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Tucked into the western corner of the Lone Star State, resting on the Rio Grande, El Paso (along with sister cities Las Cruces in New Mexico and Ciudad Juárez in Mexico) has the largest bilingual and binational workforce in the western hemisphere. Whether you are visiting for work or purely for fun, there are some hidden gems of the region you just can’t miss. Here are 18 of our favorite activities to do, places to visit, and things to see in El Paso (in no particular order).

1. Visit Hueco Tanks

(Photo credit: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/hueco-tanks)

Step back in time through the drawings on these natural catch-basin rocks that span millennia. Over 3,000 pictographs adorn the rocks, some dating as far back as 6000-3000 BCE. You can also hike, rock climb, bird watch, observe wildlife, picnic, stargaze and more at Hueco Tanks State Park. You’ll need a permit to visit, or call in advance to get a guided tour.

2. Experience a New Culture: Lhakhang Cultural Exhibit

(Photo credit: https://www.utep.edu/centennial-museum/lhakhang/)

How does a Bhutanese temple end up at a university in west Texas? The isolated Himalayan country and the El Paso campus have had a relationship for decades. The architecture and placement of the campus was inspired by pictures of Bhutan published in National Geographic in  the early 1900s. This temple was shipped and built by Bhutanese citizens. It can be visited on Wednesdays and the 1st Sunday of every month.

3. Take in the Casa de Azucar

(Photo credit: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/casa-de-azucar)

Casa de Azucar, “The Sugar House,” is the work of a dedicated husband who wanted to build something beautiful for his wife. Rufino Loya, a retired Levi Strauss employee, started the project in 1973. The result - a shrine of flowers, leaves, religious symbols, and other motifs carved into cement. The pieces surround his home - if you are lucky, he might even pop out to talk to you about the different pieces.

4. Sip Wine at Zin Valle Vineyards

(Photo credit: http://www.zinvalle.com/zvb/)

Founded in August 2000, Zin Valle Vineyards were born of a love of not only wine, but the history of El Paso. A cordon trellis system is used to support and train the grapevines - a more expensive but premier system that results in better grapes. Visit Monday through Friday, noon to 5pm. Sample some wines, take in the view - you can even join the vineyard’s wine club.

5. Search for Crystals at Kilbourne Hole Volcanic Crater

(Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilbourne_Hole)

You’ll have to travel 30 miles west into New Mexico for this one, but it is worth it. Kilbourne Hole is a volcanic crater, home to some great hiking and breathtaking vistas. For budding geologists, there are remnants of the volcanic eruption. Break them open to find green and yellow gem granules. We would probably skip this trip in the heat of summer, though.

6. Spend a Night at a Working Alpaca Ranch

(Photo credit: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3629008)

Located on the 5-acre La Buena Vida Alpaca Farm, this rental is surrounded by sheep, goats, chickens, a horse, and of course, alpacas. Owned and run by college professors, you get the privacy of your own space with the welcoming feel of a ranch family. Located near many attractions, including number 6 on our list, Zin Valle Vineyards. Walk the farm and enjoy the pecan trees and animals, or cycle nearby.

7. Refuel at Tommy’s Pit BBQ

(Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/TommysPitBBQ/)

Head to this downtown joint near the courthouse for a hot BBQ lunch. The chalkboard menu lets you know what is available for the day. The Big Tommy is a local favorite - it's a handful of brisket topped with a sliced chorizo on two huge slices of bread, covered in BBQ sauce and green chili sauce, if you want.

8. Enjoy Mexican Fare at L&J Cafe

(Photo credit: http://www.landjcafe.com/)

Frequently voted as El Paso’s favorite Mexican restaurant, this hole-in-the-wall has been around for decades and is still family run. You might hear it referred to as “the old place by the graveyard,” but don’t let that spook you away. The atmosphere inside is warm and welcoming and the menu has something for everyone.

9. Do Happy Hour at the Hoppy Monk

(Photo credit: Hoppy Monk Facebook Page)

Public Houses have long been village gathering places for folks to enjoy food, spirits, and conversation. That is exactly the atmosphere the Hoppy Monk promotes. Enjoy daily specials, small bites, and drinks that range from craft beers to signature cocktails. Come for the specials, stay for the new friends.

10. Explore Rare Books at Literarity

(Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/LiterarityBooks/)

A small independent bookstore located next to the university, Literarity will have bibliophiles swooning. From unique first printings to unusual finds, Literarity has new treasures to be found on every shelf. Intimate and welcoming, book lovers will feel right at home once they walk through the doors.

11. Take a Ride on Wyler Aerial Tramway

(Photo credit: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/wyler-aerial-tramway)  

Located in Franklin Mountains State Park, the Wyler Aerial Tramway is set on the east side of the mountains. Originally built to transport building materials to the summit for a radio transmitter, it is a single-span tramway - there are no towers on the way up. Now operated by Texas State Parks, the tramway is open Friday through Sunday and tickets are available at the park.

12. Stop to Smell the Roses at the El Paso Municipal Rose Garden

(Photo credit: https://epcommunitygardens.wordpress.com/public-gardens/)

Maintained by volunteers, the El Paso Municipal Rose Garden has over 1,500 rose bushes showcasing over 430 varieties. The 4-acre garden can be strolled at your leisure, or you can get a tour from the garden volunteers to learn more about the flowers, care, and climate. The first 200 roses were planted in 1958 and the garden has grown since then.

13. Day Trip to Mexico

(Photo credit: http://www.fronterasdesk.org/)

Located on the border, El Paso presents a unique opportunity to visit another country for the day. Cross over to Ciudad Juárez for the day and experience a range of activities. Visit La Equis, a sculpture surrounded by a beautiful park. Learn about Mayan culture. Enjoy local cuisine. Shop street markets. There is so much to do!

14. Visit the El Paso Museum of Art

(Photo credit: http://epmafoundation.org/)

Housing a permanent collection of over 7,000 pieces, the El Paso Museum of Art is a major cultural and educational resource for the region. Offering works from the Byzantine era to the present, the El Paso Museum of Art has something new for everyone to experience. The facility also offers camps and classes, as well as tours, for a more hands on experience.

15. See the Historic Magoffin Home

(Photo credit: http://texastraveltalk.com/magoffin-home-state-historic-site/)

A striking adobe structure, typical of the Spanish and Territorial architecture of the borderlands at the time, the Magoffin Home State Historic Site explores the stories of the Magoffins. A multicultural family, the Magoffins were actively involved in US-Mexico relations, military and government service, banking, railroads, and more.

16. Follow the El Paso Mission Trail

(Photo credit: https://www.tripadvisor.com)

A 9-mile historic corridor, The El Paso Mission Trail connects two of the oldest continuously operated missions in the United States and a historic presidio chapel. Ysleta Mission, Socorro Mission and San Elizario Presidio Chapel are all active catholic parishes. Enjoy the scenery as you drive the trail to visit the different sites and take in 300 years of Texas history.

17. Celebrate at Viva! El Paso

(Photo credit: http://vivaelpaso.org/)

If you are in town when Viva! El Paso is in season, it is a show not to be missed. This annual musical celebrates the history of El Paso. Two hours of music, dancing, and history presented in a way you’ve never seen before. Performances happen Friday through Sunday in June, July, and August.

18. Shop the Downtown Artist and Farmers’ Market

(Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/EPDowntownArtistMarket/)

Held every Saturday from 9am - 1pm, this outdoor market is a great place to experience different types of local artisans. Locally grown agricultural products, art vendors, musicians, food vendors and more. Located in the Union Plaza District, it operates year round, so there is always something new to experience.