Set among the foothills of the majestic Franklin Mountains and home to a diverse culture unlike any in the Lone Star State, El Paso is a thriving and constantly evolving destination like no other in Texas. Home to a first-rate zoo, brand-new waterparks, and a ton of other amazing adventures for all ages, Sun City is also one of the state’s best places to visit with your family. From eye-catching outdoor shows to off-road UTV tours, El Paso has something for everyone. When you’re looking for the next family vacation, head on out to the mountains of West Texas. To help you plan your visit, here are a few of our favorite experiences that will become unforgettable family memories.
Cool Off at Our New Waterparks
There’s nothing better than diving into the invitingly cool waters of a swimming pool on a hot summer’s day. Unless, of course, you’re either hanging ten or taking in stunning mountain views at the same time. Located within the Chihuahuan Desert, El Paso is known for its hot summers. That’s exactly why you should beat the heat at the town’s new waterparks. Nestled within view of the Franklin Mountains, Camp Cohen is the coolest spot in town. Take in the breathtaking landscape as you’re floating the lazy river or riding thrilling water slides. There’s even a lap pool and a water playground within the kid-friendly Wild Lagoon. Come early to get a cabana and get your fill at the Stove Cove Café when your appetite kicks in.
Although El Paso isn’t the kind of destination you’d associate with surfing, that doesn’t mean you can’t catch a wave here. All you need to do is head to Oasis, the Sun City’s newest and largest waterpark home to the only surfing machine in town. There’s even more action to be had on Oasis’ spiraling Tumbleweed slides or the Gravity Challenge climbing wall. To unwind, let the current of the Driftwood Channel lazy river soothe you or relax in the shade of your own cabana in Hueco Dwellings. Oasis also has a leisure pool and a kiddie pool with a water play area where the kids can enjoy a day in the West Texas sun.
Camp Cohen and Oasis are just two of what will eventually be four waterparks in El Paso. Check out the others here.
Explore the El Paso Zoo
Discover the wonders of North America’s largest desert and go on a journey around the globe to see its many diverse animals. No matter what age your kids are, they’ll have an amazing time (and they may learn a thing or two) at the El Paso Zoo.
El Paso Zoo. Meander through the 35-acre zoo and you’ll encounter creatures from Africa, Asia, and the Americas, from alligators and lions to giraffes, elephants, and even Malayan tapirs. Eventually, you’ll come across the one-of-a-kind Chihuahuan Desert exhibit, a new addition to the zoo that showcases the region’s flora and fauna. Mexican wolves, thick-billed parrots, prairie dogs, jaguars, peninsular pronghorns, and even coatimundis reside in exhibit areas that incorporate natural landscapes and plants native to the desert.
Beyond seeing all the animals, there’s a lot more your kids can do here. Let them discover the Foster Tree House Playground, where they can take in 360-degree views of the surrounding area from five tree houses as high as 16 feet above ground. The playground also has a crazy tunnel, four slides, log climbers, and cargo netting. If you’re here in the summer, the Hunt Family Desert Spring’s interactive water play area is just the spot to cool off, while the zoo’s on-site restaurant, Grasslands Café, has kid-approved meals along with its burgers, hot dogs, and chicken sandwiches.
With so much to see and do, the El Paso Zoo offers a full day of immersive adventure.
Enjoy Fun for All Ages
Looking for inspiration for your next family outing in El Paso? Show off your swing at Top Golf El Paso, where a driving range meets a bar and restaurant. Compete for the high score as you aim for a variety of targets, or simply be happy when you make clean contact with the ball. When you aren’t teeing off, relax in your own private booth where you can order burgers, drinks, dessert, and something from the kids’ menu.
If you want to do give your youngsters the kind of experience they won’t have every day, head to iFLY. Here they can relish the thrill of skydiving without needing to jump out of an actual plane. Feel a sense of weightlessness as you soar in a massive wind tunnel. Flyers as young as three can participate, so bring the whole family. For another amazing adventure, find your way out to Rent a UTV Off Road Adventures. Get behind the wheel of a UTV and cruise on the red dunes just east of El Paso. Take your pick from four-seat UTVs and cruise along winding trails that serve up stunning views of the Chihuahuan Desert.
El Paso has more than its fair share of amazing things to do, and you can enjoy many of them with even your youngest kids.
Admire One-of-a-Kind Exhibits
The best way to discover a new place is by hearing its stories, and few towns in Texas can claim a past as captivating as El Paso’s. Discover more than 400 years of history at the El Paso Museum of History’s Changing Pass: People, Land & Memory. The museum’s permanent exhibit offers in-depth insight into the many peoples who have called the borderlands home over the generations, from indigenous settlers to the modern day. A truly educational activity, the exhibit showcases the evolution of the culture, economics, politics, and religion of the borderlands, the likes of which are very much part of the broader story of Texas.
Of course, there’s much more to see at the El Paso Museum of History thanks to its array of rotating exhibits. If your kids are car enthusiasts, you’ve got to check out Low & Slow: Lowrider Culture on the Border. Take a deep dive into lowrider culture, from the brightly painted cars to the zoot suits and music, that traces its roots back to the 1940s. While you’re here, don’t miss Etchings by Steve Edwards, an exhibit of the works of local artist and printmaker Steve ‘Esteban’ Edwards. Both exhibits are on display through July 8, so make sure you’re here in time to see them.
Get Inspired at the El Paso Museum of Art
Art is the universal language; appreciating it with your kids is a great way to foster their creativity. Find a whole world of art at the El Paso Museum of Art, where rotating exhibits are on show throughout the year. The many works of Expressions in Clay: Pre-Columbian Pottery Types from the Southwest (July 18) are not only impressive, but they provide a tangible lesson about the diverse peoples who called this part of the country home for centuries. Meanwhile, Cercle et Carré and the International Spirit of Abstract Art (August 15) provides a vibrant study of this form of expression via the creations of members of Cercle et Carré, a group of like-minded artists that formed in Paris in the 1920s.
While these exhibits have more than enough to see, the El Paso Museum of Art has far more going on this summer. Mary Paz Cervera: Elegy (July 18) is a collection of the Mexican artist’s paintings and sculptures, while Leo Villareal: Early Light (July 18) showcases the talents of the local artist raised in El Paso and Juarez. Villareal is known for transforming spaces with LED light, and the exhibit is truly immersive. Finally, Brett Weston in the 1940s (December 19) is a compendium of the black-and-white landscape photographs shot by Weston in and near White Sands, New Mexico.
The El Paso Museum of Art’s exhibits are ever-changing, making the museum a must-visit whenever you’re in Sun City.
Check Out a Show Like No Other
Flowing folkloric dancers swaying to lively music on a stage set within a breathtaking canyon. It’s often said that everything is bigger in Texas, but few things in the Lone Star State can match Viva! El Paso. A summer tradition for more than 40 years, this outdoor show set in the stunning McKelligon Canyon is part historical drama, outdoor musical, and pageant that celebrates the many stories of the American Southwest. The show features the contributions of talented local actors, musicians, and even Tony-Award-winning playwright Marty Martin. Each performance is held at the 1,500-seat McKelligon Canyon Amphitheatre. Get some food and a drink at the concessions stands before settling in for one of the best shows in Texas.
Find Farm-Fresh Fare & Local Goods
Shopping locally is already a great time, especially as a learning experience for your kids. Fortunately, you can do just that at El Paso’s farmers’ markets. Find fruits and vegetables grown right down the street along with works of area artists as you browse these markets, stopping to talk to farmers and craftspeople throughout. Held every Saturday year-round, the El Paso Downtown Artist & Farmers Market is just the place to stock up on local fruits and vegetables as you admire original arts and crafts, savor something from one of many food vendors, and take in live entertainment.
Meanwhile, the Upper Valley Artist and Farmers Market has venders selling farm-fresh goodies, art, and more, all in a charming village-type atmosphere. Finally, the Country Club Farmers Market features more than 80 vendors. Bring your dog and taste delicious food-truck fare as shop goods from artisans and farmers. Each market is distinct, so make sure you have enough time to visit them all.
Ready for your next family getaway? With all its unique things to see and do for kids and grownups alike, you should plan your next vacation to El Paso and the beautiful mountains of West Texas. Get started here.