Cool things in & around El Paso, TX?
October 8, 2006 7:04 PM   Subscribe

What are some cool things to do and see in West Texas & southern New Mexico?

I'm thinking of going to Marfa, TX, to see Donald Judd's Chinati Foundation museum. (An old army base converted to a permanent installation of minimalist art.) I'd fly in and out of El Paso, and have about a week to spend. I'm compiling a list of other stuff to do in a 2 days' drive diameter of El Paso. On my list: The Marfa Mystery Lights, White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, a mineral baths spa in Truth or Consequences. I'll be picking up a travel guidebook, but I thought I'd ask the hive mind specifically for any interesting & offbeat things to see. I really love mid-century modern architecture, historical sites, outsider art and modern art, and natural wonders that I can't see in the Northeast. I'm feeling very overstressed by NYC life and want to go to (relatively) quiet and stress-free places. I may bring my tent along and do a little car camping, but I'm not up for any serious backcountry hiking or mountaineering. I am clean & sober, so great bars, brewery & winery tours, etc., don't do a lot for me. Thanks!
posted by Cranialtorque to Travel & Transportation around El Paso, TX (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Big Bend is awesome, but probably not something that yields its wonders to a driveby. There a couple lovely canyons in Guadelupe national park, good for an afternoon hike.
posted by carterk at 7:23 PM on October 8, 2006

The Cadillac Ranch is lots of fun, just west of Amarillo. It's a drive-up attraction, so no hiking at all. Graffiti is encouraged, but it's also fun just to go and see what other people have written. Arguably mid-century/modern art...right?
While driving west from Amarillo, you should also keep an eye out for the Bates Motel sign -- not sure if it's still there, as it's about 10 years since I last drove through the area.
A long day's drive from El Paso gets you all the way to Houston, and the Rothko Chapel. Not that I'm recommending it -- I hate the place -- but it is one of the best-known places for modern art in the region. It is very quiet and peaceful, which you said you wanted, but it makes me want to kill myself. And the rest of Houston's not exactly calm and stress-free.
I am a big fan of Fort Worth, which also has excellent art (the Kimball) and is just a nice, laid-back town. In Texas, at least, Fort Worth is considered the town where the West commences.

Caveat: I am a Texan born and raised, so my idea of driveable distances may not match up with yours. In other words, YMMV.
posted by katemonster at 8:01 PM on October 8, 2006

Are you interested in horse racing at all? You could go to Ruidoso or Hobbs (where I grew up) -- they both have racetracks. Ruidoso is a touristy little town that you might enjoy wandering through even if you don't like the racing. Hobbs itself is not necessarily a tourist destination.

You can also drive up into the Albuquerque/Santa Fe area -- there are lots of thigns to do there.

Juarez and further into Mexico is also an option.

Have fun and eat lots of green chile!
posted by sugarfish at 8:12 PM on October 8, 2006

35 miles east of El Paso is Cattlemen's Steak House. Go for the food, enjoy the weirdness.

32 miles north east of El Paso is Hueco Tanks State Park. From their website, access is now restricted but it's worth a phone call & a visit.

If you go to White Sands, head up to Ruidoso. It will probably be cold this time of year but there are several campgrounds near the lake. The view back towards White Sands is incredible but the drive is nerve wracking.

The Aztec Caves hike at Tom Mays park is really interesting. Call for reservations 915-566-6441

Elephant Butte, near Truth or Consequences, has some good camping spots.

The Kilbourne Hole/Aden Crater, 40 miles west of El Paso, might be in the wrong direction for you but it a neat day trip.

The Mission Trail starts 15 miles from El Paso's center - Mission Ysleta (est. 1681), Mission Socorro (1682, and San Elizario (1777).

If you can take heights, the Wyler Aerial Tramway is fun & be sure to motor up Scenic Drive. (from a website: From downtown, take Stanton St. north and go right on Rim Rd. The Rim Road neighborhood association just completed a beautiful new sidewalk so that visitors can take a walk along one of El Paso's most beautiful views. Follow Rim Road all the way around the mountain and take a driving tour of Manhattan Heights, one of El Paso's most beautiful historic neighborhoods.
posted by jaimystery at 8:20 PM on October 8, 2006

I recommend the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains, about 25 miles from Marfa. If you only have a brief time to spend in Big Bend, don't miss Santa Elena Canyon.
posted by found dog one eye at 8:50 PM on October 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

It's fun to just take the day and drive around out in the middle of nowhere.

Go to the sand hills, the meteor crater (yeah, you got it, it's a big hole in the ground). Visit Mentone and experience the least populous county (Loving County) in the US. Head to No Trees and marvel at the fact that there are actually trees there despite the name.

If you are headed over to White Sands, etc., Ruidoso is pretty nice, much much cooler and really pretty.

Though you said bars don't do it for you, do check out Tres Amigos in Odessa for the entertainment value of drunk locals attempting to ride live bulls after they've sucked down enough liquid courage.

Have fun!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:18 PM on October 8, 2006

Oh, and also check on flights in and out of Odessa-Midland, there could be some better deals than El Paso for your base of operations.

Also Chihuahua, Mexico is a nice place to visit. Far better than Juarez!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:36 PM on October 8, 2006

If you get down around Del Rio, you can rent pontoon boats to sleep on Lake Amistad.

Marathon has a great place to eat and stay at The Gage.

The new Prada store in Marfa and Fort Davis.

I love this part of the country. Have a great time!
posted by dog food sugar at 6:08 AM on October 9, 2006

When you're coming or going to White Sands, consider the drive on US Hwy 82 through Cloudcroft. It was beautiful when I went that way a few years ago. You might also consider Roswell a historic site of sorts.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:13 AM on October 9, 2006

Gila Cliff Dwellings. One of the few where you can still go into the old dwellings and take a look around. Be sure to stop at Gila Hot Springs on the way back to soak your tired feet.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:12 AM on October 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

a total second on the Gila Cliff Dwellings ... they are incredible, and yeah, you walk--well actually climb--in and around them.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 7:57 AM on October 9, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! I loves the hive mind!

So many great ideas, I went from wondering how I'll fill a week to wishing I had more time to spend. The Gila Cliff Dwellings look awesome, I'm definitely adding them to the list.

As much as I'd like to swing by the Cadillac Ranch and the Kimball museum, I have a very different idea of what a reasonable day's drive is. Some of the days I have a 5-hour drive planned, and that seems taxing to me. (When are y'all gonna finish building your subway system?)

Anyway, thanks again.
posted by Cranialtorque at 9:11 AM on October 9, 2006

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