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El Paso is an American city that doesn't feel American - in a good way. Although it has everything vacationers could need, from safe neighborhoods to grocery stores, museums and family entertainment options, this border city is romantic, magical and different. So step into another world by organizing your next getaway to the Texas-Mexico border.
El Paso offers so many ways to escape. Head to the Hueco Tanks, with their rainwater pools, rock formations and Native American markings. Visit the Chihuahuan Gardens in full bloom. Hike in the Franklin Mountains or tuck into an authentic Mexican feast at Forti's. Wherever you go, forgetting about your worries is simple.
You can cross the border to shop in Mexico, head to Sunland Park in New Mexico for an afternoon's entertainment and be back in Texas for a BBQ meal, all in the same day. Not many vacations can offer that kind of experience, so make El Paso your next getaway destination.
El Paso is a mid-sized city within easy reach of some sites of extraordinary natural beauty, so it's heaven for hiking fans. In the city itself, take a stroll in McKelligon Canyon or drive to Hueco Tanks, an area of natural rock basins that fill with water (and reputedly a spiritual center for local native Americans). Either way, it's a magical place to visit.
El Paso mixes natural beauty with sophisticated culture. After visiting the desert, head to the El Paso Art Gallery to see paintings by European masters, learn about western history at the Centennial Museum or find out about Native American culture at the Museum of Archaeology at Wilderness Park.
Being on the border between Mexico and the USA has its advantages - not least the creation of one of the most impressive Tex-Mex and Mexican dining scenes in the country. If you love fajitas, chili or enchiladas, don't miss Mexican joints like Forti's, while rib fans can't do better than Smokey's Pit Stop and Grill.
There are other benefits of being so close to the border, not least the opportunity for vacationers to step into another culture whenever they wish. When you stay in El Paso, the markets, cantinas and plazas of Juarez are a short drive away, offering a great chance to stock up on souvenirs.
El Paso is also the place to come for western memorabilia, especially beautifully crafted leather cowboy boots. If your boot collection is fraying around the edges or losing its shine, head to local boot makers like J.B. Hill's or Lucchese for the real deal.
El Paso is surrounded by gorgeous desert scenery, with canyons, mesas and mountains to explore. If you want to hike into the wilderness, the Franklin Mountains provide stunning views, while McKelligon Canyon is a peaceful refuge from urban life a short drive from Downtown El Paso. The Chihuahuan Desert Gardens are another urban oasis, and the dazzling FloraFest featuring colorful desert flowers is a must-see if you are in town in April.
With Ciudad Juarez just across the border, El Paso is the ideal place to base yourself if you want a taste of Mexican culture. Shop for pottery or glassware at the city's markets, visit a tequila distillery and enjoy a few cocktails before heading back to the USA.
El Paso has plenty for families to enjoy, especially if your kids enjoy wildlife. At the Licon Dairy, you can meet sheep, cows and goats at the petting zoo (and buy their delicious Asadero cheese), while El Paso Zoo features lions, orangutans, Malaysian tigers and much more.
Museums in town include the Centennial Museum, which deals with the history of life on the US-Mexican border, the El Paso Museum of Art, which has a huge collection of works by European masters like Canaletto and Zurbaran, along with the fascinating small Railroad and Transportation Museum, where you can see an 1857 steam locomotive.
Sunland Park is the area's entertainment center, offering horse racing, casino gambling and live music events almost every night of the year. Located a few miles west of El Paso (actually in New Mexico), if you love racing or want to gamble, it's a fantastic place to visit.
El Paso is at its best when the weather is mild and dry, which is generally between April and May and October and November. At those times, you can expect temperatures of around 70 degrees and very little rain. High summer can be uncomfortably hot (over 100 degrees on many days), so schedule your trip in the shoulder seasons for the best experiences.
The closest airport to the city is El Paso International Airport, which is just 6 miles outside the city center and is served by airlines like United, Southwest and Delta. From there, the cheapest way to get into town is via buses 33 or 50, which cost $1.50 and take 40 minutes. Expect a taxi to cost around $30-40.
El Paso is on the Amtrak network, so is easily accessible by train. The station, which is located at 700 San Francisco Street, is on the Sunset Limited route from Los Angeles to New Orleans and the Texas Eagle, which runs from Chicago.
If you are driving from cities to the east or west of El Paso, I-10 is the road to take, which runs through the Downtown district. US 54 is another handy route which runs from New Mexico, while I-25 is the road to take if you are driving from the north.
The major American intercity bus company in El Paso is Greyhound, which connects it to regional cities like Houston, Phoenix and San Antonio, as well as the wider American bus network. Greyhound's main stop is located at 200 W San Antonio Ave. Alternatives include Tornado Bus, which run services from Dallas and Autobus Americanos, which operates out of Mexico.
Finding a comfortable place to sleep in El Paso isn't hard, but the selection of genuine luxury accommodation options is limited. Some of the best places in the city include the Indigo El Paso Downtown, which is conveniently located and the Camino Real El Paso, which features a rooftop pool and terrace. More affordable options include the Gateway Hotel, which is friendly and close to the Mexican border, which suits visitors who want to visit Juarez during their stay.
Downtown – Downtown El Paso isn't a conventional American city center. Sure, there are some soaring office buildings, but much of the Downtown area is made up of well preserved historical streets and plazas, making it a relaxing place to stay. Local attractions include museums like the El Paso Museum of Art, cultural institutions like the Plaza Theater and the El Paso Zoo.
West Side – Definitely the most upscale part of El Paso, the West Side is the safest, most family-friendly part of town to look for accommodation. It also has plenty of local attractions, not least the thriving UTEP neighborhood which houses the University of Texas in El Paso and bars and restaurants like Rib Hut and Sushi Zen.
East Side – Slightly less affluent than the West Side, eastern El Paso nonetheless has plenty to offer. It's where you'll find most of the city's shopping malls such as Cielo Vista and the Las Palmas Marketplace. So if you need to shop for branded goods, it's a great place to stay. There are also other attractions in the east, including the Hueco Tanks, an area of rock formations that fill up with rainwater, creating beautiful hiking and climbing locations.
Local buses are provided by Sun Metro and provide a moderate level of coverage, mainly in the Downtown area. Fares on standard buses are $1.50 per journey, but tourists should look out for the Circulator buses (numbers 4 and 9) which serve Downtown attractions and are free of charge.
Taxis are an excellent way to get around, particularly in the evening when much of the bus network shuts down, and companies like Checker Cab or Yellow Cab will always be available to get you around. Typical rates are $1.65 for the meter drop, then $2.25 per mile, although UberX services are available with a basic rate of $2, then $0.90 per mile.
If you want to explore the desert surrounding El Paso or hop across the Mexican border, having your own vehicle is a sound option. Car rental facilities are available at the airport, where outlets include Enterprise, Dollar and Thrifty, and rates will often be as low as $15 per day. Parking is relatively simple, with more than 2,000 meters in Downtown El Paso and payment is made simple by the Park El Paso smartphone app.
If you want to shop at unique independent stores, Downtown El Paso is the best neighborhood to visit. The city is particularly famous for its leather boot makers, so if you need a new pair, head to local artisan stores like J.B. Hill's or Justin's. Souvenir stores are located all over town, but the best place to find Western or Mexican themed gifts is Southwest Treasures on Texas Avenue. If all you want is a conventional mall, there are many options. Cielo Vista in eastern El Paso is probably the best, with stores including Dillard's, Sear's and J.C. Penney.
The best places to shop for groceries are supermarkets like Albertsons and El Super, although there are also upscale grocery stores like Sprouts, as well as an excellent farmers market in Union Plaza every Saturday morning. Prices are generally quite low. Expect to pay less than $3 for a gallon of milk and around $1.20 for a pound of apples, so self-catering can save vacationers a lot of money.
El Paso's dining scene is heavily slanted towards Texas BBQ and Mexican cuisine, and there are some superb places to eat out. For big portions and authentic ribs or BBQ beef, Smokey's Pit Stop and Saloon is an excellent choice. Slightly more upmarket eateries include Forti's, a Mexican restaurant that serves El Paso's finest fajitas and offers live piano music. Avila's is another family operated restaurant, and their enchiladas are not to be missed. But look around, as Downtown El Paso is full of great restaurant choices. The food shouldn't be expensive, with dinner at a midrange place costing less than $15 and elite restaurants charging less than $30.