The best way to truly capture the magic of the Sun City is in an eight-foot high, 18-foot in diameter cabin on the Wyler Aerial Tramway at Franklin Mountains State Park. Whether you are a local or a tourist, a simple tram ride may just be the enjoyable experience that you need to fully grasp the supreme degree of beauty in the borderland. The fiery desert sunrise, the lustrous ocean of lights, the canyons and towering mountains, these elements can be seen from a bird's-eye view on the breathtaking ride. The tramway all began as one man's brave vision and gift to El Pasoans. Karl O. Wyler's last request was signed in ink to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1997. They granted his wish after an extensive renovation in 2001 and made it a public attraction.
The tramway spans a distance of nearly 200 acres of intangible golden lure, an omnipresent natural wonder found in the desert. Drivers who enjoy a few sharp twists and turns will appreciate the drive to the tramway, where they can enjoy a four- minute journey overlooking three states and two nations. A Swiss-made gondola travels along a 2,600-foot long steel cable through a 240-foot deep canyon and offers a central view of 7,000 square miles of Southwest terrain. Suspended in time and space, this is the dream getaway from reality. To be at one with yourself, with your family, with the borderland and one with the world, the Wyler Tramway is the source of peace that you need. The delightful creations all intertwine in the midst of the overpowering beauty of the mountain formations.
This flourishing region is home to plant life including moss-like greens on the ground and large, sunflower-style plants that hover high, wild grasses and flowers that bloom in radiant colors with the seasons. Wildlife of different species and classes inhabit the natural dwelling as well. The Franklin Mountain State Park is the largest urban state park in the United States so it goes without saying that the spacious area draws in a vast array of bird species. Visitors can explore the land with high-powered telescopes that can be wielded from a sky-high observation deck with a 360-degree view. Besides a lens it will feel as if nothing stands between you and the wild. At the edge of Texas if you reach out to touch the blue distance the horizon is still infinite. Further up the canyon, you can see a formation of granitoid igneous rock that has merged with the plates in the Fort Bliss Sandstone. This is all a result of the Rio Grande Rift. The product is a cool collection of blocks along the mountainside.
When the fire of twilight arrives the sky produces a marvelous array of color. This is a sight for sore eyes that all will rejoice over. Wherever you may venture after this experience you can never forget what was seen, captured and felt. The desert is a realm that the human mind cannot author. Overall the panoramic view from the Wyler Aerial Tramway is a hidden gem that exhibits a unique splendor of grandeur, color and soul-piercing utopia.
El Paso has tons to offer in the realm of dive bars and when we refer to dive bars, we’re not talking about a place that you’re going to walk into and feel a thick air with get out of here vibes, we’re talking about hole in the wall type places with tons of character and more importantly, characters. As the dive bars that they are, not all of them will have a full service bar. A lot of these places are beer and wine only types. On that note, take it from us: don’t order the wine, stick to beer.
There are a few cardinal set of laws to consider before you embark on this dive bar journey and rule number one is: carry cash. Some of these places don’t accept credit cards and more importantly, you don’t want to cheat yourself out of a bonus tasty treat from the slew of street food vendors that rotate through these bars. If you’re adventurous when it comes to food, and I’m not saying that strange things will walk through the door or anything like that, I’m saying that these are treats made by someone’s mom in her kitchen and she may or may not have a health permit, the odds of eating one of the best tortas, burritos or gorditas are high in these establishments and it is your duty to give it a shot. Another rule of thumb: if it’s not food or live music from a trio of musicos, don’t buy it. This is about having an experience, and do you really need that battery operated LED flashlight or a rose? (Note: the rose will undoubtedly be offered to you some time during the night by a nice man in a tuxedo top with camera in tow who may or may not ride in on a bicycle).
While there are dive bars throughout the city, when diving in El Paso, it’s best to stick to the central part of town. As the oldest, most established part of the city, central El Paso is host to beautiful casitas built in the early 1900s and some of the best architecture in the city. As such, these dives that have down home feeling that can only come from being around forever; they’ve got that broken in, greased up feeling that only comes with time and a rotating door of party people of yesteryear.
Pershing Inn The Pershing Inn, known as the PI to insiders, is enchanting in the El Paso way; it pulls no stops and patrons love it for what it is—a good old-fashioned neighborhood bar with no signs of changing. It’s got a cool vintage feel so comforting that it makes you feel like it’s your little secret, only it so happens that the PI is everyone’s little secret.
While this bar is home to many regulars, it gladly accepts new faces. You won’t have that “NEW YORK CITY!!!” affect on the natives when you enter the PI’s red door. As the PI has regained traction with a younger crowd (and by younger we mean old kickball players that stop in to drink after a game), the PI recently opened its back yard for business and although it’s not written in stone, the bar is generally split like this: regulars and neighborhood locals in the main bar, new patrons that don’t necessarily care about the charm, in the back yard. Both demos get along famously and this unwritten formula works. If you like your bartender to be older with a raspy voice and a friendly smile, go to the front. If you prefer your bartender to be scantily clad, go to the back yard. Simple as that.
Pershing Inn, 2909 Pershing Drive. Hours: 12p to 12a M-Sun. Full bar service, credit cards accepted.
Chicken Coop Located in the same building as the once glamorous Stagecoach Motor Hotel that was a regular stop for road tripping Americans of the 1950’s, The Chicken Coop is a homey, locals only bar run by a mother-daughter team that is known to cook up some happy hour goodies. While you won’t feel hostility when you enter the door, you’ll know right away that they know that you’ve never set foot in the place. But never fear, the surefire way to win this crowd over goes like this: Walk straight to the jukebox, look for Disc 08, Track 01 and play the tejano version of the Bowie High School fight song. Oh yes, you are officially in Bowie Bears territory and this is their bar. If all goes according to plan, the entire bar will break into a sing along and there you are, the unofficial hero of the night. Do not divert from this system. It’s a guaranteed winner. While you’re at the juke, pay heed to the homemade mixes, you can’t pay for the El Paso style oldies education that this juke holds. Sunny and the Sunliners, check. Brenton Wood, check. Mary Wells, check. There’s even an entire disc dedicated to animal songs, you are in a Chicken Coop after all. This is one of those beer and wine only joints where logic goes out the window when it comes to figuring out your pay as you drink tab. $8 for 5 beers is par for the course. Oh, and don’t bother asking for an IPA. This is Bud and Bud Light town and you’re here for the experience.
Park Inn El Paso has a long-lived love for all things baseball and located across the street from our first baseball venue, Washington Park, the Park Inn is a baseball-themed hole in the wall that grandpas love to frequent. The Park Inn also happens to be the holy grail of street food vendors. If a lady with a tray full of tortas comes through the door, buy one and dig in.
If a man walks in with a big red cooler on his shoulder and offers you a burrito or a gordita, do it. Again, we’re in beer and wine territory here and if you thought the pickings were slim at the Chicken Coop, the 32oz mugs of Natty Light at the Park Inn, will not cease to amaze. Here’s the deal, we all know that the best way to drink Natural Light is super ice cold, and a 32oz mug of Natty Light means you drink fast before you can’t stand it anymore. This bar is probably 20ft x 16ft and somehow they manage to get it all in. Old school bar with stools, tables with chairs, pool table in the middle, jukebox, TV and a live musical trio to play songs on demand—for a fee, of course. Unassuming and warm, the Park Inn feels like your granddad’s sweater.
Bowie Feathers Bowie Feathers is a no frills rock and roll bar. You know the kind-flat black paint, scruffy bearded big guy at the door, bartenders with tattoos, and a stair case. I mention the stair case because it’s the only way in (unwritten protocol for rock and roll dives throughout the country).
Like other rock and roll bars, it’s kind of hidden and once you’re in the doors you’re home. There are a few marked differences that are not signature to most rock and roll bars. For one, the bathrooms are spotless and while the décor is minimal, you can tell that a lot of thought went into it. Huge stencil art portraits of musicians on plywood such as Ian Mackaye, Bjork and Buddy Holly adorn the walls and frenetic brass tube chandeliers hang from the ceilings. This is a place that can accommodate beer snobs, whiskey drinkers and Miller Light lovers all at the same time. While it’s a rock and roll bar with a carefully curated playlist that any music lover will appreciate, it’s still the kind of place where you can have a conversation with friends. This is the kind of bar that doesn’t require its patrons to be music snobs or mustached hipsters--there’s no secret handshake at the door. It should be noted that Bowie Feathers is an upstairs bar located in the historic Alhambra Theatre, El Paso’s first air-conditioned theater that came to be during the golden age of cinema. The main building currently serves as Bowie Feathers’ sister and live music venue, Tricky Falls. While Tricky Falls is only open when there’s a live show, Bowie Feathers is open six days a week.
The Tap You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you came to El Paso and didn’t make a stop at The Tap. The Tap is an El Paso mainstay that sports the best sign in lights in all of downtown. Home to the most diverse crowd in this town—recently released prisoners from the nearby county jail, politicians and judges, touring bands and a general mixture of melee loving hipsters and hippie midwives, The Tap fits all of us like a glove. Black and red with mirrors and portraits of Aztec princesses in distress on the walls, The Tap is also home to the best nachos in town. Here’s the lowdown on how this works. The Tap is two businesses rolled into one, so your tab for your food is going to be separate from the tab for your drinks. This also means that should you choose to try the nachos (they have a full menu, but don’t bother with it, go straight to the nachos) you will have two waitresses tending to you. While they’re not entirely rude, you don’t want to ask your bar maid for something food related, it annoys them and there’s no point in aggravating the lady that will be serving up your drinks. Now on to nachos: There are several variations and if you’re a meat eater, it’s best to order half and half nachos. That is, half [shredded] beef and half chicken. It’s also important that you specify that you’d like chile, tomato and onion (or chile, tomate y cebolla—the ultimate Mexican trilogy) on your nachos. This is important because sometimes they see a non local and assume that you can’t handle the heat—for the record, they’re not that hot and besides, you can always pick the jalapeno off. Vegetarians need not fear, order the nachos with beans and trilogy and your experience will be just as good. Kitchen closes at 10p, sometimes earlier. Bottom line: go to The Tap.
Whether you are in Downtown El Paso during the day or evening, the city offers a wide range of entertainment for you to enjoy any day of the week. Downtown offers five hotels, a local farmers market and more than 70 bars and restaurants for your pleasure. There is some thing for everyone to enjoy when you visit El Paso.
Downtown El Paso is split into five districts, Union Plaza, Las Plazas Art District, Office District, Government District and El Centro, each offers a unique restaurant that will bring you back for more every time you visit. After your meal, take the time to explore the history of the city.
Within almost every building or area you explore, you will certainly be looking at a historic landmark. In the middle of Las Plazas is the art district and home to “The Showplace of the Southwest”, the Plaza Theatre. In 2006 the theatre was reopened to the public and also houses its original Mighty Wurlitzer Organ. The Plaza Theatre holds weekly tours and is open to the public on Tuesday.
Walking around the area you’ll find the newly restored Mills Building and Hilton’s first high-rise hotel. In 1963 the hotel was sold and changed its name to the Plaza Hotel. Also in the Las Plazas art district you can catch a Chihuahuas baseball game during their regular season and encounter one of the only digital walls in the world at the history museum. Visitors can interact with the wall, learn about El Paso history and send a digital post card.
For history buffs, you can take a self-guided walking tour starting at San Jacinto Plaza. The tour takes you on a stroll to historic architectural landmarks and sites; some are noted with historical markers. For the brave at heart, ghost tours are available weekly.
During the weekend, Union Plaza transforms into a local farmers market. The market offers original arts and crafts, food vending, regionally grown agricultural products, artisans, regional farmers and live entertainment from local artists.
With a variety of venues for entertainment, there is always something to when visiting El Paso. Whether your trip is short or long, exploring Downtown is the perfect way to learn about the history of West Texas.
Misión de Guadalupe
Established by Fray Garcia de San Francisco in 1659, this is the first, still-standing, mission in the area built by the order of the Franciscans who began to evangelize indigenous populations.
Dunas de Samalayuca
Sand dunes known for being a habitat for many unique endemic species of plants and animals living in a rare ecosystem of the Samalayuca Desert.
Visitors can try their luck at one of seven different high-end casinos throughout the city.
Museo de la Revolución en la Frontera (MUREF)
Housed in the Old Customs House, the museum features multi-media exhibits on the Mexican Revolution and Ciudad Juárez, including the railroad, and the roles of the politicians, writers and revolutionaries, such as Francisco Madero and Francisco “Pancho” Villa.
Museo de Arte e Historia del INBA de Ciudad Juárez
The Juárez Museum of Art, a unit of the National Institute of Fine Art, features Mexican art from different periods by both local and internationally renowned artists.
La Rodadora Interactive Museum
La Rodadora is one of the largest museums in Latin America, with over 120 interactive exhibits. It combines science, technology, art and culture in one place, making it a unique and different space. La Rodadora also has a 3D theater, a library, and a food court.
Kentucky Club and Grill
This legendary bar dates back to 1920 is said to be the birthplace of the Margarita. “Hollywood Royalty,” politicians, artists and sports superstars have all been served in this beautiful bar.
The colorful restaurant is the perfect place to eat authentic Mexican food and enjoy a live historical reenactment performance.
Maria Chuchena is a restaurant whose concept of haute cuisine combines the colors, aromas and flavors of traditional Mexican recipes with contemporary adaptations.
El Paso is a bold and diverse metropolitan with a rich, blended history that’s well worth getting to know. History buffs can discover the land’s legacy in Sun City museums, eateries and other attractions, but locals know the most authentic historic encounter is to be had in El Paso’s long-standing communities. Many area neighborhoods date back to the early 1800s and beyond, each offering a distinct perspective on the borderland experience. Though it’s not the city’s first settlement, El Segundo Barrio is a great starting place to discover borderland culture. Located in southernmost El Paso, El Segundo Barrio was settled by Mexican immigrants during the late nineteenth century. And over the decades, El Segundo Barrio has become a valued community not only for its tenure; El Segundo Barrio has a booming, homegrown art scene.
Muralists and street artists borne out of the El Segundo Barrio community have been adorning facades of neighborhood buildings with breathtaking works since the 1970s, creating a unique and captivating open-air museum that both guests and residents can, and do, admire. El Segundo Barrio is host to literally dozens of murals, with more creations decking outward walls every day. The murals collectively represent important themes within the Chicano culture – like family, heritage, resilience, faith, music and community.
The Segundo Barrio mural is an imperative during your walking tour. Completed in 1975 by Arturo Avalos, Gabriel Ortega, Pablo Schaffino and Pascual Ramírez – who were collectively known as Los Muralistas Del Barrio – the Segundo Barrio mural was created as a testament to community pride and Chicano heritage in a period when El Segundo Barrio faced the threat of growing urbanization in Downtown El Paso. A hallmark of the vibrant mural is the use of geometric Aztec design, recalling the culture of origin with which many area residents strongly identify. The Segundo Barrio mural is located at 513 Father Rahm Avenue on the west wall of an apartment complex.
Boys & Girls Club Mural
Werc Alvarez installed this mural on the wall of the Boys and Girls Club at 801 S. Florence in 2012 to depict the youth-led artistic rebirth taking place in the Segundo Barrio community. There’s a compelling verve in the mural that stirs the senses, and the phrase ‘in living color’ is the perfect fit to describe the feat. A rich and saturated spectrum of hues almost literally jumps off the wall at you, encouraging a return to joviality and creativity in the mural-gazers. If you’re feeling sluggish, the Boys and Girls Club mural will definitely jolt you with energy. Of course, there are plenty more mesmerizing murals to set your sights on in El Segundo Barrio; we didn’t want to give them all away here. So head south to El Paso’s second ward, and see the community through the deft paint strokes that don walls of El Segundo Barrio.
Art lovers, history fans and people who like visiting treasured neighborhoods should plan a walking tour through El Paso’s only alfresco art gallery soon. You’ll find a diverse collection of commissioned murals by celebrated artists in the community as well as street pieces, tucked away in corridors like hidden gems, by nameless painters. There’s a bold, beautiful painting around just about every corner in El Segundo Barrio, but here’s three must-see murals to get you started as you traverse the ward’s longstanding streets.
Sacred Heart Mural
Located nearby at 231 Father Rahm Ave, you’ll find the Sacred Heart mural, which was commissioned by the church of its namesake in 2007. Painters Francisco Delgado and Mauricio Olague aided by 50 talented students from Bowie High School combine central icons of the Catholic Faith with symbols and figures that are important to the Segundo Barrio community. The mural is a telling tapestry of immigration hardships, Mexican pride, the contributions of revered religious leaders and more. With so much symbolism, the mural is sure to pull a long, pensive gaze out of all passersby.