El Paso 
A bustling border town

Downtown El Paso, Texas, has come a long way from its origins as Ponce’s Rancho. That moniker dates back to 1827, when Mexican citizen Juan María Ponce de León received a land grant to farm here. His settlement has since evolved into a lively district of shops, restaurants, and entertainment that reflects the cultures on both sides of the border. Downtown hosts a wealth of public activities year-round, including the annual tree lighting and holiday lights parade on December 3, 2011, and a series of alfresco concerts on Friday nights from April through September, 2012. 1-800-351-6024.

Rocketbuster Boots. Photo: Vanessa Monsisvais1. Rocketbuster Boots
Home to 10-plus manufacturers, El Paso deserves its self-awarded title of Boot Capital of the World. Rocketbuster, located in a former fur trappers’ warehouse, is known for stylish versions. If custom boots starting at $950 are too pricey, make a reservation for a free factory tour and check for your size on the discount “Cinderella shelf.” 1-915-541-1300.

El Paso. Photo: Vanessa Monsisvais2. Walking Tour
The 90-minute stroll in the historic district begins at San Jacinto Plaza, formerly the corrals at Ponce’s Rancho. You’ll also see gems by architect Henry C. Trost, whose projects changed the downtown skyline in the early 20th century. You can download a map for free from the El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau website. 1-915-534-0600.

Union Plaza Entertainment District. Photo: Vanessa Monsisvais3. Union Plaza Entertainment District
The latest hot spots are in this industrial district near Union Station. Walk along Durango Street, where restaurants in renovated warehouses offer outdoor seating from lunchtime until the wee hours. The Garden, the pioneering kid on the block, offers a sushi bar and cigar humidor. 1-915-544-4400.

Plaza Theatre. Photo: Vanessa Monsisvais4. Plaza Theatre
El Paso citizens and civic organizations rescued the Depression-era movie theater from demolition and restored it to its Spanish Colonial Revival splendor in 2006. Besides showing classic films to the accompaniment of a Mighty Wurlitzer organ, the Plaza hosts big-name concerts and Broadway musicals. You can catch Wicked in February and Mamma Mia! in April, 2012. 1-915-231-1100.

El Paso Museum of Art. Photo: Vanessa Monsisvais 5. El Paso Museum of Art
Southwestern art is the highlight at the El Paso Museum of Art, and the 6,500-piece-strong permanent collection includes works by El Paso natives Luis Jiménez and Tom Lea. Traveling exhibits of famous masters rotate; Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol pieces are up through December 31, 2011. 1-915-532-1707.

Free TourBook information and TripTik routings are available online, or visit your local AAA branch.

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