It was my first time in Texas. The few times at the airport, on my way to another airport does not count. I wasn't sure what to expect since there is only so much you can "research" on a place. I knew beforehand that Marfa was where they shot the movie, "No Country for Old Men" and there is a big artsy community, thanks to Donald Judd, the minimal artist.
It's not the easiest place to get to from New York City. You fly into El Paso or Midland, with a layover in Houston, then you have to drive 3 hours south. Though once you start the drive, you're rewarded with some of the most beautiful landscape. Yes, Texas is flat, wide open space. It's quite refreshing, especially for people so used to cement, asphalt, subways and tall buildings. I do recommend flying into El Paso because on the way to Marfa, you'll pass the famous fake Prada store which is the sign that you're close to Marfa.
What's fun about Marfa, is really the mix of old timey, small town Texas with a splash of eccentricity. One side of the street has a DQ and abandoned houses while the other side has galleries and a Museum of Electronic Wonders that serve grilled cheese sandwiches at night.
Things To Do
Marfa Lights, the owner of Planet Marfa, the local beer garden, takes people in his pimped out bus to see the mysterious Marfa Lights. Of course you can go by yourself but if you have a big group like we did, I DO recommend getting him as your guide. Besides picking and dropping people off, he will also spend 30 minutes telling you all the stories and theories he collected over the years. There's also a bonus treat, the night sky. I have seen stars but never so many stars and I have never seen the Milky Way before. Just the view of the beautiful night sky is totally worth it.
Absorb every bit of art and culture at The Chinati Foundation. People are only allow in through guided tours. Well I can't comment on if it was fun or not since I didn't go. I imagine it to be similar to Dia: Beacon, which I have gone twice. My time was limited and I was more interested in exploring the town.
If big art foundation isn't your thing, there are tons of smaller galleries along the main road.
Things To Eat
So one of the reasons why I skipped out on The Chinati tour was that I had a list of places to eat and I didn't really want to waste my time at a tour.
Buns N' Roses is where I found one of my favorite..FAVORITE doughnuts. For a $1, their doughnuts are simple, light and slightly chewy. And if you go early enough, you can get ones with doughnut holes. Be sure to also get a tasty breakfast burrito, $4. There is a list of free add ons. I got jalapeno and ham.
One of the bigger food businesses in Marfa, is Food Shark. Not only do they have a food truck, they also provide grilled cheese sandwiches at the Museum of Electronic Wonders and Future Shark.
They catered my friends' wedding rehearsal dinner and I got to try two of their tacos, mole pork taco with fresh corn pico and queso fresco and green chile chicken taco with creamy green chile sauce. And! Their sweet potato salad side was crazy good.
Mando is sort of like the local diner. The menu serves a mix of American classics, Mexican food and Tex-Mex. You can check out my post on Mando over at the food blog but as you can see (above), I ordered a monster sized dish. Chicken fried chicken. A battered and fried chicken breast, covered in gravy and served with a side plus a salad.
Fat Lyle's is a food truck and they catered my friends' wedding. They're pretty much known for their fried chicken (only on Sundays) but the food that I had at the wedding were all pretty solid.
Planet Marfa is the local beer garden that only opens on the weekends. The beers are cheap and there are many nooks and crannies filled with chairs and tables for a more intimate feel.
Frama, the only coffee shop in town (I think). It kind of reminded me of Brooklyn with it's scrabble tiles as menu and the all wooden floor boards. They also sell ice cream and next door is a laundromat (which actually owns Frama).
Where To Stay
There are many places to stay in Marfa. It is really up to your preferences. I stayed at the Thunderbird Motel, which was conveniently across from the wedding venue. It was also the place my friends recommended. For 3 nights, I payed about $450. It has that very Ikea, modern, minimalistic touch to it.
Few people stayed at the El Paisano Hotel, which is a historic hotel.
There's also El Cosmico. It is a 18 acre campground with refurbished trailers, tents and teepees for people to stay in. You can also bring your own gear and stay there.
And of course there are houses for you to rent.
I always wonder what would make someone live so far out of anything and everything. Marfa is quite an awesome town. I don't think I have been to such a welcoming town. Everyone was just so damn nice, even to the weekenders. It's quirky, random, slow, and definitely a place to explore. Explore the town, explore the wilderness, explore who you are.