THE VOYAGE: 24 Hours in MarfaAugust 2, 2017
As part of our ‘Anthro Across America’ campaign – which celebrates the diverse styles, personalities and terrains of the U.S. – we spent a day in this unlikely yet burgeoning desert arts district.
With no nearby airport and miles upon miles of semiarid land, Marfa, Texas, may not be the easiest destination to escape to in a snap. But when a place is as rich in the creative community as this one (it’s home to more than 20 galleries — an impressive landscape for a town with a population of 2,000), and deemed as one of the last American frontiers, it’s a trip any arts and outdoors enthusiast must take — stat. Add to that mix a burgeoning culinary scene, big-time Big Bend hospitality, and 360-degree mountain vistas — the Davis range in the north, the Chisos in the southeast, and the Chianti in the southwest — and you’re looking at a remote retreat unlike any other. Here, we take you through the best way to spend a day in this Trans-Pecos town.
8am: Breakfast Burritos with a Buzz
Grab a round of lattes at Do Your Thing, the town’s go-to coffee house that also functions as a studio space and art gallery (it also happens to be the only spot in West Texas to serve San Francisco’s beloved Four Barrel espresso and De La Paz pour over). Once caffeine kicks in, breakfast calls. Check out Buns & Roses, a café-meets-flower shop that’s frequented for all of the AM essentials: eggs, doughnuts, bagel sandwiches, and burritos.
10am: Pool Time
Post-breakfast, beat the 80-degree temps with a visit to Balmorhea State Park, where one of the world’s largest spring-fed pools awaits. Dive in for a quick dip and soak in the sun at the historic park, which has been serving as an oasis for locals and out-of-towners alike since the 1930s. Once you’ve had your share of water time, dry off for a hike around the 46-acre grounds, which feature natural springs, cienegas (desert wetlands), and plenty of rare and wonderful wildlife.
1pm: Checking in For Some Culture
Pack up and trek back to Marfa, where we’d recommend you check in for a stay at Hotel Paisano — a boutique property steeped in history. Built in 1929, it wasn’t long before it became known as the “most elegant hotel between El Paso and San Antonio” (it’s also where Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean stayed while filming cult classic Giant). Once you’ve settled in, find a dose of culture with a trip to the Chianti Foundation, an army base-turned-contemporary art museum dedicated to large installation works.
3pm: Embrace the Arts
The best part about gallery-hopping in Marfa? They’re all located within footsteps of each other, ensuring nonstop arts action for your afternoon. Kick things off at Ballroom Marfa, a former dance hall that houses rotating exhibits, films, and music events from established and up-and-coming artists alike, then check out next door’s Inde/Jacobs — a favorite for purchasing the works of minimalist artist and town trailblazer Donald Judd. Wrap things up around the corner at exhibitions 2d, a contemporary exhibition space featuring paintings, drawings, and sculptures by noted American artists.
6pm: Discover the ‘Marfalafel’
Don’t be fooled by Marfa’s small town charm — there are plenty of on-point eats to go around here, starting with the small plates at Stellina. Mediterranean-inspired home cooking is the focus here, showing up in options like burrata with speck and melon salsa or grilled branzino with summer squash. If it’s more casual fare you’re after, head straight to Food Shark, an airstream known for flavor-packed dishes like grilled lamb kebabs and spicy falafel served in crisped tortillas (aptly dubbed “Marfalafel”).
9pm: Meet the Locals
Do as the locals do with a nightcap at this watering hole, where one red neon sign reading “Beer” serves as a beacon for everyone in town. Once inside, a few pool tables, large antique mirrors, and a sign suggesting “No working during drinking hours” are all bound to transport you to a spaghetti western in no time. In true regular patron form, be sure to opt for a Ranch Water (a blend of tequila, Topo Chico mineral water and lime) and take your stab at the eight ball before calling it a night.
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