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Lucky 13 Things to Do in Marfa Texas

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.


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.


El Paisano Hotel courtyard fountain.

Historic El Paisano Hotel with courtyard fountain


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.

LEARN MORE: 15 Epic Texas Landmarks for Your Bucket List

Prada Marfa art installation.

Prada Marfa art installation in Valentine Texas


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.


Presidio County Courthouse Marfa Texas.

Take a self-guided tour of the Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa


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.


Aluminum sculptures by Donald Judd at Chinati Foundation.

100 Aluminum sculptures by Donald Judd – Chinati Foundation Marfa


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

Food Shark started out as a one-of-a-kind food truck that could only be found around Marfa.

Operating since 2006 and offering the most delicious Mediterranean grub, this legendary restaurant serves up consistently yummy food.

Now the Food Shark is officially the Museum of Electronic Wonders @ FOOD SHARK with Snack Bar and Casita Bar. But we’re still just calling it Food Shark :)

It’s open Friday and Saturday nights at sunset, sometimes Sundays. And sometimes there’s live music! 

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!

You’ll find Museum of Electronic Wonders @ FOOD SHARK with Snack Bar and Casita Bar at 909 W San Antonio  St (Hwy 90) in Marfa.


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.


Black bean hummus, guacamole, salsa, and beer at Jett's happy hour Marfa TX.

Chips and salsa, guacamole and black bean hummus…and beer at Jett’s happy hour


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.


Marfa Lights viewing center.

Check out the magical mystical Marfa Lights from the viewing center


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.


Harry's Tinaja Alpine Texas beer joint.

While in Alpine enjoy happy hour at Harry’s Tinaja


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.


Starlight Theatre Terlingua Texas.

Take a day trip to Terlingua Ghost Town


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.


Window View Trail at Big Bend National Park.

Check out the landscape at Window View trail in Big Bend


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 – fantastically cool boots

Cactus Liquors – booze

6Whiskey Co. – more booze


Big Bend day trip from Marfa.

Enjoy roadtripping in Texas


For more places to see on your Texas road trip:

Driving to Marfa be sure to stop in Fredericksburg on your way, hike Enchanted Rock, visit wineries, and more

Explore this list of Fun Free Things to do in Austin

Escape to the Texas coast and chill out on the beach in Rockport

13 Fun Things to Do in Marfa Texas.

Cindy May

Wednesday 17th of August 2022

This is such a fabulous article. I'm a regular Marfa visitor and if you liked Paisano, next time you should check out The Lincoln Marfa. It's my favorite boutique hotel right behind the Paisano with beautiful garden courtyard gardens. They even have a soak tank that's a dream in the summertime.


Sunday 12th of February 2023

Joyce C, April is a lovely time to visit and I hope you have the best time in Marfa! I suggest staying at Hotel Saint George if you want a modern hotel experience, or Hotel Paisano if you want an elegant historic hotel - keep in mind they do not have an elevator! For a boutique motel experience The Lincoln Marfa is a great choice. Those are my top 3 picks for Marfa accommodation. I hope you and your husband have a great time celebrating his 70th! Susan

Joyce C

Sunday 12th of February 2023

@Susan Moore, I love your commentary of Marfa. We are going with friends in April for my husband’s 70th Birthday. Where should we stay?


Susan Moore

Wednesday 17th of August 2022

Cindy May, Thank you! I haven't stayed at The Lincoln Marfa yet, but I love the place already. I met one of the owners when I visited Marfa in 2020. The property looks gorgeous, I loved the courtyard garden, and it's a great location too! Cheers, Susan


Friday 8th of July 2022

The Food Shark is no longer operating the Mediterranean food truck. It is now just a snack bar with an eclectic mini room tour that is an obscure time capsule from the 70’s.

Be sure to check out the obelisk Light Art Installation next to the RV park just outside Marfa on your way to Alpine. It is the coolest thing to look at!

Susan Moore

Saturday 9th of July 2022

Elyse, Thank you for the update on Food Shark, I look forward to visiting the new setup and the room tour. And thanks for the info about this obelisk art installation near Marfa, I will be on the lookout for it on my fall road trip to West Texas! Cheers, Susan

Cassandra Garcia

Saturday 9th of April 2022

You forgot to visit Building 98 in Marfa on Bonnie Street right in front of the Chinati Foundation. The old Bachelor’s Officer Quarters for Ft DA Russell. There are huge rooms of murals there painted by German POWs. Check out Building 98 on Atlas Obscura for details.

Susan Moore

Sunday 10th of April 2022

Cassandra Garcia, Thank you for this information! I will go see Building 98 on my road trip to Marfa later this year. Always cool to find new things to do around Marfa! Cheers, Susan

Laiad Pipat

Monday 28th of February 2022

Line Thai Food Truck in Marfa is very very delicious.Must have a try when going to Marfa.

Susan Moore

Tuesday 1st of March 2022

I love Thai food! I will try this food truck on my next visit later this year, thank you for the recommendation. I have a few new dining spots in Marfa I need to check out. Cheers, Susan