This art mecca is one of my favorite road trip stops yet. Knowing that we are part of a very small group of people that are lucky enough to visit this city makes the experience all the better. Situated more than two hundred miles from civilization, Marfa is an art packed oasis with delicious restaurants, art installations, beautiful architecture, a young crowd and more than twenty art galleries that appeal to all art lovers. Creative freedom oozes through the streets and is easily noted by the unique shops and restaurants that line the small town. When planning your vacation here, note that most restaurants and sites are mostly open only on Fridays and Saturdays. This is a weekend destination. Marfa's hard to reach location sanctifies the pilgrimage; what awaits you is truly remarkable.
Considering the town's small size there are many lodging options available here to accommodate the growing tourist population. We opted for the Saint George Hotel, originally built in 1886 and recently renovated into a ultra modern boutique hotel. This hip hotel is centrally located offering a Brooklyn vibe, a great pool scene and a delicious restaurant. We appreciated the complimentary alcohol wipes left in each room, the strict mask wearing rules and the ample hand sanitation dispensers throughout the property. We also loved eavesdropping on the friendly hotel guests and listening to their trekking stories. Marfa unites a pretty interesting group of people, mostly from Texas but definitely others who make the journey from a far greater distance.
The Chinati Foundation
Contemporary artist, Donald Judd, put Marfa on the map when he built this art museum in 1986. In 1978 the artist purchased a sprawling 340 acres of land that once housed Fort D.A. Russell, a former military site. He spent the next eleven years pouring his heart into refurbishing the army barracks and halls for artistic usage while also building his infamous fifteen untitled concrete pieces that took over four years to complete. The mathematical precision of these structures yield to an overwhelmingly breathtaking path of installations that are perfectly situated to transform with the sun's every move. This is one of Marfa's biggest attractions. Tickets must be purchased in advanced and are very limited as self-guided tours are only available Thursday- Saturday from 8:00am-11:00am. The property is 1.6 miles long allowing visitors to relish the exhibit in it's natural desert setting, surrounded by peeking mountains along the horizon. Add this to your bucket list.
Prada, Valentine TX
If you blink, you may miss this iconic structure that stands in complete isolation twenty-six miles outside of Marfa. You'll know you are approaching when you pass through the teeniest, tiniest town you'll likely ever see in Valentine, TX. James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor will greet you as you make your approach. Pull over to say hello, get out of the car, and get the full aspect of this engaging installation that incorporates sights and sound while brightening up the desert landscape with its' brilliant colors. Back to Prada, it's hard not to love the creative irony in building a Prada shop in the middle of nowhere. Of course, this is not a fully operating store. The doors are sealed and unsupervised, no real shopping takes place but the eye candy is gloriously humorous.
As you roam the main hub of town expect to find eclectic and attractive shops like Esperanza Vintage & Art. They had two racks filled with really cute vintage clothing for under $20! I personally loved the aesthetics of this shop. I was totally tempted to buy a pair of boots. Oddly enough, I have done zero shopping on this road trip. Two and half months on the road, exploring the cutest shops with such unique inventory and yet I have not been tempted even once to buy a thing. I wonder if I will ever go back to my shopaholic tendencies?
The most simplistic backdrops become stunningly beautiful in Marfa's exceptional lighting. The skies here are such a sharp blue during the day and transform into lavender in the evening. I could have easily stayed an extra two nights trying to capture the ways the sun sprinkles her magic at all hours of the day.
Surprisingly, Marfa offers many dining options for the town's size and they all delivered consistently great meals.
We had the best burritos ever at Marfa's Burritos. The tortillas were so fresh and all the ingredients stuffed inside the warm shell just melted in our mouths as they fell apart in our hands. I couldn't get the tantalizing flavor out of my mouth and longed for more as soon as we left. Sadly, they are closed on Sundays so we couldn't get a second fix in. I would trek back to Marfa just for another meal here! Their walls are filled with pictures of celebrities like Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Bourdain, and Matthew McConaughey who have shared this unforgettable dining experience with us. Seriously, it's worth visiting Marfa for these burritos alone!
The Water Stop
Delicious food, fresh ingredients and an adorable patio await you at this popular restaurant. I especially loved my quinoa and rice bowl packed with pickled veggies and nuts. Their cold brew is extremely memorable as well.
Frama serves super hot brewed coffee, just the way I like it! They also serve ice cream. Clearly, we stopped by more than once. We appreciated their online ordering method and option to pay your bill via Venmo, pretty cool.
Jett's at The Hotel Paisano
Hotel Paisano is an institution in Marfa dating back to the 1930s. We wanted to check out the courtyard and hotel lobby and decided to book a reservation at Jett's Grill to get a feel for the hotel. The food was just "ok" but the service and ambiance definitely made up for it.
Marfa Mystery Lights
Nine miles outside of Marfa lies an observation deck where, if you're one of the lucky few, you will be able to spot the Marfa Mystery Lights that have been observed since the 1830s. Two hundred years later and still no one knows what these lights are, when they will appear or where they are appearing from. We went in skeptically, knowing that our chances of spotting the lights were low. Not only did we witness shooting stars and a sky glistening with stars, we also spotted the lights! Yeah baby! All five of us observed what appeared to be a spinning circular aircraft hovering in the air for a few moments and then voosh, it just vanished! A few moments later three red lights appeared taking turns flashing their lights. The middle picture below shows the sky over us on this remarkable evening, through an app we use (sky safari) that names the stars, constellations and planets when you line up your phone camera with the sky. My son, asked an interesting question during the extraterrestrial experience. He wondered if human beings on earth can return as aliens on another planet in their after life. Well... I don't see why not!
The voyage of getting to Marfa, now drawing over 45,000 tourists each year, is part of the thrill and experience of the town. Its unbelievable to see what has grown in the middle of the desert due to one man's artistic vision. When we headed over to the hotel pool one afternoon my children commented on how they were the only kids there. I reminded them that since they were toddlers they were usually the only kids at many of the destinations we brought them along on. I am so grateful that not only did I get to experience this mystical town in the desert, but I was able to enjoy the journey with my kids who are likely never going to forget this unforgettable town, its' aliens, art and amazing burritos.