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43 miles SE of Las Cruces, New Mexico; 564 miles NW of San Antonio; 617 miles W of Dallas
Here, in the sun-swept, mountainous desert of Texas's westernmost corner, is El Paso, the state's fifth-largest city. Built between two mountain ranges on the shores of the Rio Grande, the city is an urban history book, with chapters dedicated to Spanish conquistadors, ancient highways, gunfighters, border disputes, and modern sprawl.
El Paso's rich history is a result of its geography. The Franklin Mountains, which now border the downtown area and occupy the city's heart, offered natural defense for the American Indians who inhabited the area for more than 10 millenniums; the Rio Grande offered water. As the mountains slope into a vast canyon, the Spanish explorers who first crossed the Rio Grande in the 16th century saw it as an ideal north-south route, one that soon became known as the "Camino Real" (or "King's Highway") and served as a principal trade route for nearly 300 years.
With the 17th century came an influx of Catholic missionaries, a group that established numerous missions that survive today. But Spain saw its grip weaken, and a Mexican flag flew over El Paso when independence was established in 1821. This era was short-lived, as Mexico ceded the land north of the Rio Grande to the United States following the Mexican-American War (1846-48). After the railroad arrived in 1881, El Paso became a commercial center and also earned the nickname "Sin City," thanks to the saloons, brothels, and casinos that lined every major street. Many notorious gunfighters -- including Billy the Kid and John Wesley Hardin -- called the city home.
El Paso boomed in the early 20th century and again following World War II, entrenching itself as a center for agriculture, manufacturing, and international trade. The city's relationship with Ciudad Juárez has been symbiotic for centuries, even more so since the resolution of a century-old border dispute in the 1960s and the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. Unfortunately, increased border security and a wave of drug-related violence in Juárez have put a damper on the sister cities' relationship in recent years.
Nevertheless, in comparison with the relative wealth and glitz of Santa Fe or Tucson, El Paso is in many ways the authentic Southwest -- unpolished, undiluted, and honest. Separated by a swath of the Rio Grande, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez each represent their country's largest border city, and the local culture, a fusion of Mexican and American traditions, is distinct and unique in comparison to the way of life in eastern Texas. A day or two of exploration is worthwhile; take the time to wander downtown, enjoy a meal at one of the city's terrific Mexican restaurants, and gain a better understanding of what a border town is all about.
With convenient American Airlines flights to El Paso, it's simple to explore this diverse West Texas destination. From visiting art galleries and museums to rock climbing and even to discovering Texas wineries, there's no end to your choices of things to do in El Paso.
Outdoor activities in El Paso abound, especially for those who love adventure. Head to McKelligon Canyon in the Franklin Mountains State Park for rock climbing, hiking and biking. Even though the park covers about 37 square miles, it's all in the city limits of El Paso, making it the largest urban park in the country. Once you've climbed or hiked to the top of a ridge, you'll be rewarded with pristine views of the Rio Grande. A bit further from the city (about a 45-minute drive) is Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, where you'll also find challenging rock climbing and hiking along with excellent bird watching. But the grandest appeal here is the fact you can see fascinating pictographs drawn by Native Americans through the centuries.
Once you've shaken the dust off your boots, you're ready for one of our other favorite things to do in El Paso, and that's touring the city's many museums and galleries. You can find one devoted to almost everything! The International Museum of Art features diverse galleries where you can view an impressive Western collection, African tribal art, Asian objects and a fantastic Mexican Revolution collection. The Tigua Indian Cultural Center offers insights to El Paso's heritage, the War Eagles Air Museum features World War II-era aircraft and the Railroad & Transportation Museum even has a restored 1857 locomotive on display. And we can't leave out the El Paso Museum of History, the El Paso Museum of Art (featuring European works from the 13th century among other impressive collections) or the Magoffin Home State Historic Site, where you can tour an 1875 adobe structure.
After touring the city's many museums, it's time to explore area wineries, another of our top activities in El Paso. With more than 300 days of sunshine annually and the cool air in the Mesilla Valley, there's a great choice of varietals grown here. Winetasting may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of El Paso, but it's a wonderful (and underrated) feature of the area.
Fly to El Paso with American Airlines and enjoy exactly the type of getaway you love, whether it's an outdoor adventure, appreciating art and culture or tasting new wines. Search our flights and reserve your trip to this dynamic Texas destination now.
Prices shown are round-trip fares, including taxes and carrier-imposed fees. Advertised travel may be operated by an American Eagle or an American Connection carrier. American Eagle® service is operated by American Eagle Airlines, Inc., SkyWest Airlines, Inc., ExpressJet Airlines, Inc., or Republic Airline Inc. American Connection® service is operated by Chautauqua Airlines, Inc.
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