El Paso is a city in far west Texas close to the border with Mexico. It doesn't get as much attention from tourists and domestic travelers as bigger Texan cities like Dallas or Austin, but it has a charm all its own that deserves to be discovered. Upon arriving in El Paso, I was immediately taken with the warm hospitality of our guides who greeted us at the airport. This was my first press trip, and I was lucky enough to experience the famous Texan hospitality from the moment I stepped off the plane. You can read my coverage of the press trip around West Texas with Travel Texas on TheTravel.com.
The city of El Paso is located in El Paso County, the westernmost county in the state of Texas. It is home to the University of Texas at El Paso and the headquarters of the army base Fort Bliss. El Paso sits on the border of Texas and the Mexican city of Juárez in the state of Chihuahua. There is an inextricable connection between the two cities with many people living in one and crossing the international border into the other for work or school daily. This blending of American and Mexican culture creates a beautiful, unique experience for travelers visiting El Paso that doesn't exist anywhere else in Texas.
I distinctly remember that as we toured the mission trail (more on that later) in El Paso, our guide told us that he once heard someone call El Paso the "hidden gem of the world". That stuck with me because it was so different from what I expected to find in far west Texas.
Where To Stay
We stayed in two different hotels in downtown El Paso and I would highly recommend both if they are within your budget. The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park is a gorgeous and historic hotel that once was the home of famous actress, Elizabeth Taylor.
On our last night in El Paso (at the end of the week-long trip around West Texas) we also spent a night at the Hotel Paso del Norte, Autograph Collection. While it's not as luxurious as the Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park, I loved the Hotel Paso del Norte and would highly recommend it. The rooms are modern and comfortable, there's a welcome glass of champagne at check-in, and the lobby bar is absolutely gorgeously designed. The Hotel Paso del Norte is a historic landmark in the city and was originally built in 1912.
What To Do In 24 Hours In El Paso
With 24 hours in El Paso, Texas, it's possible to see all the top attractions in the city and get a great sense of what this unique border destination is all about. Here's how I spent my 24 hours in El Paso:
Hiking In Franklin Mountains State Park
We went on an early morning hike to Franklin Mountains State Park, which is the perfect way to kick off a day in El Paso. The park is gorgeous with red rock and sprawling landscapes just 20 minute outside the city. If you're looking to do a tour of various state parks and national parks across the United States, El Paso is a perfect stop on the route. Our guides at Visit El Paso told us that we would easily be able to visit White Sands National Park in New Mexico from El Paso. The same is true for Big Bend National Park in west Texas.
Hiking in the Franklin Mountains State Park is dog friendly so for anyone taking a road trip across the United States with their furry friend, this is a perfect stop on the route.
Visiting The El Paso Museum Of Art
The El Paso Museum of Art was our next stop of the morning after our hike. The museum was founded in 1959 and is located in downtown El Paso. The museum has over 7000 works of art in its permanent collection and many of them were created by local artists. I had the pleasure of meeting the talented sculptor Ho Baron while at the museum and walking through his exhibit alongside him.
Museum hours: Wednesday to Saturday 10 AM to 6 PM (closed Mondays, closed Tuesdays, and Sundays)
Eating Lunch At Taconeta
For lunch our hosts to took us to Taconeta, a fantastic Tex-Mex restaurant in downtown El Paso. The food was phenomenal. I recommend getting the avocado tostadas and the mezcal Margarita with tamarind chili on the rim.
Taconeta Address: 311 Montana Ave A-1, El Paso, TX 79902, United States
Touring The Mission Trail
After lunch we toured the Mission Trail which consists of two missions (historic churches) and one presidio. This is where the tour guide, Shelby, told us that El Paso was a hidden gem of the world. By this point, I understood what he meant. In an unassuming corner of west Texas was this vibrant city where two cultures collide to create a place unlike anywhere else in the country.
The Ysleta Mission is the oldest continuously operating parish in Texas. We also stopped at the Socorro Mission but unfortunately it was closed for the day. The Presidio Chapel of San Elizario is the third stop on this route. We ended the tour of the mission trail with a drink at the Three Missions Brewery.
Having Texas Steak At Cattleman's Steakhouse
To end the night, we drove about 20 minutes outside of downtown El Paso for a dinner at Cattleman's Steakhouse at Indian Cliffs Ranch. This place is a working ranch, and we arrived too late to tour the area, but if you plan time into your day for it, you can tour the ranch before dinner. The food was phenomenal with generous portion sizes and friendly staff. The pecan pie and apple pie we had for dessert were some of the best I've ever had.
Address: 3450 S Fabens Carlsbad Rd, Fabens, TX 79838, United States
Taking A Cooking Class At Texas Culinary Institute
The next morning, as our 24 hours in El Paso ticked to a close, we had a cooking class where we made our own brunch. The Texas Culinary Institute is a gem of El Paso that offers tons of themed cooking classes, wine pairings, and hosts private events. We learned to make Huevos Divorciados and churro french toast under the instruction of the fabulous Chef Hannahe.
This concluded my time in El Paso and it was time to hit the road to Marfa and Big Bend National Park. But my brief visit to El Paso convinced me that it is in fact, a hidden gem of the world.