Marfa – New York Chic in the Texas Desert
We were only in Marfa Texas for three days and two nights, but this place is extremely unique. Where else in the world can you visit a small town with a population of 1,900 yet feast on 5 star gourmet food, enjoy world famous art installations, and gaze upon one of the nation’s few unexplained phenomenons?
We parked our RV out at the famous Marfa Mystery Lights viewing area. They allow overnight parking and we stayed for 2 nights. Not sure if multiple nights are ok, but the town wasn’t busy at all during our stay and no one gave us any hassle. We thought about moving to another spot but there’s no BLM or National Forest land, and the few RV parks weren’t too appealing (and surprisingly expensive for a small town in the middle of nowhere).
Here’s a few of our favorite spots, a few quotes from the locals, and our take on this cool town in the southwestern Texas desert:
Marfa Lights – The Unexplained Phenomenon:
We sat out in the chilly temps, just shy of midnight, scanning the dark horizon for the famous Marfa Mystery Lights when we hear “I’m serious guys…it’s a real Marfa Light!” We saw what she was talking about but it simply looked like car’s headlights in the far distance winding down a mountain road. We asked several people about the Marfa Lights and it seems there are two major thoughts 1) It’s just a bunch of baloney, but the more you drink the more you see! or 2) They’re real and I really hope you get to see them. Unfortunately we didn’t have any luck the 2 nights we searched so here’s our take: Skeptical, but open to the idea that these mystery lights do exist. Either way the stars are absolutely breathtaking, and if you’re enjoying a warm beverage while gazing out into the cool winter night with the one you love; It’s worth every second you spend looking for those famous lights.
New York Style Dining in a Tiny Town:
Walking through town there’s an endless selection of stylish places luring us in for supper. However, this time of year only a handful of them are open. We walked by Cochineal several times throughout the day and each time the garden kept calling to us. When we stepped inside we thought WTF? This place is amazing, and thankfully the food (and drinks) matched the décor.
- The couple sitting next to us at the bar: “
Look up the rain patterns and come back between late July and September, it cools way off here, and this place is buzzing like New York City! But don’t tell anyone about it!
- ” Who would want to visit Texas in the late summer!?! Apparently in this tiny pocket of TX the rain falls on the nearby mountains and cools everything way down, and thanks to Marfa’s relatively high elevation (4,685 feet above sea level) it’s like a comfortable escape from the brutally hot temps that plague most of the Southwest. I can’t say from experience but I’ll take their word for it. One thing’s for sure there’s not a whole lot going on in this town early March.
The Bartender: “Beyonce was in Marfa not too long ago, and we saw her shopping at the Dollar General….because it’s the only place to get things around here at night. Kinda funny right?” A general store, a small hardware store, a gas station, a small natural store, a few art galleries and that pretty much sums it up! Don’t get me wrong, the art here is top notch, the food will stand up to any Foodie’s expectations, and the Marfa Lights are just the icing on the cake.
A Worldly Influence:
We visited Squeeze on Sunday hoping for Brunch but they were out of eggs. So we settled for a European style brunch: a pastry and a bottomless cup of coffee. The pastry was tasty; the coffee was smooth and the sun drenched patio complete with a random cat made for one lazy way to start our day.
- Our waitress at Squeeze: “
A lot of New Yorkers come here and there’s a ton of foreigners visiting as well. Not a day goes by where I don’t hear another foreign language.
- ” Considering Squeeze is owned by a couple that moved here from Switzerland, it’s not surprising there’s plenty of European influence hanging around this joint.
Other Nifty Finds:
El Cosmico – Labeled as a nomadic hotel and campground this place has so much character. You can sleep in a Tepee, a vintage trailer, or if you have your own RV you can dry camp in their lot. The prices are pretty high in our opinion but this is by far the coolest place to park it when visiting. If you could book during one of their events…then the prices would be fair! There’s a beautiful website with pricing if you’re interested in looking here.
Prada Marfa – It’s a store that doesn’t sell anything, it just stands there as art. The vast empty land surrounding the building is surreal making for a very cool photo opp. I originally wanted to capture a time-lapse of the sunset fading into the starry night sky…but I wasn’t prepared for the brightly lit building at night…oh well, that’s what happens when you don’t have time to scout. It surprised me how far out of town this installation is, be prepared for an hour drive from Marfa, we barely arrived before the sun dropped below the distant mountains.
The Get Go – Don’t be fooled by the simple name, this is a gem of a grocery store, especially for such a small town. We picked up gourmet tamales, some artisan chocolate, and a few other ‘necessities’ to prepare for our time in Big Bend National Park. This little store is worth a visit…and you might as well pick up a bottle of bubbly to make your Marfa Lights experience a little more fun.
A Walkabout – We must have walked the streets for hours during our visit. Most things were closed for whatever reason but nonetheless the photo opps were fantastic. Every direction I pointed the camera I thought “this is beautiful, I wonder what it will look like at sunrise or sunset?“. Here’s a smattering of shots from the walkabout; now if only I had a scout day for the perfect lighting…
A Few Things We Missed
Two days is NOT enough; while walking around town and chatting up the locals we’ve already started our next Marfa bucket list: star gazing at McDonald Observatory, Live Music at Padres, the controversial Playboy Marfa, a sunrise viewing of the Chinati Foundation art installation, Andy Warhol Last Supper at the Ayn Foundation, drinks at Big Bend Coffee Roaster, late night bites at Food Shark GRILLED CHEESE PARLOUR, patio bites at the Pizza Foundation, Beer in the Tepee at Planet Marfa, Artisan Chevre tasting of Marfa Maid Goat Cheese…AHHHHH! the list could go on forever! WE MUST COME BACK!
Have you been to Marfa? Have you even heard of Marfa before now? (we were surprised how many people haven’t) Let us know in the comments below.
I was there in July with a women’s glamping group I belong to and we had a wonderful time. Went to dinner at Mondo’s in Marfa and had pre-dinner margaritas at the bar of the Paisano Hotel (wonderful margaritas and fun to see the James Dean / Elizabeth Taylor/ Rock Hudson / “Giant” memorabilia.) Saw the Marfa lights (we think :-)) and went to Prada near Valentine, a “Star Party” at the McDonald Observatory (great) with dinner before at the Indian Lodge in Fort Davis, drove as far as the Chisos Basin of Big Bend National Park (gorgeous) and spent most of our time in Alpine. We stayed at he Lost Alaskan RV Park in Alpine, which I highly recommend.
wholy smokes, what a trip! sounds like I should join your women’s glamping group, you are my kind of ladies!
Glad you had a great time, but sad you continue to spread woo-woo. The light source has been found and is explained here: http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4038
ahhhhh, I like the unexplained story.
Marfa is a second home! My grandmother was born and raised in this quaint little town. We don’t visit as often as we should and being a photographer you would think that i would have found the beauty in all these things. But we have gone there so many times like I said it’s a second home. But you have done an amazing job in capturing all it’s beauty. My Grandmother would be proud! God Bless
So glad you think we did the town a little justice. What a great place to visit your Grandmother growing up! I bet you have some great stories.
We have the brew pub here in Alpine Texas…only 26miles east of marfa n much more beautiful! 😉
We didn’t make it to the brew pub but we did make it to alpine and loved it!
Lived there over 20 yrs ago…loved the pictures! I have seen the lights several times
Did you get pictures? We were sure hoping that we were going to get to see the phenomenon…maybe next time.
I vacation every year in the area. You must also visit Alpine, TX just 23 miles from Marfa.. Great restaurants and a craft beer brewery are there to enjoy. The McDonald Observatory is great and you have to do the ‘Star’ Party. So much to do in the region. I usually go in July when temps are fine and the rains have made things green. Also, visit Balmorhea State Park (it is 25 miles from Fort Davis). Go back and enjoy!!!!
It’s still hard to believe that this part of Texas would be so lovely in July! We can’t wait to get back and check it out for ourselves.
We recently went to Lajitas and were worried there wouldn’t be enough for 3 days. Well, we definitely need to go back. Never made it to the observatory, Marfa, Mexico… We were on the go the whole time and had so much fun. On Mother’s Day there was a celebration right on the river, on both sides. Food, drink, music and many swimming together in the middle of the river. Of course border patrol kept a watch but it was a very nice day.
Awe, sounds like a lovely time. It is crazy how all these little towns pack so much punch!
I think the Marfa window may have closed on the Playboy Bunny. I was there in March, and was told it had been moved to Dallas..
oh well, maybe that’s why we didn’t see it?!? I know it was controversial so probably better it’s gone.
Those Vintage trailers are a dream. So beautiful. I would love to check out the interior. If money were no object, I know of an old trailer I would love to see restored and use for travel. Things made with style are hard to find. Someday!!
Agree Suzy, a refurbished vintage trailer has major sex appeal!
When you go back, look up my good friend Clint Moore at the Chinati Foundation. He’s a docent there, and a school teacher in Marfa, and sometimes he works at El Cosmico. Tell him Ann & Andy sent you – he’ll give you a special tour.
Oh man, thanks Ann! We so need to see the place, we just had time for the outside!
It looks like a Gem, but Boo Hoo, No brew pub
Haha…maybe the perfect business opportunity Bruce?
Was in those parts last August.
Fort Davis and the observatory area is not to be missed. Especially during the painted grasshopper mating season in mid August. Big Bend is amazing and nearby Terlingua is a petite bastion of liberalism and petroglyphs.
Marfas kind of becoming a gentle tourist trap.
We did visit big bend and had a great time. https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/big-bend-national-park https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/free-camping-big-bend-national-park
Maybe it was the time of year but we didn’t think Marfa was a tourist trap. But I am sure we will be back and when we do we will have to coordinate with the grasshopper mating season, because it just sounds interesting!