5 El Paso

PopulationMetro: 837,073
A border town taps into its strategic attributes to create a prosperous sanctuary.

We’re all going to start hearing a lot more about El Paso very soon. Fortified by its roots as a cowboy town, El Paso is tapping into its local pride by enticing scattered locals back home while embracing its border-city advantage.

With 80% of its population of Latino origin and a #7 ranking in our People category, with the fourth-most U.S. residents who speak a foreign language—in this case, overwhelmingly Spanish—at home, it doesn’t get more Tex-Mex than here.

Safe (the “Safest City in America!” if you listen to loud and proud Mayor Dee Margo), progressive and increasingly basking in the fruits of its 2012 $500-million bond initiative that funded a Children’s Museum, new arena, cultural center and more—all downtown—the city is also cooking in the literal sense, ranking third-best among Small Cities in our Culinary category, incredibly trailing only Honolulu and Albuquerque.

Place 54
Product 58
Programming 40
People 87
Prosperity 54
Promotion 68

But the boom is tapping the city’s history, too. “The city mothballed its streetcar system in the 1970s,” says Destination El Paso CEO Bryan Crowe. “We’re bringing back the perfectly preserved streetcars in November to service our newly expanded medical schools.”

Good thing that this future hot spot is tripling its hotel-room capacity in the coming months.