Playing Tourist: Marfa, TX
If I had a dime for every time someone asked me "what should we do in Marfa?", well. I'd have a lot of dimes. I finally put together the ultimate list of what to eat, where to sleep, and things to see while visiting our most treasured town in Texas. If you haven't made the 6 hour* journey, you definitely should.
* I can say 6 hours because unless you live in West Texas, Marfa is literally at least 6 hours away from absolutely anything. But the drive is beautiful.
What can I say about Marfa? It's an anomaly. I don't know how else to explain it. It's a little blip of funky art, hand crafted goods, the coolest people you'll ever meet, and tumbleweeds. The main strip (San Antonio Street. Imagine that.) is only about 1 mile, so everything is completely walkable. You will go from gallery, to shop, to restaurant and run into the same people. Every little rundown building or house is actually a hip art gallery or soap shop. There is so much to do, but at the same time, you can see everything there is to see in a long weekend. These are our top recommendations. Which pretty much cover all of the sights of this teeny town in West Texas.
- S T A Y -
El Cosmico - This is Glamping. If you don't like to go outside to use the bathroom in an open air facility with strangers, then this is probably not your bag. Especially if it's cold out. El Cosmico has several options for shelter: safari tents, tee pees, yurts, trailers, and self camping. Everything books up really fast so if you want to stay in a tee pee (which I highly recommend) you need to book early. If you are completely against using a communal bathroom there are a few trailers that have sinks and toilets and outdoor showers. But come on. There is a fire pit in your tee pee. It's a tee pee. There is also a killer gift shop, outdoor kitchen, hammock grove, and wood-fired hot tubs.
Thunderbird - This is your typical motel with a pool and Acapulco chairs that was recently renovated by Lake Flato. Each room has a record player and typewriter for you to write your memoir or screenplay, or some other hipster activity that requires a typewriter. The gift shop is the best part. They also have bikes that you can rent which makes getting around a lot easier.
Hotel St. George - This was under construction last winter when we were in Marfa, but we could tell by the marble mosaic exterior that it would be a showstopper. Now that it has officially opened we can't wait to stay there for a night. Texas Architect did a really great write up on it last month if you want to check it out. This hotel is a lot more high end than the other options in town, and you don't have to pee outside. So there's that.
Airbnb - There are so many cool houses throughout the town that rent out their spaces for Marfa tourists. This is a great option if you are traveling in a group. If you want to truly live like a local, this is the way to go.
- E A T -
Food Shark – Probably one of the best food trucks I've ever had. I mean Beyonce has eaten here so. Also, the Marfalafel is the best falafel of my entire life! And as a former vegetarian, I've had a lot of falafel. Besides that the menu constantly rotates, so you never know what to expect.
Frama – It's Marfa spelled backwards, get it? If you've ever wanted your laundromat to also serve ice cream and coffee, then look no further.
Squeeze - The perfect breakfast destination. Their menu is full of juices, coffees, smoothies, and light breakfast items. They also have lunch, but I'd hit them up for breakfast if you have to choose.
Do Your Thing - This is an excellent place to grab a cup of coffee and a quick bite before heading out to explore. You can also buy some cool pottery from local artisans.
Pizza Foundation – So the original location is permanently closed (pictured), but the pizza is still the same. I can honestly say this is some of the best pizza I've ever had. In America. Be sure to call ahead before you journey over to their new location off the beaten path, as they tend to be randomly closed.
Cochineal – Be ready to drop an entire Benjamin on your meal. This is the fanciest place to eat in Marfa. You should probably dress nice, or they'll seat you by the kitchen instead of the super cool main dining area. The drinks are perfectly crafted, the food is flawless, and the wait staff is annoyed to be serving anyone. It's Marfa at it's finest.
- D O -
Chinati Foundation – There are several large buildings planted in the middle of a field filled with art and Donald Judd's sculptures. Pro tip: the concrete sculptures surrounding the galleries are free to look at (pose inside), but the actual galleries are about $10 per person. They close early though so be sure to do this early in the day.
Ballroom Marfa – This is a rotating art gallery. There is always something fun on exhibit to ponder at.
Marfa Contemporary – This used to be in the back of Pizza Foundation, so you could peruse it while you waiting on your pizza. Now it's just a gallery, but some of the coolest pieces are there. The first time we went there were floor to ceiling sculptures of laser cut plastic laminate. I know right?
Mystery Lights – Once it gets dark (regardless of the weather) drive out to the observatory and look for the eerie Mystery Lights along the horizon. It's a pretty creepy observatory, especially in the dead of winter when we first visited. We were literally the only people there and you could hear a pin drop. It was so dark we couldn't even see each other. But totally worth it!
Prada Marfa – So this isn't actually IN Marfa. It’s about an hour away in Valentine, TX. It's definitely worth the drive to see the random prada store in the middle of the desert. Note that this isn't an actual Prada store. It's an art installation where there is only one of each shoe, the purses have holes in the bottoms of them, and the back of the "store" is covered in graffiti. It makes for fun photo ops too.
- S H O P -
Cobra Rock Boot Company - You can watch these cobblers hand make the most beautiful leather boots you've ever seen. They have some clothes and accessories for sale too.
Wrong - This is a store full of quirky home decor and prints. It's always rotating, but they are sure to have gold guns and gold security cameras. I know. Just go see for yourself.
The Get Go - Probably the most curated and perfect grocery store I've ever been to. It's like a mini Whole Foods, but cheaper. Artisan soaps, organic lip balm, a wide assortment of local beers, and the freshest produce you've ever seen. All packed into a tiny store the size of a gas station convenience store. We usually stop here on the way out of town to get some provisions for the ride home.
Marfa Book Co. – Home of the best and rarest books found in real life (I see you Amazon). Especially if you are an artist or designer. Also, they have Marcel the shop dog who will scream at you until you rub his belly.
Cast + Crew - The coolest home decor and accessories.
Marfa Brands – Home of the best soap in the world, made in (you guessed it) Marfa.
Garza Marfa – Our heaven. Hand crafted furniture and textiles by husband and wife designers. We add to our Garza Marfa collection every time we visit. Also, Constance is just a gem to talk to and pick her brain.
Freda - Beautiful handcrafted jewelry, clothing, and home decor.
Dosa | Tienda M - Minimalist pottery, home decor, jewelry, accessories. This store is everything.
Marfa Lights & Lamps - We stumbled upon this store (and home) by accident on our last visit. This guy is a wealth of knowledge and had thousands of mid-century and Art Deco lamps for sale. A lamp hoarder if you will. Also he has about 27 rescue dogs running around the shop. So if you're not into lamps. You can just play with his dogs instead.
- T I P S -
- It's the desert so you can imagine how windy and cold it can get, especially at night. The first year when we went in December it dipped into the 20s at night, but last year it only got down to 40. So bring layers!
- Rent a bike. The town is totally walkable, but a bike is a great way to really see the town. Plus it's cute.
- Again you are in the desert. Meaning there is negative cell reception in the area, so bring a map! You know, like a paper map. From the olden days. El Cosmico provides paper maps of the town, and trust me it's a huge help when you're trying to find secret spots. Most places have wifi, but better safe than sorry.
- It's a small town so a lot of times a place will randomly be closed, but there will usually be a sign on the door to call that number to come and unlock the store. Always call the number. They are honestly probably next door and you don't want to miss out on whatever goods they have for sale.
- You will stick out like a sore thumb to the locals. They can spot you a mile away. Just be cool and try to blend, you are overtaking their town that they grew up in. So leave it as you found it.