Visiting Marfa, TX (via El Paso)
March 10, 2014 9:30 AM   Subscribe

I'm flying into El Paso to visit a friend who just moved there. We're going to drive to Marfa, TX for a few days! What should we do there?

I arrive in El Paso on Thursday afternoon, we're going to drive to Marfa on Friday morning and leave Marfa on Sunday. We know we are staying at the Thunderbird Hotel! (I reallllllly wanted to stay at El Cosmico but it was all booked up.)

What should we do in Marfa? How's the drive there from El Paso? Any tips welcome. Super excited about this trip!
posted by aaanastasia to Travel & Transportation around Marfa, TX (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
There's an article, "Judd in the desert," in this month's New Criterion about the art there. It's subscriber only, but check your MeFi mail.
posted by Jahaza at 9:40 AM on March 10, 2014

If you're into that sort of thing, McDonald Observatory does a great star party, but be aware that it is spring break here in Texas. That means they do it more often, but it'll also be more crowded.

It'll take most of the day, but drive south to Presidio, follow the border road to Big Bend via Terlingua, spend some time in Big Bend (also will be a bit busy due to spring break but "busy" is relative), then back to Marfa.

Previously, more previously
posted by Runes at 9:45 AM on March 10, 2014

Marfa is in the middle of nowhere, and when I say middle of nowhere, I don't mean a long way from the nearest food truck. I mean that West Texas is larger than several states (combined) with almost no population between "towns". That said, there are some things to see out there, Ft. Davis and the McDonald Observatory are interesting as is Big Bend Park(s) if you've got the time.

Incidentally, Chuy's restaurant in Van Horn is the home of the John Madden haul of fame [sic].
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:46 AM on March 10, 2014

Best answer: The drive from El Paso to Marfa is desolate (especially once you get off the interstate), but beautiful. I recently spent a half-day in Marfa and while all of these are probably obvious, I particularly recommend:

The Prada installation (this is on the way from El Paso, but surprisingly far outside of Marfa, so be sure to stop on the way).

The Chinati Foundation (tours are available only at specified times, which you should schedule around) -- you can see a couple of things without a tour, though.

Find some way to go star-gazing. We did it just by stopping on the side of the road 40 miles outside of Marfa, but it's amazing.
posted by willbaude at 9:46 AM on March 10, 2014

Chuys in Van Horn is some of the worst food I have ever had in my life, John Madden or no.

Also keep in mind that most of these little towns, especially Fort Stockton, are/were speed traps. Probably not an issue anymore now that the speed limit on I 10 has been raised substantially.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 10:41 AM on March 10, 2014

I haven't been myself, but some friends liked Food Shark Marfa.
posted by veids at 10:43 AM on March 10, 2014

Best answer: The Museum of Electronic Wonders & Latenight Grilled Cheese Parlour is kind of a trip. Eat at Cochineal if you can.

The Hotel Paisano is fun to walk around. It's a beautiful hotel and has cool info on the filming of Giant as well as little boutiques if you'd like to do some shopping.

Nthing the Star Parties at the Davis Observatory.
posted by marshmallow peep at 10:54 AM on March 10, 2014

Since you will be somewhat close, I also recommend traveling the 20 minute drive into Alpine (Where I was born...Yay!). The Sul Ross campus is nice, and there are a few restaurants if you get tired of the same few in Marfa. Alpine even has a stoplight! If you want a really great drive into the mountains, go see the Fort in Fort Davis. If you keep going through the mountains you will eventually end up in Balmorhea which has an awesome state park. It is too cold to enjoy their natural swimming pool, but the drive through the mountains makes it all worth it.

Have a great time!
posted by Benway at 11:26 AM on March 10, 2014

Response by poster: All of this sounds awesome so far! Definitely going to do a star party. That sounds amazing. Also, oops -- I'm way disoriented from lack of sleep + daylight savings time. This trip is actually the first weekend of April.
posted by aaanastasia at 11:31 AM on March 10, 2014

I came in to echo the Chinati Foundation. Lots of interesting artwork.

Also, if you can manage a trip to Alpine (a nearby town), the brother of a good friend runs a fantastic little restaurant and bar called The Saddle Club. The food is far better than you can reasonably expect in such an out-of-the-way locale.
posted by conradjones at 12:02 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

No one has mentioned the Marfa lights? You have to go see the Marfa lights, if only so you can debate what the Marfa lights actually are. (There are actual Marfa lights, so you wouldn't be taking a trip out to see the Loch Ness Monster or anything.)

There's a viewing area just outside of town, on the road to Alpine.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:23 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get some tacos from the Boyz2Men Taco Trailer. Can't vouch for it personally but I went to high school with David, the guy who runs it, and he's hilarious and well connected to lots of fun weirdness in Marfa. I'm sure he can give you tips for music, bars, etc.
posted by Nelson at 3:54 PM on March 10, 2014

Be advised: driving from El Paso to Marfa and (depending on your route) presumably back again, you will happen upon a border check. Asking about citizenship (sometimes requesting ID), where you're traveling, and they do have contraband sniffing dogs (I don't think there are currently any local fruit quarantines).
posted by tilde at 4:56 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Chinati Foundation and Hotel Paisano. Prada Marfa is really far out of town, so I suggest stopping on the way there or back. We van-camped at the Marfa Lights Viewing Center, but unfortunately didn't see the lights ... the high desert scenery was nice, though.

If you're interested in off-the-grid living, you could visit the Field Lab, a couple of hours south of Alpine.

Also, the Sierra Blanca checkpoint -- near Van Horn on I-10 -- is notorious for pot busts and being detained there is not fun.
posted by bradf at 2:28 AM on March 12, 2014

Response by poster: Marfa was AWESOME. Thanks all for the advice. Photos from El Paso/Marfa here!
posted by aaanastasia at 12:21 PM on April 8, 2014

la migra
posted by tilde at 2:29 PM on April 8, 2014

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