About this time last year, I got a last-minute request from my freelancing job to go to an event in Marfa, Texas. My first thought is probably the same as yours: “Where the heck is Marfa?”
I had no clue, at all where I was going or what to expect. I considered looking it up but decided that since I was going no matter what I would just embrace some adventure.
There is not an easy way to explain Marfa. It makes little sense, but I am going to tell you some things about it and then you can decide for yourself if it is a place you need to add to your list of things to see.
Marfa is not close to anything. It is about a 3 hours drive from El Paso and is located at the meeting of highways 90 and 67. As of 2017 there are less than 2 thousand residence and is less than 2 square miles. I would call this a “one light town” but it has 3, however, they aren’t always stoplights, sometimes they just flash and function like stop signs.
There are no major grocery stores, and other than a dollar store and a couple of fast food shops there isn’t any sign of large chain stores. At first glance, this looks like a worn, old tumbleweed town but upon a second place, you will start to see the charm.
The buildings are old and beautifully constructed. They ooze with history. Commercialism just hasn’t really found its way to Marfa so you will not find billboards, huge neon signs or bombarding advertisements. As you look at the buildings you will see the walls of the old worn walls are painted with art. The entire town is a juxtaposition of old and forgotten and knew and loved. I can safely say I have not been to any place like it.
The Marfa Lights
This sleepy little town is infamous, however. It is home to an interesting phenomenon known as the Marfa Lights. These are small bursts of light that seem to dance along the horizon just outside of Marfa. They can red, blue or white and appear randomly at night, weather independent. No one is quite sure what causes them and it is something you just have to see for yourself. Unfortunately, I did not make it out to the viewing area while I was visiting.
At one time the main thing bringing visitors to Marfa was the Lights. That was until 1970, when they filmed, Giant, James Deans Last film. The main hotel in Marfa, called Hotel Paisano, was the center of the action. Today you can see images, props and other mementos from the movie in the hotels’ restaurant and lobby.
Soon after the Giant was filmed New York artist Donald Judd, a renowned minimalist artist moved to Marfa with the intention of permanently installing his art. Thus began the art movement in Marfa. Today, Marfa has become the place for creatives. This 2-mile wide town is littered with art galleries and it oozes on to the streets, covering the old walls of the buildings. While in Marfa take some time to see some of the galleries, walk the town and stop at Judd’s buildings to see the work that started it all.
One art exhibit that is particularly well known is Prada Marfa. Just a short drive from the center of town is a foe Prada storefront. If you are driving up from El Paso you will drive by it but it’s not large so keep your eye peeled. It is a common spot to stop of a selfie, check some out on Instagram. The artists described the work as a “pop architectural land art project.”
Food and Drink
With the flocking of artists to Marfa came, of course, the culinary arts. Marfa has become a foodie destination. The most surprising thing about Marfa was the food. The food in Marfa is a high-end gourmet style food bursting with flavor and incredibly unique. You will find it in the most interesting places, such as a great cup of coffee from a small cafe inside a laundry mat. The menus change from day to day at many of the restaurants.
A couple of my Marfa favorites were:
Do Your Thing Coffee
I stopped here in the morning for a delicious Chai and thick and tasty Cinnamon Toast. The atmosphere is inviting and warm and the staff is equally inviting.
La Playa is where we spent most of our time, well technically it was next door at Al Campo wine bar. The two restaurants are both owned but the same wonderful man, Tatanka. He was gracious enough to open his doors to my company and let us take over his place for the whole weekend. He went the extra mile to feed us wonderful tacos and other foods that are served at La Playa. A trip to Marfa would not be complete without a delicious taco and a conversation with Tatanka. Be sure to tell him I sent you!
As you can see there is a whole lot more to Marfa than one would think. Before you start your planning here are some important things to note.
Important Things to Know:
- Marfa is a very small town, as I have mentioned. Because of this, there are only so many hotels and places to stay, and they won’t be as cheap as you might think. We stayed at a neat Minimalist Hotel called the Thunderbird.
- Places here have random hours, and many things aren’t even open Monday through Thursday. If you will be here during this time plan ahead but there won’t be too much to do at that time.
- Again, small town, many restaurants have an allotment of food, it’s not uncommon for them to run out. This is especially true when you come with an event that almost doubles the population for the weekend.
Other Fun Facts about Marfa:
- Marfa Prada was featured on an episode of the Simpsons.
- Beyonce filmed a music video here
- It is not uncommon to see celebs walking the streets of Marfa, waiters reported Will Farrell being a regular. As well as visits from Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Robert Pattinson.
- Got Amazon Prime? Check out the show I Love Dick, which did some of its filming in Marfa.
- No Country for Old Men was also filmed outside of Marfa.
So there you have it. The ins and outs to Marfa. It is is a very strange town, I would have never thought to go here before being sent here for work but I have to say, the town charmed me. I now can wholeheartedly recommend a weekend get way to Marfa, Texas.