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5 Days In and Around El Paso.
March was a field month. That’s just the army way for me to say, my husband was gone for training. In reality, he was probably only 20 miles from El Paso, but because he was doing training he wasn’t able to come home for a few weeks. This would honestly have been a really not fun (read: lonely) time for me, if not for the fact that I was able to have friends come visit me. I feel so incredibly blessed that not one, not two, not three, but four friends (including my sister!) were able to come stay with me while my husband was gone.
This was great because not only did I not have to stay home alone for the whole month, but I also got to go on lots of fun day (or two day) trips with some of my very best friends.
I’ve only lived in El Paso for less than a year, so none of my friends or family from home had been able to visit yet. And since I’m now settled in and know my way around, I was able to play tour guide for them. I love that I’m able to have the experience of living in such a different place than I’m used to, even if it does feel a bit foreign to me. In short, it was fun to play tour guide to my old friends in my new town.
For the most part we all stuck to doing activities that are within a two hour radius of El Paso (with the exception of my 48 Hours in New Mexico trip with one friend.) We tried to hit all the nearby highlights in the 5 days that my sister was in town, so I hope you enjoy following along on our 5 Days In and Around EP!
I hope that this post will give you some great ideas for things to do in and around El Paso/Fort Bliss, Texas.
One of my favorite day trips is Las Cruces, New Mexico. It is about an hour from El Paso (depending on what side of town you live on) and on Saturdays it is home to one of the best Artists and Farmers Markets ever. I’ve been to quite a few of these, so I feel like I know a good one when I see it. The entire main street of town is lined with arts and crafts booths, plants, produce and food trucks. This is a wonderful place to spend an hour or two.
This was the first place I took my sister after she arrived in town early on a Saturday morning. We had a great time and she was able to get some unique souvenirs and gifts to take home with her. We also stumbled upon the cutest little art shop downtown called Mew + Co. I could have bought everything in the store. They had a nice variety of products in a variety of price ranges, which I appreciated. I am looking forward to going back to this store the next time I’m in town.
Whenever we are in the Las Cruces area, we always go to La Posta de Mesilla for lunch. This is a cute, old Mexican restaurant in the historic square of La Mesilla. It’s a really neat place, with very traditional architecture and elaborate decor (including a live tree and parrot cages inside) that makes it an experience, rather than just a meal. And it’s a very good meal too. Mesilla is a really pleasant area to walk around and there are several gift shops, candy stores and other restaurants.
White Sands National Monument
After taking my sister to a delicious lunch at La Posta, we went to White Sands National Monument, which was about an hour away. We had a blast taking photos, sledding and and burying each other in the dunes. It was like a beach day without the water. We spent at least three hours here just playing. It felt like we were kids again. It was a very long first day of my sisters visit (especially for her, having flown in early that morning) but at White Sands we were able to relax and have fun at the same time.
After our very long, fun, and exhausting Saturday, we had a much more relaxed day in El Paso on Sunday. We started off the day by going to church, followed by lunch at Ardovino’s Pizza, an El Paso staple. Afterwards we walked around the Upper Valley Farmers Market (did I mention I go to a lot of farmers markets?) which is located in the same shopping center as the Ardovino’s we ate at. Once again, we were able to browse through some unique arts and crafts. This market is much smaller than the one in Las Cruces, but it’s really nice and there’s a great photo op at the El Paso postcard wall.
Hillside Coffee and Donuts
After we finished up at the Farmer’s Market, we headed over to Hillside Coffee & Donuts to enjoy some dessert. This neat little coffee shop is surrounded by several tiny stores, including a record store and t-shirt store. It’s fairly inconspicuous, even though it is located right off a main road, so I was surprised by how much was in this small space. Not to mention, the coffee & donuts were great. [I recommend the cold brew with coconut cream. It’s super yummy.] This concluded our Sunday outings, as we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing at home, and catching up on some sister time.
Franklin Mountains State Park
Monday was another fun day in El Paso. We went for a great hike on the Ron Coleman Trail off of Transmountain Highway. The climb was steep, and we had to stop and rest along the way, but the view at the top was definitely worth it. Looking down on one side you have an interesting perspective looking down on the winding highway, and on the other side you can see all of El Paso and Juarez, Mexico. It’s one of my favorite hikes to take friends on because of the fantastic views from the top.
After this strenuous hike, we rewarded ourselves with lunch at Kahlo Kitchen, one of my favorite nearby restaurants. This is the cutest little Mexican/American burger place, with very colorful decor that would make its namesake proud. Do yourself a favor and order the Chicken Chipotle Adobo sandwich with sweet potato fries. You’re welcome.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
On Tuesday we were joined by our sweet friend Bethany who was on her way to Cali for her next travel nurse contract, because she’s a boss.
The three of us took another quick day trip, this time to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This is one of the most interesting things you can do in this area, in my opinion. It is so unique and a really enjoyable way to spend the day. It’s only about 2 hours from El Paso, so it is really easy to go for the day. Just make sure you fill up on gas before you leave town, because there is literally no where to stop until you get there.
From El Paso, the drive to Carlsbad takes you past Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which is the highest point in Texas. We didn’t stop there on this trip, but it made for a really beautiful drive. We spent the majority of the trip singing, as Bethany had recently downloaded the Greatest Showman soundtrack, so we kept ourselves pretty entertained.
I’ve always walked down through the natural entrance into the caverns. It takes around an hour to get to the bottom and then at the bottom it takes about 1 more hour to see the whole thing. It’s always so cool and refreshing inside the cave, even when it’s very hot outside, so I think this would be a great activity to do in the summer when you are starting to get sick of 110 degree days. And the best part is that you can take the elevator back up. And after 2 hours of walking, you’ll be very grateful for the quick trip back up to the visitor center.
We packed a picnic for supper and ate at the scenic overlook outside the park’s visitor center after our hike. And we were very hungry after our walk through the caverns. I would recommend that at the very least you pack a snack to eat after the hike.
On this particular trip home from the caverns, we took a little detour so that I could practice taking some night sky photos out in the desert, away from the city lights. It was a lot of fun, but I’m glad I had Meg and Bethany with me to make the time go by quickly while we waited on the stars to come out. I’m looking forward to getting some more practice in with this type of photography in the near future, so keep your eyes open for that!
Wednesday was my sisters last full day here, so we spent it doing a few final El Paso things on my list. We started the day off by having a delicious breakfast at Bonny’s Cafe. This Mexican cafe is known for its giant breakfast wraps – literally these burritos are longer than my arm (and I have the pictures to prove it.) The atmosphere of this restaurant is fun too – it has a retro diner vibe, with lots of old Hollywood pictures on the wall, and funky action figures everywhere. I’m a big fan of the restaurant’s eclectic decor.
After this we did a bit of shopping, drove by downtown and I took my sister on the Scenic Drive on the edge of the mountain. We sat and enjoyed the scenic overlook for quite a while, and I showed her another view of El Paso from above. This was the most perfect, peaceful way to end our time together in El Paso.
A lot of these photos were taken on our phones – but for my Nikon I mainly use these lenses: Nikon AF-S DX 35mm F/1.8G Lens (portrait) Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II Digital Zoom Lens (AF-S Motor) (for Nikon) (wide angle)