Hey guys! Hayden from Haute Table is here with a guest post. I’ve been wanting to take a trip to Marfa for a while, and her post is only giving me more of a reason to go! This tiny Texas town near the border has become a huge attraction in the past few years, and I’m itching to head down and see it for myself soon.
My father and I were in the gift shop of Hotel Pisano and I saw something that said “Marfa. Hard to get to. Harder still to explain it. But once get here, you get it.” When I first arrived in Marfa I had no idea what I was getting myself into, nor that when I left its city limits I would have a longing to go back, but I did know I was getting myself into an adventure.
So how did I even know about the tiny Texas town you can barely find on a map? Simple, Gossip Girl. Yes, that shows that we all binge-watched. At the entrance of Lily’s apartment (can we just say how amazing that was?) there is a piece of art that says Prada Marfa with an arrow. Being the inquisitive person I am and being the lover of Prada that I am I looked up this, “Prada Marfa” on the Internet and discovered the art exhibit and this amazing artist haven town.
No one said Marfa was easy to get to, it is about a six and a half hour drive from Austin, further still from Houston & Dallas. The flights are difficult to get and expensive, if you do fly, go into ELP in El Paso, it is about 200 miles driving from there.
Marfa is best visited in the fall and spring. I went in December and a lot of the town was closed down. It should also be noted that most of Marfa is shut down during the week; it is a true weekend getaway.
WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD
There are three hotels in Marfa, Hotel Pisano, El Cosmico, and The Thunderbird. I stayed at Hotel Pisano, where the cast of the famous 1950s film Giant stayed (including James Dean). The hotel was built in 1930 and features beautiful tile, a cute courtyard and large rooms (but tiny bathrooms). They offer free breakfast for hotel guests, which is very basic but I will mention, there are no real breakfast restaurants in Marfa.
WHERE TO EAT:
Late Night Grilled Cheese Parlour – This is a place where you have to check their Facebook page to see if they are open, which they have extremely random hours. They are typically only open late nights on Friday/Saturday. The grilled cheese sandwiches are delicious and who doesn’t want a grilled cheese at 11pm on a Friday?
Jett’s Grill – Named after James Dean’s character in Giant, this is the restaurant inside of Hotel Piasano. I only had breakfast there but it hosts happy hour and offers delicious looking dinners.
La Posada Milagro (Terlingua) – This is the perfect place to eat if you are on the western side of Big Bend. Terlingua is known for their chili so you can imagine that the salsa at this place is second to none. I had a sandwich and it was delicious.
Reata (Alpine) – If you are looking for something a little fancier and are willing to drive to Alpine, the bigger town to the east of Marfa, check out Reata (named after the ranch in Giant). They have exactly what you would expect, country fried steak, enchiladas, chicken fried chicken and more.
WHAT TO DO:
Prada Marfa – is not actually located in Marfa, but Valentine which is around 36 miles away. They say that if you are going fast enough you could miss the art instillation but I do not see how that could happen as it is set out from the town and there are always cars sitting out front taking photos. The exhibit does not have a real door and there are now video cameras because of multiple break-ins and attempted break-ins. The shoes and other items in the store are real Prada and were donated by Prada because it was good exposure for the brand. For a while, the Texas government was considering making the artist take it down, but that failed. Make sure to grab a photo of you jumping in front of it, just like Beyonce.
Pro Tip: Park back from the store as your car will be reflected in its windows.
Chinati Foundation – The whole ‘Marfa is different than anywhere else’ really applies when talking about the Chinati Foundation. It was started by Donald Judd in 1986 about 15 years after Judd first visited Marfa. It is located on the site of Fort D.A. Russell. Over the years the foundation has created a permanent collection that includes Carl Andre, Richard Long, and David Rabinowitch. All of the artist’s work is in a separate building on the museum grounds.
Big Bend National Park – is why Texas natives visit Marfa. Big Bend is a massive National Park, about the size of Rhode Island. It features gorgeous mountains, rivers, and cultures. Most of the park is set on the Rio Grande with Mexico being just across the water. On some days they open up the border and you can go across the Rio Grande in a boat, unfortunately when I was there it was closed. I would highly suggest hiking the Santa Elena Canyon Overlook trail, it is gorgeous, the Boquillas Canyon Overlook, get up close and personal with the Rio Grande, and the Balanced Rock trail. Overall the Balanced Rock was my favorite because the photo opportunities are amazing. But be warned, the last part of the trail is extremely steep.
Pro Tip: The Chisos Mountains Lodge Restaurant in the park is perfect for lunch or dinner and offers amazing views of the sunset.
Fort Davis – is great if you are taking a drive outside of Marfa. The Fort was built in 1854 and has been kept in amazing shape. The fort was mainly built to protect emigrants and supplies from various Native American tribes. It then held a lot of power after the Civil War involving race relations.
Pro Tip: Hike the Scenic Overlook trail for fantastic views of the fort and the small town of Fort Davis, it is steep but totally worth it.
Presidio County Courthouse – This is the largest building in Marfa and it is a very pretty pink. On most days during operating yours, you can go up in the top and see…literally everything around.
Marfa Lights – This is extremely strange and so very Marfa. When I first heard someone talk about the “Marfa Lights” I assumed it was an art instillation. When I found out it is actually some strange occurrence that happens off road US 90, I was surprised. Then I looked into it and discovered there is a relatively new viewing area (which I must add has very nice restrooms) and there are tons of articles all over the Internet about what these lights are. I went to the viewing area on a cold rainy night and saw none of the little white lights dotting the horizon. But here is what you are supposed to see: circular white lights on the horizon that move up and down with no real pattern. Who knows what they really are, car headlights? aliens? the Marfa Chamber of Commerce sitting out there with flashlights? It is all in good fun and is an enjoyable experience to partake in.
McDonald Observatory – I will admit that I did not know this existed and I am a student of the University of Texas at Austin, who owns this observatory. We were driving back through the mountains from Fort Davis to Marfa and happened upon all of these planetariums on top of hills. You stop in at the Frank N. Bash visitor’s center which houses exhibits and then you can take a tour of the observatories. They have this adorable little bus that takes you from hill to hill. At night they offer “star parties” which are highly attended by locals. You sit out under the stars and listen as the staff explains what each one is.
Hopefully y’all enjoy Marfa as much as I did and that you took a jumping photo in front of Prada Marfa to be twinsies with Beyonce…like I did.