Marfa was originally known as a railroad town with vast ranches, dusty adobe buildings and a magnificent courthouse.
Today, even the courthouse has seen a transformation that is symbolic of the changes that have come to this once quiet West Texas town. Marfa has created an identity that includes minimalist art galleries, vintage clothing stores and a music scene that rivals that of Austin.
Located between the Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park, Marfa was founded in the early 1880’s as a railroad water stop. The town grew quickly through the 1900’s, but the population remained small at just over 2,000 people in the last census. The crown jewel of the city is the Victorian-style courthouse that was renovated in 2001 to its’ original glory.
Marfa is rich in history and culture. The Marfa Lights is the first of many notable attractions. An observation area located nine miles east on Hwy 90, provides the perfect area to catch a glimpse of this mysterious phenomenon. Some claim to see moving white lights, while others observe colored spots or perhaps nothing at all. The lights have been explained with many theories, from UFO’s to secret chemicals left by the US Army to the spirits of Apache Indians.
Marfa Texas Art
Art has become a mainstay of the city and numerous Marfa art galleries offer a chance for visitors to indulge in their creative sides. Artist Donald Judd began the movement in the area and after his death in 1994, two foundations were created to feature the minimalist art that he cherished.
The Chinati Foundation, which includes the work of Judd and his colleagues at Fort Russell, and the Judd Foundation, which preserves properties in which Judd lived and worked, are two of the must-see cultural attractions in the area.
Other art galleries include the The Lannan Foundation (literature), Ballroom Marfa (contemporary culture, including music, visual and performance arts), the Goode-Crowley Theatre and Marfa Live Arts, and the International Women’s Foundation.
Downtown shopping outlets, glider rides and numerous day trip opportunities are just a few of the other things to do in this lively town.
Marfa Texas Hotels
Marfa is home to some of the most historic and culturally diverse hotels in the area. The most famous lodging option is the Hotel Paisano Marfa. Opened in the 1930’s, this grand establishment was the lodging choice of the cast and crew of the epic film “Giant” including James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson.
After closing in the 1970’s, the building was purchased in 2001 and after three years of renovations was restored to its original splendor, offering 33 guest rooms, a full-service bar and restaurant and a “Giant” memorabilia room where the movie plays continuously.
Another equally as sought after accommodation is the Thunderbird Hotel. Locally owned since 1959, this urban-chic motel features clean and modern furnishings in a classic 50’s horseshoe-shaped building. The Thunderbird offers 24 guest rooms, a gift shop and a vinyl record collection to patrons.
The newest lodging option to hit Marfa is the playful accommodations provided by El Cosmico. Located on an 18-acre plot, this eccentric location features several renovated vintage trailers, reinvented yurt structures called eco-shacks, a traditional 22 ft. diameter Sioux teepee and a number of tent campsites.
Other lodging options include the Riata Inn Marfa, the Marfa Guest Quarters, El Sueno Marfa and various other guest houses.
After checking into one of Marfa’s unique lodging choices, deciphering through the numerous Marfa restaurants is the next big task. Twenty years ago, Tex-Mex and mom-and-pop shops were the only eateries that the town had to offer. However, the massive influx of outsiders has created the need for more diverse options.
Housed in an old gas station, the Pizza Foundation was one of the first establishments to be opened by East-coast transplants that now call Marfa home. Offering thin crust pizza with big-city topping choices has helped this low-key pie company establish itself as one of the go-to restaurants in the area.
Opened in 2002, Maiya’s features a seasonal menu of homemade Italian fare that is sure to please even the most deciphering foodie. This fashionable restaurant is only open for dinner, but it is the perfect ending to a day of exploring.
The Food Shark, a dining car offering Mediterranean cuisine, Jett’s Grill at the Hotel Paisano, Padre’s Marfa and Cochineal are other dining options that shouldn’t be missed.
Etsy put together a fantastic video on the uniqueness of Marfa:
Marfa is an eccentric and friendly town that offers something for everyone. From a multitude of attractions to historic accommodations to creative cuisine, Marfa has become a cosmopolitan locale with small town charm.