seen at the El Paso Museum of Art. The museum has over 7000 works of art in its permanent collection. I got a tour from Darlene Luna, who has been a teacher at the museum for a decade. He offers tours for groups of all ages, but especially enjoys visiting groups of children and helping them engage with the artwork through questions.
While at the museum, I had the unexpected chance to meet the artist of one of the exhibits, Ho Baron. Baron is 81 and a surrealist sculptor; he still lives in El Paso, and his front yard is filled with his own sculpture. As we walked through his museum exhibit with him, Ho told us that since learning of his cancer diagnosis, he has been actively working to donate his art to ensure he survives it. To share his work as widely as possible, Baron says, “I give it and then they give it [to others]. So I don’t die with my work, which a lot of artists do.”
7/10 Scenic hiking trails nearby
An agave plant in Franklin Mountains State Park near El Paso, West Texas.
Just 20 minutes from El Paso is Franklin Mountains State Park with over 100 miles of trails to explore. The park is approximately 27,000 acres and features gorgeous red rock terrain with high desert mountains that overlook the Rio Grande. From the park, travelers can see Mexico.
The park’s visitor center opened in 2020. The narrow trails are lined with various plants, including sotol, agave, and cacti. We hiked the West Cottonwood Trail, which was an easy trail that beginner hikers will find enjoyable.
6/10 World class restaurants
A double serving of avocado tostadas at local restaurant Taconeta in El Paso, Texas.
El Paso has a fantastic dining scene with restaurants for every budget. For casual dining in an eclectic space, we recommend having lunch or dinner at Taconeta. The restaurant has been open for about two years. Although they started in mid-2020, when things closed down, co-owner Alejandro Borunda told us that the restaurant’s unique layout, where all guests order outside at the takeout window, allowed them to thrive despite the health restrictions public. The food is fantastic; in particular, the avocado tostada is a must-try menu item.
Other restaurants to check out in El Paso include Anson 11, Café Central, and Cattlemen’s Steakhouse.
5/10 Mission Route
Exterior of Mission Socorro in El Paso, Texas. The mission was designed to look like a bird taking flight.
Shelby McCue, president of the El Paso Mission Valley Association, began our tour of the Mission Trail by saying, “I had a friend tell me, Shelby, El Paso is the hidden gem of the world.” He’s right – this town is a hidden gem for many reasons, and one of them is the Mission Historic Trail, which includes two missions and a presidio. All three of these structures were originally built south of the Rio Grande in Mexico, but after the river was rerouted, they were located north of the river and part of Texas.
The Ysleta Mission is the oldest continuously active parish in Texas, and the Ysleta community is the state’s oldest town. Mission Socorro was founded in 1680, and visiting it is a great opportunity to learn about the Native American and Spanish influence on its design. This mission was restored over a period of 10 years by the community and was officially reopened in 2005.
4/10 Amazing Mezcal, Tequila and Sotol
Trying the Mezcal Margarita from Taconeta in El Paso, Texas. Includes carrot, ginger and more.
El Paso’s desert terrain allows for the growth of agave and sotol plants, which are used in the production of tequila, mezcal, and sotol. While agave plants are domesticated and grown in a controlled environment to make tequila and mezcal, sotol has never been domesticated and always comes from the wild plant.
El Paso restaurants and bars serve up a creative array of cocktails that include these drinks, so be adventurous and try something new. We loved Taconeta’s mezcal margarita, made with Espadin mezcal, fresh lime juice, triple sec, fresh carrot, pineapple and ginger.
3/10 It’s a great base for exploring the West Texas countryside
Prada Marfa (art installation) in far west Texas en route from El Paso to Marfa.
El Paso alone is a great destination, but it’s even more incredible when paired with charming towns further south as you travel to Big Bend National Park. Most international flights will arrive in El Paso, so travelers can make it the starting and ending point of their trip. They can then rent a car or hire a driver and venture to the artistic town of Marfa or the far-western ghost town of Terlingua to better understand the region.
2/10 Temperate climate
The beautiful fountain at Lajitas Golf Resort in Lajitas, Texas.
El Paso sees moderate temperatures in the winter and warm weather in the summer, making it a pleasant destination for year-round sun seekers. While the nights can be chilly (it is the desert after all), daytime highs in January average around 58ºF (~14ºC), which is balmy by Canadian standards. Escape the snow with a fall or winter getaway to El Paso, but remember to pack layers for the evening and night.
1/10 You will see a different side of Texas
View of Lajitas, Texas from the top of the zip line at Lajitas Golf Resort.
When Canadian travelers think of Texas, their minds probably go to central cities like Dallas or Houston. El Paso has a totally different culture and feel compared to these parts of the state, largely due to its inextricable connection to its Mexican neighbor, Ciudad Juarez. About 81% of El Paso’s population is Hispanic, and many of the people travelers will meet in the city have family just across the bridge in Juarez. El Paso’s charm is undeniable, but readers will have to experience it for themselves to fully appreciate what makes it so special.
For more information about Texas, visit TravelTexas.com.