A beginner’s guide to visiting Marfa

Consider the train, rent a house and other tips


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.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Travel

Uncovering Ireland’s culinary delights
Uncovering Ireland’s culinary delights

Irish cuisine has long been the fodder of jokes — a kind of penance to suffer through in order to enjoy the people, music and lush scenery of the Emerald Isle. But that’s an outdated notion: Travelers today find fresh, inventive, flavorful meals there — and many Irish towns are working to establish themselves as foodie destinations...
A treasure trove along Florida’s Emerald Coast
A treasure trove along Florida’s Emerald Coast

The shades of blue stack up on the horizon like a beach-lover’s paint chip. Sky. Ocean. Pool. When I envision the Florida Panhandle, these are the colors I see. Growing up, I cherished my family’s annual August pilgrimage to Destin, where we’d spend a carefree week filling up on hearty breakfasts at the Donut Hole, shopping for trinkets...
Hurricane Safety: 6 scary, infectious illnesses you can catch from floodwater
Hurricane Safety: 6 scary, infectious illnesses you can catch from floodwater

Hurricanes can leave behind tons of damage, including flooding. But did you know that treading through the wrong kind of water can cause illnesses or even death? Floodwaters and standing water are often contaminated, posing several risks, such as infectious diseases, chemical hazards and injuries. Here are six sicknesses you should...
Austin is one of the most tourist-friendly cities in America, according to this list
Austin is one of the most tourist-friendly cities in America, according to this list

Some locals may whisper “don’t move here” under their breath to tourists, but that doesn’t stop them from coming. Austin has made yet another list, this time ranked as one of the most tourist-friendly cities in America by travel website Expedia. RELATED: Austin named best travel destination for solo...
Epicurean escape: Eat like a local with new Paris food tour
Epicurean escape: Eat like a local with new Paris food tour

On a sunny afternoon in a quiet park in Paris’ 10th Arrondissement, a dozen people have gathered for a moveable feast. Removed from the hectic heart of the city, where visitors crowd around the enigmatic “Mona Lisa” and cloud-tickling Eiffel Tower, we’re eschewing escargot for an off-the-beaten-menu tour seasoned with savory...
More Stories