The first time we made it all the way to Del Rio before having to turn back when we realised there were border checkpoints everywhere and trying to get through them without a passport would be near-on impossible. (Side note: we actually did make it through one without our passports, full story here).
On our second attempt we made it past Del Rio and stopped off in Marfa; a small artsy community which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
Where is Marfa and how do I get there?
Marfa is a small town in western Texas. It has about 1,900 full-time residents and is a very artsy community. It’s also a big hit with celebrities and Natalie Portman, Robert Pattinson, and Jake Gyllenhaal have all been spotted here. Oh, and Beyonce once went and instagrammed it all.
It has a real small town vibe; there aren’t any big shops and the restaurants tend to open and close as they please. If you’re doing a south west road trip it’s definitely worth stopping off at and getting out for a wander, but I’m not sure I’d go to the effort of getting there just to see Marfa.
The closest airports to Marfa are about three hours away in El Paso or Midland. If you’re driving, like we were, it’s about 6 hours from Austin and Houston.
What to do in Marfa
Given that Marfa is known as a bit of an artists commune (and you’ll notice that as soon as you spot a few residents – they just have that kinda artsy dress sense if you know what I mean), you should definitely check out some of the art.
Make sure to visit at the weekend though, as practically everything closes from Sunday evening to Thursday!
The Chianti Foundation
A visit to the Chianti Foundation is the things to do when you’re in Marfa. In fact it’s so popular that their guided tours are booked up days in advance. The sunrise tour is booked up weeks in advance. If you’ve got your heart set on visiting the Chianti Foundation then make sure you book before you visit.
The Chianti Foundation features works by Donald Judd. There are a few different exhibitions, some of which you can only see if you take a guided tour. You’re free to walk around the field which houses Judd’s 15 works in concrete whenever you like though.
Whilst I wasn’t impressed by the art at the Chinati Foundation (it was just concrete rectangles??) that doesn’t mean you won’t be. Go and make your own opinion, the self guided tour is free anyway!
Marfa is a pretty picturesque place. The buildings are, for the most part, white and then there are cacti lining the streets too. The town is small so you don’t need to (and it would be silly to) drive from place to place. Go on a walk!
Grab a coffee
We popped into Do Your Thing coffee for our morning caffeine fix before heading over to the Chianti Foundation. It’s a proper local coffee shop with a laid back vibe, great coffee and even a fireplace for those cold desert mornings!
See the mysterious Marfa Lights
Every night people both residents and visitors to Marfa head 9 miles out of town on Highway 90 to the Marfa Lights viewing area. They’re here to see the mysterious Marfa Lights; some orbs that appear to float and disappear on the horizon. Exactly what these lights are, no one knows.
I was surprised at just how many people were up at the viewing area! And, whilst I’m still unconvinced these are anything more than the lights of US Border control as they patrol the desert and hills, it’s still worth going to see for yourself. Take a blanket or jumper though – it gets chilly!
Shop for Prada in the middle of the desert
If you’re in Marfa you simply can’t miss driving out into the desert and stopping off at this Prada shop. Sure it won’t be open (it never has been) but it makes for a pretty cool photo.
The Prafa Marfa store was created by artists Elmgreen and Dragset. It’s said to fuel the ongoing dialogue about permanence, minimalism, and consumerism. I much preferred this to Judd’s work anyway!
Visit the Ballroom Marfa
The building alone is pretty impressive to look at. What was once a dance hall dating back to 1927 is now a gallery. The Ballroom Marfa put on on music, art and film exhibitions throughout the year. See what’s happening during your visit here.
Drive out to Big Bend National Park
Whilst we didn’t make it out to Big Bend National Park ourselves, I’d recommend you take the hour and a half drive to it if you’re staying in the area longer. It’s absolutely gorgeous and you’ll be blown away by the views!
If you want to eat your way around Marfa then make sure you visit over the weekend as you’ll find a lot of these places close up shop during the week.
Marfa Buritto – $
You have to order in Spanish and pay in cash at this Spanish kitchen, but it is SO worth it! You’ll be treated to an authentic tex-mex plate packed full of food for just $7.
Oh, and the photos of Matthew McConaughey everywhere (a frequent visitor) are too hilarious not to love!
Boyz 2 Men Tacos – $
Comedy with your breakfast tacos. You’ll understand when you get ready to order.
Pizza Foundation – $$
Some of the best pizza you will ever have. Trust me.
Planet Marfa’s Beer Garden – $
Beer garden with bar appetisers. In the middle of the desert. What else do you need?
Cochineal – $$$
This one is a bit pricier than some of the other places in Marfa but for the heightened price you’ll get gourmet New American cuisine. Enjoy dishes like pan seared duck, Texas ribeye, and a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate soufflé. They only order enough food for their estimated guests, so reservations are essential.
Jett’s Grill – $$$
If you’ve forgotten to reserve a table at Cochineal then head over to Jett’s Grill. The food is just as mouth watering make sure to try their margaritas.
Bonus: It’s in the Hotel Paisano, which is where the cast of Giant stayed and it’s a magical step back into time.
Probably the most well-known Marfa staple, this gourmet food truck with weird hours and a constantly rotating menu is a big hit in Marfa. See if you can time your visit with the Museum of Electronic Wonders and Late Night Grilled Cheese Parlour.
For $12.50, you can order the Motherf**cker, an oversized sandwich that includes every ingredient on the menu.
Comida Futura – $$
A rustic, cafeteria-style restaurant in the middle of town, Comida Futura’s menu is the opposite of big, bad Texas food. The small restaurant offers mostly protein and vegetable-centric options. Don’t forget to leave room for dessert as their pies are not to miss!
Where to shop in Marfa
Don’t miss out on these popular Marfa stores.
Bibliophiles will love this expertly curated bookstore, with an attached coffee shop and garden. Browse the varied selection, view exhibitions from visiting artists, or bring home pottery by local artisans.
The handmade cowboy boots at Cobra Rock can come with up to an eight month waiting list. Each boot, made from American full-grain leather, takes two and a half weeks to make and costs $495 (plus tax). You can also put your name on the waitlist online with a $100 deposit.
Wrong Marfa is a gallery and shop that sells mostly locally made wares. It’s housed within a former church and frequently hosts special events and exhibits
Freda is a lifestyle shop perfect for finding envy-inducing souvenirs for friends. You’ll find clothes, house wares, art and a wide selection of jewellery from established and up and coming brands.