Photo by Mark Paulda
Adventure for All Ages
El Paso ranked as the best large city for families in a 2017 survey — and proves it daily with a newly expanded zoo, playgrounds, spray parks, and field-trip friendly museums.
El Paso Zoo
Your family's wild things will find suitable company with the 220 species showcased at the zoo. Plan ahead for the Wings of the World bird show, which swoops into the new Wildlife Amphitheater daily, and the popular Giraffe Encounters, where kids can feed lettuce to the zoo's three male giraffes. The upcoming Chihuahuan Desert exhibition — slated to open in fall 2019 — will showcase flora and fauna of the region, including mountain lions, burrowing owls, and the Mexican gray wolf.
Kids have ample space to play at this 400-acre park. Tee off at the 18-hole municipal golf course or the nine-hole executive course. Cast for trout, catfish, and bass in the 48-acre lake, which also rents canoes and pedal boats. All ages enjoy splashing around at the aquatic center, with its Olympic-size lap pool and children's area with water slides.
When El Paso heats up, families cool off at eight city spray parks, where water shoots from the ground in aquatic arabesques — much to kids' delight.
Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens
Housed on the University of Texas at El Paso campus, this museum traces the Southwest's history, from prehistoric feathered dinosaur fossils to Mesoamerican ritual ceremonial displays. The geology collection is rockin', with approximately 73,000 items. The museum grounds double as the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens. Home to 800 different species of plants, it's one of the largest captive collections of this type of desert flora in the world. Don't miss the authentic Bhutanese prayer wheel the people of Bhutan gifted to the garden in 2004. (You'll find numerous architectural nods to Bhutanese design throughout the campus.)
5 Things You Didn't Know About the El Paso Zoo
1. The zoo is a strong proponent of the M.O.M. (Missing Orangutan Mothers) Campaign, which brings awareness to issues facing the species, including loss of habitat and the disappearance of orangutan mothers due to poaching and the encroaching palm oil industry.
2. For Valentine's Day 2018, the zoo offered to name a cockroach after your ex. Viewers then tuned in to Facebook live to watch handlers feed the tasty cockroaches to one of the meerkats as part of the zoo's daily enrichment activities.
3. Each year, the zoo's resident elephants predict the winner of the Super Bowl by choosing one of two football helmets emblazoned with each team's logo. They've correctly chosen seven out of the last 10.
4. The zoo plans to add a dozen Magellanic penguins to its South America exhibition in an effort to help protect the species, which has been declared threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
5. Thanks to its accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the El Paso Zoo falls among the top 10 percent of zoos and animal exhibitors nationwide.