Convince us El Paso is more than just hot!
August 23, 2010 10:04 PM   Subscribe

Nearby drug violence, unbearable heat, and no grass in our yard... Does anyone have any reasons to look forward to moving to El Paso?

My husband is enlisted in the Army, and just got preliminary word that he'll be getting orders for Fort Bliss, near El Paso, TX. We've never wanted to live in Texas, but it seems like this could be good for his military career, promotion/deployment-wise. However - everyone we know has told us that it's going to be dangerous and dirty and just plain terrible. Mr. Keribear does have an opportunity to apply for a different location and possibly move us elsewhere, but we want to give Texas a shot before we rule it out!

Anyone have experience with the El Paso area? Tell us what's awesome about it! What's there to do? We like museums, shows, hiking, sports, and spicy food! Any additional advice about which areas/suburbs are safe and fun would also be appreciated. Thanks, AskMeFi.
posted by keribear to Society & Culture (17 answers total)
I'm on my phone and can't really link to the stats, but El Paso itself is actually very safe, in spite of what is happening in Juarez. It's not a dangerous city. When I lived in the area, I enjoyed mountain hikes, some decent performances at the Abraham Chavez theater, Shakespeare on the Rocks, and abundant good, cheap Mexican food. It's not my favorite city in the world, but there's no need to fear for your safety, and there are some neat things around. Also, you are just two hours away from some beautiful scenery in the mountains of the Lincoln National Forest, and not much further from the Gila National Wilderness.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:29 PM on August 23, 2010

Get ready for a lot of culture shock. Sure. But get ready for some really amazing beauty. El Paso sunsets can be downright unbelievable!
posted by 2oh1 at 10:29 PM on August 23, 2010

Keep in mind that the problems in Juarez are mostly in Juarez. Juarez and El Paso may share a border, but they're worlds apart.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:32 PM on August 23, 2010

Well, despite what's happening in Ciudad Juárez (which I keep a close eye on from my perch here in Mexico City), El Paso is incredibly safe for a major U.S. city, in terms of homicide rates. See this recent article, which says the city is in the midst of its lowest murder rate in 23 years. As in, only two through May. Which is very, very, VERY low.

So no, it's not at all dangerous even though it's next to apocalyptic Juárez. I have never lived in El Paso. Hell, I've never been there. But you should not be put off by fears of violence -- though I can't speak to questions about culture, nightlife, weather, etc. It does host the Sun Bowl, if college football is your bag.
posted by donpedro at 10:46 PM on August 23, 2010

(That's lower than Anchorage in 2008, incidentally.)
posted by donpedro at 10:53 PM on August 23, 2010

Best answer: I haven't lived in El Paso for 20+ years and I'm sure most of my info is outdated but . . . .

Being a military family member wasn't bad. Ft Bliss had really nice facilities (that was still true as recently as 8 yrs ago). My dad was stationed there 3 times in between tours to Germany so we saw plenty of the town.

The heat can be shocking but it is livable. I have a harder time dealing with 99 degrees on the East Coast (gah, humidity) than 107 degrees in El Paso.

There's lots to do if you like the outdoors - Hueco Tanks, Cloudcroft, White Sands, Gila, Elephant Butte, Carlsbad Caverns, the Lincoln Forest, etc. Hiking/camping in area can be amazing!

As for safety, I used to shop across the border but from what friends have said, that really isn't advisable anymore. See the stats linked to above - I now live near Baltimore so I think I'd feel safer in EPT.

You are going to Spicy Food Heaven but be prepared that spicy in Alaska isn't going to be spicy in EPT. You will be 1.5 hours from Hatch, NM so put the festival on your calendar next year. If you're meat eaters, please visit Cattlemen's in Fabens for me. (they used to have equestrian shows out there which were fun to watch!)

We used to really enjoy going to see the Diablos play and I've heard that their new stadium is nice.

There's plenty to do in EPT - go and have fun!
posted by jaimystery at 5:05 AM on August 24, 2010

PS the worst sunburn I ever got was in El Paso . . . in February . . . in 50 degree weather with overcast skies. So wear sunscreen and buy a hat!
posted by jaimystery at 5:08 AM on August 24, 2010

So wear sunscreen and buy a hat!

And flip-flops. Going barefooted is now in your past. The sand burrs in your yard are murder.

That said, food is also in your future. Carne asada like you've never dreamt possible! El Paso is nice, really, it is. Pleasant, interesting, friendly, diverse. Its not the end of the earth, really.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:32 AM on August 24, 2010

And flip-flops. Going barefooted is now in your past. The sand burrs in your yard are murder.

yep - Green Goo in your bike tires too, if cycling is your bag. Can't tell you how many times I had to cut a ride short and push my bike to the bus stop b/c sandspurs got my tires.

I thought El Paso was a beautiful southwestern town the couple times I was down there. Great food, beautiful habitat. I wouldn't worry. And hey - no lawn, no lawnmower! At least it won't be like Denver, where people insist on growing Kentucky Bluegrass amid the sagebrush and yucca ;-p
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:51 AM on August 24, 2010

Where do you get this "unbearable heat" notion? El Paso has EXTREMELY low humidity- the heat is very bearable.

El Paso is to Juarez as Windsor, Ontario is to Detroit. The murders are in Juarez. El Paso is one of the safest major cities in the US- in fact, its murder rate makes it look downright Canadian, albeit Canadian in a city that is about 70% Hispanic. I'd jump at the chance to move there, at least for a while.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:18 AM on August 24, 2010

Road trips to Marfa & Terlingua!
posted by R. Mutt at 9:55 AM on August 24, 2010

Here are the links for the Chinati Foundation, and the Donald Judd Foundation in Marfa.
posted by R. Mutt at 10:07 AM on August 24, 2010

Best answer: Nthing that El Paso is one of the safest cities in the US. Just do not cross the border. Seriously.

And the heat, as someone else said, is a dry heat. I currently live in Houston, which is insanely humid. My mother, whom I visit frequently, lives in New Mexico, about 90 minutes from El Paso. In Houston, when it's 80 degrees, I'm miserable and hate to even walk outside to get in my car. At mom's house, I can go out in her yard and weed for an hour and a half when it's 106 degrees and I won't even feel hot. And I love to ride my bike there.

For hiking, you can go up to the Cloudcroft/Ruidoso/Lincoln Forest area in NM. If you take Highway 54 through Alamogordo (be sure to stop in Alamogordo at the pistacho orchards along the way), then turn onto U.S. 70 and climb the mountains, and there are several places you can pull to the side to check out the views, and/or hike. You'll end up in Ruidoso, which is a ski resort area, has horse racing if you're into that, and lots of little shops, restaurants, and galleries. Landlocked is a great, funky little restaurant there - try the roasted red pepper & smoked salmon soup. There's a casino on the Mescalaro Apache reservation, which is right there next to Ruidoso. They also have cultural activites on the reservation from time to time, including a big 4th of July Pow Wow every year. One of the prettiest drives I've ever been on is the drive between Cloudcroft and Ruidoso, in the summer. It's all part of the Reservation, and it's beautiful valleys surrounded by forest. When you get to Cloudcroft, they also have little shops and galleries. The general store there, Mountaintop Mercantile, has wonderful homemade pies. The Cheese Jalapeno bread is great, too. The whole area is surrounded by the Lincoln National Forest, which has lots of great hiking.

Also close to El Paso is White Sands, New Mexico, where you can go sledding on the gypsum sand, among other things.

Within El Paso, there's decent shopping and restaurants. I love Pho Tre Bien on I-10. The food is wonderful, and the outside patio is really nice, with a little creek running between interconnected ponds, and lots of Koi carp. Last time I was there, they had a sign up that said "Caution!!! Run-Away Turtles!!! Please close door immediately after entering to prevent nesting turtles from wandering out of the pond area and into the parking lot! Thank you!"

I couldn't even begin to recommend places for Mexican food, but it's everywhere. If someone ever comes up to you in a parking lot and asks you if you want to buy tamales, you should probably do it. There's nothing like still-hot tamales made fresh an hour ago by someone's grandma.

The H & H Car Wash and Restaurant is the proud recipient of El Paso's only James Beard award, I kid you not. Great Mexican food there, plus it's one of those places you should go to just to say you did.

I can't tell you much about sports, museums and shows in El Paso because I haven't actually lived in the area since 1978, and when I go visit mom, we just eat and shop our way around town. But I know they have the Cohen Stadium. And Alamogordo has the International Space Hall of Fame museum.

Sorry for the disjointedness/typos etc., but I'm writing this on the fly at work. Anyway, as a former military brat, I can tell you that there are both better and worse places to be stationed than El Paso. But it's not a total cultural wasteland.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:15 AM on August 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Coming back to add:

If you love to hike, I have to recommend Big Bend - its a few hours south of EPT. I can't remember what time of year we went there (we were volksmarching so I think Spring) but one of the paths led down to a tiny creek and suddenly we were surrounded by butterflies - hundreds and thousands of butterflies. It's on the Window Trail. I didn't get too close to the actual Window - I'm afraid of heights and a 600 ft drop isn't my idea of fun.
posted by jaimystery at 3:54 PM on August 24, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you for the thoughtful responses! I've read the stats saying that El Paso is safe, but it's nice to hear from some people with experience!

I appreciate the comforting words about the heat, as well... but I'm still dubious. We currently live in Alaska - one of last year's most memorable newspaper headlines read, "Runners felled by 70-degree temperatures!" It was 72 today and I didn't see many people not in shorts, with either tank tops or no shirts. ;) But I'll keep hoping that "it's a dry heat" holds true!

If anyone is still reading this thread, info about neighborhoods would be appreciated, but this is a great comforting start for us.
posted by keribear at 9:37 PM on August 24, 2010

If you haven't already, check out the El Paso Times online. You can usually get at least a feel for various neighborhoods by reading the local newspaper regularly for a while.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:58 AM on August 25, 2010

I lived in El Paso long ago, and my parents still live there.

I find the place grim, which is why I haven't visited in a long time. My parents are great El Paso promoters, but even they have told me some scary crime stories.

So good luck, I hope you find the fun, but please be very careful and diligently Google whatever neighborhood you're interested in. There's plenty of poverty and desperate people.

I will say I had the very best tamales ever there, bought from the home of the maker. I don't have her address.
posted by Lizzle at 4:30 PM on November 11, 2010

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