the unlikeliest of places
Discovering Marfa, Texas: The remote, high-desert oasis of art and culture fullof surprises
There's a magic hour in Marfa: The sun sets, a stillness sets in and a cloak of pinks, purples and oranges levitates above the horizon. The shops close, the handful of restaurants open and people collectively catch their breath for yet another night under exceptionally brilliant stars.
Visitors to Marfa could see it one of two ways. The unenlightened might overlook it as a one stoplight town with not enough to do, while the savvy quickly recognize the artistic aura that hangs heavy over the sleepy West Texas community.
It can be argued that minimalist artist Donald Judd “founded” a great portion of Marfa once he took up residence in 1971 — the portion that’s steeped in art. But what's most interesting is how the generations-old ranching culture and the decades-old art culture coexist — interact, even. Ranchers in town can just as easily recommend a visit to The Chinati Foundation as they can the best grass fed beef from the area. It's a striking modus operandi.
From Austin, it’s approximately a six hour drive through terrain so desolate and beautiful it’s heartbreaking. To make this trip, carve out a bare minimum of four days, head west and feel the stress of your hyper-connected life diminish while Texas pride grows with each passing mile.
Over the past few years, Marfa has been recognized for a booming — albeit small — foodie scene that could stand tall and proud next to that of New York City. Call ahead to make sure the following restaurants are open; schedules can be unpredictable as the amount of tourists in the remote town fluctuates greatly from month to month.
Minimalist modern design wins out as most popular type of design (Thunderbird), but you also have the option of staying in a tent or trailer (El Cosmico) or a 1930’s cattleman’s hotel (El Paisano). Another popular option is to rent a home or apartment (Stay Marfa).
Spend a day hiking, biking or exploring the vast terrain that surrounds the 2,000 person town, but save ample time to satisfy any cultural curiosities. Tourists and artists alike travel across the world to see the small but esteemed galleries, not to mention The Chinati Foundation — a contemporary art museum based upon the ideas of its founder, Judd.
Marfa Book Company
Marfa Public Radio
The Terlingua Ghostown, Big Bend National Park, McDonald Observatory, Balmorhea spring-fed pool and Chinati Hot Springs are all a hop, skip and a jump away and can easily be worked into the same trip. Allot yourself two days in Marfa and several more to explore the hidden (and not so hidden) treasures that surround.