El Paso: Recreation


The El Paso area's attractions celebrate the region's rich history and culture, as well as its natural resources of the Franklin Mountains and the Rio Grande.

More than 313,000 people visited the El Paso Zoo in 2004, the same year the zoo opened a new sea lion exhibit. On 18 acres, the El Paso Zoo houses more than 600 animals from over 250 species. The zoo's Asia exhibit highlights endangered Indochinese tigers, Sumatran orangutans, Malaysian tapirs, and the critically endangered Amur leopard. Animals in the Americas exhibit include Mexican wolves, the California sea lion, and the Galapagos tortoise. A new exhibit featuring the animals of Africa is expected to open in 2006.

Magoffin Home State Historic Site is a 1.5 acre park and homage to pioneer Joseph Magoffin. The centerpiece of the park is the Magoffin Home, built in 1875 by Magoffin. The 19-room adobe home, built in the Territorial style of architecture, showcases period style with mid-Victorian wood trim and original appointments. Guided tours offer a glimpse into the life of the Magoffin family, who occupied the home until its sale to the city of El Paso in 1976.

The Chamizal National Memorial is part of the National Parks system. Established to commemorate diplomatic relations

Hueco Tanks State Park.
Hueco Tanks State Park.
between Mexico and the United States in 1963, Chamizal honors the peaceful settlement of a century-long boundary dispute between neighboring counties. Visitors can learn about this historic event at the Chamizal Museum or through interpretive performances at the indoor theatre. The Los Paisanos Gallery features the work of local and international artists in a variety of media; the gallery also hosts traveling museum exhibits.

Downtown El Paso's "Museum Row" includes the Museum of Art, El Paso Museum of History, and Insights Science Museum. The El Paso Museum of Art is a celebrated fine arts museum housing a permanent collection of more than 5,000 works of art, including the Samuel H. Kress Collection of European art from the 13th through 18th centuries, American art from the 19th and 20th centuries, Mexican colonial art, and contemporary art from the southwestern United States and Mexico. Temporary exhibitions, educational programs, lectures, and concerts are part of the museum's yearly event schedule. The Museum of History showcases the colorful people who shaped El Paso's history. Insights Science Museum features 60 hands-on exhibits that teach visitors about all aspects of science. Temporary exhibits, classes, and a "Museum on Wheels" round out Insight's offerings to the community.

The Museum of Archaeology at Wilderness Park showcases prehistoric artifacts from the Southwest, including pottery, stone objects, basketry, weavings, and figurines. Exhibits tell the story of El Paso and the region's first inhabitants. The museum's 15 acres feature walking trails and gardens that highlight more than 250 native plants.

The Fort Bliss Museum resides at a reconstructed site of the original Fort. Adobe walls shelter from the heat of the summer as well as create warmth in the winter. Displays include photographs, maps, and personal items. One block south of the museum is the new Air Defense/Artillery Museum, showcasing the history of air defense equipment.

The Natural History Museum features more than 300 exhibits in 30,000 square feet. The Border Patrol Museum highlights the work of those who tirelessly patrol the U.S./Mexico border in El Paso. The El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center chronicles events of the holocaust and memorializes those who suffered.

The Mission Trail offers visitors a glimpse into the El Paso of the past. One of the oldest roads in the country, the Mission Trail dates back more than 400 years. Along the route are three missions, one of which is the oldest building in Texas.

Arts and Culture

The city's Arts & Culture Department (ACD) has been working to bring art and cultural events to residents since 1978. The ACD supports local art organizations through funding, grants programs, and educational programs. In 2003, the ACD was responsible for 1,058 art and cultural events throughout the city, with an overall attendance of 391,165. Some of the ACDs programs include the Young at Art Series, which presents children's theatrical performances; the Discovery Series, which offers dance performances by such renowned troops as Alvin Ailey; Alfresco Fridays, presenting free summer outdoor concerts at various city locations; Music Under the Stars World Festival offers free outdoor music from around the world on summer evenings at Chamizal National Memorial; and the Galleries program, which sponsors art exhibits at City Hall and the El Paso Regional Airport.

The Abraham Chavez Theatre in the El Paso Convention & Performing Arts Center hosts both the El Paso Opera and the El Paso Symphony performances. The El Paso Opera brings full-scale, professional opera to the area in addition to several educational outreach programs. Established in the 1930s, the El Paso Symphony is the longest continuously-running symphony orchestra in Texas, offering a full classical and special events season.

The Aardvark Theatre on N. Mesa presents a full season from September through June; the El Paso Playhouse presents a year-round season of plays and a monthly Dinner Theatre performance. The Adair Margo Gallery on E. Yandell exhibits the work of regional, U.S. and foreign fine artists.

Festivals and Holidays

The events calendar begins with January's El Paso Chamber Music Festival, featuring performances over two weekends at University of Texas at El Paso's Fox Fine Arts Recital Hall. The Southwest International Livestock Show and Rodeo (in its 76th year in 2005) happens at the El Paso County Coliseum and fairgrounds in January or February. Over two weekends in late February and early March, the Siglo de Oro Drama Festival is held in the Chamizal National Memorial Theatre. This annual celebration honors Spain's Golden Age with professional and collegiate performing groups from Spain, Mexico, the United States, and South America. Presentations are often performed in Spanish.

Spring events include the city's semi-annual arts and crafts fair called Art in the Park, held over a weekend in late May at Memorial Park; the KLAQ Balloon Festival in May features hot air balloon rides and concerts at Wet & Wild Waterworld in nearby Anthony, Texas.

Summer events include the annual Independence Day Parades, one each on the city's west and east sides. The Downtown Street Festival follows in downtown El Paso, with four stages featuring live performances and more than 100 booths featuring arts, crafts, food, and drink. The July 2005 Ruisidoso Art Festival is the festival's 33rd; this weekend in late July offers goods from more than 100 juried artists at the Ruidoso Convention Center on Hwy. 48. The KLAQ "Taste of El Paso" happens mid-August at Western Playland. In addition to sampling the wares of local restaurants, visitors can enjoy rides and live entertainment. The St. Nicholas Greek Festival celebrates Greek food, music, and culture in late August at the Greek Orthodox Church.

On Labor Day weekend the Fiesta de las Flores (in its 52nd year in 2005) is held at the El Paso County Coliseum and includes games, food, arts and crafts, a car show, a children's area, and a variety of entertainment options. Mexican Independence Day is celebrated mid-September at Chamizal National Memorial, and honors Mexico's independence through song and dance.

In October, the annual Chamizal Festival celebrates the many cultural influences in the El Paso region through traditional arts and music with workshops, performances, demonstrations, and displays. Throughout October, the month-long "Celebration of Our Mountains" features events such as hikes, field trips, driving tours, nature walks, bike rides, and other activities that celebrate the Franklin Mountains. Thanksgiving Day events in El Paso include the Las Palmas Del Sol Sun Bowl Parade in downtown El Paso, and the Thanksgiving Day 5K run and 3K walk benefiting youth and teen programs at the YMCA. Ballet Folklórico Paso del Norte depicts the art and history of Mexico through dance and music at Chamizal National Memorial Theatre in late November.

For a month during late November through December, sports fans enjoy a variety of festivities related to the Vitalis Sun Bowl football game on December 31. Events include a parade, a new year's eve party, a 5K run, sports skills camps, and more. Visitors and residents enjoy the El Paso/Juárez Trolley Company's Christmas Light Tour, which circuits through the area's best-known seasonal sights at San Jacinto Plaza, the University of Texas at El Paso campus, Rim Road, Scenic Drive, and Eastwood. Holiday Lights at the Zoo features more than 200,000 lights creating a "winter wonderland" scene in the zoo throughout 10 days in December.

Sports for the Spectator

The El Paso region abounds with opportunities for sports fans to watch their favorite activities. The El Paso Diablos, a double A team affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks, have been playing since 1974; 15 of those years have been at Cohen Stadium in northeast El Paso. In a 2004 announcement, however, the Diablos will be sold and will move to Springfield, Missouri at the end of the 2004-05 season. The El Paso Patriots play indoor soccer as a Premier Development League (PDL) team. The El Paso Scorpions professional rugby team has been playing since 1979. Their home is the 5,000 seat Dudley field, the original home of the El Paso Diablos. The University of Texas at El Paso's athletics include the Miners football, soccer, track, tennis, and men's and women's basketball. The Southwestern International Livestock Show & Rodeo comes to the El Paso County Coliseum in January or February; polo is a popular spectator sport in nearby La Union, New Mexico.

Sports for the Participant

El Paso's Parks & Recreation Department maintains 175 park sites with 2,372 acres throughout the city. These parks provide 12 recreation centers, 14 city pools (8 indoor and 6 outdoor), sports and fitness programming, and senior centers. In El Paso County, Ascarate Park is the largest public-use recreational park at 448 total acres. Ascarate Park is home to a golf course, an aquatic center, and an amusement park.

Franklin Mountains State Park is the largest urban park in the nation, with 24,247 acres spanning approximately 37 miles within the city limits of El Paso. By fall 2005 the trail network will encompass 118 miles of hiking trail, with 51 miles slated for use for both hikers and mountain bikers, and 22 miles open for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The park's natural rock formations invite rock climbers to the area. After a recent $1.7 million renovation, the park's 44 picnic sites offer new shelters, picnic tables, and grills. Recently opened, the Wyler Aerial Tramway offers riders an exhilarating 4 minute gondola ride offering unmatched views of the Franklin Mountains.

The Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, 32 miles northeast of the city in El Paso County, offers some of the best rock climbing opportunities in the area. Named for its natural rock formations, the park's rock basins, or huecos, have furnished a supply of trapped rain water to travelers to the region for thousands of years. The park also features rock paintings from hunters and foragers from thousands of years ago, as well as from tribes of the not-so-distant past, including Apaches, Kiowas, and earlier groups. The pictographs include more than 200 paintings of faces left behind by the prehistoric Jornada Mogollon Culture. The park is the site of the last Indian battle in the county.

Wet n' Wild Waterworld in nearby Anthony, Texas and Western Playland Amusement Park in El Paso offer family fun and adventure.

Shopping and Dining

El Paso's three main shopping malls are Bassett Center, Sunland Park Mall, and Cielo Vista Mall. Sunland Park, the newer of the three, is located on the west side of the city and offers four anchors and a variety of popular shops and restaurants. Bassett Center has three department stores and more than 80 specialty shops. On the east side of the city, Cielo Vista Mall features 5 department stores and more than 140 specialty shops. The Mission Trail Harvest Market is a program administered by the city in partnership with the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Indian Tribe and the Texas Cooperative Extension. Open from June through October, the Market brings farm-fresh goods and handmade crafts for sale to the community. The Market operates at Zaragosa and Socorro Road, across from the Ysleta Mission.

While El Paso may have been known in the past as a place for steaks and traditional and often simple Mexican fare such as enchiladas, today's El Paso restaurants serve a variety of ethnic cuisines that reflect an even bigger variety of cultural influences. Dining in El Paso is a cultural blend drawing from Native Americans, Spanish Colonists, Mexican neighbors and residents, as well as Easterners drawn south for warmer climes. Ethnic and international restaurants include Chinese, Korean, German, Italian, and Middle Eastern, but the majority of El Paso's restaurants are steak houses, barbecue places, and Mexican restaurants. Highly popular in El Paso fare is the chile pepper, which is used in everything from eggs and chorizo (spicy sausage), to steaks, salsas, and sauces, and even on its own stuffed with cheese or meat and baked as chile rellenos.

Visitor Information: El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau, One Civic Center Plaza, El Paso, TX 79901; telephone (800)351-6024; email info@elpasocvb.com