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10 Ways to Explore El Paso on a Shoestring Budget
10 Ways to Explore El Paso on a Shoestring Budget

El Paso, also known as ‘Sun City,’ is a vibrant, historic gem that is a sought-after escape for outdoor enthusiasts, national park road trippers, historians, and families in search of an affordable, yet unforgettable, staycation spot. Situated in the western corner of Texas, sharing borders with New Mexico and Mexico, El Paso offers access to the beautiful Franklin Mountains and the Chihuahuan Desert of Southwestern America. Traveling to Big Bend? El Paso is the gateway and perfect home base for Big Bend visitors. With everything from hiking and mountain biking on magnificent highland trails to strolling through downtown to exploring ancient Missions, the adventure here is endless – and, best of all, most attractions won't cost you a penny.

Here are 10 ways to experience the best that El Paso has to offer that won’t break the bank:

Hike to the Summit of the Franklin Mountains
Start your day at Franklin Mountains State Park. Aside from the natural beauty that surrounds visitors, there is something for every outdoor enthusiast, both young and old. Take a hike or mountain bike on a trail that’s just right for your level of experience, spot some beautiful birds that have made this paradise their home, or bring a picnic and relax and enjoy lunch.

Want to get the adrenaline pumping? Satisfy your adventurous craving and stretch your limits a bit by climbing to the summit of one of the largest urban parks in the nation. Get your hiking boots broken in well, grab a sturdy hiking stick and embark on an unforgettable climb to the peak of the Franklin Mountains. The summit reaches high into the sky and can be seen from anywhere in El Paso. The hike covers about 13 miles of desert and mountainous terrain, so bring plenty of water, sunblock, and snacks for refueling along the way. Reach the summit and gaze in awe at the 360-degree breathtaking view of El Paso, New Mexico, and the border where Mexico and the United States meet. Take in the enthusiastic sense of accomplishment you will experience upon reaching the top! Even better, adults pay only five dollars and children enter for free.

Franklin mountains hiker overlook

Franklin Mountains

Enjoy the Breathtaking View from Scenic Drive Overlook
Drive along the winding road that skirts around the east side of the mountain for about two miles to reach Scenic Drive Overlook to get another amazing view of beautiful El Paso along with two countries bordering each other. Known as the best city view from a car, visitors are continually wowed by the experience. See gorgeous, tately homes along one side of the road and fabulous views of El Paso and Juarez along the other. Slow down and appreciate life by pulling over at the small park and scenic overlook where you can relax and take in the essence of El Paso’s luscious landscape. Yet another free experience where you take away a special memory.

Scenic overlook

Scenic Drive Overlook

Step Back in Time at the El Paso Museum of History
Home to North America’s first and only interactive TouchCity Digital Wall (called ‘DIGIE’), the El Paso Museum of History provides an affordable (and bilingual!) way to discover El Paso's rich history and contemporary life. The museum is in the heart of the downtown museum district, near additional museums well worth visiting. Enter the museum to encounter the permanent exhibit, 'Changing Pass: People, Land & Memory.' EXPLORE the rich collection of community images and videos on DIGIE's five touch-sensitive screens. Get a glimpse of what the Border Region is all about as you walk through more than 1,000 years of history. Set your sites on authentic artifacts, exhibits (both permanent and temporary), and galleries, while participating in hands-on activities. Enjoy a self-guided tour at your leisure, or fill out a Tour Request Form to arrange your own personal tour. This exuberant educational journey won’t cost you a dime, but donations are accepted.

History museum digie wall

Museum of History

Experience the El Paso Mission Trail
First stop, the Visitor Center, where you will come away with plenty of information about this intriguing slice of El Paso’s history dating back 400 years. What makes these missions unlike any others in the country? They have functioned virtually uninterrupted since their founding in the 17th and 18th centuries. You will explore the oldest settled areas of El Paso (and one of the oldest in the United States!) along the Mission Trail. Prepare to take a deep dive into the remarkable story of clashing cultures and compromise as you visit all three missions within a nine-mile stretch of each other: San Elizario, Ysleta, and Socorro. All three still gather for services today, with registered church members. Enjoy the peace and calm as you step inside the ancient structures and gain a keen sense of history and timelessness. Make a full day of the adventure stopping at additional attractions peppered along the way, including El Paso County’s first penitentiary, a historic art district, museums, and unique eateries.

History and culture 2

Mission Trail

Immerse Yourself in Vibrant Downtown El Paso
El Paso has such a rich culture and renowned history. The best way to experience it is via a self-guided walking tour of Downtown El Paso. Start at the Visitor Information Center at San Jacinto Plaza where you can get yourself a map. There are plenty of things for you to do and see, and you can plan your tour to be as long or as short as you’d like. Tour through rejuvenated Downtown El Paso and take in the beautifully restored old buildings that align San Antonio Street. Gaze in awe at the Art Deco-style Texas State Bank building, stroll past historic architectural landmarks and sites, breathtaking fountains, and sculptures, The El Paso Museum of Art, and The El Paso Holocaust Museum.

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Downtown El Paso

Marvel at Over 100 Murals
Along your tour, notice the more than one hundred brightly painted murals throughout downtown that depict the city’s history, community pride and prominent influences, both past and present. From Tom Lea’s “Pass of the North” exploring the origins of El Paso to Carlo’s Rosa’s “Entelequia”, showcasing the city’s growth, the murals are gems spread across the city that shouldn’t be missed.

Art museum mural

El Paso Mural

Experience an Icon of the Sun City
If you really want to make your mural walk interesting, be sure to stop by the Plaza Theater, as this is one of El Paso’s most iconic landmarks. Staff are always excited to show visitors around this monumental structure that hosts concerts, Broadway shows, individual performers, and the Plaza Classic Film Festival. Downtown ‘Sun City’ – so much to do and not enough time to experience it all!

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Plaza Theater

Dine in Nationally Recognized Restaurants
Ready for the best steak you have ever tasted? Find it at Cattleman’s Steakhouse at Indian Cliffs Ranch, claimed by locals to be the best steakhouse in town. Add baked beans, a baked potato and some coleslaw and savor every bite. You’ll leave with a very satisfied belly. Does Mexican food sound good? You haven’t lived until you have had Kiki’s Mexican Food Restaurant, a regional culinary icon described by Aaron Sanchez of Food Network as the best thing he ever ate! Order the Beef Machaca Plate and dig in! For some of the best Texas barbeque, take a seat and fill your plate at Desert Oak Barbecue, highlighted on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Top it all off with homemade banana pudding, and you are set.

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Dine-In

El Paso has something for everyone and such a large variety of attractions that you may find yourself returning repeatedly. Each time that you do, you will feel welcomed. Take your pick from upscale downtown hotels to more affordable hotels that are the biggest names in the business. Take a look at some trip ideas and plan your El Paso expedition today to discover a lot of fun on a shoestring budget.

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