This ultimate guide to Marfa, Texas will help you plan your stay, your restaurants, and activities.
Marfa, Texas. A population of about 1,800 and put on the map by artist Donald Judd. Marfa is a hipster paradise as if you took a tiny sliver of Austin and plopped it in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to visit because I had heard about its charm, its notable restaurants, and its undefinable quirkiness. This little town has gems and is a great day trip when visiting West Texas.
Art is what made Marfa popular and underneath the charm of the small town, it’s the heartbeat that draws artists to come discover and create. The Chinati Foundation is not to be missed and is worth the admission fee to take the tour and talk with the guide. Maybe it’s the art or maybe it’s being in a new and unfamiliar place, but Marfa inspires you to create.
Thinking about visiting? Here’s ALL THE INFORMATION you need to plan your trip, including when to visit, where to stay, where to eat, and what to do.
When to Visit
Visit in the fall or spring. The summer will get up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the winter months will get up to the 60s. In the summer, the lows will be around 60 degrees Fahrenheit while in the winter, it will go below 30 degrees. It was perfect when we went in April, though I’m glad I brought a cardigan for those cool nights and mornings.
Where to Stay
I recommend booking your stay early, especially if you want to stay at the popular El Cosmico. In researching my stay, El Cosmico was booked up except for the safari tents, and the Airbnb we chose ended up being the best price. The hotels in town are gorgeous!
We stayed in this adorable, minimal Airbnb casita and loved it! It was spacious yet intimate. If we had more time for chilling, we would have hung out in the lovely courtyard. We almost stayed elsewhere but when it came down it, having a personal bathroom and air conditioning won out. The price ($112/night) also seemed more reasonable than the hotels in town.
There’s also this beautiful Airbnb if you have a bigger group.
El Cosmico is an unconventional, 21-acre hotel is owned by Bunkhouse, which also owns the Havana Hotel we loved in San Antonio and Hotel San Jose and Austin Motel in Austin, among others. Their “rooms” are trailers, teepees, and safari tents.
As Marfa’s popularity has grown, these hotels are recent additions or have been renovated to attract guests. I found them to be pricier than other options when I was researching places to stay, and I’ve included the per night rate when I looked them up.
- Thunderbird Hotel: $140 or $160
- Hotel Saint George: about $270
- Hotel Paisano: This was the headquarters for the filming of the movie Giant. About $139-179
Where to Eat
Even though Marfa is a small town, it’s filled with good eats! I’ve listed the few I experienced first and then some of the many recommendations. Please take this list with a grain of salt. Marfa is laid-back, and sometimes they do what they want with hours of operation, especially in the winter and summer.
This is one of the newest finer dining restaurants in town and it’s clear why locals and visitors pack this place every night. Great dishes, great wine selection, and great energy. They serve Italian cuisine. Their menus change but we loved the mixed greens salad, the taglierini pasta with eggplant, and the Strawberry Shortcake dessert.
- Address: 103 Highland Ave
- Hours: Tues-Sat 5-10 pm
We split a Faboush salad with falafel and hummus, and it was really good! I’ve also heard the Marfalafel is a good choice. It does get pretty busy so give yourself extra time.
- Address: 909 W. San Antonio
- Hours: Wed-Sat 11 am-3 pm; Fri 5-10 pm
Do Your Thing
This is a cute coffee shop. I also got a slice of their fresh-out-of-the-oven poppy seed lemon cake, and it was delicious! You can also get toasts here.
- Address: 201 E. Dallas
- Hours: Wed-Sat 8:30 am-4 pm
Yes, this place is legit! It has a simple menu and the burritos are humongous! They require two hands and you may barely finish it, but you’ll want to because they’re so good. Get the Primo, which has salsa, cheese, refried beans, potatoes, and onions.
- Address: 515 S. Highland
- Hours: Mon-Sat 6 am-2 pm
This little place is in the same building of a laundromat and has locally made ice cream and smoothies. The peach ice cream was good!
- Address: 120 N. Austin St.
- Hours: Daily 7:30 am-8 pm
We stopped by here for a cocktail nightcap. My eyes bulged at the $14 cocktail price but they’re craft cocktails so it almost makes it ok. I enjoyed my Karen Blixti, a rum drink, and Boyfriend liked his Tequila Old Fashioned. They also serve food here and many looked like they were enjoying dinner. This bar is part of the Thunderbird Hotel.
- Address: 603 W. San Antonio St.
- Hours: 5 pm-12 am
Out of all the places we didn’t make it to, I wish we had gone here!
- Address: 305 S. Spring St.
- Hours: Fri-Sun 12:45-9 pm
Buns N’ Roses
This is a spot for breakfast. Get burritos, waffles, sandwiches, and more here.
- Address: 1613 W. San Antonio St.
- Hours: Thurs-Sun 7 am-2:30 pm
This restaurant at Hotel Paisano serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s a rumor that they have the best margaritas in town.
- Address: 207 N. Highland Ave
- Hours: Daily 2-9 pm
Serving breakfast and lunch, this place also serves juices and smoothies.
- Address: 215 N. Highland
- Hours: Tues-Sun 8 am-3 pm
I’ve heard mixed reviews about this finer dining restaurant, but they will have new management as of June 2017, so let me know if you like it!
- Address: 115 W. San Antonio
- Hours: Thurs-Mon 5:30-10 pm
Vietnamese cuisine has arrived in Marfa! Bahn mi, pho, rice bowls!
- Address: 1300 W. San Antonio
- Hours: Fri-Mon 11 am-3 pm
Lost Horse Saloon
This bar is super divey and serves drinks only.
- Address: 306 E. San Antonio
- Hours: Sun-Fri 4 pm-12 am; Sat 12 pm-1 am
This beer garden is a good hangout spot with bar food.
- Address: 200 S. Abbott
- Hours: Fri 2 pm-12 am; Sat 2 pm-1 am; Sun 2-10 pm
Where to Get Groceries and Snacks
If you’d rather cook or want to pick up some snacks, here are some places to go in town.
The Get Go
This grocery store is heavenly. From organic vegetables to artisan chocolate bars, you would have thought it was a mini Whole Foods.
- Address: 208 S. Dean St
- Hours: Daily 9 am-9 pm
This grocery store has the usual things you can find at a grocery store.
- Address: 717 W. San Antonio St.
- Hours: Mon-Sat 7 am-8 pm; Sun 8 am-7 pm
Where to Play
The Chinati Foundation
This contemporary art museum founded by artist Donald Judd was the highlight of our Marfa trip! The exhibits are focused on how art, architecture, and the environment interact. The way light interacts with the art is a crucial part of the exhibits. The exhibits may look simple but go deeper and you’ll see the thought that went in to discover the art. I would recommend the two and a half hour guided Selections tour ($20 per person). We did this in the morning when the exhibits were not open to the public. The exhibits are slightly spread out, so it was nice to have a tour guide.
- Entrance Fee: Some areas free, other areas and tours require a ticket
- Address: 1 Cavalry Row, Marfa, TX 79843
- Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 9 am-5 pm
Walk Around Town
You can see many sights by walking around the central area of town, near the four-way stop light. We did this one morning (when it wasn’t so hot!) and had a photo-walk adventure. Some sights you might see include Presidio County Courthouse, pink fire station, Pure Joy water tank, Marfa water tank, and lots of cacti. (Many of the photos in this post.)
Marfa Book Company
If you want to take some art and books home with you, pop into the Marfa Book Company connected to Hotel Saint George. I was so tempted to get prints of the beautiful horse photographs until I saw the price tag. There are lots of cute Marfa t-shirts and souvenirs here.
- Address: 105 S Highland Ave, Marfa, TX 79843 (inside Hotel Saint George)
- Hours: Daily 9 am-9 pm
Marfa Mystery Lights
We joked that the mystery lights are a guy in the distance shining different flashlights but I’m not sure how else you could explain the glowing orbs that some have seen. All I know is I wasn’t going to go wait in the cold and dark to maybe see some random lights. But tell me if you do! There is an official viewing area you can go to. Here’s some more info about the Marfa Lights.
- Address: located 9 miles east of town on Highway 90, towards Alpine
West Texas has lots of rocks. Moonlight Gemstones sells raw agates, geodes, quartz, and more. They also make jewelry. These would be a pretty souvenir!
- Address: 1001 W San Antonio St, Marfa, TX 79843
- Hours: Monday-Saturday 10 am-6 pm, Sunday 12-4 pm
Attractions in the Area
I wish we could have visited! This center teaches visitors about astronomy and hosts two-hour star parties on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. At the star parties, you’ll be able to look through their telescope!
- Entrance fee: $8 (online) or $9 (in-person) for adults
- Reserve your star party weeks in advance! Consider the phase of the moon for best viewing. $12 (online) or $15 (in-person) for adults
- 37 miles, 45 minutes from Marfa, outside Fort Davis
- Address: 3640 Dark Sky Drive, McDonald Observatory, TX 79734
Big Bend Brewing Co.
You don’t want to miss visiting one of the most remote breweries in Texas. While they are distributed throughout the state, you can try their beers on tap here. I recommend their Terlingua Gold, a pale ale. Also, check out whatever seasonal beer they have.
- Tap Room Hours: Wednesdays – Fridays 4 pm – 6 pm, Saturdays 1 pm – 6 pm
- Tours available Saturdays 1 pm and 3 pm, $10 per person
- 24 miles, 22 minutes from Marfa in Alpine, TX
- Address: 3401 US-90, Alpine, TX 79830
Balmorhea State Park
This is the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool! You can swim, scuba dive, and camp here.
- Hours: 8 am – 7:30 pm or sunset, whichever comes first
- Entrance fee: $7 per person
- 54 miles, 55 minutes from Marfa in Toyahvale, TX
- Address: 9207 TX-17, Toyahvale, TX 79786
This art installation arrived in 2005 and has been a popular sight ever since. Inside the store are real Prada handbags and shoes, though you wouldn’t want to try and steal them because you’ll get bottomless purses and right foot shoes. More info here.
- No entrance fee or hours. Located on the side of the road.
- 37 miles, 35 minutes from Marfa in Valentine, TX
- Address: US-90, Valentine, TX 79854
Not a Prada fan? The Target “installation” might be more your style. The signage appeared one day and people have been taking photos in front of it ever since. More info here.
- No entrance fee or hours. Located on the side of the road.
- 42 miles, 41 minutes from Marfa in Marathon, TX
- Address: Between Alpine and Marathon
Big Bend National Park
Our big reason for the trip was visiting Big Bend National Park! Check out this post to get all the details.
- 98 miles, 1 hour and 37 minutes from Marfa in near Terlingua, TX
Quick Marfa Notes
- Print out directions to get to places out of town. Cell service can be spotty.
- Bring a bit of cash because some food trailers and restaurants are cash only.
- For coffee, you’ll likely taste the local Big Bend Coffee Roasters.
- For beer, you’ll likely find Big Bend Brewing Company on tap.
I’ve eyed Marfa for SO LONG, it’s bizarre that I’ve finally crossed it off my list. I’m glad I finally visited but I’m also not aching to go back. The six-hour-plus drive is what deters me the most. It’s a comfortable and cute town that has just the right amount of visitors and a reasonable number of restaurants and sights to make you feel accomplished at the end of the weekend. Walking around the neighborhood, I can see the charm that attracts visitors. You can easily get your bearings in this unfamiliar town to never feel lost, and there’s an artsy view around every corner.
I’ve marked many Texas cities off my list, but where to next? Let me know in a comment below!
P.S. Want more travel guides? Check out my destinations page to pick your next trip!