Ah, I know you’ve seen it. The hipster photos in the desert, the teepees under the stars, the multi-colored lights of the art exhibits. Marfa: how mysterious, how exciting, how fanatical, how unique, where Desert Fashion Show meets Wilderness Barbie. Even the name: Marfa. How easily it rolls off the tongue, it sounds like a code word you would use at a speakeasy, that you whisper into an alleyway and then are mysteriously led into a secret party behind a wall. But is it true? Is it really an oasis in the midst of dust? And so far! Is it worth it? To go, or not to go, that is the question.
Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhm, I would say no. In a nutshell, Marfa is basic af but if you’re in the area stop by.
It’s true, all the pics look amazing. Even the pictures I have I’m like whoa, I look way cooler than I actually am, actually we look fucking badass. Buuuuuuut. I’m really not that cool, and neither is Marfa, and neither are all the basics who go to Marfa for The Gram.
You only need one-day for this road trip.
Before Leaving For Marfa: What to do, what to pack.
Must say this for my foreign readers: English is necessary, or Spanish, you could get around with either, but introduce the word “y’all” to your vocabulary. As in “you all,” referring to a group, as in “all y’all.” Used in a sentence: “Where do y’all like to eat around here?” Got it?
Marfa IS like a fashion show, a hipster fashion show. Pack your cutest boots, fringe, and structured hat. Boys, the skinnier the jeans the better, and a bolo tie. The bigger the better. Cause everyone in Marfa is dressed so damn cute! But also pack a jacket because it gets cold in the desert at night. Like, really cold (like 40 degrees Fahrenheit-that’s cold to me, idk about y’all.)
No matter what airport you fly into, you’re going to have to rent a car. It will be a minimum 3-hour trip. Marfa is definitely a road-trip destination. Therefore, I highly, HIGHLY recommend, that whatever car you rent through whatever company, GET THE INSURANCE. The desert is full of wild animals that don’t give a shit when they see you coming. From personal experience, (I hit one deer, three butterflies, a wild hare, and 13879280945834953945 bugs) your car will be fucked up by the end of this trip, especially if you drive at any point during the night. You’ll see countless dead animals on the side of the road, including but not limited to: javelinas (wild boars with massive tusks), dogs, vultures, deer, and roadrunners, probably still there from the last time I killed them all. So you’ll want to get whatever offer they give you that if you mess up your car, you can just walk away. Trust me, it’s worth it. Death-mobile.
Getting to Marfa
The road to Marfa is like scenery from a movie. You’ll see oil rigs, desert, tumbleweeds, rock formations, etc. etc. The drive is what people usually picture Texas to be like…a whole bunch of nothing…and then a gas station that sells breakfast tacos and signs such as these:
Where to stay in Marfa
The most famous place to stay is El Cosmico (www.elcosmico.com) because you can glamp (Glamour Camp). You can either rent a trailer ($150-180), a teepee ($150-$175), a safari tent ($85), or you can bring your own tent and set up camp ($30). You must make a reservation, and make it far enough in advance. They have free cancellations, so I would reserve as soon as you start thinking about it, then cancel later. The restrooms and showers are shared and are outdoors, but they do have hot water. Wifi is available within the lobby as well as complimentary coffee. If you’re planning to straighten or dry your hair, be careful not to short circuit the entire place, you can’t plug too many electronics in at once. There are electrical outlets in all of the rooms.
There is also a guest shop WITH ALL THE CUTE THINGS. But they’re overpriced. No, I do not want to pay $210 for this bathrobe even though it’s so freaking adorable. Also this belt is gorgeous! But not $110 gorgeous, fuck you. Walk away from the gift shop. Don’t do it. Order. Off. Etsy.
There are also countless AirBnBs in town. But the great thing about El Cosmico is that it is within walking distance of restaurants, bars, and really close to the art museum.
What to do in Marfa
Below are the 3 reasons people come to Marfa (or for a wedding, like I did):
Probably the most photographed art piece in Marfa. It is a free-standing building of a mock-up of a pop-up Prada store. It was never a pop-up. It was always just a random building. Inside just looks like an abandoned space with some shoes and a purse. I don’t even think they are real Prada. You can’t go inside. Anyway the point is to take pictures outside of the store anyway. This store is actually not in Marfa, but on the outskirts in Valentine, Texas, about 35 minutes out. Allow yourself 1.5 hours for this excursion.
This is what made Marfa famous. However, they don’t really exist. Basically someone thought there were aliens or something because they saw some floating lights in the middle of a field. It has something to do with air and temperature, I’m not sure what the science is. But you can stare into this field for years and never see the lights so skip this. My friend has come back on 3 separate occasions over a span of 7 years and he still has yet to see them, I’m not sure why he keeps trying.
Expectation vs. Reality
This art museum is in the middle of the desert and showcases pieces by Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and others. There are three tours offered: the self-guided tour (free), the selections tour ($20 adult/ $10 student), or the full collection tour ($25 adult/ $10 student). I don’t recommend the self-guided tour because you’re just looking at concrete boxes in the middle of grass and won’t understand what you’re seeing. I also don’t recommend the full collection tour because it is 5 hours long and ain’t nobody got time for that. Go with the selections tour, it’s 2.5 hours but trust me, you’ll be ready to leave by then. Register far enough in advance for the tour because there is limited space. Also, register as a student cause don’t nobody check for your student ID. DISCOUNT!
The guide was helpful in explaining certain things that I wouldn’t have known by looking at the pieces, but she also doesn’t hover over you constantly. She lets you explore on your own. You’re not allowed to take pictures but she knows better. She just walks away so you can take pictures if you want.
I would definitely make the time to do this if you’re in the area. You can make reservations online at www.chinati.org. Dab!
Places to eat in Marfa
Considering that Marfa is basically one street, there aren’t that many options. Marfa Burrito is across the street from El Cosmico and surprise! They serve burritos. But the tortilla is larger than your head and it costs $6. CASH ONLY and they only speak Spanish. If you don’t speak Spanish, just point to the menu, but someone is bound to help you out.
Food Shark is a trailer that serves Mediterranean food. There is a school bus in the back that they have turned into a dining area. It’s very hipster.
If you’re looking for a more restaurant style place, I recommend The Capri, also on the same street as El Cosmico and Marfa Burrito. It’s an upscale bar and restaurant with a wonderful outdoor seating area, dimly lit bar where the waiters wear bowties, soft Kendrick Lamar beats play in the background, velvet sofas, wood accents, and drapery add the ambience. The drinks are a little pricey at $10 a pop so you can buy your own booze and get drunk in the bathroom as a cheap alternative (I may or may not have done this).
Stop in Marfa on your way to Big Bend. Don’t make it your priority. Link to come later on the amazing fantastic-ness that is Big Bend.
This trip not including alcohol or souvenirs cost $200 for 2.5 days.