Travel Journal : Marfa, Texas

Category: Travel Journal

Moseyin’ Around Marfa, Tx 

This tiny west Texas town (population roughly 2000) is an artist’s haven. About two and half hours from the nearest large city of El Paso, Marfa is the perfect place to relax and experience the feeling of manana: don’t worry about it today, worry about it tomorrow. With a few good restaurants, a few good hotels, and a few fun activities for tourists, Marfa is all about quality over quantity. It’s also a place unlike any other we’ve been to; you’re just as likely to see a farmer pulling his tractor through town as you are to see a Brooklyn transplant in skinny jeans and retro glasses.

If you’re a fan of artist Donald Judd, Marfa is your heaven. With over 15 different spaces devoted to Judd’s life and art, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied. Visit the Judd Foundation website for more information.  Also be sure to check out Ballroom Marfa, an incredible space for contemporary art. When you drive into town, make sure you stop and take a picture of the art installation piece “Prada Marfa” a model Prada store just outside the city limits of Marfa.

Once you’ve seen the art, there’s plenty more to do in Marfa, including viewing the mysterious “Marfa lights.” These unexplained lights have been appearing in the desert sky near Marfa since the late 50s. There are quite a few theories as to what causes them (Aliens? Headlights from a passing highway? Vapors ?) but until you see them for yourself, I wouldn’t wager a guess. The viewing area is located a few miles outside of town and is open at night. Marfa also has a cute downtown with a couple of decent shops and galleries, including the hotel’s gift shop and the awesome bookstore, Marfa Book Company. We also recommend biking around town, as many of the locals do, or hitching a ride to another cool town nearby, Alpine.

Sleeping options are somewhat limited in such a small town, but you can’t go wrong with Hotel Paisano. Both Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor stayed at this gorgeous old hotel during the filming of Giant, and you can even book yourself into the “Rock Hudson suite.” We’ve stayed there and we promise it’s worth every penny! The hotel is located smack-dab in the middle of downtown and has a terrific courtyard where you can enjoy a red beer and people watch. If you’re looking for something less traditional, there’s the Thunderbird, a remodeled 50s motel on the outskirts of town, as well as El Cosmico, a creative and sustainable vintage trailer hotel and campground created by Austin hotelier Liz Lambert. I’d love to try El Cosmico the next time I’m in town. People in Marfa are friendly, so you might have some luck with couchsurfing, too. 

Ok, so how about the eats? We dig Pizza Foundation, which is built in an old gas station. The pizza’s great and made to order, the staff are sweet and , and they serve Coke from Mexico, which comes in glass bottles and is made with real sugar. Marfa Table, closer in to downtown on Highland Ave (the main drag of Marfa), is a terrific contemporary restaurant that serves fresh and mainly local food. It’s BYOB and the servers and chef are so damn friendly you’ll think you wandered into your own grandmother’s kitchen. In fact, when we ate there we weren’t aware of their cash-only policy. Since there’s only one ATM in all of Marfa, the owner/waitress told us to just go and send a check when we got back home. That’s right, she not only trusted us leave the restaurant without paying, she trusted us to leave the town without paying. Suffice it to say the check was sent, with quite a bit extra on trop. Food Shark is great, too; a food truck that serves up “Mediterranean by way of West Texas” food, it’s open Tuesday-Friday from 11:30 to 3:00 next to the railroad tracks.

Fancy a drink? We recommend Padre’s, which has great food, great drinks and one of the best jukeboxes we’ve ever seen. Padre’s has a terrific outdoor area, complete with shuffleboard, pool, air hockey, old pinball games, mismatched vintage seating and more. And did we mention there’s live music most nights of the week?

If you get a little bored knockin’ around town, Big Bend National Park is just a few hours away, perfect for camping, hiking and more. We betting you won’t though; Marfa’s friendly citizens, quirky vibe, clear desert air and clear desert skies, combined with its chill and quirky vibe, almost convinced us to move there!