A Surreal Creative Spirit
Words by Mary Bryce Photos by Jason Page, Elaine Huang, & Benjamin Garrett
A tiny art-obsessed town situated in the haunting desert landscape of West Texas, Marfa makes the unusual seem normal. Marfa offers an incredible array of museums, specialty shops and unique hotels for the intrepid weekend traveler.
Begin your stay at El Cosmico, a hotel/ranch where guests can stay in lodgings ranging from sleek revamped airstream trailers to yurts. Owned by legendary hotelier Liz Lambert, El Cosmico is both decadent and simple, with beautiful scenery, curated décor (including amazing bathrobes) and the wide-open Texas sky. Plan to book in advance because spots do fill quickly. After sunset, take a quick 20-minute drive to see the Marfa Mystery Lights. Most often described as ghost-like or even UFOs, many people have reported seeing haunting, flickering lights near the horizon. If you’re spooked and need a drink, head back into town to the rowdy Lost Horse Saloon. With a great patio, live music most nights of the week, and busy pool tables, you’ll feel like you’re in a Western movie.
The Chinati Foundation is what initially put Marfa on the map. In the ‘70s, sculptor Donald Judd relocated from New York to Marfa to make large-scale sculptures emphasizing unique desert light that West Texas is renowned. The museum offers great walking tours that are about an hour long and help put the importance of his work within a larger historical context. Visiting the museum is both humbling and awe-inspiring. After Chinati, get lunch at Mando’s Restaurant and Bar. The food is hot, fast and delicious. A must try is the chicken verde enchiladas and a margarita. After an afternoon nap, plan for the long drive to the McDonald Observatory which hosts information sessions, star viewing parties and the opportunity to look at the night sky through massive research telescopes. Star gazing here is spectacular because the observatory is located in one of the darkest night skies in the United States.
Start Sunday with a delicious coffee and pastry from Frama. Then walk over to the Marfa Book Company to peruse their remarkable selection of art books and ceramics for sale. Across the street is The Get Go, a boutique grocery store where you can pick up snacks for a picnic lunch. Though it’s about an hour and half drive away from Marfa, head to Balmorhea State Park. Balmorhea features one of the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pools, with a natural bottom, fish, turtles, birds and other wildlife. It’s an attraction for both tourists as well as serious scuba divers. If there’s enough time before heading home, return to Marfa for a quick drink and bite at the famous El Paisano Hotel. Designed in 1929, the classic hotel hosted an array of movie stars in the ‘50s, including Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean during the filming of the movie “Giant.”
if you go
With an array of art galleries, there are always a variety of new exhibitions to catch. Check upcoming events at visitmarfa.com. Additionally, you can always catch live music or art films at Ballroom Marfa, ballroommarfa.org/music/upcoming.
Having a car is absolutely necessary in Marfa, due to the long driving distances between attractions. That said, if you’re staying within Marfa proper, most of the main galleries and restaurants are within walking distance.
Depending on the time of year you go, temperatures in Marfa can range from excruciatingly hot to unbelievably cold, sometimes in the matter of a few hours. During the fall/winter, be prepared for extreme temperatures.