Glitter Guide contributor, Almila Kakinc, is back to school us in all of the shops we need to peruse, food we need to eat and art that can’t be missed while visiting Marfa, Texas. Her guide and photos are below!
Welcome to the wildest west: Marfa, Texas! It’s a surreal pocket of a town where tumbleweed lollops across the high desert roads dotted with minimalist sculptures that lead to Texan-Mediterranean grub. Previously on the verge of being a ghost town in the 1960s, Marfa was transformed into an art oasis by the minimalist artist, Donald Judd, on the high plains of the Chihuahuan Desert. It now houses 400 acres scattered with concrete sculptures, food trucks on the side of open roads and even a handcrafted leather boot company with an in-store studio. Read on for my guide to braving the heat and pilgrimage into Marfa, from roadside grubs to high-brow galleries.
- El Cosmico: This campground offers glamping at its finest, with its multicolored vintage trailers, safari and scout tents, Sioux-style tepees, yurts and space to set up your own tent. The site is a nomadic dream of tents furnished with Bolivian blankets, birch interiors and wood-fired hot tubs where it hosts a crystal-laden Sacred Art of Bathing workshop. Make sure to check out the happenings page during your stay in Marfa, which includes Sunset Soundtracks, and perhaps book some early-bird tickets for the Trans-Pecos Music Festival, which takes place in September.
- Hotel Saint George: A new transplant on a historic footprint, this hotel is locally owned and operated like much of Marfa. Hotel Saint George was an “oasis for travelers” before it was torn down in 1929. With its newly renovated light and—unsurprisingly for Marfa—minimalist design, Hotel Saint George is sure to once again become a hot spot for sightseers and visitors alike.
- Hotel Paisano: This historic hotel—set in the Spanish Revival style—was built in the 1930s by Charles Bassett and commissioned by the architect Henry Trost. Its historic elements are further highlighted by the movie “Giant,” for which the hotel functioned as the headquarters for the cast and crew. The 50-foot Spanish courtyard was being dressed in spirited colors and wind-blown fabrics for a wedding when I visited, making it ever more charming.
- Thunderbird: Another locally run hotel, the Thunderbird was established in 1959, and its period horseshoe-shaped interiors were recently given a new, modern face by Bob Harris of Lake Flato Architects. It’s a fun destination and place to stay, especially for lounging by the pool during the hot summer desert days. Make sure to book in advance in high tourist season, though, as it only has 24 guest rooms!
- Cast + Crew: With walls donned with brightly painted Eames chairs, tables dotted with lucky horseshoes and window corners shining with crystals, Cast + Crew whets the appetite for eclectic interior design. I left adding more than one of the chairs to my wish list. Oh, it also has the most ginormous, primal-looking Japanese clay pipes.
- Marfa Brands: Located right next to Cast + Crew, the most delightful and earthy scent of the Marfa Brands soaps wafted into Cast + Crew despite the shop being closed at the time. I was able to sample some of the soaps—including a campfire-scented soap with lapsang souchong tea—in various stores, but I’m thrilled to stop on by for an experience once I move to Texas!
- Freda: This quaint little shop welcomes you in with the brightest of orange flowers and handsome hunks of crystals on the floor. It has bitters and tinctures with rose and orange blossom, musky perfume oils and candles and dainty handmade jewelry.
- Mirth: The shining star sticker for the chicest boutique in town goes to Mirth, which offers a selection of thoughtfully curated minimalist home and table objects from around the world. I would curate my entire wedding registry from here if I could.
- Mano: The shop’s intoxicating scent rivals that of Anthropologie and is owned by a too-cool-for-small-town San Francisco couple. The co-owner, Gabrielle, is incredibly sweet and has a taste for genuine Japanese incense, handmade clay bounties and beautiful light fabrics fit for the desert air. I wished I could make its clean yet masculine, warm and worn space my home.
- Cobra Rock Boot Co.: This airy shop has leather goods made right in the store studio. Its signature boots with a cult following are made from American full-grain leather with a production period of about three weeks and up to an eight-month waiting list!
- The Get Go: My fiancé is a local, so we stopped by this quaint little organic local foods market to pick up ingredients to cook. Many restaurants, coffee shops or eateries in general around Marfa are known to have odd hours, so The Get Go is a great option to pick up food to cook for yourself. We picked up local hops kombucha by Austin-based Buddha’s Brew, pasture-raised eggs and grass-fed meats for the week.
- Hotel Saint George: Following some light hors d’oeuvres at the reception for a reading by Jamaica Kincaid at Marfa Book Company, we returned to Hotel Saint George (which houses the bookstore) to share a plate of pan-seared chicken with asparagus. The plate was plenty to share and they were incredibly accommodating of my plethora of allergies with kind smiles!
- Cochineal: We did not have the opportunity to fill our bellies with food, hooch and laughter at this restaurant during our trip, but I’m looking forward to eating from its seasonal and locally sourced menu another time. Cochineal springs a Texan-inspired menu in its high design, yet whimsical, ranch-style house, with offerings like pan-seared duck rosemary breast and escargot with garlic and herb butter. If you do make the trip, make sure you make reservations ahead of time!
- Cottonwood General Store: Although not located in Marfa—it’s located in Terlingua, Texas—this store is on the road to Big Bend National Park, which anyone passing or visiting Marfa should experience a hike through. We picked up the most incredible local, pasture-raised eggs from an Alpine farm that had yolks blushed with a blinding neon orange tint that poured heavy over the whites like cream. I’m still dreaming of my breakfasts.
- The Squeeze: Another little eatery we did not have the chance to visit is The Squeeze. The Swiss-inspired destination offers refreshing options like açai bowls, salads and juices for a cool, light fare.
- Frama/Tumbleweed Laundry: This coffee shop and laundromat in one offers both coffee and tea, local ice cream and jalapeño lemonade. Everyone is extremely friendly and its visitors are über-cool.
- Do Your Thing: This is such a cozy little coffee shop, dressed with vintage props and furniture. The large communal tables open up conversation and, as proud as I was to see it, had spreads of the local newspaper for which my fiancé writes.
- Food Shark: There is nothing I could eat at this food pop-up, but Food Shark is basically approved by all in Marfa and dazingly by Queen B. Deemed to offer ‘Mediterranean-by-way-of-West-Texas grub, it serves loyals and hangry passersby from noon until 3 p.m. from Wednesday through Saturday. They also offer a sandwich with all the ingredients to gnash your teeth into, appropriately called the Motherf*cker.
- Planet Marfa: An open-air bar twinkled with Christmas lights for easy drinks with friends. It’s a great way to quench the desert air thirst.
- Chinati Foundation: This internationally known contemporary art museum was founded by the minimalist artist Donald Judd and established on the uninterrupted open grounds of Fort D.A. Russell and abandoned WWII barracks. Visitors on booked tours snake through dark expansive halls of these barracks, drawn like moths to the light installations by Dan Flavin in hues from watermelon to the sun.
- Ballroom Marfa: One of the many nonprofit art galleries, Ballroom Marfa also functions as a cultural space that hosts cutting-edge artist performances, shows, films and music.
- Marfa Contemporary: The only extension of Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, Marfa Contemporary is a space that encourages, hosts and exhibits artistic expression in all its forms and mediums.
- Ayn Foundation: This gallery is in two parts, currently presenting the “Last Supper” by Andy Warhol in one space and “September Eleven” by the emerging artist Maria Zerres in another.
- Marfa Book Company: A redesigned bookstore in the likes and vision of the minimalist (and sometimes sterile) Marfa art scene, Marfa Book Company is an airy, light-filled bookstore that offers unique provisions such as stoneware made by local artists and the exquisite Aēsop. I’m eyeing these elegant wine cups.
- Mystery Lights: Stop by the roadside to see these twinkling light phenomena because nature is supreme art.