Situated in the remote north western Texan desert, Marfa is unlike any other place we have visited in the United States. For a tiny city (around 2500) it packs a big punch, bursting with creativity, history and enviable amounts of style.
A creative hub, Marfa is a mecca for artists from all around the world, resulting in a beautifully designed environment with vast spectrum of artworks everywhere you look.
Marfa’s cool, stand out character is reflected by it’s relaxed pace and unconventional hours of business. Mid week the entire town is almost closed (other than hotels) and even on weekends shops may only open for a few hours. However it is this laid back, unaffected by convention style that gives this small desert city its unique character and makes it a must see on any Texan adventure.
We spent 48 hours exploring town, here’s our guide to getting the most out of your Marfa experience:
First things first; where to stay?
We tried out two options while in town, offering very different experiences, each were great in their own right.
The Hotel Paisano - you can't get much cooler than staying in James Dean's room for the night. The Hotel Paisano is one of the original hotels in the town, made famous by featuring in 1956 Western film Giant and hosting its cast, including the likes of James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor.
With a beautiful courtyard and outdoor pool, The Hotel Paisano makes for a very relaxing stay whilst taking you on a fun trip into 1950's Texas.
El Cosmico - if you want more adventure than a hotel but still want the luxury of a hot shower, comfy bed and air con then El Cosmico is for you. The ultimate glamping site with brightly coloured trailers, tepees hammocks and hot tubs - this place was literally made for Instagram!
What to do:
Chinati Foundation - One of the most famous contemporary art museums in Marfa and in our opinion, one that should not be missed. Founded in 1986 by artist Donald Judd, the gallery’s artist in residence changes throughout the year, however the concrete works installed by Donald Judd himself are here year round and are free to view. The unique structures made out of 25cm thick concrete slabs, scatter the baron landscape outside of the museum, making for interesting shapes and many unique photo opportunities.
We suggest going early morning - this way you get the place to yourself and the light is best at this time of day.
Marfa Lights - If, like us, you are fascinated by unexplained phenomena and alien theories then you MUST go see the Marfa (Ghost) Lights while in town. These mysterious glowing orbs of light that appear in the desert a few miles outside of Marfa have baffled people for generations leading to a variety of intriguing theories. During the filming of Giant, James Dean apparently became so obsessed by the mystery of these lights that he kept a telescope handy at all times.
Prada Store - 26 miles north of Marfa, just off highway 90 in the middle of the Texan desert you will find a Prada Store. If you think this sounds weird, then you would be right. Miles from anywhere, this is certainly the last place you’d expect to find designer shoes. The store is in fact an art installation, commissioned in 2005 and has since been a mandatory stop for anyone visiting Marfa.
For best light sunset is often a good time to visit.
Sunrise Drive - If you’re an early riser and restless to get going before the rest of the world has stirred, then something we suggest doing is driving out towards the mountains. At this time in the morning (if the sky is relatively clear) they are lit up in beautiful shades of pink and orange and are well worth seeing.
The city may be small, but it’s well equipped with an eclectic mix of eateries to satisfy your hunger pangs. Here are a couple of our favourites
Stellinas - Tuscan home-cooking, the ever-changing menu of Mediterranean dishes are a wonderful change from your typical deep-fried Southern cooking and our top recommendation if you haven’t got long to explore.
Shark Truck - Fresh ingredients, delicious pitta wraps and local beers makes this Lebanese inspired food truck a must during your Marfa stay. You are served your food out of a small window in an retro truck and have the option to eat in an old school bus - a quirky and very Marfa experience, without a hefty price tag.