Blogger, Writer, Urban Adventurer
Located on the border of Mexico and separated from Mexico only by the Rio Grande, El Paso is just about as west in Texas as you can get. In it, you’ll find a rich history and beautiful scenery, including the largest urban park in the nation! There’s also plenty to do: you can float the Rio Grande, walk in the steps of dinosaurs and view modern-day art (as well as 1,500-year-old pictographs!). If this guide doesn’t convince you that El Paso should be your family’s next destination, day trip or otherwise, we don’t know what will. Read on for 20 things to do in El Paso, Texas with kids.
1. Open year-round and featuring more than 100 miles of hiking and biking trails, Franklin Mountains State Park‘s claim to fame is that it’s the largest urban state park in the nation that lies entirely within a city’s limits. If you are interested in a guided route, consider booking through GoBetty Tours, and if you want even more time in the park, book a campsite and stay a few days.
2. The El Paso Zoo is 35 acres devoted to three major areas of animal habitation: Africa, Asia and the Americas. In addition to checking out their collection of more than 220 species, you can ride the African Star Train, play in the Hunt Family Desert Spring, climb around in the Foster Tree House Playground, take a spin on the Hunt Family Endangered Species Carousel or see a show at Wildlife Amphitheater.
3. If a steak dinner and a bit of adventure sound appealing to you, look no further than Cattleman’s Steakhouse at Indian Cliff Ranch. This restaurant (and accompanying fully-functioning ranch!) also has a movie set from Universal Studios’ Resurrection, as well as a small private zoo, a lake, a playground and a maze.
4. The El Paso Museum of Art downtown is home to collections of European, American, Mexican, Modern and Contemporary Art. The only one of its kind in a 250-mile radius, it also displays various traveling collections of a wide range of artistic genres. Did we mention admission is free?
5. In the days of yore, people used to visit Hueco Tanks State Historic Site to collect the water pooling in the natural rock basins, or huecos. Today, you can book tours of these once-sacred formations by calling a week in advance. You can also go on self-guided tours, but be advised to plan ahead, as they only issue 70 permits each day for access to the North Mountain area. (You are able to request these permits to visit up to 90 days in advance.) In addition to hiking the rocks, you can also view some of the areas pictographs and petroglyphs, which were created by three different cultures and are over 1,500 years old.
6. You’ll find the El Paso Museum of Archaeology at the base of the Franklin Mountains. Inside this small museum dedicated to 14,000 years of the prehistory of the El Paso, greater Southwest and Northern Mexico regions, you can look through ancient pottery and displays of early life in the desert. Don’t miss taking a walk around the nature trails behind the museum, which are often lined with wildflowers in the spring.
7. If you happen to be in El Paso from March 1 to November 30, make sure to put a visit to the El Paso Municipal Rose Garden on your list. This four-acre garden is maintained in partnership with Texas A&M to care for the 1,500 rose bushes of more than 430 different rose varieties that grow there.
8. The Chamizal National Memorial is a park and cultural center that pays tribute to the history of U.S./Mexico relations on the border (that all started with the signing Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1849 to establish the Rio Grande as the border between our two countries). You can learn about this history and more on your visit to this free memorial.
9. After you’ve visited the Chamizal National Memorial and still want to learn more about border relations, look to the National Border Patrol Museum. This museum focuses on the various roles Border Patrol agents have played from the 1920s through the 2000s, with memorabilia, oral histories and various galleries on uniforms and vehicles used to patrol the border.
10. The El Paso Mission Trail is named for a nine-mile stretch across the El Paso area, where three historic churches that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries—San Elizario, Socorro, and Ysleta Mission—were founded. Of these three, Ysleta Mission is the one that falls inside El Paso city limits. It was established in 1682 and has the claim to fame of being recognized as the oldest continuously-operated parish in the state of Texas. All of the churches are still in operation, but you are welcome to visit.
11. If you’re still craving even more local history, consider a visit to the El Paso Museum of History. This downtown museum houses 400 years of history of the El Paso area in its five galleries, and boasts a number of touch screen displays that kids love, too!
12. Just up the road from El Paso in Sunland Park, New Mexico, you’ll find an amusement park! Western Playland is 30 acres and has 30+ family rides and attractions, including bumper cars, Tilt-A-Whir, Drop Zone and family rides like Pharaoh’s Fury. The park has had several pricing packages that include all-day rides ($22.60) for kids over 42 inches, junior bracelets for kids 34 to 41 inches ($16.97) or you can pay as you go per ride ($5 admission and $2.50 a ride.)
13. A 30-minute drive outside of El Paso will land at Wet N’ Wild Water World. This water park is open in the summer months and has rides for small children, thrill slides and plenty of pools to help you cool off from the Texas sun. Ticket prices are based on height and are around $20.
14. If you are looking for a play space to burn off some kid energy, White Spur Park is a cute neighborhood park. It’s themed with castles and dragons and has plenty of shaded seating areas for you to take a break while you watch the kids roam.
15. The Plaza Theatre was built in 1930 and is one of El Paso’s most recognizable landmarks. In 2006, the theatre underwent a massive renovation and now is a performance venue for traveling Broadway shows and other productions. Why not see what show while you’re in town?
16. You can’t have a list about El Paso and not talk about the Rio Grande! There are several ways to enjoy the river, from kayaking to rafting to a good ole fashioned Texas River Float.
17. Everyone’s favorite question when visiting a new city is where to eat! 150 Sunset not only has a great menu, but they also have an outside area where kids can run around!
18. On the first Sunday of each month, Insights El Paso Science Center hosts DinoTracks tours through 211 acres of fossilized dinosaur tracks. This three-mile hike lasts up to 4 hours and truly takes you back in time. Tours are $15 a person and kids under the age of five are free.
19. The Centennial Museum and Gardens was built to celebrate the anniversary of the Texas Independence. It is the oldest museum in El Paso and located on the main campus of the University of Texas, El Paso. The museum focuses on natural history, while the surrounding gardens boast over 600 species of native plants in a series of themes.
20. Fort Bliss & Old Ironside Museum is a tribute to the 1st Armored Division and its 168-year history. The museum has an impressive collection of military memorabilia, including over 40 tanks and armed cars.