It’s more than just a place. It’s a state of mind. Where you’ll find tortillas and teepees, Warhol and beer gardens. Where wide-open spaces evoke meditation and mountains invite morning hikes. It’s live music, star gazing, film festivals, art galleries, mystery lights and small bites. It’s where Matthew McConaughey and Beyoncé escape. It’s where Anthony Bourdain dined and Rick Bass wrote. It’s where Giant and There Will Be Blood were filmed. It’s Marfa.
You’ve heard of it, but have you been?
With a population around 1,800, Marfa is a walkable Texas destination where the pace of life slows down and you find yourself appreciating the simple things in life. Vibrant brushstrokes on a canvas. Margaritas on a patio. Cool dips in a pool. Strong coffee and sweet ice cream. Acoustic music and open galleries.
New York minimalist artist Donald Judd is often credited with turning Marfa into the inspired destination it is today. In the 1970s, Judd was drawn to the quiet landscape and larger-than-life skies and purchased several buildings for art installations. Today, you can visit those buildings (at the Chinati Foundation and Judd Foundation) and tour his large-scale architecture projects, paintings and designed furniture, alongside other artists’ exhibitions.
As you walk through town, you’ll encounter numerous Marfa art galleries inviting you in to discover local, national and international talent. There’s great depth in the type of exhibits you’ll see: textiles, paintings, photographs, performance pieces, mixed media, sound and light. This is a place to expand your thoughts and appreciation of the arts. Know that some galleries are by appointment, but don’t be shy—call ahead, they want you to visit.
Shopping in Marfa offers the traveler an eclectic mix of locally-made goods, more than the typical souvenir sought on a trip. Order custom leather shoes from the much-raved-about Cobra Boots. Take home a new Stetson at Communitie or locally-made bitters from Freda to impress at your next cocktail party. Grab bars of juniper berry soap at Marfa Brand Soap and porcelain jewelry, tiny works of art, at Veldt. Shop the stylish furniture and textiles at Garza Marfa and discover great reads at Marfa Book Company. You should know, Prada Marfa is a favorite place to take photos, not an actual store. But go!
Voyagers seeking outdoor adventure won’t have to wander far. Marfa is close to several popular places to hike in Texas. Take in the gorgeous vistas at Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park and Davis Mountains State Park. Attend a star party at McDonald Observatory, featuring one of the largest telescopes in the world, and scuba dive at Balmorhea State Park. Soar to new heights with Marfa Gliders and once the sun goes down, drive out to the Marfa Lights Viewing Area to get a glimpse of those famous mystery lights that have baffled since the 1800s.
Just as world-renowned artists have flocked to Marfa, so have chefs, making this tiny town in the desert a foodie destination. The list of dishes served in Marfa restaurants runs the gamut from miso-glazed black cod with seaweed salad (at Cochineal) to giant burritos served out of a small house (at Marfa Burrito). Come with a big appetite and consider progressive meals to experience it all—a pizza parlor, wine garden, and hip bars. Many of these spots have garnered national attention, and for good reason.
Plan your trip around events in Marfa like the Marfa Film Festival and Viva Big Bend music festival. At night, choose from a long list of places to stay that includes boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts, yurts, trailers and teepees. Everything in Marfa, including where you sleep, has a mystique and style that can’t be replicated elsewhere.
Fly into El Paso or Midland or make the nine-hour drive from Houston. Some groups charter shuttles from Houston to Marfa, so the party begins before you get here. Private aircraft can fly directly to Marfa Municipal Airport. They say it can be tough to get to, but when you arrive in this peaceful desert surrounded by mountains, sprawling ranches, and stunning sunsets, you’ll know, it’s worth it.