While I have taken many trips to the wonderful town of Austin, it was Marfa, Texas that has long been beckoning me (as well as the Roundtop Antique Market, which is still on my list). This art hub in a small desert city in west Texas, has big things going on in a Wild West setting.
Marfa isn’t a town you just stumble upon. The West Texas desert destination is pretty much in the middle of nowhere (the closest airport is a 3-hour drive). While many go to get away from it all, you’re also right in the thick of it, immersed in art, culture, and locals with a passion to create. Bring clothes and shoes built for the dusty desert (it can get cold at night), actual cash (ATMs are limited), maybe a map (cell service is spotty), and an adventurous spirit. (P.S. Don’t plan your stay for a Monday or Tuesday, when next to nothing will be open)
Marfa lodgings range from hipster trailer park El Cosmico to the posh Hotel Saint George, but to really drink the cool-aid, a rental is the way to go. Big on kitschy décor, custom furnishings, chic chandeliers, and actual art on the walls, abodes like Faxonia,Modern + Minimal, and, for larger parties, Casa Grande (up to 13 guests) reflect the artsy, indie spirit of the town. You can also now rent the Brite Building (pictured), El Cosmico’s swanky two-bedroom apartment offering right downtown, daily housekeeping and mini bar included.
Minimalist artist Donald Judd put Marfa on the map back in the ‘70s when he left New York to create permanent works in the vast, untouched desert. The result: The Chianti Foundation, a 340-acre former Army base that houses his large-scale concrete and aluminum installations; and Judd Foundation, Judd’s private residence and studio known as “The Block.” Open to the public Wednesday through Sunday, no reservation is necessary to see Judd’s boxes ($10) and his 15 concrete works (free); otherwise book tours in advance. With more art galleries in town than traffic lights (well, okay, there is only one stoplight), art is king in Marfa. See Andy Warhol’s “Last Supper” at Ayn Foundation, emerging artists at Rule Gallery, installations by eleven American artists at 2d Marfa, and thought-provoking conceptual works at Ballroom Marfa, including Stone Circle, an outdoor array that lights up with each full moon. And snap a pic in front of Prada Marfa, a fake storefront off U.S. 90 about 25 miles outside Marfa in Valentine.
Eat & Drink
There’s no Starbucks in Marfa, but there’s better. Do Your Thing (pictured), located at The Lumberyard, serves up savory Texas toast and Oaxacan iced coffee with a side of vintage décor. At Frama you’ll find locally-roasted Big Bend Coffee beans, nitro cold brew, and Texas-made Henry’s Homemade Ice Cream. It’s side-by-side with sister space Tumbleweed Laundry (lattes and laundry!) and one of the only places in town open Monday and Tuesday. For one of the best burritos you’ll ever eat,Marfa Burrito is a must-stop, authentic Tex-Mex joint where everything is homemade, down to the salsas and tortillas (Matthew McConaughey’s been there). Food Shark is equally delish, a lunch-only Middle Eastern food truck famous for their “Marfalafel,” a hefty falafel wrapped in a giant tortilla. Eat at the outdoor tables or in the old converted bus (Beyoncé’s been there). Just bring your pesos because these eateries are cash-only. Lost Horse Saloon is the best kind of dive bar, where cowboy hat-clad locals mix with big town tourists, and Planet Marfa offers a unique beer tent experience.
It’s not what are you going to buy, but what aren’t you going to buy. Between Freda (hip lifestyle shop), Communitie (handmade hats and clothes), Mano (western shirts, vintage items, and local art), El Cosmico Provision Company (bandanas, posters, and palo santo), Marfa Brand Soap Factory & Shop (amazing soap), and Cobra Rock (badass boots), your suitcase will runneth over. Bring an extra.