Navigating El Paso: Don’t Pass Up These Must-See Places

Heading to The Sun City? From Tex-Mex to Stunning Views, Here’s What You Don’t Want to Miss.

Thanks to the distinctive culture, sizzling climate, and, of course, massive size, a trip to the Lone Star State can feel like traveling abroad. Plane, car, bus, or even bicycle—however you get there, Texas is worth seeing. 

Neighboring the Rio Grande at the far western point of the state sits a not-so-little city called El Paso, Spanish for “The Pass.” The 22nd largest city in the country, El Paso lies at the intersection of Texas, New Mexico, and the Mexican state Chihuahua—and from its location to its atmosphere, the city is único in every possible way. Whether you tour El Paso by car or on foot, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience in The Sun City. 

Scenic Drive Overlook

The Best View of the City 

Scenic Drive | Kern Place |

As you’ve probably already gathered from its name, Scenic Drive is packed with beautiful views of the city. Take it all in at the small park that overlooks El Paso and Ciudad Juárez.  Image courtesy of @t14rios on Instagram.  

Sometimes, the best way to see a city is just going for a drive—and no city knows this simple truth better than El Paso. That’s why in 1920, the city commissioned the building of a roadway dedicated to appreciating its majestic desert-mountain scenery, aptly named Scenic Drive. 

The Scenic Drive Overlook is known as the best view of El Paso accessible by car. Whether you go at sunrise, sunset, or midday, the spectacular sight of the city below you is one you won’t forget. Image courtesy of @djrebekah on Instagram

This vantage point from the rim of the Franklin Mountains will allow you to see miles into the city, and there are even coin-operated binoculars that you can use to get a closer look. Just keep in mind that you’re bound to run into some traffic. After all, Scenic Drive is a public road, and the overlook is a popular tourist destination. 

“The drive to the scenic overlook takes a few minutes but it is worth it. It looks very different in the day time than at night. Best time to go is sunset. Bring a good pair of binoculars for a better view of Juárez.” -Tim S. on TripAdvisor

El Paso Museum of Art

Special Exhibitions, Permanent Collections, and Free Admission

1 Arts Festival Plaza | Downtown |

The El Paso Museum of Art was founded in 1959 after the Samuel Kress Foundation donated a generous collection of European Baroque and Renaissance works to the City of El Paso. Image courtesy of the El Paso Museum of Art

Explore American, Mexican, and European art when you take a trip to the El Paso Museum of Art (EPMA), which prides itself on its diversity and remaining “unbound by borders.” The EPMA is the only art museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums in a 200-mile radius.  

The EPMA also houses its own art school that offers art classes to children and adults in the Borderplex region. Image courtesy of @elpasomuseumofart on Instagram

Open most days from 9 am to 5 pm, the EPMA is a great way to see the city through a different lens—or, rather, multiple different lenses. As part of the museum’s mission to be a creative resource to everyone, general admission as well as almost all of the events and programs are free to the public. 

“The El Paso Museum of Art is a place to just unwind and enjoy art. You will feel at peace, with all of the art and new exhibits they have every month. It's a must if you are in Downtown El Paso.” -Ray B. on TripAdvisor

L&J Cafe 

Indulge in the Best Tex-Mex Around at This Local Legend 

                                                                   3622 E. Missouri Avenue | Five Points East |

Having originally opened in 1927, it safe to say that L&J Cafe has been around the block more than a few times—and it’s won more than a few awards while it’s been at it. Image courtesy of L&J Cafe

Many people consider El Paso to be the Tex-Mex capital of the world, and with a nickname like “The Old Place By the Graveyard,” how you could not want to eat at L&J Cafe? This city treasure even had to start selling its salsa by the jar due to popular demand. 

If you like Mexican food, you can’t go wrong with the menu at L&J Cafe. Get fajitas, enchiladas, burritos, tacos, chili con queso, and more when you visit this family-run El Paso favorite. 

“Location is easy to find, and the food never fails to impress. This is an El Paso Landmark! It is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.” -Terry M. on TripAdvisor

Downtown Art & Farmers Market

You Don’t Have to Be a Local to Shop Like One 

117 Anthony Street | Union Plaza |

Sponsored by the city’s Museum and Cultural Affairs Department, the Downtown Art & Farmers Market is held every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm year-round. Image courtesy of Downtown El Paso

Take a trip to Union Plaza Park on Saturday morning for a healthy dose of culture—as well as handcrafted goods and locally-grown food. The Downtown Art & Farmers Market is a weekly event that visitors and city residents alike look forward to. After all, who doesn’t love a good farmers market?

Browse fresh produce, one-of-a-kind artwork, and more at this downtown weekend tradition that started in 2011. Image courtesy of Homes of El Paso

With art and food vendors lining the streets and a crowd that’s eager to support them, this once-a-week pop-up street fair is an authentic El Paso experience that will be fun for the whole family. 

“I enjoy going to this market, too bad it only comes on Saturdays. You can find different products from small ranches and small businesses, for example, grass-fed meats, vegetables, and handmade crafts. It is a good outing, and I always find something that I like.” -Rose G. on TripAdvisor


White Sands National Monument

Make the Hour-and-a-Half Drive to See This Breathtaking Landscape

19955 US-70 | Alamogordo, New Mexico |

This natural wonder is only about an hour-and-a-half from El Paso by car. Since you’re in the area anyway, it’s definitely worth seeing. Image courtesy of the National Park Foundation

At White Sand National Monument, dunes of white gypsum sand stretch for hundreds of miles—at first glance, they might even look like snow banks. The world’s largest gypsum sand dunefield, White Sand National Monument holds a sight unlike any other, making it well-worth the (relatively short) journey from El Paso. 

Even though it might feel as though you’ve set foot on another planet, a surprising number of plants and animals have managed to make this planetary anomaly their home. Image courtesy of @sanyazaman on Instagram

During your visit to White Sands National Monument, you can hike through the dunes and even bring a sled to slide down the soft slopes in designated areas. But make sure you consult the White Sands website before making the trek from El Paso—the park is sometimes closed to do missile testing at the nearby military base. 


“I loved driving on the roads with sand on both sides plus if the winds blowing the sand covers the roads. It's hard to explain how nice it is because there's sand and lots of sand with no trees of dirt just sand but it's amazing looking at all the dunes. ” - Yelp Review







The Plaza Theatre Performing Arts Center

Travel Back in Time When You Step Foot in This Downtown Landmark 

125 W. Mills Avenue | Downtown |

Nearly 80 years old, the Plaza Theatre is a National Historic Building of Significance and was once known as the “The Showplace of the Southwest.” Image courtesy of Plaza Classic

Built in 1930 and renovated in 2006, the Plaza Theatre is a piece of living history that has become a cultural icon in El Paso. One of the few atmospheric theatres remaining in the United States, the Plaza Theatre boasts Spanish Revival Colonial architecture and is designed to resemble a traditional Spanish courtyard. Even the ceiling, which is decorated to look like the Southwestern summer sky, is part of the illusion. 

In 2008, the El Paso Community Project hosted the first Plaza Classic Film Festival at the historic theatre. Now an annual event, classic-film buffs flock to the Plaza Theatre every summer to enjoy their favorite classics on one of the most beautiful big screens in the country.  the Image courtesy of Texas Highways

Whether you see a movie, a live performance, or just take a tour, the Plaza Theatre is sure to amaze you with its intricate decor and rich history. (Tours are conducted weekly, and you can register online for a public tour.) 

“This has to be of the most unique and unassuming places from the outside: The Plaza Theater. But once you walk in, you’re transported to this magical place of enchantment . . . Enjoy your show in a beautiful, up-with-the-latest technology, grandeur atmosphere, and leave your problems behind.” -Ruben H. on TripAdvisor

Craft & Social 

Sip Craft Beer While Sampling Classic Sandwiches 

305 E. Franklin Ave. | Downtown |

With a diverse list of craft beers and a laid-back atmosphere that’s perfect for hanging out, Craft & Social certainly lives up to its name. Image courtesy of @craftandsocial on Instagram

Offering good beer and good food, this downtown delight is about as simple and straightforward as they come. Grab lunch, dinner, or just drinks when you hit this bar and restaurant that’s quickly becoming an El Paso hotspot. 

A casual place to enjoy a beer and a bite to eat, Craft & Social isn’t anything fancy, but it’s welcoming atmosphere, tasty food, and various craft beers on tap are more than enough. Open daily (except Sundays) from 3 pm to midnight, you can head downtown for drinks and a late lunch, drinks and a late dinner, or just drinks. Whatever you do, you’ll leave wanting to come back. 

After checking in to our downtown hotel, we went for a walk and found Craft & Social, the bartender was friendly and helped with our beer choice, spot on by the way! . . .  A very good visit!” -Grant B. on TripAdvisor.  

Franklin Mountains State Park

A Short Distance Outside of the City, This Park Is Worth Renting a Car 

1331 McKelligon Canyon Road | Mountain Park | 

From hiking and climbing to camping and scenic views, Franklin Mountains State Park is the perfect way to spend the day if you’re looking to get out of the city. Image courtesy of Visit El Paso

Spanning approximately 40 square-miles with over 100 miles of multi-use trails, Franklin Mountains State Park is the nation’s largest state park that falls entirely within city limits. (Yes, everything really is bigger in Texas!) And just a 20-minute drive from El Paso, you can easily schedule some quality time with Mother Nature into your trip itinerary. 

Park rangers lead different activities in the park, like hikes, arts and crafts, information seminars, and bike rides. Go to the events page on the park’s website to see if anything’s happening during your trip. Image courtesy of @im_possible70.3 on Instagram

In addition to the nominal Franklin Mountains, this state park is also home to an array of wildlife, including birds, reptiles, small mammals, and various plant species. Be sure to bring plenty of water before embarking on your expedition through this rugged desert terrain. 

“The park is beautiful and has a few hikes of different lengths to explore. El Pasoans are lucky to have this stunning wilderness park so close to the center of the city! If you haven't been before, check it out on a beautiful day!” -Alexis B. on TripAdvisor.


What to Know Before You Go to Stunning El Paso

El Paso is a beautiful, vibrant city with lots to see, eat, and do. In the spring and summer, the weather is typically warm and sunny, and in the fall and winter, it’s usually cool and sunny—they don’t call it The Sun City for nothing! The most popular times of the year to visit are the transition seasons, due to the weather being at its most moderate during the fall and spring. 

So, pack your bags and hit the road—El Paso is waiting!

Albion Skeldon

See All Posts >>

You Might Also Like...