Marfa TX should be unremarkable. Instead, it’s an artistic paradise on the Texas edge of the Rio Grande. It is a center of culture where dozens of artists—and even more tourists—come to find themselves and collect pins, bongs, and bumper stickers. The Marfa of today sprouted back in the ‘70s when Donald Judd, a renowned minimalist, bought chunks of town. Since then, chefs, artists, thinkers and dreamers have moved in.
Marfa has a little of everything: history, art, and mysteries all grow in the liminal West Texas wilds. At Hotel Paisano, where the cast and crew of Giant once stayed during filming, guests can walk in the footsteps of Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean. In the empty wastelands out of town, they pilgrimage to Prada Marfa TX. This art project is a lonely faux outpost of a designer boutique outfitted with Prada bags and shoes, and strange desert bugs, that have found their way inside the bulletproof glass walls.
As for mysteries, the Marfa lights, strange orbs that spontaneously dance on the hazy horizon, have endured for over a hundred years. Only the lucky ones see them at the viewing area and visitor center. Or, there’s the mystery of what makes Marfa Burrito so intoxicating guests will come as early as 6 a.m. The ‘Queen of Burritos’ runs the restaurant out of her own house, where the scent of homemade tortillas and chorizo fills the air.
To experience Marfa TX, tourists stay at El Cosmico. El Cosmico is a vaguely nomadic glampground with retro, renovated trailers painted in cheerful yellow tones, yurts, and tepees. People come to do nothing but dream in desert colors, and hide from the sun in a hammock.
Additionally, Plano visitors can even find a taste of home. Marfa's Tumbleweed Laundry, a laundromat and coffee shop, serves Henry’s Homemade Ice Cream. Marfa is truly a town that has everything a restless wanderer could ever hope to find.
Marfa TX is an otherworldly combination of cattle ranch and minimalist art, accepting all ideas, thoughts and expressions, no matter how bizarre. It has evolved beyond itself without losing the air of a tiny oasis in the middle of a desert. Buy a few more souvenirs and snap some final pictures. But before you go, stop at the observatory for a last chance at the famous Marfa lights, a final breath of dry desert air and glimpse of adobe cottages under the painted desert sky. Those are the little things that can’t be captured and brought back home. They remain where they are, until—like Prada Marfa’s slow retreat back into nature—they aren’t and something else is instead.
Marfa TX - how it started
The Marfa we know today sprouted back in the ‘70s when Donald Judd, a renowned minimalist, got sick of Austin and bought up pieces of a stark desert town. It was already quirkily famous for the Marfa Mystery Lights: floating, glowing orbs that have been spotted on clear nights between Marfa and Paisano Pass since the 1880s. After Judd, however, Marfa has seen an unprecedented rebirth, bringing new throngs of the weird and the wonderful. From all over the world, they pilgrimage across Texas to breathe in masterpieces, curiosities in the desert. We woke up before dawn and braved the eight hour drive to see it for ourselves.
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Originally published as part of the May/June 2021 Weekend Getaways Issue. To all those who crave starlight, beaches, and summer breezes: Texas highways are calling you. From rugged stone canyons to the kind comfort of hill country, Texas destinations are ready to welcome weary travelers. If you’re feeling cooped up this year, it’s time to run free.