Hidden away in the Texan hinterland, Marfa is not the kind of town you just stumble across. Give yourself five good reasons to visit with our 24-hour guide…
A Marfa institution, Mando’s is the locals’ choice for a Mexican kickstart to the day. Sat on the 90 North heading out of town, it’s a one-time drive-in that’s always talking about restarting its curbside service. The menu is authentic and unfussy, and every bit of it makes for good eatin’. We’d recommend the botanas and chile rellenos and red enchiladas montanas as the perfect way to set your stomach up for a day of serious art exploration.
Marfa’s most (in)famous art installation is actually 26 miles northwest of the city proper, but well worth the drive. Built by artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset to resemble a real Prada store, it showcases shoes and handbags donated by the real Miuccia Prada (from her 2005 Fall collection in case you wanted to know). The faux window displays are a comment on Prada’s minimalist aesthetic, designed to juxtapose über consumerism against the surrounding hostile landscape. It was intended to be left to degrade naturally back into its surroundings over time, but several acts of vandalism have put paid to that intention.
No one person has done more for Marfa as an art destination than Donald Judd, the American minimalist who relocated here from New York in 1973. Donald founded The Chinati Foundation in 1979 (though it didn’t open to the public until 1986) on 340 acres of a former fort to preserve and present to the public large-scale installations by him and his contemporaries, John Chamberlain and Dan Flavin. To date it houses more than 100 of his works, 25 from Chamberlain, and one from Flavin that covers six entire barracks. Since then it’s expanded to include works by many other artists as well as offering art internships and education programs, art classes and an annual festive weekend focused on the museum’s collection and programs.
Marfa is a place to open your mind to the unusual, the spectacular and the inexplicable. Bundle all three together and you have the Marfa Lights, a phenomenon that defies scientific convention and explanation. Descriptions of these mysterious light shows vary wildly, as do hypotheses explaining them, but despite the constant debate, everyone who’s seen them agrees on one thing – they’re beautiful and beguiling. And there’s only one way to find out for yourself, so open your mind, head for the viewing area on the outskirts of town and chance your luck, because you may see the light.
A classic take on the u-shaped hotel/motels that sprang up across America in the 50s, Thunderbird has been open since 1959 but underwent a full refurb in 2005. The resulting boutique hotel is a blend of good design, modern comforts and an unashamedly old school artsy aesthetic. Original local artworks pepper the walls set against native plants around an open pool, all of which firmly anchors Thunderbird in its surroundings. We particularly love the ‘package’ stay options designed to inspire creativity with extras like unlimited access to their vintage typewriter with endless paper, free use of the Lomolito camera and turntable with a sea of vinyl to accompany it. Let the creative juices flow.