City Spotlight: El Paso, Texas
A river runs through it—El Paso, that is. And what a divider the Rio Grande is. It separates the southwest Texas city from its Mexico neighbor, Juarez. Though trans-border jaunts have often been part of El Paso itineraries, there’s really no reason to leave the city. All the flavors of Mexico abound, in the food, history, culture, architecture and people. Looking to spice up a future event? Look no further than El Paso.
1. Strengthened Core
Inevitably, planners and meeting attendees find themselves downtown—along with the business crowd and locals seeking entertainment in the thriving district. But a few years ago, the city center was nearly deserted; people visited because they had to, not by choice. All that changed with major renovations to the convention center, Plaza Theatre, the El Paso Museum of Art and historic office buildings, as well as the addition of the 200-room Doubletree Hotel. Progress continues as more public-private partnership renewal projects are slated for El Paso’s economic center. The rapid growth has landed the city in many top-10 lists for economic health, including Bloomberg Business Week’s July 2010 pronouncement of El Paso as the fourth-strongest U.S. job market.
2. All Spruced Up
A good first stop on a downtown site visit is the revamped Judson F. Williams Convention Center. Expanded in 2002, the 133,000-sq.-ft. facility has been the recipient of $7.2 million in renovations in recent years, and an additional $1.1 million in funding was approved by the city council this year for technological upgrades, including improved wireless and simulcast capabilities. The convention center features 80,000 square feet of exhibit space, 17 meeting rooms and an outdoor shade canopy for large receptions. Surrounding the facility are the trendy Union Plaza Entertainment District, a visitors center and the 2,500-seat Abraham Chavez Theater. The latter two are scheduled to receive $2.5 million for renovations.
Restaurants regularly featured in national TV shows and publications? Check. Authentic Mexican cuisine such as caldo de res, chile relleno and tamales? In spades. Hometown of celebrity chef and TV personality, Aarón Sanchez? Yup. Meeting attendees will not go hungry in El Paso, where traditional border fare is done to perfection. Whether it’s an establishment featured on the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” (Kiki’s Mexican Food or Chico’s Tacos), a quirky car wash-diner combo (H&H Car Wash and Coffee Shop) or mouthwatering local flavors catered by the convention center, El Paso delivers the spice.
4. Historic Sites
El Paso is home to a number of cultural sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The San Elizario Presidio Chapel is an adobe chapel in Spanish Mission-style and one of three adobe churches on the Mission Trail, located in El Paso’s Lower Valley, which can be explored by groups on pre-arranged tours or during free time. Other notable sites in and around town include the Magoffin Home State Historic Site, Mt. Cristo Rey and El Paso Union Passenger Station.