MilFam Travel: 10 Things to Do Near Fort Bliss
Located on the border of New Mexico and Texas, Fort Bliss is home to the country’s largest center for educating and training Air Defense Artillery soldiers and units. This massive, 1.12 million acre base is headquartered in El Paso, Texas and has the largest contiguous tract of restricted airspace in the contintnentual United States. Fort Bliss and El Paso are active hubs for many different branches of the military, bringing together 38,500 active duty military personnel and their families.
Check out our 10 Things to Do Near Fort Bliss list of popular attractions that can help make Fort Bliss feel like home.
1. Scenic Drive Overlook
Take in the best views of El Paso accessible by car. The Scenic Drive Overlook lies in the foothills of the Franklin Mountains and offers a clear vantage point of El Paso, Juarez, Mexico and the surrounding countryside.
Soak in the splendor of some of El Paso’s oldest and most prestigious architecture as you cruise up Scenic Drive. Upon arrival, the small park at the summit offers a perfect spot to plant yourself for a picnic. Day or night, the Scenic Drive Overlook overs spectacular views and is a great place to connect your family with the natural beauty of El Paso.
2. El Paso Zoo
Locally recognized as one of the best places for families with young children, the El Paso Zoo offers 35 acres of fun, adventures and learning. Beyond visiting the wide variety of animals living in the zoo, you can also spend the day exploring attractions like the African Star Train, the Hunt Family Splash Pad, the Foster TreeHouse Playground or the Endangered Species Carousel.
As a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the El Paso Zoo puts an emphasis on the conservation of both animals and their natural habitats. Through animal encounters, education programs and more, kids can learn and have fun at the same time.
3. Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens
Celebrate Texas and explore the natural flora of the region. Founded in 1936 to honor Texas independence, the Centennial Museum is the oldest museum in the state of Texas and is dedicated to celebrating the natural and cultural history of the Chihuahuan Desert, the largest desert in North America.
Temporary exhibits delve into border life and culture while the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens is a certified Texas Wildscape site and showcases the natural variety and beauty of the native flora. With more than 800 species of plants, the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens is the largest assemblage of Chihuahuan flora in the world — and it’s free!
4. Fort Bliss Bowling Center
Get your bowling game on at Fort Bliss! The Fort Bliss Desert Strike Lanes Bowling Center is 52 lanes of fun and competition located within the boundaries of Fort Bliss itself. With four certified bowling coaches and the only International Bowling & Pro Shop Instructor Association certified coaches in the El Paso area, Desert Strike is the go-to spot for both amateur and advanced bowlers.
With prices that never surpass $4 (even in peak hours) and discounts on “all you can bowl” specials, a full-service bar and snack bar, birthday packages, and glow-in-the-dark sessions, it’s unlimited fun at Desert Strike.
5. Ascarate Park
Spend the day at the largest public-use recreational park in El Paso. Ascarate Park is home to an 18-hole golf course, a 48-acre surface lake that boasts the best fishing in the Southwest and several sports fields available for practice and games. Book the San Elizario Placita for a private event or take cover in it’s shade as you venture from a nearby playground.
Full of picnic sites, fishing, canoeing, paddle boating and a fully-equipped aquatic center with one of the few Olympic-sized competition pools in El Paso, Ascarate Park has something for everyone.
6. El Paso Museum of Art
Explore the art of Europe, America and Mexico at the El Paso Museum of Art. In celebration of the diverse history and culture of the region, the museum houses donated collections of classic European paintings by Botticelli, Canaletto, van Dyck and more.
The museum’s collection currently includes more than 7,000 works and boasts more than a dozen exhibits each year, so there’s always something new to see with each visit. With education programs, scholarships and the EPMA’s Art School, the El Paso Museum of Art works to bring art, culture and people together year round.
7. Magoffin Home State Historic Site
Explore the history of El Paso through the home of one of its most influential families. A striking example of Territorial style architecture, the Magoffin Home State Historic Site was the home of James Magoffin, an influential trader and leader in El Paso from the late 1800s until the 1920s.
With public tours, authentic art exhibits, antiques and furnishings, the Magoffin home transports visitors back in time and allows them to explore El Paso through the stories of the multicultural and dynamic Magoffin family. You can even have a picnic on the peaceful grounds or rent the home for a private event.
8. San Jacinto Plaza
Take refuge from the sun in an urban oasis. Once the home to alligators that roamed downtown El Paso, the San Jacinto Plaza is now a state-of-the-art community meeting spot. The centerpiece of the square is the Pile o’ Gators Statue and fountain (also known as the Plaza de los Lagartos) by Luis Jiménez to honor the area’s previous inhabitants.
More than just a fountain, the San Jacinto Plaza hosts several gaming areas ranging from ping-pong and chess to washoes (a local game similar to horseshoes), a children’s splash pad area and small cafe with plenty of colorful seating.
9. Franklin Mountains State Park
Explore high-desert mountains just 15 minutes from downtown El Paso. Franklin Mountains State Park is the largest urban park in the nation. It spans 26,627 acres, covers about 40 miles and sits all within the city limits of El Paso. Overlooking the Rio Grande, El Paso and Juarez, Franklin Mountains State Park has some of the best views of the region.
Explore the mountains through 100 miles of trails or pitch a tent with day and night camping. Franklin Mountains State Park also offers guided bike trails, birdwatching and several spots to set up a picnic to sit and enjoy the mountains.
10. El Paso Municipal Rose Garden
Stop and smell the roses at the El Paso Municipal Rose Garden. This four-acre garden got its start in 1958 with the planting of 200 roses on just one-and-a-half acres and has grown into a diverse and vibrant part of the city. The garden now features nearly 1,500 rosebuds from more than 430 varieties.
Volunteers manage and give tours of the grounds, guiding visitors through the wrought-iron fenced garden, along its walkways and past the waterfalls. Open to the public from March 1 until November 30, several of the roses continue to bloom until early winter, making it easy to stop and smell the flowers any time.
Enjoy everything that the diverse and vibrant city of El Paso has to offer! With a rich history and a melting pot of cultures, there’s never a shortage of things to do near Fort Bliss.