For our two year anniversary, the lovely Anna surprised me with a trip to the hipster capital of west Texas, Marfa. A small desert town, a six and a half hour drive from Austin, Marfa is certainly not an easy place to get to. Yet people make the journey from all over the country, drawn to the combination of art, good food, and beautiful west Texas landscapes. We went down for a weekend to see what all the hype is about. Heres the rundown of where we stayed, what we ate, and what we did.
Anna booked El Cosmico, the most well designed glamping campground this side of the Mississippi, with a variety of lodging options such as airstream trailers, teepees, yurts, and safari tents. Despite making the reservations over three months in advance, all that was left were the Safari Tents, so if you are hoping to score one of the more popular trailers or teepees, make sure to book way in advance. That being said, the Safari Tent was still dope. It was so adorable and comfy, we wanted to live in there forever. Everything about El Comisco is instagram perfect, well designed, and well curated. One of the highlights for us was the electric bed warmers which saved our asses, literally, when the temperature dropped to 22 degrees one night. Other highlights included the great lobby store selling local beer/wine and sundries, wood fired hot tubs available for rent, and cute, ivy covered, outdoor bathhouses (although this was not so fun in the middle of the night when it was below freezing out brrrr.)
There are a few other lodging options in town, including the Hotel El Paisano and the Thunderbird Hotel. Both looked picturesque and would probably be great options if you are not into outdoor toilets.
We had both heard a lot of good things about the food in Marfa. Despite being a tiny town, it has a surprising number of highly recommended restaurants and food trucks. We tried to hit as many as we could in our 48 hours in Marfa and all in all, we were not super impressed. Yes the food options were definitely much better in Marfa than in most towns with a population of 2k, but we were not blown away. The best thing we ate was a breakfast burrito from Marfa Burrito. You basically walk into this woman's home and wait in her living room while she whips up some carne asado and wraps it in a fresh made tortilla. It was great. We also enjoyed the marfalafel at the ever-popular Food Shark. Otherwise, our dinners at Cochineal and Jett's Grill were just so-so and our breakfast at Bun's and Roses, while tasty, was not anything to write home about. One thing we really wanted to try was the much-hyped, "mind blowing" porridge sold on weekends at coffee shop Do Your Thing. It was unfortunately not available the day we went but we will try again next time for sure.
There is not a lot to do in Marfa. That is part of its charm though. Walk through town, grab a coffee, read a book in a hammock, take a drive out into the desert... life is lived at a leisurely pace in West Texas. We went to the Chinati Foundation to check out Donald Judds famous large scale art pieces. The system they have set up there is pretty darn confusing. You can only view certain pieces without booking a tour, but tours are only offered at specific times, on specific days, and even the self guided tour works are only open from like 2-4pm. What? Makes no sense. We bundled up and walked through the desert looking at his large scale concrete pieces which were cool.
As it was a little too chilly to take a hike, we instead decided to do the scenic loop drive up through Fort Davis and into the mountains. It was beautiful, and the town of Fort Davis was worth a visit just for the root beer float at the old timey soda fountain. As the sun set we stopped by the iconic Prada Marfa store, which is actually about half an hour outside of Marfa in the town of Valentine. I can see why so many photos of it pop up on my Instagram feed, it is definitely surreal-looking, out there in the desert by itself with the road stretching out endlessly in both directions.
At night we wanted to try our luck at catching a glimpse of the mysterious Marfa Lights. There is a viewing station on the side of the highway coming from Alpine, but we decided to forgo that in favor of a quiet, empty, country road. We drove a ways south of Marfa, pulled over, and got out of the car. The stars were bright, the desert air was cool, and the only sound we could hear was the coyotes howling in the distance. We looked out on the dark landscape and saw a light fading in and out of view in the distance. Anna is convinced it was the Marfa Lights but it looked an awful lot like car headlights to me. Who knows...
Otherwise, there is not a lot else to see/do in Marfa. If you are staying for more than a night or two I would definitely recommend making the trip down to Big Bend for some hiking, or the drive up to Balmorhea State Park for its spring fed pool.
Despite it being a trek to get out to, Marfa is an enchanting little oasis that encourages a bohemian vibe. Time slows down there, and it is easy to see why many young artists pick up and move there, or at least decide to return time and time again. We certainly plan to go back soon, and hopefully we can snag one of those elusive teepees this time.