If we said “Let’s go to the birthplace of the margarita!” who wouldn’t sign up?
If we said “Let’s go to El Paso!” the answer might be “Why?”
The “why” is that it’s the home of the margarita. But that’s not the only reason. El Paso offers quite a bit to visitors.
Located on the border of Mexico, next to the Rio Grande and a stone’s throw from New Mexico, El Paso is a hidden Texan gem that is worth a trip to discover its history, scenery (it has the only mountain in Texas), the food, the arts and the friendly nature of its citizens.
Since many people probably don’t know much about El Paso, let’s go through the chamber of commerce spiel before discussing what makes El Paso so special. It has 300 days of sunny weather a year, was named the safest large city with a population of more than 500,000 for four consecutive years, is third best city to raise a family and if you’re a 20-something looking to move, El Paso is one of the top 29 cities for you.
There are several things that contribute to El Paso being an undiscovered tourist location. First is its history. The Mission Trail is here; Billy the Kid is buried nearby (as is his killer); and there are remanents of El Paso’s involvement in the Mexican Revolution and the building of early railroads. The railroads, built by Chinese workers, help to contribute to the unique cuisine that comes with the blending of Mexican, Chinese, American and Mediterranean traits.
There is a lot of history, but perhaps the best thing about El Paso is that it wants tourists. The citizens have come together, put their money where their mouth is and passed bond referendums to make the downtown more exciting. For instance, a block or two from our Doubletree Hotel is the Southwest University Park, home of the El Paso Chihuahuas, a Triple A baseball team. Come on, who can’t love a team whose mascot is an odd looking chihuahua with the scary motto “Fear the ears!” Yes, El Paso can take a joke!
Also part of this arts and sports downtown renovation is the Plaza Theater built in 1929. After years of success and finally decline, in a story similar to Atlanta’s Fox Theatre, the theater was slated to be turned into a parking lot. Heartbroken — and mad — the El Paso Community Foundation raised money and saved the building. We saw an excellent production of “Wicked” but what is also charming is that the Plaza opens to a courtyard where attendees can dine pre-show al fresco.
The citizens also wanted arts and not only in its several nationally renowned museums; they wanted it all around. While walking or driving through the city, underpasses, bus stops, building walls have beautiful hand-painted murals that bring a touch of culture to an urban eyesight. In addition, there seems to be a festival, celebration or food truck gathering weekly, which makes it a great way to soak up the history, music, art, food and energy of Sun City.
Our trip to El Paso showed the city’s diversity. One night we traveled outside the city for a real cowboy experience at the Cattleman’s Steakhouse situated on the Indian Cliffs Ranch. Take the hayride out to the desert and watch the setting sun before having some of the best steaks around. The somewhat unsettling highlight of the evening was watching coyotes come to the windows. Their primal energy was mesmerizing and the restaurant feeds them so they won’t attack the various animals that are kept on the ranch for visitors, such as bunnies and peacocks.
On the opposite end of our cowboy experience was a trip to Zin Valle Vineyards, El Paso’s only winery. Although they grow some grape varieties, a large portion were grown on Ted Turner’s New Mexican vineyards. We purchased the zin and the sparking wine.
Yes, everyone has been to San Antonio or Austin. Everyone knows those Texas cities. We suggest you aim for the undiscovered city of El Paso. You’ll delight in the culture, cuisine, and scenic beauty, but mostly you’ll enjoy having have everyone’s attention when you say what you did on your vacation.