Check into your accommodations Friday afternoon and acquaint yourself with the quaint, relaxed atmosphere that permeates this small Texas town. Then head east of town on Route 67, nine miles to a platform erected by local government. It is from here that visitors flock year-round for the opportunity to see the Marfa Lights, a regional version of what is known in Oklahoma and elsewhere historically as “Indian lanterns” – visible on clear nights between Marfa and the Paisano Pass when one is facing southwest (toward the Chinati Mountains). Reports of the often-colorful lights dancing about the sky date back a century, and there has never been an explanation or any schedule of their appearance.
Saturday morning, pack up for a day of activity at Big Bend National Park. Big Bend’s primary attraction is its hiking and backpacking trails, but bird watchers, photographers and family are bound for adventure in one of the largest, most remote and least tourist-laden national parks in the nation. At the end of a long day outside, grab dinner at your accommodations or at the surprisingly innovative restaurant Cochineal, or enjoy fresh pasta at Maiya’s. Time permitting, consider visiting the McDonald Observatory 30 minutes north on Route 67, which has fun Star Parties after dark.
Sunday, enjoy breakfast at local favorite, Squeeze, and then commit to exploring the cultural aspect of Marfa. Visit the Chinati Foundation, a museum founded by the artist Donald Judd, presenting large-scale, permanent installations by 12 artists, rotating exhibits and a substantial collection of sculpture. Afterward, consider visiting the Presidio County Courthouse for its history and architecture to round out your cultural exploration. Sunday evening, try your luck with the Marfa Lights, and if successful, it will be the perfect conclusion to your trip to this unusual Texas destination.
Cibolo Creek Ranch offers a unique environment on a 30,000-acre ranch – unique accommodations with fireplaces, spectacular views, gourmet food, three 1857-restored adobe forts and museums. Amenities include fitness center, spa, horseback riding, ATV tours, Humvee tours, skeet and target shooting, mountain hiking, bird watching, massages, facials, proximity to the Chinati Foundation, Judd Foundation and art galleries in Marfa, Big Bend National Park, Fort Davis and McDonald Observatory. www.cibolocreekranch.com
The Hotel Paisano is a charming historic hotel, built in the 1930s by architect William Trost and still emanating period charm complete with specific appeal to vintage movie buffs – the hotel played host to the stars of the Academy Award winning movie Giant. Rooms and suites are as charming as common areas with individuality and clever names such as the Rock Hudson Suite with its rooftop terrace and the Elizabeth Taylor Suite overlooking the courtyard. www.hotelpaisano.com
The Arcon Inn Bed & Breakfast is housed in a 19th-century, two-story, Victorian adobe and is steeped in Americana charm in terms of décor and atmosphere. Gourmet breakfast is included with one’s stay and picnic lunches, evening Spanish tapas and dinner are available upon request. The Arcon Inn also offers nature tourism on an 8,000-acre ranch. This includes local guide,
hiking trails, mountains and wildlife. www.haciendadelarcon.org
Access: With the nearest airport 190 miles away in El Paso, access is easiest via car, and quickest routes from within Texas are Interstate 10 to Highway 67 (from the east) or Highway 90 (from the west) straight into Marfa.
Population: Approx. 1,981 as of 2010
Climate: Marfa experiences a semi-arid climate with hot summers and cool winters.
Main Attractions: The arts and culture, the mysterious Marfa Lights and quick access to Big Bend National Park.
Filmies: In addition to Giant, Marfa has played a role in numerous productions, including There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men.
Scenic Route: One alternate route to Marfa, coming from the east, Highway 90 makes for an interesting, scenic drive to Marfa – complete with ghost town, the Trans-Pecos crossing and incredible scenery. Gas up regularly, though, as there can be almost 100 miles between towns.
Study Up: For the latest in Marfa happenings and news, check out the annual Marfa Magazine, which can be a helpful guide for visitors.