Marfa is a desert city with a population of 2,000 in far west Texas. Like, way far west, about three hours from the nearest airports in Midland and El Paso.
It’s a unique arts destination that includes an eclectic collection of art galleries, old west Texas charm, and the famous Marfa Lights.
Marfa is like no other place in Texas.
The best time to visit Marfa is Wednesday through Saturday. Most of the shops and restaurants are closed on Monday and Tuesday, and a bunch are closed on Sunday too.
When you take a road trip out to west Texas you won’t want to miss a visit to Marfa, it is a truly unique Texas experience.
Today I’m sharing 13 things to do in Marfa Texas.
1. El Paisano Hotel
Visiting or spending a night or a few at the El Paisano Hotel is well worth it. This charming and historic hotel offers 41 rooms and suites and is truly an oasis for travelers.
It stands out with its elegant building that dates to the 1930s. The hotel features a beautiful fountain in the courtyard.
Besides a spectacular art gallery and very cool gift shop, the hotel also offers a seasonally heated pool, restaurant and lounge, and memorabilia room dedicated to the movie Giant.
During the filming of Giant, actors James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson were regular diners at El Paisano.
2. Prada Marfa
One of the coolest attractions around Marfa is the minimalistic and pop architectural Prada Marfa.
This sculptural art installation was created in October 2005 by artists Elmgreen and Dragset.
Located 1.4 miles northwest of Valentine and 26 miles northwest of Marfa, the construction of this installation cost about $120,000.
The artsy building, which was made of adobe bricks and was designed to resemble a real Prada store includes genuine Prada shoes and handbags on display.
Nope, you can’t shop at Prada Marfa. In fact, you cannot go inside the fake luxury boutique.
Across the highway you may see the trains go by, otherwise the place is quiet and isolated.
Serene and surreal.
3. Presidio County Courthouse
Presidio County Courthouse is one of Marfa’s main landmarks. Built in 1886 by the architect Alfred Giles, this building combines both an Italianate and Second Empire architectural style.
What makes the Presidio County Courthouse so special is that it’s well-restored both inside and out.
You’ll see the pink stucco building from a distance as you walk down Highland Street. A statue of Lady Justice is situated on top of the dome in the center.
Go inside and take the stairs to the top and enjoy panoramic views of Marfa. Also, have a look at the historic photos on display.
All of the old furniture, wooden staircases, and creaky floors add charm to this historic building.
4. The Chinati Foundation
The Chinati Foundation is Marfa’s contemporary art museum that was founded by the minimalist artist Donald Judd in 1986.
What started as a small exhibition of permanent and large-scale installations of a few artists is now an internationally known contemporary museum with over 35 buildings.
This place is the perfect location for art lovers and aspiring artists.
Take a self-guided walking tour of Donald Judd’s art work or book a guided tour via Chinati Foundation website.
5. Ballroom Marfa
Ballroom Marfa is a modern art cultural center celebrating art, film, and music.
This contemporary art space is a non-profit organization that showcases many types of art, including visual arts, films, and music.
The building was a 1920s ballroom, now transformed into a contemporary arts space.
Enjoy free admission to Ballroom Marfa to view the exhibits, but you do need to schedule your visit in advance.
6. Food Shark
(Reopening September 2021 after a summer break)
Food Shark is a one-of-a-kind food truck that can only be found around Marfa.
Operating since 2006 and offering the most delicious Mediterranean grub, this legendary restaurant serves up consistently yummy food.
Among some of the specialties that Food Shark offers are hummus, homemade falafel, house-smoked turkey sandwiches, and grilled lamb kebab platters.
The lamb kebabs are excellent!
7. Happy Hour at Jett’s
Speaking of food and Marfa, how about happy hour for refreshing beverages and tasty treats? Jett’s Grill has got you covered.
Jett’s is an elegant restaurant that’s part of Hotel Paisano, which offers both dine-in and curbside pick-up.
If you would like to try some exquisite munchies such as shrimp nachos, fried artichoke hearts, bacon penne, or chicken stuffed portobello, then this is the right place for you.
In Texas, beer and chips and salsa are my go-to happy hour foods (yes, beer is a food group)
Jett’s has a Dip Trio that includes housemade black bean hummus, guacamole, and red salsa. Served with tortilla chips.
Tasty Texas eats for your hungry belly.
8. McDonald Observatory
Take a drive about 40 minutes away from Marfa to the McDonald Observatory for a daytime tour or fun filled evening of star gazing.
This astronomical observatory is located right next to Ford Davis in Jeff Davis County.
If you wish to explore the McDonald Observatory, you can choose from four different admission tickets:
- General Admission (indoor and outdoor exhibits)
- Guided Tour (outdoors)
- Solar Viewing Tour (indoors)
- Star party (outdoors)
The first three are available during the daytime, while the Star Party is accessible during the evenings, and it offers one of the most exciting star shows anywhere.
You’ll want to bring various cold weather attire for the star party (especially in winter) such as jackets, scarves, gloves/mittens, and a hat.
Trust me, it can get really windy and cold at night.
Book your admission to McDonald Observatory online in advance. Star Party’s often sell out.
9. Marfa Lights
On Route 67 east of Marfa you can experience the Marfa Mystery Lights.
Or not. Sometimes they show up and sometimes they don’t.
Either way it’s still worth the trip out to the exhibit and viewing center and watching the night sky.
Are the Marfa Lights UFO’s? Ghosts?
Visitors report seeing glowing orbs in various colors dancing along the horizon.
Although the first sightings began decades ago, the source of the Marfa Lights is still a mystery.
10. Day Trip to Alpine
Hit the road, approximately 30 minute drive east of Marfa to the town of Alpine.
This small town of about 6,000 people is the perfect location for spending time in west Texas and it’s great for a day trip from Marfa.
Alpine is a small town but has a lot to offer – hiking trails, museums, antique shops, historic buildings, and cool murals.
Among some of Alpine’s attractions are the Museum of the Big Bend, The Desk Hike, and walking tour of historic buildings and murals downtown.
After a day of exploring enjoy dining at one of the local spots such as Reata Restaurant, Century Bar and Grill, or Spicewood.
For a casual happy hour check out Harry’s Tinaja or Ritchey Wine Saloon and Beer Garden.
11. Day Trip to Terlingua
If you are looking for a unique adventure while in Texas, take a day trip from Marfa to Terlingua, also known as Terlingua Ghost Town.
This former mining town is situated 110 miles south of Marfa, between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park. It’s about a 1 hour 45 minute drive from Marfa.
If you’re hungry for breakfast and coffee check out Espresso Y Poco Mas.
High Sierra Bar and Grill is a good choice for lunch or dinner, they often have life music on weekends.
Starlight Theatre Restaurant is another fun place for dinner and live music most nights. Hang out on the front porch and enjoy the sunset.
Terlingua Cemetery is worth a visit. This old wild west cemetery and the nearby ruins are part of what make Terlingua Ghost Town a notable place to visit.
12. Day Trip to Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is a magical place in Texas with a variety of hiking trails, wide open spaces, scenic drives, camping, horseback riding, river tours, stargazing, and wildlife watching.
About 98 miles from Marfa you’ll find a paradise for backpackers and adventurers.
Big Bend is located along the Texas-Mexico border and features both mountain and desert hikes including the scenic Santa Elena Canyon hike along the Rio Grande.
Explore the outdoors in Big Bend National Park.
13. Souvenir Shopping in Marfa
Before you leave Marfa be sure to pick up something unique to celebrate your trip to far west Texas.
Buy some cool souvenirs for your friends and family too. Or do what I do, buy a bunch of stuff for family and friends, then keep most of it haha!
Check out these one-of-a-kind local shops in Marfa:
Wrong Store (and gallery) eclectic collection of jewelry, home goods, art
The Marfa Store – Marfa memorabilia and jewelry
Texas Rose Marfa – vintage clothing boutique
Stop and Read Books – books, books books!
Skora Marfa – handmade leather goods
Sister Gaiya – eclectic collection of clothing, books, jewelry
Raba Marfa – must visit vintage shop!
Pronghorn – unique collection of art, clothing, jewelry, home decor
Ocotillo Botanica – herbal and mystical goods
Marfa Wine Co. – wine, duh
Marfa Meats – carnivore’s delight
Marfa Brand Soap – scrub-a-dub-dub
Marfa Art Supply – excellent selection of art supplies
Hotel Paisano Gift Shop – lots of cools gifts, clothing, jewelry, accessories
Hey I Like It Here – art, books, clothing
Garza Furniture – not just furniture…also pillows, blankets, ceramics
Esperanza Vintage and Art – cool art
Communitie Marfa – great hats and more
Cobra Rock Boots – crazy cool boots
Cactus Liquors – booze
6Whiskey Co. – more booze
For more places to see on your Texas road trip:
Explore this list of Fun Free Things to do in Austin
Escape to the Texas coast and chill out on the beach in Rockport