Food, Art, and the Paranormal in Marfa, Texas

Marfa was the last stop on a five-month journey across the United States. Despite its tiny population (2000 people) and its achingly remote location (far west Texas), it is well-known and visited. Its claims to fame are rooted in the arts and the mysterious—read Donald Judd, the film classic Giant, Prada Marfa by Elmgreen & Dragset, and the infamous Marfa Lights. It stands to reason then that: a good portion of its population is made up of artists, it has a well-stocked organic grocery store called the Get Go, as well as a fantastic bookstore that is also the location for music and cultural events, a public radio station, a food truck, and so on and on.

During the course of one month, it was crazy to be so far out in the middle of nowhere and still manage to see a show, run into people from all over the world including a certain French curator, friends of friends, a blogger and her family visiting for the weekend, and eat at the Food Shark during the filming of the Marfa episode for PBS’s Daytripper.

Marfa is remote, but there is still a lot to do outside of town like taking in the unbelievable solitude that is the US-Mexico border in the Big Bend National Forest, meeting the charming and free-spirited residents of Terlingua while staying at Kaci’s half-dilapitated adobe mansion-turned-boutique hotel Upstairs at the Mansion, and my favorite, the 77,053 sq ft (7100 square meter) spring-fed swimming pool in the middle of the desert that is San Soloman Springs.

Accommodations in Marfa are varied. You can stay in restored vintage trailers, luxury tents, or your own tent at El Cosmico campground. The 1930s Thunderbird motel is a little bit closer to the center of town (if you happen to be driving south of town on Route 67, see if you can spot its fabulous original, sun-bleached billboard on the side of the road). Next to the courthouse in the center of town is the Hotel Paisano, which first opened in 1930 and was the home away from home for the cast and crew of Giant, including Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean. There are some Airbnb offerings, too, but in such a small town, places are limited and go quickly.

As with every place on this trip, I was constantly evaluating whether or not I could see myself living and working there. My overall take on this place, despite its quality cultural offerings, food, people, and destination status: it is still a small town where everybody knows everybody and all of their business. I prefer the anonymity of the city. Or 40+ acres.

+ Read all Marfa blog posts

NOTES

Drink & Eat

FOOD SHARK • Food truck in the center of town serving falafel and other sandwiches.
facebook.com/foodsharkmarfa

SQUEEZE • Patio. Juice, smoothies, breakfast, and lunch.
squeezemarfa.com

To Do

MARFA LIGHTS • Take your patience and head to the viewing station after dark. Sometimes these unexplainable lights appear and sometimes they don’t. If you are lucky enough to catch them (I saw them on my first visit but not on the second), they are weird and a total head scratcher.
marfatxlights.com

BALMORHEA STATE PARK • Swim in the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool. The water is clear and gorgeous. Totally worth the drive.
tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/balmorhea

PRADA MARFA • Site specific installation in Valentine by Elmgreen & Dragset built in 2005 in Valentine.
ballroommarfa.org/archive/prada-marfa-an-explainer

Stay

EL COSMICO • Stay in a variety of teepees and trailers or in the campground in your own tent.
elcosmico.com

EL PAISANO • This historic hotel was built in 1929 and served as HQ for the Elizabeth Taylor/Rock Hudson/James Dean movie Giant. Dog friendly.
hotelpaisano.com