Back in March, Daniel and I took a vacation to Marfa, Texas. We travel well together and we’d both been wanting to check out Marfa for a while, so I started planning. I suggested we stay in a trailer at the El Cosmico campgrounds instead of in a hotel, and once we had that booked, the rest of the trip really just fell into place. We flew into Albuquerque (the closest airport is in El Paso, but we wanted to make an adventure out of it), drove 7 hours (and by that I mean Daniel drove 7 hours while I ate sesame sticks), and then…there we were. Hello, Marfa!
We had the most amazing time. Life-changing, dare I say? I’ve been to parts of the southwest (Tucson, Phoenix, Sedona, Las Vegas) before, but never west Texas. The landscape in that part of the country is just…so nuts. It’s like getting off a plane that landed on Mars. Pretty much everything looks like something I’d want to take a picture of. So, I took a lot of pictures.
I thought I’d post on the blog as soon as we got back to New York, and then…I don’t know what and then. And then it never happened. I want to post some, though, because my blog is still an archive of my life, and given the impact this trip and Marfa had on me, I think it deserves to be written about and shared.
Four months late is better than never, right?
Marfa is a really small town (population ~2000) with a lot going on. Its transition to a contemporary arts-friendly community began when Donald Judd moved there in 1971 and began converting various buildings into live/work spaces. Almost 45 years later, you can’t turn a corner without seeing another gallery, studio, or performance space.
Really, though, Daniel and I mostly just wanted to chill, eat, and check out the architecture. Much of Marfa was built between 1880 and 1920, and a huge number of truly glorious buildings have been preserved and restored so perfectly that the town takes on a dreamy haze—it almost doesn’t seem real.
I mean…even the firehouse is pink.
There’s plenty of information out there already about what to do in Marfa, so I’ll just share some of my pictures, and I’ll make a list of all the places we visited.
See what I mean? It’s like walking around in Ed Ruscha photographs. The lowness of the buildings, the bigness of the sky…everything feels wide.
A lot of places we’d hoped to visit were closed while we were there. Make sure you check on days/hours very carefully in advance if you’re planning a trip to Marfa. Many businesses are only open 2-3 days a week, and only for a few hours at a time. It’s also not uncommon for shops to close for a few weeks at a time, unannounced. The pace of life in Marfa sure ain’t the pace of life in NYC, and that’s a large part of what makes it so great.
The emptiness of the main streets in Marfa was probably due in part to us being there on weekdays when it was still a little cool outside, but with a population so low, I can’t imagine it ever gets really crowded—even during the high tourism season.
We stayed in the Imperial Mansion, a restored 1956 trailer with two bedrooms, a full kitchen and an indoor bathroom. It was AWESOME. There are seven other trailers at El Cosmico, some with outdoor tubs, some without any bathroom at all—but we wanted to be fancy. You also have a choice to stay in a yurt, tepee, or tent, all of which have varying amenities and come in at price points ranging from around $85 to $170/night, which is pretty economical if you’re sharing the space with one or more people. If you bring your own tent, it’s only 15 bucks a night. Not bad! Oh, and there’s a communal kitchen and bath house.
We ate here several times. Such good food! Again, make sure to check on their hours, because they’re only open a few hours a day—and when the food they have for the day is gone, it’s gone. Plenty of vegan options. Healthy, fresh, beautifully-prepared stuff.
Located in the gorgeous, historic Hotel Paisano (make sure to check out the Giant/James Dean room). We were prepared for it to be expensive because there were white tablecloths and stuff, but our meals and cocktails (SUCH GOOD COCKTAILS) were totally reasonable. Vegan meals are no problem, just let them know.
The Get Go:
Sweet little grocery store with great produce, specialty packaged foods, and loads of wine. Expensive, but they have what you need. We were able to prepare a couple of meals in our trailer, which was nice. (They sell really nice, roomy tote bags, too, and of course I bought one! I love me a good tote bag.)
Frama is a cute coffee shop that shares a space with a laundromat, which is kind of the best business idea ever if you think about it. Their coffee is excellent (they serve Marfa’s own Big Bend Coffee), and they have a full-service ice cream counter (sadly no vegan ice cream). We had coffee here every day…sometimes more than once.
Cast + Crew:
C+C was closed the entire time we were in Marfa, which is a huge bummer because I’ve been admiring their stuff on Etsy for ages now. We did get a good peek in the window, at least, and now we have another excuse to go back to Marfa!
The Marfa Lights:
What can I say about Marfa’s “mystery lights”? Well, first of all, we didn’t see them. We really, really wanted to, though, and we spent a good 45 minutes in the freezing cold at the (very nice) viewing center trying to see…something, but we didn’t see anything. Maybe it’s because it was kind of cloudy that night, or maybe it’s because there are only 10-20 sightings a year, but I’m still glad we tried.
The Chinati Foundation:
We were able to tour all of Donald Judd’s outdoor concrete works on our last day in Marfa, fortunately, but we missed out on a lot of stuff I would have loved to see (Dan Flavin! John Chamberlain! Carl Andre!) because I was stupid when I planned our visit and didn’t pay attention to their visiting days/hours. Sigh. Next time! And there will most definitely be a next time.
And finally, Anna and Daniel do Beyoncé. I had absolutely no idea that Beyoncé and Solange took a Marfa vacation a couple of years ago, but apparently it was a big deal (and no, she didn’t “ruin it”). I discovered this while looking for pictures of our trailer, which also happens to be the trailer Beyoncé stayed in. Hey look, there’s Beyoncé in my bed! So naturally we tried to recreate one of her photos, but without the booty shorts and the fur vest, I kinda feel like something is missing. Again…next time.
i just went to marfa last month, and echo so many of your sentiments!
and i willl say, we were there on a weekend AND there was a destination wedding happening, and the streets were still completely empty, ha!
I just went to look at your photos—so good! And yeah, I had a feeling it’s pretty empty like that most of the time. 😀
I went on a class trip at the end of February, presumably a couple weeks before you guys were there. We stayed in the pup tents at El Cosmico, and it was freezing cold and windy that night. Fortunately the tents came with (semi)-working heated blankets; the sinks in the communal bathroom froze!
Did you get a chance to check out Arber and Son Editions? Also, there’s a bar called Padre’s that we wished we had found earlier. Felt very small-town. Good bar food, and some of the locals brought their dogs to hang out, which, when they weren’t begging for food, was pretty fun!
No Arber & Son, alas! We were only there for three days.
We popped into Padre’s briefly, but had to leave—there was live music (which I hate, unless I’m at a concert) and cigarette smoke (which I hate, period). On the upside, that’s how we wound up at Jett’s. 😉
Awesome place. You really take the best photos.
All of the pics are stunning, but Anna I have to say, I can’t recall ever seeing you smile in photos before. You are gorgeous!
It used to get really really crowded there.. not sure if they still do the big shindig in October… but back in the day it was overrun with people. People in the streets everywhere… the main street had tables running the length of it, and a local Mexican restaurant catered a huge city wide meal for free. We saw Sonic Youth play a free show there that year in a warehouse. I dont know if that still happens, but it was a damn fine time! and there is nothing like watching a storm roll in in west Texas!
I have to add that people don’t get how gorgeous alot of Texas is, ok I lived there a long time and am partial. But those hundred of mile stretches, like are in south Texas, the flat, scrub brush areas. They are just fantastically beautiful, but not in the Colorado mountain way, which anyone could love.
Wow Anna, it sounds like a fantastic trip. Thank you for sharing. I like the essay Donald Judd wrote about making his own furniture when he lived in Marfa. Did you go to Donald Judd’s studio in Manhattan as well?
I have to say that I understand that long hair is a lot of work and you look great with the shorter hair but your hair here looks great as well. My my isn’t Daniel handsome?
Have a wonderful day!
What an absolutely glorious place! I wouldn’t care if you went there a year ago and only posted about it now. I loved your Instagram photos that you posted while you were there. I’m putting Marfa on my list of ‘must-sees’ in my lifetime.
*Sigh* this post encapsulates everything I love about your blog. Thank you for transporting me out of the coldest Sydney winter in living memory, and straight into Marfa, TX 🙂
It totally looks like a photo-worthy town, in my epic road journey of the States (that pretty much only exists in my head) this is now so on the list 😉
You look fab in that photo at the wall! You are vining Anjelica Houston!
Anna, you look fantastic and happy. Marfa doesn’t look half bad either. 🙂
I’ve really enjoyed seeing my home states of Texas and New Mexico through your eyes – and I selfishly can’t wait for your post about T or C. 😉 I’ve only ever gone there as a kid, and never experienced the springs! Next time I go visit my mom, I’m doing that and carlsbad.
Great Post. Your pictures are fantastic. I grew up in Alpine, TX. Which is only 30 minutes from Marfa. If you ever take a trip back down there you should take the drive to see Ft. Davis. It is such a cute town, and the scenery is so vastly different from Marfa. Ft. Davis is tucked away in a very hilly and rocky area. The rock formations surrounding the town are beautiful.
Goodness, you look beautiful.
Thanks, Jules xx
My sister and I are going on a cross-country road trip from Fayetteville, AR, to the Grand Canyon (it’ll be the first time either of us has seen it!) with stops in Albuquerque, Page (Antelope Canyon) and Sedona. On the way home, we’ll travel through New Mexico (White Sands National Monument) with a night in Sante Fe then onto Texas with a stop in Marfa (we booked “Little Pinky” at El Cosmico!) before driving on to Austin then back into Arkansas. Thank you for these great tips. Beautiful photographs. Wow ~ so inspired and excited to see it! And Queen B only ups the cool factor for me. 🙂 xo
Nicole, ENJOY!! I took a road trip around New Mexico a couple of months ago, and hit Albuquerque, Santa Fe (OBSESSED!), White Sands, Roswell, and Truth Or Consequences. It’s such a beautiful state!!
So many white buildings! I love it! I’ve always wanted to road trip to Marfa. Thanks for the inspiration!
xo Rachael / The Paraders
I am going to Marfa in September and came to your blog for recs since I only have one night and the city is so dang small that Yelp is not very helpful. Apparently Comida Futura has since closed 🙁 totally looked like the best dining option.
Oh no, that’s so sad! 🙁