I have wanted to visit Marfa for as long as I can remember.
A small but important artist enclave in the heart of West Texas, it seemed well worth the six-hour drive it takes to get out there.
This month, I finally got the chance to visit. If you’re planning to make it out that way, here are some tips first-timers may appreciate.
1. Consider taking the train. Sure, it tacks some time onto your trip, but if you have an extra day or two to spare, Amtrak’s Texas Eagle has routes that run from Austin to Alpine, which is about 30 minutes from Marfa. From there, you can rent a car or arrange other transportation between cities. It’s a fun, scenic way to see West Texas, and a great way to travel as a family. Most routes leave Austin in the evening and arrive in Marfa the next morning. Reserved adult tickets start around $68 per person; family bedrooms start around $300. Visit www.amtrak.com for more information.
2. Shop with the artists. Sure, hitting up the Chinati Foundation (www.chinati.org) is an absolute must for art lovers, but there are also a number of artists in town who are creating real, usable goods that make wonderful, functional additions to your home or wardrobe. Some favorites include Cobra Rock Boot Company (www.cobrarock.com), which creates handmade American full-grain leather boots, and Garza Marfa (www.garzamarfa.com), where custom-made furniture and textiles are the order of the day.
3. Rent a house. Don’t get me wrong — Marfa has amazing hotels. You can’t go wrong at El Cosmico, Hotel Paisano or the Thunderbird. But if you’re traveling as a family, as we were, renting a house is a great alternative. Most of the options we found online were updated and spacious with a little kitsch thrown in for good measure. They were also almost all within walking distance to the things in town you might want to see, and affordable, particularly if you have several families traveling together. Find a sample of the homes available for rent online at www.visitmarfa.com/rentals.php.
4. Make reservations. You might not think that you need to make reservations in a town as small as Marfa, but you do. Everywhere from the must-see McDonald Observatory (located about 40 minutes outside of town) to the Chinati Foundation to the incredibly popular Cochineal restaurant (www.cochinealmarfa.com) recommend that you make reservations before you come.
5. Go over the weekend. Anyone who has been to Marfa before will tell you that you have to visit over a weekend if you want to make the most of your time there. Most everything shuts down early in the week, so your best bet is to look at traveling Thursday-Sunday.
6. Don’t be afraid to be a tourist. Certain things, such as seeing the Marfa lights, having a drink at kid- and dog-friendly Padre’s restaurant/bar and taking a picture in front of Prada Marfa are simply part of the Marfa experience. Don’t worry about seeming like a tourist — just have fun and embrace this one-of-a-kind Texas treasure.