El Paso - Where Cultures Come Together
El Paso is picturesquely situated in a mountain pass (hence its name), beneath the peaks of a Chihuahuan Desert mountain range.
It's the largest U.S. city on the Mexican border. And Mexico's fourth largest city, Juarez, is just across the border. The two cities combine for a population well over 2 million.
There is much to do in El Paso for those interested in nature and history, from desert and mountain activities to Spanish Colonial and early Texas historic sites.
Fort Bliss is a pre-Civil War U.S. Army post that later served as the launching pad for the capture of Native American leader Geronimo. The fort is still in use today, serving as a U.S. Army Air Defense Center. On the base you'll find the Fort Bliss Museum and Study Center, the Museum of the Noncommissioned Officer and a monument to the Buffalo Soldiers.
Spanish missions dot the El Paso area. Nuestro Senora del Carmen - better known as Ysleta Mission - dates to 1681, and is the oldest mission in Texas.
The Nuestra Senior de la Concepcion del Socorro was established in 1682. It was inside Mexico when it was established, but when the Rio Grande changed course in the early 1800s it became part of Texas.
The San Elizario Presidio Chapel dates to 1777 and is still in daily use as a church.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau provides maps for self-guided tours. Or you can take a ride on the "Trolley on a Mission," a guided tour bus that visits the missions mentioned above and others.
The missions are open daily for self-guided tours; trolley tours take place once a month Sept.-April and weekly May-August.
The Tigua Indian Reservation is the oldest community in Texas, having been populated since 1681. A cultural center features a museum and Tigua traditional dances. The reservation is inside El Paso city limits.
The El Paso Centennial Museum covers much of the archeology and geology of the region, and the development of the city; the El Paso Museum of History focuses on regional history from the arrival of the Spanish to present day.
The Border Patrol Museum is a look at the history of that law enforcement organization. Other museums of note include the Holocaust Museum and Study Center, El Paso Museum of Art, International Museum of Art, Natural History Museum of El Paso and the Wilderness Park Museum.
An interesting stop is the Concordia Cemetery, where many famous gunslingers of the Old West - including John Wesley Hardin - are buried.
Turning from history to nature, the El Paso Zoo is the largest zoo in a huge expanse of territory covering West Texas, southern New Mexico and northern Mexico. It is known for its collection of Asian and Central and South American animals and exhibits.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Franklin Mountain State Park is a must. It is 24,000 acres in size, yet it's located inside El Paso's city limits. Hiking and primitive camping are popular.
At Hueco Tanks State Historic Site are natural rock formations that served to collect rainwater, quenching the thirsts of generations of Native Americans and Spanish and Texian settlers. Hueco Tanks is also a popular rock-climbing spot.
Sports enthusiasts will find plenty to do in El Paso. Painted Dunes Golf Course is one of the best municipal courses in Texas. (More on El Paso golf courses.) El Paso Speedway Park is a half-mile oval track with auto racing weekly.
The University of Texas-El Paso's football team plays in Sun Bowl Stadium, and the school's basketball and baseball teams are popular with locals.
Professional sports teams include the El Paso Diablos baseball team, part of the Double-A Texas League. The city also boasts a professional rugby team and an A-League soccer team.
A day across the border in Juarez is a popular side trip. Guided tours into Juarez for shopping and sightseeing are available on private and public trolleys. Public trolleys leave from the Civic Center in Downtown El Paso daily.
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