Presidio Chapel of San Elizario.
Photo by gettyimages.com/GNagel
Several historical hot spots and cultural gems lie within an hour's drive of Sun City, including the 8-mile-long Mission Trail, which travels to three of the oldest churches in the United States, and Ciudad Juárez, El Paso's sister city and the second-largest metropolitan area on the United States– Mexico border.
Once part of a Spanish fortress, the Presidio Chapel of San Elizario served Spanish soldiers and their families stationed there in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The stately Spanish Mission–style structure boasts an intricate interior outfitted with gold-trimmed pillars and murals framing the altar. Its 1877 adobe façade is the focal point for San Elizario Plaza, where you'll also find the Territorial-style Los Portales Museum and Information, which highlights the Mission Valley's past, including the First Thanksgiving held here in 1598. Walking tour maps guide visitors through the town's historic district, which unfolds with distinctive artistic flare via a handful of galleries.
This community is one of the oldest continuous settlements in the Southwest; its signature landmark, Nuestra Señora de la Concepción del Socorro, or Socorro Mission, is touted as one of Texas' oldest missions. Built in Mexico, the 1691 structure was annexed into the United States when the mercurial Rio Grande docked the mission north of the border. Its design details, from its stair-stepped façade to the painted vigas (ceiling beams) topping 6-foot-thick adobe walls, blend Spanish and Native American styles.
Ysleta del Sur
Tigua and Piro Indians established La Misión de Corpus Christi de San Antonio de la Ysleta del Sur, or Ysleta Mission, the oldest continuously active parish in Texas, here in 1682, when they were forced to flee their traditional homelands after the 1680 Pueblo Revolt unfolded in what is now New Mexico. Trivia buffs will note that the first Catholic Mass in present-day Texas was celebrated near here on Oct. 12, 1680. Parishioners restored the church, giving its stately bell tower and green-glass circular window new life.
Mission Trail Art Market Professional artists present dazzling pottery, jewelry, home décor, and other crafts and fine art on the third Sunday of the month from March to November. A re-enactment of Billy the Kid's jail breakout coincides with the monthly markets.