Top 12 Free Things To Do in El Paso

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Bordered by Mexico and New Mexico, El Paso envelopes visitors with Southwestern hospitality and culture without emptying wallets. From the country’s largest urban park to world-class museums and Old West sites, many attractions come gratis.

AttractionActivity Type
National Border Patrol MuseumEducational visit
Old Historic Sites TourCultural exploration
Border Highway MonumentsSightseeing
Organ Mountains ExplorationNature and hiking
Downtown MuralsArt viewing
El Paso ZooWildlife observation
Arts and Farmer’s MarketsShopping and cultural experience
Franklin Mountains State ParkHiking and nature exploration
Craft Brewery BoomCulinary and craft beer exploration
Jazz Nights at Price’s CreameriesEntertainment and music
Concordia CemeteryHistorical exploration

Explore murals depicting border life, hike trails with views stretching from craggy peaks to vast desert bowls into Mexico, learn about Pancho Villa’s attacks, all while enjoying El Paso’s sunny climate and warm welcoming spirit. Here are the top things to experience wallet-free.

Visit the National Border Patrol Museum

Name and Location: The National Border Patrol Museum is located at 4315 Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive in El Paso, Texas, near the U.S.-Mexico border.

History and Significance: Founded in 1984, this museum details the history and activities of the United States Border Patrol through exhibits and displays about illegal immigration, drug smuggling, and related border enforcement.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore the indoor and outdoor exhibits showcasing vehicles, equipment, and artefacts used by the Border Patrol. The museum outlines the challenges officers face working along the border.

Visitor Information: The National Border Patrol Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9am to 5pm. Entry is free but donations are appreciated.

El Paso’s deep roots along the US-Mexico border come alive at the National Border Patrol Museum detailing the agency’s early frontier origins to modern missions combatting terrorism and trafficking. Peruse the modest uniforms, weapons, vehicles, and gear used since they began in 1924 including curios like drones and heat-activated rescue beacons. Eye-opening exhibits cover smuggling trends and experiences from female agents while touching video interviews explain their lifesaving efforts to honor migrants who tragically perish attempting dangerous border crossings.

Tour Old Historic Sites

Name and Location: El Paso has several historic sites located in and around downtown offering glimpses into the city’s past settlememt and development.

History and Significance: Key sites include the 1827 Magoffinsville Homestead, 1859 Concordia Cemetery, and former Jessie James courtroom at the County Courthouse on the El Paso Mission Trail. Guided tours provide the history.

What to Expect: Visitors can step back in time by walking through old adobe homes, 19th century shops and churches, while learning about life on the frontier through costumed reenactments and interpreters describing the history.

Visitor Information: Free guided walking tours of historic downtown sites start Saturdays at 10am from the El Paso Museum of History. Tours run 90 minutes.

Step back through epochs exploring El Paso’s towering Mission Trail markers commemorating the first Spanish explorers traversing here in the 1500s seeking gold on behalf of the Spanish crown. Visual displays explain the region’s scores of indigenous tribes later impacted by missionary colonization attempts starting in the 1600s. Sites like the 300-year-old Ysleta Mission with its hand-carved altarpiece statue and colorful interior murals still intact transport you to El Paso’s earliest communities.

Experience the Border Highway Monuments

Name and Location: Large concrete monuments stand along the Border Highway in El Paso marking the border between the United States and Mexico.

History and Significance: Originally installed in 1889 after early survey work, the current 18-foot obelisk monuments were rebuilt in 1967. They visually mark the dividing line on the Rio Grande.

What to Expect: Heading west out of El Paso on Border Highway, travelers pass monument number one, the first of 55 obelisk markers spaced approximately 1,000 feet apart delineating the international border line before reaching monument number 55 at the New Mexico state line.

Visitor Information: The 18-foot tall obelisk monuments stand on the south side of Border Highway in west El Paso. They are publicly accessible.

The Chamizal National Memorial near downtown contains several striking monuments explaining how the once-disputed Chamizal territory separating El Paso and Juarez finally got returned to Mexico in the 1960s, cementing goodwill after nearly 100 years of bickering. Outdoor sculptures include the iconic XII Travelers art piece with musical chimes and the colorful Aztec calendar stone. Plaques in English and Spanish describe border diplomacy – don’t miss the 54 hand-painted concrete steles lining Highway 54 heading south into Mexico representing lives lost attempting to cross through treacherous deserts.

Explore the Organ Mountains

Name and Location: The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument stretches across 496,000 acres east and northeast of Las Cruces, New Mexico, 50 miles northwest of El Paso, Texas.

History and Significance: President Obama designated the area a national monument in 2014 to protect its sensitive natural and archaeological sites. The Chihuahuan desert landscape contains mountain peaks, canyons, petroglyphs, and habitat for unique wildlife species.

What to Expect: Recreational activities include hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, camping, bird watching, stargazing, and learning about area history and ecology on ranger-guided walks. Visitors should carry plenty of water.

Visitor Information: The BLM has an information center on US-70. Some areas require high-clearance or 4×4 vehicles to access. Visit the BLM site for trip planning details.

Basking beneath massive Organ Mountain peaks at the southern end of the Rockies, Northeast El Paso lets nature lovers immerse among rugged desert landscapes blanketing the region. Over 45 miles of cactus-studded trails tempt hikers and mountain bikers with varied terrain from meandering paths along the precambrian granite outcroppings to steep switchbacked scrambles towards knife-ridge peaks revealing staggering vistas overlooking white-sand bowls pocked with green shrubs decoratively dotting the valley floors.

Peruse Downtown Murals

Name and Location: Over 40 colorful murals decorate walls and buildings throughout downtown El Paso highlighting the city’s culture and heritage.

History and Significance: For decades, muralists have transformed El Paso’s architecture into vivid canvasses that pay tribute to the region’s history. The murals depict everything from Native American themes to the industrialization of the border.

What to Expect: Murals greet visitors at the El Paso airport while walking tours allow people to spot stunning works across downtown describing the meaning behind each piece and artist. Favorites include “Pass of the North”, “Chaparral”, and the 1966 flood mural.

Visitor Information: Free mural walking tours by the El Paso Museum of Art run Saturdays at 10am from the museum. Tours are 90 minutes.

El Paso conservatives itself a mural capital thanks to efforts transforming drab buildings into al fresco art extravaganzas celebrating Chicano culture. Depictions of Aztec warriors, Day of the DeadSkeletons, lucha libre wrestlers, and other iconic images colorfully enliven walls especially along South El Paso, Segundo Barrio, and Duranguito neighborhoods conveying pride. Stop into galleries like The Artisan Hotel Boutique showcasing more talent. And don’t miss the bright neon lights of former movie houses like the 1930 Plaza Theatre on Pioneer Plaza.

Visit the El Paso Zoo

Name and Location: The El Paso Zoo is located at 4001 E. Paisano Drive in central El Paso, Texas, nestled near McKelligon Canyon.

History and Significance: Founded in 1930, the 35-acre El Paso Zoo exhibits over 220 species from around the world. As one of the top zoos in the U.S., it focuses on wildlife education and conservation.

What to Expect: Visitors can observe exotic animals like giraffes, tigers, monkeys, reptiles, birds, and more up close while learning about wildlife conservation. Interactive feeding demos run daily. Special events occur seasonally.

Visitor Information: The zoo is open daily except December 25th. Adult admission is $14. Tickets should be booked online in advance whenever possible especially on weekends.

Families delight interacting with lions, tigers, monkeys, tropical birds, and beloved critters at the El Paso Zoo – incredibly free except for some optional rides and snacks scattered throughout. See baboons hamming it up at their expansive habitats, watch otters and polar bears play, and observe exotic birds like green turacos showing their rococo feathers. Fun interactive displays let kids dig up “artifacts” in a simulated archaeological site or squeeze through tunnels mimicking burrowing animal dens across 35 educational acres near downtown.

Shop at Arts and Farmer’s Markets

Name and Location: El Paso has several popular farmers and arts markets that take place weekly around the city during warmer months.

History and Significance: Markets showcase fresh regional food plus handmade artisan goods while providing places for the community to gather through a shared-space model supporting small business.

What to Expect: Visitors will find vendors selling produce, baked goods, jam, salsa, jewelry, pottery, textiles and more. Music and family activities accompany booths at some markets with prepared food options available.

Visitor Information: Major markets include the Downtown Artist and Farmers Market on Saturdays and Franklin Mountains Farmer and Art Market on Sundays. Hours vary per market.

From handmade crafts to farm-fresh produce to tantalizing food trucks, El Paso’s lively farmers and arts markets promise free entertainment even without spending. Downtown’s Arts Festival Plaza every Saturday and Sunday contains local artisans selling jewelry, soaps, clothing, and other creative wares that make affordable gifts. Don’t miss the musician busking while snacking on Sonoran hot dogs or empanadas from the Monarca Food Truck. Other neighborhoods also host open-air markets throughout the week.

Hike at Franklin Mountains State Park

Name and Location: Franklin Mountains State Park sits on over 24,000 acres surrounding North America’s largest urban mountain range located wholly within El Paso city limits.

History and Significance: Opened in 1979, Franklin Mountains State Park protects a unique chihuahuan desert habitat with 100+ miles of multi-use trails for hikers to explore plants, wildlife, and geology among the Franklins’ dramatic cliffs and canyons.

What to Expect: Visitors can select from trails ranging easy to difficult leading to scenic views and landmarks like Ranger Peak, North Franklin Mountain, and Mundy’s Gap while observing desert plants and birds.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily for recreational use with headquarters located on Transmountain Road. Park use permits are $5 daily or $25 annually per vehicle.

Escape the desert heat by heading uphill towards towering rock formations, pine forests, and supreme overlooks over El Paso and Juarez within sprawling 24,247-acre Franklin Mountains State Park bordering the city’s edge. Crisscrossed by over 100 miles of multi-use trails catering to all abilities, visitors enjoy birdwatching, rock climbing, wildflower sightings, and observing more than 100 animal species roaming over the seven distinctive biomes blanketing the park from grasslands to wooded foothills ascending towards the highest peak topping out at 7,192 feet.

Trace El Paso’s Craft Brewery Boom

Name and Location: Over a dozen locally-owned craft breweries and taprooms have opened across El Paso in recent years, many concentrated downtown or around the Cincinnati Entertainment district.

History and Significance: El Paso’s craft beer scene has expanded rapidly since 2012 as state licensing laws have relaxed. New breweries cater to an appreciation for quality, bold-flavored local beer using regional ingredients.

What to Expect: Visitors can sample a range of ales, lagers, sours and more by tracking down favorite microbrew hangouts like Deadbeach, Hillcrest, Alamo Beer Co. and others while meeting the brewers and bartenders behind each operation.

Visitor Information: Most taprooms are only open Thursdays through Sundays with limited hours. Transportation by Uber, Lyft or taxi is recommended for brewery hopping.

Thanks to Texas craft brewery laws loosening in 2013, El Paso experienced an artisanal beer renaissance evident in over a dozen brew houses and tap rooms now located throughout the city pouring hoppy IPAs, rich stouts, and Belgian-style sours. Beer lovers can walk, bike, or even shuttle between local favorite spots like DeadBeach’s dog-friendly taproom decorated with vibrant murals or Blazing Tree’s patio overlooking the mountains to sample flights highlighted by unique local ingredients like green chiles, prickly pears, and Mexican chocolate.

Jazz Nights at Price’s Creameries

Name and Location: Every Friday and Saturday night, Price’s Creameries in central El Paso features live jazz music in its outdoor courtyard as guests enjoy ice cream treats.

History and Significance: Family-owned Price’s Creameries has been serving its popular signature creamy confections from this location since 1947 during hot Southwestern summers while also supporting the local arts.

What to Expect: Visitors can indulge in sundaes, shakes, and banana splits against a lively backdrop of El Paso’s best jazz performers filling the courtyard with rhythms late into the evenings in a fun, casual setting.

Visitor Information: Price’s Creameries is located at 4009 Trowbridge Drive and open 1pm to 10pm Tuesday through Sunday. Jazz nights run 9pm to midnight, Friday and Saturday evenings.

Vintage nightlife spot Price’s Creameries first opened in 1922 as an ice cream and dairy shop before transitioning decades later into one of El Paso’s hippest live jazz and drinks destinations. Now the kitschy worthwhile time capsule hosts free nightly concerts from the border city’s most talented musicians across genres like Latin, funk, soul, reggae, and blues inside its swanky retro interior decorated with era photographs, gradients, and priceless Elvis and Frank Sinatra kitsch.

Ponder Mysteries at Concordia Cemetery

Name and Location: Concordia Cemetery is a historic Victorian-style graveyard located at 411 Yale St in El Paso’s Concordia neighborhood near downtown.

History and Significance: Established in 1859 after El Paso’s first English-speaking settlers arrived, Concordia holds the burial places of many city pioneers and legends but is also said to be haunted by infamous Judge Charles Howard.

What to Expect: Visitors strolling the cemetery grounds may spot the alleged ghost of Judge Howard in a top hat floating down Buena Vista street on eerie evenings. Memorials also mark Old West dentist Doc Holliday and magician Thurston’s graves.

Visitor Information: Concordia Cemetery is open to the public daily until sunset. Flashlights recommended for evening paranormal investigators. Respectful conduct required.

Wander the labyrinthine paths of historic Concordia Cemetery near downtown overflowing with striking Victorian-era monuments marking the earliest settlers in unmarked graves to prominent lawmen and artists that help tell El Paso’s story emerging from lawless frontier into thriving bicultural metropolis. Self-guided walking tours include a booklet identifying the most interesting resting places, like prostitutes buried dangerously beyond consecrated ground or the firearm-marked grave of a notorious judge murdered in the streets by an outlaw.

Culture melds seamlessly with nature in El Paso where public gardens bloom with Southwestern plants and once-forgotten structures tell vivid histories still resonating. Visiting El Paso gratis by scaling craggy peaks or admiring intricate murals praising border life allows deeper connections to the bicultural region through art, ecology, shared pasts and promising futures being forged across borders, languages, and time here in the beating heart of the American Southwest.

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