Driving the eight hours from North Texas down to Marfa is a true reminder that Texas has every landscape in the book.
Flatlands, dusty, tree-lined country road and the hill country that sneaks up on you when you hit hour six. When Marfa starts being listed on the highway signs, you begin to think that what you see is what you get. Don’t worry; you are wrong. Marfa is at once completely still and moving towards the future all at once.
The weekend I visited was during a quiet period for the tiny town. We learned right away that Marfa comes alive from Thursday to Saturday and the rest of the week it is a bit of a ghost town. Finding an open restaurant, much less a coffee shop, seemed impossible upon arrival Sunday night, but we lucked out with the Jett’s Grill at Hotel Paisano.
“There are several options for accommodations in Marfa, you can rent a teepee in a field, AirBnB for the local’s experience, stay at a disturbingly out of place sleek boutique hotel (which was closed our entire trip anyway), or you can embrace the traditional and stay at Hotel Paisano.”
Located on the main road leading to the town square and the beautiful county courthouse, which rivals our own, Hotel Paisano is vintage in every way, and the warm service and excellent food make it a smart place to stay on your first visit. The hotel’s hallways are lined with large photos of Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean who filmed the movie “Giant” in 1955 and stayed at the hotel during filming. Now the Marfa Film Festival brings celebrities, auteurs and supermodels every year, ensuring its place in movie history.
“Marfa’s trajectory was altered forever from becoming an abandoned town by Donald Judd, an artist famous for purchasing the closed Fort D.A. Russell to showc se his large-scale sculptures.”
Next, he began buying the empty buildings and infusing the small town with artists from all over the world. Once you step into a gallery in Marfa and check out a price tag or two you’ll realize that this is more than just a traditional gallery, this is where collectors come to find one-of-a-kind pieces for their collection. Even the souvenir shop at Hotel Paisano will make you do a double take for picking up souvenirs to bring home.
The time to make use of your car is to take the 20-minute drive towards Valentine. Along the narrow highway is one of the most famous modern art installations in the world. Called “Prada Marfa” by artists Elmgreen and Dragset This building was created in 2005 and inside is the Prada fall/winter 2005 collection. The building is not protected, you can see lots of attempts at vandalism and broken windows, but that is kind of the point. There are no repairs, repainting or replacement of stolen items, it is meant to age and eventually fall into ruin as a reflection on art, consumerism and the ideals of modern times.
“You will be surprised how many people travel to Marfa for the Marfa lights and to take a photo of Prada Marfa.”
Aside from the manmade spectacles, mother nature has also blessed Marfa with a phenomenon called the Marfa lights. Much like the Aurora Borealis in Canada and Iceland, Marfa has the McDonald Observatory center that you will pass on the way into town that is a must on your list if the weather is just right.
Where to Stay? Where to Eat?
Jett’s Grill @ Hotel Paisano