The Getaway
Exciting Things to Do in Marfa, Texas

Marfa, Texas, isn't just a town; it's an experience. Nestled in the vast expanse of the West Texas desert, Marfa is a unique blend of art, culture, and history. What was once a railroad water stop has transformed into a hub for contemporary art and a retreat for those seeking a break from the hustle and bustle. With its iconic installations, historic landmarks, and natural wonders, Marfa beckons travelers with a promise of something different.

Marfa is a paradox. It's where the old meets the new, where history intertwines with contemporary art, and where the rugged desert landscape coexists with avant-garde installations. It's a place that challenges conventions, encourages exploration, and promises an experience that's both enriching and enlightening.

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01 Visit the Chinati Foundation

The Chinati Foundation, founded by artist Donald Judd, is a contemporary art museum that sprawls across 340 acres. It's not just an art museum; it's a testament to Judd's vision of integrating art, architecture, and the natural environment. The foundation houses large-scale installations by Judd himself and other renowned artists. As you wander through the vast spaces, you'll be struck by the seamless blend of art and the surrounding landscape. The minimalist art pieces, set against the backdrop of the vast Texan desert, create a surreal experience that's bound to leave an indelible mark on your memory.

02 Check out the Marfa Lights

The Marfa Lights, a mysterious phenomenon, have been a source of intrigue for decades. These unexplained lights, often appearing as glowing orbs, dance across the desert night sky near U.S. Route 67 on Mitchell Flat. While there are many theories ranging from atmospheric reflections to ghostly apparitions, no one has been able to conclusively explain their origin. The Marfa Lights Viewing Area, located 9 miles east of the town, offers the best vantage point. As you gaze into the horizon, waiting for the lights to make their appearance, you'll find yourself enveloped in the mystique of Marfa, pondering the many secrets the desert holds.

 

03 Explore the Judd Foundation

The Judd Foundation, another brainchild of Donald Judd, preserves and promotes his legacy. Located in the heart of Marfa, the foundation offers guided tours of Judd's residence and studios. As you step inside, you'll be transported into Judd's world, where art and living spaces coalesce. The meticulously preserved spaces offer insights into Judd's life, his work process, and his profound impact on the contemporary art world. The foundation also hosts exhibitions, educational programs, and artist residencies, making it a pulsating hub of creativity in Marfa.

04 Visit the Marfa and Presidio County Museum

The Marfa and Presidio County Museum is a treasure trove of local history. Housed in a historic adobe structure, the museum offers a deep dive into the region's past, from its Native American roots to its railroad days and beyond. As you meander through the exhibits, you'll encounter artifacts, photographs, and personal accounts that paint a vivid picture of life in West Texas. The museum also sheds light on Marfa's transformation from a quiet desert town to a cultural hotspot. It's a journey through time that provides context to the contemporary Marfa experience.

05 Discover the Enigma of Prada Marfa

Prada Marfa isn't your typical Prada store; it's an art installation that defies expectations. Situated in the barren landscape of West Texas, just a few miles outside the small town of Valentine, this faux boutique is the creation of Berlin-based artists Elmgreen and Dragset. Designed as a "pop architectural land art project," the structure is built from biodegradable materials and is intended to eventually dissolve back into the earth. Despite its inaccessibility—its doors are forever locked—the installation has garnered media attention and even experienced vandalism. Yet, it stands as a surreal critique of consumer culture, complete with Prada merchandise handpicked by Miuccia Prada herself. Whether you view it as a statement on materialism or a peculiar desert oddity, Prada Marfa continues to captivate the imagination of all who visit.

06 Visit the Ballroom Marfa

  Ballroom Marfa, a dynamic art space, is dedicated to promoting the visual arts, film, music, and performance. Established in 2003, it has become a cornerstone of Marfa's vibrant art scene. The space hosts a rotating roster of exhibitions, screenings, and live performances, ensuring there's always something new to discover. As you explore, you'll be struck by the innovative and thought-provoking works that challenge conventions and push boundaries. Ballroom Marfa is more than just an art space; it's a testament to the town's commitment to fostering creativity and dialogue.

07 Explore the Marfa Contemporary

The Marfa Contemporary, an extension of the Oklahoma City-based City Arts Center, is a beacon for contemporary art in Marfa. This gallery space, with its sleek and modern design, stands in stark contrast to the rugged desert landscape. Inside, you'll find a curated selection of artworks that reflect the evolving nature of contemporary art. The exhibitions, often featuring emerging artists, offer fresh perspectives and challenge traditional notions of art. It's a space that invites contemplation, discussion, and, most importantly, an appreciation of the ever-changing art landscape.

08 Visit the Ayn Foundation

The Ayn Foundation, established in 1993, is dedicated to supporting and showcasing long-term art installations. In Marfa, the foundation presents works by artists Maria Zerres and John Chamberlain. As you delve into the exhibits, you'll be struck by the depth and complexity of the artworks. Zerres' "September Eleven" series, a response to the 9/11 attacks, is particularly poignant, evoking a myriad of emotions. The foundation's commitment to long-term installations allows visitors to engage deeply with the artworks, fostering a richer understanding and appreciation.

09 Check out the Marfa Book Company

The Marfa Book Company is more than just a bookstore; it's a cultural hub. Located in the heart of Marfa, this space offers a curated selection of books, art, and events. As you browse the shelves, you'll find a diverse range of titles, from contemporary fiction to art monographs and regional history. The store also hosts readings, film screenings, and live performances, making it a pulsating hub of creativity. Whether you're a bibliophile or just looking for a unique souvenir, the Marfa Book Company promises a delightful experience.

10 Visit the Presidio County Courthouse

USA, Texas, Marfa, Presidio County Courthouse Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

The Presidio County Courthouse, with its distinctive pink hue, stands as a beacon of Marfa's rich history. This architectural gem, built in the Second Empire style, offers a glimpse into the town's past. As you ascend its steps, you'll be greeted by intricate Italianate details that speak of a bygone era. The courthouse's tower offers panoramic views of Marfa, making it a favorite spot for both locals and tourists. As you explore its interiors, you'll encounter a blend of history and architecture that tells the story of Marfa's evolution from a quiet desert town to a cultural hotspot.

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11 Visit the Blackwell School

The Blackwell School, a historic Hispanic segregated school, stands as a testament to Marfa's multicultural heritage. Operating from 1909 to 1965, it played a pivotal role in the education of the town's Hispanic community. Today, the Blackwell School Alliance has transformed it into a museum, preserving its legacy and sharing its stories. As you walk its halls, you'll encounter photographs, artifacts, and personal accounts that shed light on the challenges and triumphs of its students. It's a poignant reminder of the struggles for equality and the indomitable spirit of the Marfa community.

12 Check out the Palace Theater

The Palace Theater, with its art deco facade, is a slice of Marfa's cinematic history. Once a hub for opera and film enthusiasts, it now stands as a testament to the town's cultural evolution. The theater's green and yellow tiles, combined with its vintage charm, make it a favorite spot for photographers and history buffs alike. While it no longer screens films, its legacy lives on, reminding visitors of Marfa's vibrant past and its transformation into a contemporary art mecca.

13 Visit the Marfa Public Library

The Marfa Public Library is more than just a repository of books; it's a community space that fosters learning and creativity. Established in 1973, the library has been at the forefront of promoting literacy and cultural exchange in Marfa. With its diverse collection of books, periodicals, and digital resources, it caters to the varied interests of its patrons. The library also hosts events, workshops, and readings, making it a hub of intellectual and cultural activity. Whether you're looking to delve into Marfa's history, explore contemporary literature, or simply relax with a good book, the library offers a welcoming space for all.

14 Check out the Marfa Central Fire Station

Central Fire Station jennifer m. ramos / Getty Images

The Marfa Central Fire Station, painted in a delightful shade of baby pink, is a quirky addition to Marfa's landscape. While it's a fully functional fire station, its unique color palette makes it a favorite spot for photographers. It's a testament to Marfa's spirit, where even the most functional buildings are infused with a touch of whimsy. As you pass by, take a moment to appreciate its charm and the essential role it plays in keeping the community safe.

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15 Visit the Hotel Paisano

el paisano marfa hotel Scott Halleran / Getty Images

The Hotel Paisano is a blend of luxury, history, and Hollywood glamour. Established in the 1930s, this hotel has played host to Hollywood legends like Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean during the filming of "Giant." Today, it offers visitors a chance to relive that glamour, with its elegant rooms, fine dining at Jett's Grill, and a museum dedicated to the film. As you explore its corridors, you'll encounter photographs and memorabilia that transport you back to Hollywood's golden era. It's a luxurious retreat that offers a taste of Marfa's cinematic legacy.

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16 Learn about the movie "Giant" in Marfa

Elizabeth Taylor looking up at James Dean in a scene from the film 'Giant', 1956. Warner Brothers / Getty Images

Marfa's tryst with Hollywood is epitomized by the movie "Giant." This epic drama, based on Edna Ferber's novel, was filmed in Marfa and showcased its stunning landscapes. The film, which touched upon themes of love, ambition, and racial prejudice, has left an indelible mark on Marfa's cultural landscape. Today, visitors can explore filming locations, attend screenings, and immerse themselves in the movie's legacy. It's a cinematic journey that offers insights into Marfa's role in shaping Hollywood history.

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17 Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean's "Giant Marfa" Murals

As you drive towards Prada Marfa, you'll encounter larger-than-life murals of Hollywood icons Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. Created by artist John Cerney in 2018, these murals are a tribute to their roles in "Giant." Accompanied by sound installations, they offer a multisensory experience that transports visitors back to the 1950s. It's a visual and auditory treat that celebrates Marfa's cinematic heritage.

18 Visit the Marfa shops

Small Town, USA Marfa earleliason / Getty Ima

Marfa's shopping scene is as eclectic as the town itself. From chic boutiques to artisanal stores, shopping in Marfa is an experience in itself. As you explore its shops, you'll encounter a curated selection of goods, from handcrafted jewelry to bespoke clothing and unique souvenirs. Each store tells a story, reflecting the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of the Marfa community. It's a shopping experience that's both authentic and unique, offering a taste of Marfa's vibrant culture.

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19 Stay in a Yurt, Teepee, or Trailer

Teepees glowing at night in Marfa, Texas Tom Windeknecht / Getty Images

Marfa's accommodations are a reflection of its quirky spirit. At places like El Cosmico, visitors can opt for unconventional lodgings like yurts, teepees, or trailers. Each accommodation offers a unique experience, blending comfort with a touch of bohemian. As you relax under the vast Texan sky, surrounded by the desert's tranquility, you'll appreciate Marfa's ability to offer the unconventional while ensuring comfort.

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20 Visit the Davis Mountains State Park

Davis Mountains Maxine Weiss / Getty Images

A stone's throw away from Marfa, the Davis Mountains State Park is a haven for nature enthusiasts. With its rugged terrains, scenic vistas, and diverse flora and fauna, it offers a respite from urban life. Whether you're hiking the Indian Lodge Trail or simply soaking in the views, the park promises a rejuvenating experience. It's a reminder of West Texas's natural beauty and the perfect spot for those seeking adventure and tranquility.

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21 Visit the McDonald Observatory at Fort Davis

USA, Texas, Fort Davis, McDonald Observatory Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

The McDonald Observatory, located atop the Davis Mountains, is a window to the cosmos. With its state-of-the-art telescopes and educational programs, it offers visitors a chance to explore the mysteries of the universe. Whether you're attending a Star Party or exploring the observatory during the day, you'll be awed by the vastness of the cosmos. It's an astronomical journey that offers insights into our place in the universe and the wonders that lie beyond our planet.

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