12 Best Sights in El Paso, West Texas and the Panhandle

El Paso Museum of Art

Fodor's choice
This superb, free museum in the heart of downtown El Paso's up-and-coming cultural district features a striking array of contemporary and historic Latin American, Spanish, and native art, as well as works by Southwest artists, such as Tom Lea and Henrietta Wyeth.
1 Arts Festival Plaza, El Paso, TX, 79901, USA
915-212–0300
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon., Tues., Wed., 9–5, Thurs. 9–9, Fri., Sat. 9–5, Sun. noon–5.

Franklin Mountains State Park

Fodor's choice
Within this spectacular desert mountain park's 37 square miles are more than 100 miles of hiking, mountain-biking, and horseback trails, the southern section offering amazing views of the city below. This is a good place to get up close and personal with native species like foxes and kestrels and bluebirds, as well as plants found nowhere else in Texas, like the stout barrel cactus.

Mission Ysleta

Fodor's choice
Around 1681, Spanish refugees from the Pueblo Revolt in and around Santa Fe established this ysleta (small island) mission. Like other old missions in the area, Ysleta is still an active church. Guided tours of the mission are available from downtown El Paso via Sun Metro Buses and the El Paso-Juárez Trolley Co. Nearby, the Tigua Indian Reservation sells Tigua pottery, jewelry, and art.
Old Pueblo Rd., El Paso, TX, 79907, USA
915-859–9848
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Mon.–Sat. 9–5; Sun. openings vary with church schedule.

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Chamizal National Memorial

In 1964 nearly a century of dispute between Texas and Mexico, caused by the shifting banks of the Rio Grande, came to an end. Both the United States and Mexico founded memorials within their borders to commemorate this event. Texas created a 55-acre park, on formerly Mexican land, with a visitor center, three galleries, drama festivals, and long walking paths. Across the border, easily accessed by the Bridge of the Americas, is the Mexican counterpart, the 800-acre Parque Chamizal.
800 S. San Marcial, El Paso, TX, 79905, USA
915-532–7232
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Daily 5 AM–10 PM

El Paso Desert Botanical Gardens

Located in Keystone Heritage Park, these gardens juxtapose the exotic—an Asian-style koi pond and little waterfall—with native cacti and other succulents set against the backdrop of the northern Chihuahua Desert. There's even a natural wetlands area.
4200 Doniphan Rd, El Paso, TX, 79912, USA
915-584–0563
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $2, Sept.–May, Sat. and Sun. noon–3; June–Aug., Sat. and Sun. 8–11AM.

El Paso Desert Botanical Gardens

Located in Keystone Heritage Park, these gardens juxtapose the exotic—an Asian-style koi pond and little waterfall—with native cacti and other succulents set against the backdrop of the northern Chihuahua Desert. There's even a natural wetlands area.
4200 Doniphan Rd, El Paso, TX, 79912, USA
915-584–0563
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $2, Sept.–May, Sat. and Sun. noon–3; June–Aug., Sat. and Sun. 8–11AM.

Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site

En route between El Paso and the Guadalupe Mountains, this park, named after natural, water-holding stone basins called huecos, is internationally renowned for rock climbing and its pictographs left by the Apache, Kiowa, and Jornada Mogollon tribes who dwelt here. You can explore the park on self-guided and guided tours (book these at least a week ahead). You can also view exhibits in the visitor center, a historic ranching house, and the nearby stagecoach ruins. Because the park often fills to capacity, it's prudent to call ahead and make a reservation or arrive early.
6900 Hueco Tanks Rd. No.1, El Paso, TX, 79938, USA
915-857–1135
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $7, Oct.–Apr., daily 8–6; May–Sept., Mon.–Thurs. 8–6, Fri.–Sun. 7–7. Tours times for the more protected areas vary. Reservations required.

Magoffin Home State Historical Park

This 19-room Territorial-style adobe home near downtown El Paso was erected in 1875 by early El Paso pioneer Joseph Magoffin, and occupied by the Magoffin family for 110 years. The city of El Paso grew out of Magoffinsville, a town started by this prominent and powerful family that vastly influenced the area by encouraging trade, organizing area merchants, establishing perhaps the first alfalfa crop in the region, and later leasing buildings for the incipient Fort Bliss.
1120 Magoffin St., El Paso, TX, 79901, USA
915-533–5147
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $7, Closed Mon., Tues.–Sun. 9–5.

Presidio Chapel San Elizario

This 1789 Spanish fortress provided settlers protection from raiding Comanches and Apaches. It was near this site that the expedition of Spanish explorer Don Juan de Oñate stopped to conduct a thanksgiving celebration in 1598. It's located in the San Elizario Historical District, 17 mi southeast of downtown El Paso. Tours are conducted on-site by friendly volunteers but feature only the museum, and not the church. The El Paso Mission Trail Association (P915/534–0677) offers more extensive tours. Call ahead if you're planning to visit the church. The father might be able to leave it open a bit later than 11.
1556 San Elizario Rd, TX, 79849, USA
915-851–2333

San Elizario County Jail

Thought to have been built as a private residence in the early 1800s, this adobe building at some point became El Paso County's first courthouse and jail, and, according to Pat Garrett's book Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, was the only jail the Kid broke into, which he did in order to free his friend Melquiades Segura.
1551 Main St, TX, 79849, USA
915-851-1682
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon., AFree guided tours of jail and plaza beginning at the Los Portales building CTues.–Sun. 10–2, and after hrs by special arrangement.

Socorro Mission

Located 20 minutes southeast of downtown El Paso (though still located within the greater El Paso area), the 17th-century Socorro Mission is famed for its fine vigas—the carved ceiling beams that support the roof—and is used for weddings and funerals. A Mission Trail Association (915/851–9997) guide conducts tours here most days of the week, unless services are being held. The church itself is working to organize donation-based tours, and will likely have tour offerings by the end of 2008.
328 S. Nevares Rd, El Paso, TX, 79927, USA
915-859-7718
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Mon.–Fri. 8–4; outside tour times vary.

Wyler Aerial Tramway

Touted as the only public-accessible tram in Texas, this tramway totes visitors up 5,632-foot Ranger Peak, which provides a striking view of three states, two nations, and 7,000 square mi.
1700 McKinley Ave, El Paso, TX, 79930, USA
915-566-6622
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon.–Thurs., Sun.–Mon. and Thurs. noon–6, Fri.–Sat. noon–8.