7 Reasons to Visit Marfa, TX

Presidio County Courthouse, Marfa, TX

Presidio County Courthouse, Marfa, TX

Far removed from the typical tourist trail in west Texas, we discovered at least seven good reasons to take a detour to Marfa, TX.

It’s Artsy

Ever since the renowned minimalist sculptor Donald Judd made Marfa his home in the early 1970s, the area has been a magnet for the creatively inclined. Today, the town of just 1,981 residents boasts as many as 14 art galleries. Judd’s work, along with that of other contemporary artists, is still available for tour through the Chinati and Judd Foundations.

. . . and literary

Named after a character in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Marfa retains its literary legacy to this day. Over the past decade, the Lannan Foundation has housed close to 200 fellows in Marfa through its Writers in Residency program.

The wonderfully urbane Marfa Book Company in downtown draws the area’s artists and writers together. The bookstore and art gallery functions as a gathering place that routinely stages music, readings, talks and other performances.

James Dean was here (and others too)

James Dean’s room at the recently restored Hotel Paisano remains a popular draw in downtown Marfa. It was 1955 when Hollywood’s lights first shined on this small Texas town. The filming of the epic Giant on a nearby ranch drew Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and, of course, James Dean. The skeleton of the mansion facade built for the film (seen above) still stands on Ryan Ranch, towering above an ocean of wheat that stretches across the landscape.

While here, try to identify landmarks appearing in other Hollywood films, including recent Oscar winners No Country for Old Men and There Will be Blood.

Spooky Lights

If unexplained balls of multi-hued lights hovering above the desert darkness peaks your interest, then Marfa is for you. Next to Judd’s artistic installations, the Mystery lights are one of Marfa’s top tourist draws.

Food Shark

Food Shark, Marfa TX

We can’t lie. We’re huge fans of food trucks. At first we may have simply been attracted to the novelty of “gourmet” food served out of cool-looking converted vans. But the truth is, we’ve had far better success eating at food trucks than we have eating at regular restaurants. There is a reason for that, I think.

Food trucks can’t offer ambience, a maitre de, or a swank location. Many can’t even give you a chair. The only thing food trucks can offer to lure customers is awesome food. And because the barriers to entry are far lower than with typical restaurants, the competition is even more fierce, meaning that only the really best survive.

Marfa’s Food Shark doesn’t face that kind of competition. In fact, they were the only truck in the lot. I don’t know exactly why that is, but maybe other trucks know the Shark will eat their lunch. They’re really that good.

For the ride of a lifetime

If you have to go, go in style. This pimped hearse claims to be “the ride of a lifetime.” We saw it, along with a couple of other cool vintage cars, parked along Marfa’s streets.

To get away from it all

Marfa Texas

Marfa as seen from atop the courthouse

Located in an upper corner of the Chiuahuan desert, some 180 miles southeast of El Paso and 57 miles north of the Mexican border, Marfa is so small and isolated you can literally see the edge of town from atop the Presido County Courthouse. Beyond the town’s edge, vast nothingness stretches as far as the eye can see.

For more getting away from it all goodness, Big Bend National Park is a three hour drive away, making Marfa a convenient stop along the way.

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18 Comments on “7 Reasons to Visit Marfa, TX”

  1. cravesadventure May 23, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    Beautiful Pics – thanks for sharing! I love quaint, small towns with character, culture and great eats:) Have a Great Day!


  2. REWahoo May 23, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    Thought Marfa would be right up your alley when I suggested you give it a look. Glad you enjoyed your visit.


    • Brian May 23, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

      Thanks for the pointer. We also did an overnight in Balmorhea State Park. Didn’t write about it, but a nifty little park in a very convenient location. Thanks for both tips.


  3. Grant May 23, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Love the past two Marfa posts. Dying to go there… No mention of Prada Marfa though?


    • Brian May 23, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

      Thanks Grant.

      The only problem with Prada Marfa is that it isn’t in Marfa – it’s about 40 miles away. True, by Texas standards that makes it practically spitting distance. But these New Yorkers decided not to make the 80 mile round trip to see just that one thing.


  4. Canadian Performer's Money May 24, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    I have only been to Texas once on a layover on the way to Belize. It’s amazing how different each state in America can be. It ca be a great adventure just to explore your own country.


    • Brian May 24, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

      How true. The U.S covers a good portion of an entire continent. It has mountains, and plains, and deserts and forests. It is pretty wild how much is here, and how large the area really is. We didn’t appreciate it until we set out to try to see it all. Two years later, we’ve still only scratched the surface.


      • Canadian Performer's Money May 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

        As a Canadian I am envious of Americans because they has such a wide choice in the lifestyle they can choose. From Alaska to Hawaii and everything in between. As a Canadian we have our choice of cold or colder.


        • Brian May 24, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

          I guess that “cold” and “colder” thing is why some 75% of all Canadians live within 160 km of the U.S. border. You do have some beautiful country. Cold, but beautiful.

          Of course, as an American vagabond, I envy Canada’s healthcare system where I wouldn’t have to deal with this: https://everywhereonce.com/2011/11/14/how-to-become-a-global-citizen/


          • Canadian Performer's Money May 24, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

            Hmm… that’s a cool service. How do you afford to travel full-time? I work all year just to be able to afford my one week away each year.
            Canadian health care isn’t what American’s think it is. We pay monthly for it based on our income and finding a family doctor that is willing to take on new customers is impossible. The paper is always full of stories about the poor treatment in our hospitals.


            • Brian May 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

              How can we afford to travel full-time? I wonder how so many people can afford not to. There are people RVing fulltime on $1,000 per month. Other couples travel the world on $2,000 per month. That budget doesn’t buy the lifestyle most people are accustomed to, but in many ways it buys a better one. So full-time travel can cost a fraction of what most people spend living a stationary life. It’s simply a mater of wanting it enough to find a way to make it work.


            • Canadian Performer's Money May 24, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

              Ok, I guess my question is, are you both retired? People living “the stationary life” as you call it are also working full-time. What does one do for income while traveling full-time?


            • Canadian Performer's Money May 24, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

              Wow! Great ideas.


            • Brian May 24, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

              Well, thank you. But I kind of think of it as just a little push to get people thinking about things differently. A job at a fixed address isn’t the only way to earn a buck.


  5. dcwisdom May 24, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    Just seeing Texas itself is an adventure! Thanks for visiting me. Are you a reader? If so, try Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne. He gives a fantastic account of West Texas’ Indian tribes, the settlement of the Anglos, and history of Cynthia Ann Parker’s son, Quanah, the last Comanche Chief.


    • Brian May 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

      Texas certainly is an adventure. Thanks for the book recommendation, will have to check it out.


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