Things to Do in Marfa TX
Hey Jetsetters and Texans! I am excited to add another post to my Mini Vacation Travel series! This series is featuring little trips that does not cost a lot and you can have a great time with only take little or no days off from the work week. I do plan on doing more local getaways and staycations to feature on the blog so stay tuned! If you are following me on Instagram, you know that we recently came back from a 3-Day weekend trip to Marfa and White Sands, New Mexico. I have a separate blog post guide for White Sands here. This post is describing our experience to the desert town of Marfa. I will discuss how to get here, what you need know, what you need to bring, things to do in Marfa, TX and where to stay!
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Marfa is a city in the high desert of the Trans-Pecos in far West Texas, located between the Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park. It is a small town of about 2,000 residents. Over the past 5 years, an influx of people have moved in from different parts of the US looking for a more simpler life.You can drive to Marfa from Dallas but it is about an 8 hour drive! It was way too long of a drive to do a 3 day weekend for my husband and I. I prefer 4 hours drives unless we are with other people and then we could do a long drive. For us, we opted to fly into El Paso and then do a 3 hour drive to Marfa. The flight on American airlines was quite pricey for such a short distance. The cheapest we saw flights were $270 with tax non-stop roundtrip and it went up from there. We were expecting under $200. Basically our plan was this. El Paso is the closet airport to get to both Marfa & White Sands, New Mexico. We stayed one night in Marfa and one night in El Paso and drove an hour and half to White Sands. We felt that it was best to fly because it would have been a 4.5 hour drive to get to White Sands, NM from Marfa. If we drove from Dallas to Marfa and then to NM in two days, we would be so exhausted.
This was our itinerary for our trip and as you continue to read, you will understand more why we did it this way.
- Saturday: Took a 7am flight to El Paso
- Drove to Marfa & stayed one night
- Sunday: Breakfast in Marfa and then drove to White Sands, NM
- Same night checked into our hotel in El Paso
- Monday: Different side trip option possibilities such as exploring El Paso, a 2nd visit to White Sands, or an 2 drive to Cloudcroft, NM
- Took a 6:30pm flight back to Dallas
Things to Do in Marfa, TX – Where to Stay
So I found out about Marfa from a friend who was visiting from Italy. Could you believe one of the main reasons in visiting Texas was to see Marfa? I had never heard of it before. As I did more research, I became more interested in Marfa and I told my husband thatI wanted to visit it. Initially he was not so thrilled about visiting it and basically went there because of me. But after our stay, he said he really wished we could have stayed another night. Living in a big city such as Dallas sometimes you have the need of the “simple life”. Marfa is just that. It is not about shopping or having a jam packed itinerary but just enjoying the culture, scenary and each other. We stayed at the famous El Cosmico – a boho style hotel! They are famous for the teepee hotel rooms that you can stay in. I had always wanted to stay at this hotel and we were on a waiting list and a cancellation came up about 4 days before our departure! A teepee room was not available but we got the next best thing which was a safari tent! The whole experience was amazing! We both never been camping before and this was more like a “glamping experience”.
Our safari tent had electricity and heated beds. The heated beds that they advertised was basically and warm soft heated blanket that you can adjust the temperature for each person. My husband kept his at 7 and I maxed it out at 19! LOL At night the desert city got really cold. Definitely bring your long johns and socks. The teepees had a fire pit which would be a nice experience. The tent itself is very sturdy and thick coverings. I was worried about silhouettes but you cannot see anything. It even rained during the night and no water got in. They provide snacks in the tent at extra charge. The bathrooms were wooden shared, outdoors, but clean. I did shower with plastic flip flops. The showers are also communal, but you do have privacy but not with a lock. Everyone was very respectful and we always felt safe. The one shower I was in had cracks that someone could peak through but my husband was on standby lol. There is a pump soap to use but we brought our bodywash. The receptionist building had El Cosmico souvenirs and clothing to purchase as well as food, beer and wine too. You do sign a warning about watching out for critters, snakes and stuff but she stated we should not have any problems at this time of the year. The only critter we saw far away from our tent was this small prairie dog like animal (mouse size) that was more scared of us and would not come out of its little burrow.
Things to Do in Marfa, TX
As I mentioned, Marfa is a small town with not a lot of major activities to do but still simple things to do. The coolest experience you can do when visiting Marfa is visiting the McDonald Observatory. If you are a space nut like my husband, this place will teach you all you need to know about stars, galaxies and astronomy in general in the darkest skies ever! I mainly went for my husband but ended up really enjoying the experience. We were able to see a satellite passing by and I saw my first shooting star! I was quite amazing! Everyone gasped! To attend this program, you must book the Star Party and the Twilight Programs. They only have it on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. This is why when we arrived in El Paso we drove to Marfa first so we would not miss this event. The Twilight Program is the educational program to prepare you for the outdoor Star Viewing party. It is completely dark and they only have red lamp type lights to guide you to the arena. The more time your eyes are in dark, the more your eyes will begin to adjust and see more stars. It was quite cold so bundle up and/or bring a blanket. The speaker uses this green laser beam to outline the galaxies. It looked like the laser was touching the stars. That is how strong it was. Afterwards you can go to the different telescopes and view the stars. The entire program telescopes would take you about 2 hours. Weather does play a factor in what you can see. It was cloudy that day and we were worried. They offered refunds for those wanted it. But as the wind blew the sky kept getting clearer. I think we saw a good portion of the galaxies and stars.
TRAVEL TIP: Book in advance because they sell out fast! We actually only got to do the Star Party which was perfect with the timing we had.
You can visit the Chinati Foundation which a contemporary museum of art. This is the museum where you see the famous Marfa blocks. We did not have time to visit but would have liked to. The famous mysterious Marfa Lights! Noone can really explain what these lights are exactly. I have read that people think its the reflection of the cars coming from a near by highway and other thinks its ufo type of mystery. I decided to ask a local about whats the 411 on these lights. We were really tired after the Observatory visit and dinner amd opted to not check out the lights. There is a lookout point about 5 miles from the center of town. The local told me the Marfa lights are not always seen. A University came to Marfa and study them for 1 week and the lights never happened. However, the local told me how his wife knew an elderly lady in her 90s who kept the diary of her grandparents who lived in Marfa. They kept up with all the Marfa Lights sightings for years….BEFORE the highways had ever existed. So I guess the mystery will continue…
On the way to Marfa, you will have to stop in Valentine, Texas where the famous Prada store is at! We definitely took a selfie or 2 or 50! lol It is worth the quick little visit. It is not a real store where you can buy anything. There are bags and shoes inside but not sure if they are legit. I doubt it due to break in possibilities. You could take a stroll in downtown and check out the shops and things. There are a couple of hotels that are big hang out spots dining too that we got to visit and eat there. The two hotels were Hotel Paisano & Saint George Hotel.
Where to Eat in Marfa, TX
There are a few food places you should check out while visiting Marfa. The first one that we wanted to try was Food Shark. It is basically a food truck but “dining car / desert style. There are a lot of old classic cars and then a big silver food truck. The type of food they sell is vegetarian and Mediterranean foods. Many people rave about it but they are only open from 11-3pm. When we got there it was about 2:30pm and they had just sold out. I still wanted to make small talk with the owner but he was RUDE! It was actually turn off. I told him how I was excited to come here and we came from Dallas. He never poked his head out the window for a second or nothing. Very short responses like he did not care. He talked from deep within truck. I am not saying to go there but it was a turn off.
So after that experience I knew I wanted to eat at Capri which is inside the Thunderbird Hotel. We got there and they were closed. I think they are only open for dinner on the weekends at about 5pm. So then we decided to go to Saint George Hotel for lunch. It was quite busy at the bar and lounge areas. The style is very contemporary and nice in the inside. Our waitress was very nice from Europe (Scotland I believe). My husband and I both ordered the same thing which was the Smoked Brisket sandwich with potato salad. It was very good!! The sauce that was on the brisket was quite good too! We thought that the price was a bit pricey for food portion but everything was great! Another restaurant to eat at is Hotel Paisano! Which is about 60 second drive across the train tracks to get to. They have a nice courtyard area to enjoy drinks from the restaurant Lett’s Grill. Before going to McDonald Observatory, we stopped here to check it out. While looking at the menu, the bartender told us that they stop serving food at about 9pm. He suggested us to order food to go if we would be running late from the Observatory since most restaurants closes at 10pm and stop serving food some time before that. We took a photo of the menu and the phone number. We ended up doing just that and order the pork disk which was sooo good! I highly recommend it!
For breakfast, we ate at Squeeze Marfa! They had the most reviews and highest ratings on Tripadvisor! It is a cute little spot in a back alley way. We loved it! It is not where you would think to find a café or restaurant but everyone was so nice. The food was actually really good and they had espresso too! I had egg sandwhich on a baguette and they had a type of pesto sauce on it which was good too! One suggestion is to get there early. There is indoor seating and outdoors but he line was very long. We did have to wait a bit for our food but it was a beautiful sunny morning and we did not mind.
We learned some tips before our trip and during the tip that you definitely want to keep in mind when visiting to this lovely town.
- Don’t speed! – When driving from El Paso in the Marfa, you are very close to the Mexican border and state troopers are out and US Border Patrols. We actually got pulled over by State Trooper our first 30 mins for going a little bit over the speed limit and driving in the left lane. I forgot that these small towns, left lane is for passing only. Thankfully he only gave us a warning.
- Bring your Passport & ID – As I mentioned above US Border Patrol is on alert! One of my followers got offended on something I posted on my IG story in regards to the random checkpoints both going to Marfa and right before going to White Sands. This inspection is for ALL cars and not just the 18 wheelers. I wrote how they were checking for illegals and drugs. I obviously have no discrimination against people that are not from this country – I mean my husband went through immigration and got a green-card and so did my parents… However the truth of the matter that is exactly what they are looking for. Even the local in Marfa told me the same exact thing. In fact, one of the checkpoints I thought they were not going to let us in because the officer – evidently- did not believe that my husband was italian. The first thing that came out of the officers mouth was “What nationality are you?” My husband does look Spanish and we even brought both of our passports. He quickly gave mine back and went through EVERY SINGLE PAGE of my husband’s Italian passport though, asked him all these questions and then asked for his green card and he still did not release us right away. By chance, we brought our passport in case we got lost and found ourself on the otherside of the border. He actually asked for our passports specifically. So just bring them just in case.
- Book El Cosmico Hotel Early – Depending on the time of the year, El Cosmico can get completely booked pretty quickly. They had availability for the safari tent (not teepees) when I checked in January and then sold out at the end of January. You can always book and cancel for free 7 days before arrival.
- Bring your own Soap & Shampoo – El Cosmico does provide towels and shared body soap but it is best to bring your own toiletries like body soap, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.
- Rent a Car with Navigation – We were sooo glad we got upgraded to Ford Fusion that had navigation. GPS does not really work well when driving especially when visiting the McDonald Observatory. Many times we had no reception meaning you cannot depend on your GPS on your phone.
- Bring Water & Snacks – If driving from El Paso, stock up on water and snacks. There are not alot grocery stores in Marfa- we did not see any but gas stations. you will save money this way. Also restaurants closes between 9-10pm. So if you miss the cut off at least you have food to eat. Nothing stays open late.
- Make a TOGO order for Dinner – Everything shuts down at 10pm. Most restaurants will stop seating between 9-9:45pm. So if you are visiting McDonald Observatory, you will not make it in time without cutting your visit short. So be sure before arriving at McDonald to place a togo order for diner for a late pickup. There is no reception at the observatory and we did not get it until we reached Fort Davis. They will box it up and you can just eat it when you arrive.
I hope you enjoyed the photos and tips for the best things to do in Marfa TX! If you visit Marfa, I would love to hear how your stay went! Thanks for reading!