Looking for fun things to do outside in and around Fort Bliss? Located on the New Mexico and Texas border, Fort Bliss isn’t exactly a small installation. To the contrary, Fort Bliss is the second largest base the Army operates, covering more than 1.2 million acres of desert, which you may have used for various training purposes.
But there is so much more to explore in El Paso, Texas’ westernmost city. The majority of them are very family-friendly.
Whether your kids are still quite young or are on the cusp of heading off to college or joining the military, there’s something fun for just about everyone in the Sun City. Here are just a few of them:
1. Downtown El Paso
If you’re not sure where to begin, downtown El Paso is a great place to putter around. Like many other downtown portions of major metropolitan areas, it has a little bit of everything, including casual dining restaurants, museums and an amusement park.
Let’s start with the restaurant scene. One of the more popular eateries is Park Tavern. Located in the heart of downtown El Paso on East Mills Avenue, Park Tavern opened in 2017 but has made a name for itself quickly, receiving stellar reviews on several customer review websites like Yelp and Trip Advisor. The restaurant specializes in classic American fare like chicken, burgers, macaroni and cheese and club sandwiches, but it also has an impressive array of specialty meats and seafood offerings on the menu, including elk tenderloin and grilled salmon.
Park Tavern is a short drive from Fort Bliss and is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. It’s closed all day Sunday.
Not far from downtown El Paso is Franklin Mountain State Park. As one of the largest urban parks in the nation at nearly 27,000 acres, Franklin Mountain State Park is open throughout the year and is truly an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. From recreational hiking to mountain biking to camping and rock climbing, the options available are as wide-ranging as the park itself.
Visit the Texas Parks & Wildlife website for admission information and potential trail closures. Entrance fees are $5 for adults, while children 12 years of age and under get in free.
If you’re looking for a weekend outing, try the El Paso Downtown Artist and Farmers Market. Open throughout the year and found on Anthony Street, this attraction is in the Union Plaza District and features a variety of fruits and vegetable offerings that are regionally grown, as well as items for arts and crafts. What’s available largely depends on the day and time of year you go.
Usually, the El Paso Downtown Artist and Farmers Market is open exclusively on Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., but has been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Be sure to check the website before you go for the latest updates and information.
2. Fort Bliss and Old Ironsides Museums
Even though Old Ironsides Museum is physically located at Fort Bliss, active-duty military life can be unrelenting, thereby preventing you from paying a visit. Now’s the time to change that, especially if you, your spouse or older kids are military history buffs.
Located at 1735 Marshall Road, Old Ironsides Museum is home to a wide variety of exhibits, galleries and artillery that relate to the 1st Armored Division, spread out over 50,000 square feet. As The Crazy Tourist points out, prior to stepping foot into the museum facility itself, you’ll find a collection of tanks, armored vehicles and helicopters prominently featured outside in Combined Arms Heritage Park. Some of these hulking pieces of machinery were used on the battlefield during World War II.
As for the exhibits themselves, they tell the story of Fort Bliss’ unique role in America’s military history, during conflicts as far back as the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Mexican Revolution as well as the German theater during World War II.
The museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays but is open to all visitors between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free.
3. Hueco Tanks State Park
Roughly 32 miles northeast of central El Paso sits Hueco Tanks State Park. Between the Franklin Mountains to the west and Hueco Mountains to the east, this historic site is an outdoor paradise and covers approximately 860 acres, primarily of rock basin hollows that collect rainwater, which are called “huecos” in Spanish.
In addition to the park’s natural beauty — from unusual wildlife like spadefoot toads to flora like the netleaf hackberry and Texas mulberry — Hueco Tanks State Park is steeped in aboriginal history. The Crazy Tourist notes that thousands of years ago, the original occupants of these lands would walk on foot to collect the rainwater in the rock basins they needed for drinking and bathing. The tribes included the Mescalero, Lipan Apache, Jumano, Comanche, Kiowa and Tiguas, according to the Texas State Historical Association.
With 20 campsites located there, you can pitch a tent and spend the night out under the stars in the Lone Star State.
For more information on entrance fees and COVID restrictions, visit the Texas Parks & Wildlife website.
4. The Insights Science Museum
Whoever said science is boring hasn’t visited the Insights El Paso Science Center. Founded in 1979, the Insights Science Museum has served the El Paso community for over 40 years and is replete with a variety of hands-on exhibits and showcases that are centered around STEAM education — science, technology, engineering, art and math. From exploring artificial intelligence and robotics to playing games that help kids learn about the mechanics of circuits and electricity, an afternoon at the Insights Science Museum at 4120 Rio Bravo Street is a great way to combine education and entertainment. Check out its homepage for the latest updates on schedules, ticket prices and answers to frequently asked questions.
5. Fort Bliss National Cemetery
While a trip to the cemetery may not seem like the prototypical family activity, the Fort Bliss National Cemetery is a truly memorable place to visit, whether it’s to pay tribute to the dearly departed or to enjoy the peacefulness of the gorgeous surroundings.
With a panoramic view of the Franklin Mountains to the west and the tree-lined avenue near to the visitor center, Fort Bliss Cemetery is a true gem of a location that is breathtaking in its sheer beauty and overall landscape, which spans approximately 83 acres. Several military heroes were buried there, many of whom earned the Medal of Honor, including Corporal Frank Bratling, Master Sergeant Victor Huge Espinoza, Jr. and Staff Sergeant Ambrosio Guillen.
Go to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ website for more specifics on the Fort Bliss National Cemetery regarding visitation hours, office hours and for details on special events taking place on Memorial Day or Veterans Day.
As one of the oldest cities in America, El Paso is crawling with places to see and things to do. This list is truly just the beginning.
While you’re out and about, feel free to stop in and see us at Omni Financial. Located on Dyer Street, we specia
lize in military loans that you can use as you wish. We serve the Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range bases. Please come on by — even if it’s just to say hi. We’d be delighted to see you. Contact us online 24/7 for information on our products and service offerings.
This blog is for informational purposes only. Visit the individual websites for complete details including hours of operation and pricing information. Information can change at any time. Omni Financial does not endorse, recommend or imply affiliation with the listed companies, events or organizations.