Skip to main content

The Magical Appeal of Marfa, Texas

There’s a small dot on the map that’s left a lasting mark on the American arts scene. It’s a little place called Marfa, in deep West Texas somewhere between Big Bend National Park and the Davis Mountains.

The former water stop set in the thick of the Chihuahuan Desert has become a permanent place for minimalistic art, music, design, and more. And I’m not just talking about the Prada facade we’ve all come to associate with the place.

Related Videos
The Prada Marfa sculpture
AFP/Getty Images

Like any number of great creative outposts, Marfa relies at least partly on its stunning surroundings. The scale of the landscape is grand and the mood is contemplative. It has ocean-like vastness along with many unique plants, rock formations, and the proud culture of the American southwest. It’s very much the opposite of the big city and a big gust of inspiration greets you as soon as you arrive.

Yes, Marfa has been found out. But the town of roughly 1,800 remains a bastion of creative energy worth experiencing. When time travel becomes a legitimate option, it would be fascinating to go back to Marfa circa 1971, as it was being conquered by a few intrepid artists. This was when folks like Donald Judd took over hangars and ranches and established anti-museums; or, venues that held original artwork permanently, for the prolonged enjoyment of the people.

Thanks to pop culture, there’s a significant tourist element at play now. Marfa is Instagram candy and a retreat for the famous. It gets shout outs and pre-festival gatherings from SXSW and visits from big-name bands. The chances of running into Matthew McConaughey there are decent.

Yet, as a hyper-sensory town with visual installations around every corner — not to mention the dazzling desert — Marfa feeds the soul. The fact that it’s no longer a secret is actually kind of refreshing as indication that we are willing to champion the imagination at play here. It’s an ongoing revolt against the typical American city, the one with the ten Starbucks locations and zero provocative thoughts.
Part of the experience is getting there and understanding the gargantuan nature of the Lone Star State. El Paso is the nearest large city, about a three hour’s drive away. For a full dose of the west Texas treatment, drive from Austin (425 miles away) and let your mind wander in the endlessness all around.
If you go, check out the following:

The Judd Foundation

Persidio County Courthouse, Marfa, Texas
Persidio County Courthouse, Marfa, Texas.

Visiting the Judd properties is the closest thing to aforementioned time travel. Get in the headspace of the famed artist through tours of his life and work spaces. You’ll quickly feel a desire to mimic the act of fleeing New York for a small Texas town in the name of very vocal visual expression.

Building 98

Once an army base, Building 98 now hosts an artist-in-residence program, a gallery, and occasional events in its ballroom. It’s quite cool that this former men’s club housing cavalry officers during World War 1 and the Mexican Revolution is now home to the International Women’s Foundation and murals by German prisoners of war.

The Chinati Foundation

Chinati Foundation
Chinati Foundation/Facebook

Encompassing 15 structures and 340 acres of desert, The Chinati Foundation is a wealth of large-scale artwork. Also founded by Donald Judd, the place spotlights some of the best contemporary creations out there. Some of his own works are on display, as well as a number of other incredibly imaginative pieces made from everything from florescent lights to aluminum cubes.

Lost Horse Saloon

One of the eldest watering holes is also one of the simplest and best in town. The patio is little more than some folding camp chairs and old reel dispensers for tables while the interior is a glorious mix of pool tables, antlers, and a piano as old as time. The Lost Horse Saloon is also a music venue that attracts a lot of great bands.

Hotel Paisano

hotel paisano
Hotel Paisano

This historic inn at the heart of town is home to charming rooms, a delightful courtyard, and Jett’s Grill, a prime stop for a margarita and a burger. The gift shop and guests certainly echo a somewhat modernized Marfa but the bones of the place are so fantastic that you’ll want to give up your phone and computer for the entirety of your stay. Check out the Greasewood Gallery onsite and enjoy the many subtle details of this local landmark, originally opened in 1930.

Marfa Lights

It wouldn’t be the southwest without some kind of paranormal attraction. The Marfa Lights have been the subject of debate for years, a luminous phenomena that people say looks like glowing orbs. They’re best seen just outside of town, in an official viewing area (pull-out) nine miles east of town on Interstate 90. There’s even an annual festival in their name held every summer.

Big Bend

big bend ranch state park
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

The nearest National Park is a healthy drive away but well worth it. After all, everything is bigger in Texas. Here, all of the best landscape stereotypes collide, from prickly shaped desert plants and geometric rock plateaus to running birds, dinosaur-like reptiles, and dusty trails. Big Bend Ranch State Park is a bit closer and another great expedition. Either stop is the perfect natural venue for a Simpsons-like vision quest.

Editors' Recommendations

How to Watch Saweetie Perform Live at Triller Fight Club
how to watch saweetie at triller fight club performing live

Fans of music and boxing are readying themselves for a one-of-a-kind event happening tonight in Atlanta, with Triller Fight Club: Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren poised to deliver one of the most exciting and star-studded shows of 2021. Seven boxing matches are planned along with several live musical performances, and 27-year-old rapper and singer Saweetie is one of them. If you're looking to watch Saweetie perform live tonight, here's how to tune in to Triller Fight Club via so you can stream it all.

Saweetie is an American singer, rapper, and songwriter from California who started her hip-hop career in 2016. She rocketed to stardom in 2017 with the release of her single, "Icy Girl," on Soundcloud, which caught the attention of music producers who snagged her a record deal. "Icy Girl" earned an RIAA platinum certification, and several of her singles have hit the top 20 and top 40 lists since then, making Saweetie one of the most successful musicians under 30 right now. Her debut album is coming sometime this year.

Read more
How to Watch Mt. Westmore Perform Live at Triller Fight Club
how to watch mt westmore debut at triller fight club snoop dogg performance

Tonight in Atlanta, Georgia, YouTuber and pro boxer Jake Paul is facing former UFC star and Bellator champion Ben Askren in the ring at the second such event hosted by Triller Fight Club. That's not all that we're looking forward to this evening, however, as there is also a slew of music acts scheduled to light up the Mercedes-Benz stadium. Among them is Mt. Westmore, which will be making its world debut. You can watch the Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren PPV live stream on for $50; then, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this new rap supergroup featuring Snoop Dogg.

Mt. Westmore is a supergroup signed to Empire Distribution and comprised of four icons in the world of West Coast hip-hop: Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, E-40, and Too Short. The long-time rappers came together to form the group in late 2020, with an album scheduled for release this month. Mt. Westmore released its first single, "Step Child," in January, and is going to make its first-ever live act at the Triller Fight Club: Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren event tonight.

Read more
Goodbye Robert Zimmerman: The Most Significant Celebrity Name Changes
most significant celebrity name changes bruce lee

The name you’re given isn’t always the one that sticks. History has shown that when fame is of concern, what somebody opts to go by is sometimes tweaked to offer something with a better ring or a more iconic punch.
The name changes are often done on the sly, so cooly that many of us don’t even know about them. Granted, if we included trends like Brazilian soccer stars going by nicknames (think Pelé in lieu of Edson Arantes do Nascimento) or the many musical stage names out there (Snoop Dogg replaced Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. and Bono was selected in place of Paul David Hewson), the list would simply be too long. 
Of the many reimagined names out there, these are the most significant in the wide arena of celebrity and pop culture.

Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan plays piano with a harmonica around his neck during the recording of the album 'Highway 61 Revisited' in Columbia's Studio A in the summer of 1965 in New York City, New York. Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty Images
The king of American folk was actually born Robert Zimmerman. The Minnesotan officially changed his name in August of 1962, just as his musical career was taking flight. Dylan made a bit of a habit of changing his name and even prior to Bob he went by a handful of titles, including Elston Gunn. Many believe Dylan, who doesn’t reveal that much personal info to the media, chose the name as an homage to the great Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas.

Read more