El Paso sits where old Mexico meets New Mexico. So, expect your visit to be a mix of cultures and traditions. Although this may sound like you’re about to spend your vacation in a sleepy town, you’d be wrong. There’s an energetic vibe downtown as brand new hotels are being built and a variety of annual events welcome a growing number of tourists. When you’ve had your fill of the activities and attractions in the Sun City, you can take a bus or drive to the nearby cities to explore what else Texas has to offer. You may only need a day to see a variety of sights and enjoy a slew of adventures, so you’ll have to follow a solid itinerary. Scroll down to read more about the top day trips from El Paso, Texas.
1. Marfa, Texas
Marfa is an artist’s hub in northeastern Presidio County. It’s a little under a three-hour drive from El Paso, but you’ll enjoy the peaceful desert view as you cruise along the highway. This city is known for the Marfa Lights, which are enigmatic golden orbs that appear in the desert outside of the city. But there are other noteworthy attractions. One of which is the Prada Marfa.
This is not the designer store, so don’t expect to come away with Italian fashion and accessories. It is, however, an art installation by Ingrid Dragset and Michael Elmgreen. Made in 2005, this visual treat in the desert won the approval of Miuccia Prada. She also chose the merchandise to be used in the one-room reproduction of a typical Prada store.
Address: 14880 US-90, Valentine, TX 79854
Website: Prada Marfa
Opening hours: 24 hours
2. Silver City, New Mexico
Silver City is 154 miles (247.8 km) from El Paso. You can either take a chartered flight, which will take you about 45 minutes from El Paso, or a long drive for about two hours and 30 minutes. Once you arrive, you can explore the city’s Native American roots and head to the Gila Cliff Dwellings Monument. The monument will give you a glimpse into Mogollon culture, who used the caves as a temporary shelter. The nomadic people made rooms, pottery, and raised their families in the cliff homes for 20 years, according to the National Park Service.
Besides touring the cliffs, hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife viewing can also be on your itinerary. Ranger-guided tours of the cliffs start at 1:00 pm.
Gila Cliff Dwellings Monument
Address: 26 Jim Bradford Trail Mimbres, NM 88049
Website: Gila Cliff Dwellings Monument
Opening hours: 10am - 3pm (daily) / (closed on public holidays)
Price: 10 USD
3. Ruidoso, Texas
Ruidoso is stunning in any season, but if you’re taking a day trip to the Lincoln County village in the winter, you have to check out the Ruidoso Winter Park. It’s the ideal destination for families because it has something for everyone, from thrill-seeking teens to snow-loving youngsters. The park offers top tubing areas, featuring bobsled curves, bumps, twists, and jumps that are sure to get your heart racing.
You and the kids can do a full day of just tubing and, after, rent a VIP igloo, where you can warm up and relax a bit some handmade pizza and drinks. The varying tubing areas come with restrictions – for example, the Big Hill is only for those who are 46-inches (116.8 cm) in height or taller.
Ruidoso Winter Park
Address: 121 Ski Run Road, Alto, NM
Website: Ruidoso Winter Park
Opening hours: Mon, Fri & Sun: 10am - 5pm; Sat: 10am - 8pm (closed Tue - Thu)
Price: 26.50 USD (adults 18+); 21.25 USD (children 4 -17); free for children 3 and under
4. Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
Truth or Consequences is just under a two-hour drive from El Paso. This city in Sierra County has more to offer than its quirky name, which it got from a radio show contest. Although you’ll see glimpses of a time gone by here, the emergence of new entrepreneurs, cool kids, and hippies bring a modern experience, from Richard Branson’s Spaceport to Ted Turner’s eco-friendly tours of the Armendaris and Ladder ranches.
One of the best ways to experience this unconventional place is through its hot springs. There are several establishments here and one of the quirkier places to check out is the Blackstone Hot Springs Lodging and Baths. Most of its baths are in private rooms, which are designed around well-known TV shows. You’ll have options like the Golden Girls, Twilight Zone, and Star Trek suite.
Address: 410 Austin, Truth or Consequences, NM
Price: 100 USD per night for the Twilight Zone room
5. Alamogordo, New Mexico
The Little Joe II, in display at the New Mexico Museum of Space History. One if its purposes was testing the escape system for Apollo, in case of a launch abort.Posted by New Mexico Museum of Space History on Monday, 28 July 2014
Alamogordo, a city in the Tularosa Basin of the Chihuahuan Desert, is 89 miles (143.2 km) from El Paso and it’s a short drive that brings you numerous opportunities for activities and sights. Its economy is driven mostly by tourism since it is popular for having been the site of the Trinity test. The test was the first detonation of a nuclear device and it was part of the Manhattan Project. During the 50s, the city became the unofficial site for research on pilot safety and the space program.
The best day trip destination here is the New Mexico Museum of Space History. It features space history, with an exhibit on the early rocket experiments around Rockwell, the Hall of Fame, showcasing the achievements of men and women in space exploration, and the dome theater and planetarium, among other attractions.
Space History Tour
Address: 3198 State Route 2001, Alamogordo, NM 88310
Website: New Mexico Museum of Space History
Opening hours: Sun: 12pm - 5pm; Mon & Wed - Sat: 10am - 5pm (closed Tue)
Price: 8 USD (adults 13 - 59); 6 USD (children 4 - 12); 7 USD (seniors 60+ / military / NM residents); free for children 3 and under
6. Cloudcroft, New Mexico
Cloudcroft is a mountain village in Otero County. It’s situated high up at nearly 9,000 feet (2,743.2 meters), so it’s the perfect destination during the summer. It features some 480,000 acres (194,249.1 hectares) of open forest, which means you’ll have plenty of hiking, mountain climbing, and camping opportunities here. If you love outdoorsy endeavors, then Cloudcroft is the go-to place for an exhilarating day trip from El Paso. It’s close enough, at about 109 miles (175.4 km).
When you want a mix of the relaxing and the exciting, why not try a different kind of hiking, with the Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail. Nonprofits in New Mexico are repurposing old, abandoned railroads as hiking trails. There are plenty across Albuquerque, but the best site is considered to be in Cloudcroft. It features the old Mexican Canyon Trestle, a 323-foot (98.5-meter) bridge that has earned a place in the National Register of Historic Places.
Rail to Trail Hikes
Address: 4 Lost Lodge Rd, Cloudcroft, NM
Website: Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail
7. Hatch, New Mexico
Make your way down to Hatch, New Mexico, from El Paso. It’s just over an hour’s nonstop drive on the I-10 and I-25 N. This Doña Ana County village is famous for its chiles, which are celebrated every August 31st and September 1st. The Hatch Valley Chile Festival features a carnival, a chili eating contest, and local musicians, among other attractions.
If your vacation doesn’t coincide with the annual chile celebration, you’ll still be able to sample roasted chilis and chili food products. A good spot to visit is the local favorite, Sparky’s. This roadside attraction is known for its green chili cheeseburgers (made from scratch), wood-fired barbecue, and live music. The dining destination offers the perfect festive atmosphere you seek if you missed the chili fest. The kids may also get a kick out of the kooky life-sized statues of Ronald McDonald and Col. Sanders.
Address: 115 Franklin St. Hatch, NM
Website: Sparky’s Burgers
Opening hours: Thur - Sun: 10:30am - 7pm (closed Mon - Wed)
8. Fort Davis, Texas
We bid farewell to the largest sunspot seen on the Sun in nearly 25 years, and active region 2192 (AR2192) that...Posted by McDonald Observatory on Wednesday, 29 October 2014
Out of all the destinations listed here, Fort Davis is likely to be your farthest day trip visit from El Paso. At over three hours of nonstop driving, the census-designated community calls for an organized visit. But it’s worth the trip because it offers numerous opportunities for outdoor fun, cultural engagement, and sumptuous dining.
A must-visit in Fort Davis is the University of Texas McDonald Observatory because it’s recognized as one of the best observatories in the world. Instead of doing the usual Star Party, try their Solar Viewing Program. The observatory uses specially filtered telescopes that allow for safe, live views of the sun. Along with the viewing, you’ll get some fascinating information, from the sun’s history to its formation. The program typically runs for 50 minutes in the theater, with a guided tour of the large telescope at 100 minutes.
Address: Frank N. Bash Visitors Center, 3640 Dark Sky Drive, McDonald Observatory, TX 79734
Opening hours: 10am - 5:30pm (daily) / (closed on public holidays)
Price: 9 USD (adults); 8 USD (seniors / military / students); free for children under 4
9. Roswell, Texas
Roswell became synonymous with UFOs after an alleged sighting in 1947. Since then, this city in Chavez County has become the go-to place for everything extraterrestrial. It even spawned a TV series bearing the city’s name. But there is more to Roswell than UFOs.
Centrally located in the Pecos Valley and just below the southern outskirts of the Rocky Mountains, Roswell offers plenty of outdoor activities. For your day trip, explore Bottomless State Park. It features seven lakes encircled by high red bluffs. You and the family can go hiking, boating, or swimming here and camping is also available on site.
Outdoor Activities at State Park
Address: Bottomless Lakes State Park, 545 A Bottomless Lakes Rd., Roswell, NM 88201
Website: Bottomless State Park
Opening hours: Lea Lake: 7am - 9pm (daily)
Price: 10 USD (camping)
10. Fort Stockton, TX
Fort Stockton, as the name suggests, was once a military fort. It served as a camp and then as one of the posts that functioned as a line of defense in the Texas frontier. Eventually, the settlement transformed into a dynamic center for trade, business, and labor. So, if you’re into history, Fort Stockton makes a perfect day trip from El Paso.
Check out the Annie Riggs Memorial Museum. It has 13 rooms exhibiting amazing collectibles and photographs that depicted life in Fort Stockton. Some of the more popular displays are a Sears Roebuck cast-iron bed from the 1900s, a controversial sheriff’s blood-stained desk (he was killed while using it), and a Columbian mammoth’s tusk.
Annie Riggs Memorial Museum
Address: 301 S Main St., Fort Stockton, TX 79735
Website: Annie Riggs Memorial Museum
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 9am - 5pm (September to May); Mon - Sat: 9am - 6pm (June to August) (closed Sun)
Price: 3 USD (adults); 2 USD (children); 2.50 USD (seniors); veterans and children under 6 are free
Plan your day trips
Whether you want to explore the rugged outdoors of New Mexico or relive the history of the Wild West, make sure you’ve got your itinerary all worked out. Arrange tickets in advance for places that may be crowded. Talk to the kids about where to meet up, should you get separated. And don’t forget to look up from your phone once in a while to enjoy everything the Panhandle region has to offer.
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