A dusty corner of southwest Texas might be the last place you expect to find a vibrant arts hub and unique bohemian community. Nevertheless, tucked away near the Mexican border Marfa, TX is an oasis for the weird and quirky. With a range of experiences from artistic to the extraterrestrial, discover some of the more unusual things to do in Marfa.
A place to see and experience in the middle of nowhere, Marfa, Texas is perhaps best described by the photos of its weird and wonderful shopfronts, restaurants, and public buildings. Like something out of a Wes Anderson film, the pastels, classic architecture, and nostalgic fonts, draw photographers, art lovers, and Instagrammers from all over the country, inspired by the unique and infectious aesthetic. It is also a popular destination amongst van lifers, overlanders, and road trippers looking for a journey off the beaten path where imagination is the destination.
If you’ve been thinking about getting lost somewhere on the back roads of rural America Marfa, Texas might be just the place you’ve been looking for. Let us help you plan your own weird and wonderful trip out to this off-beaten path destination with these 13 unusual things to do in Marfa, Texas.
Looking for More Wonderful and Weird US Towns? Why Not Try These On for Size?
- 6 Unusual Things to Do in New Orleans
- 8 Cool Things to Do in Santa Fe New Mexico in 24 Hours
- Keep it Weird: 9 Unusual Things to Do in Austin
Unusual Things to Do in Marfa Texas
#1 The Marfa Lights
In a remote and rugged area out to the southeast of Marfa odd lights of different colors appear on the horizon and behave erratically. They appear without rhyme or reason at any time of night, at any time of the year.
Some say it is a reflection of fires or cars, a trick of the light caused by the atmosphere. Others say, what cars? what fires?
So popular are the Marfa Lights that a permanent and free viewing platform has been built on the interstate heading east out of town. Head out after dark, but don’t go alone.
#2 Visit the Prada Marfa
The Prada Marfa has been a prominent feature in the Marfa art installations since construction completed in October 2005. An artistic expression from Scandinavian duo Elmgreen & Dragset, Prada Marfa was completed in October 2005 as part of a pop architectural land project.
The high-end fashion store on the side of a dusty desert road, miles from anywhere evokes the stark contrast between consumerism and minimalism. It highlights the vast differences between the world we know today and the world we came from.
A trip out to see the famed Prada Marfa is worth it and is easily one of the more unique things to do in Marfa.
#3 Step Back in Time Along Marfa’s Main Drag
Marfa’s main street is dominated by the oversize county courthouse, the Marfa water tower, neon-lit hotels, and the U.S. Post Office. It is hard to come by a town in the US that rivals the charm, quirkiness and electic vibe of Marfa. And one of the best ways to experience all this town has to offer is to hit the pavement and walk the picturesque town in the twilight.
#4 Enjoy a Cold One at The World Famous Lost Horse Saloon
The World Famous Lost Horse is an iconic watering hole in the small town of Marfa. The local haunt features live music, cowboy cuisine, pool tables, and ice-cold beer. They take kindly to outsiders around here, and the saloon is more than big enough for a few, so make sure you stop by to wet your whistle when you blow in from out of town.
#5 Go on a Walk to Find All of the Eclectic Marfa Art
Marfa and the arts are inextricably linked. Many of the iconic Marfa art installations can be found just by going for a wander along the streets that comprise this small town. From the Stardust Motel Sign west of the city to the Truckland Marfa, there are plenty of quirky sights to be seen in Marfa.
#6 Grab a Burrito from Marfa Burrito
Featured in Anthony Bourdain’s, Parts Unknown, this burrito has some serious street cred.
No trip to Marfa is complete without visiting the ladies at Marfa Burrito. Not your traditional restaurant, Burrito Marfa feels more like your grandmother’s house with exceptionally good tex-mex.
#7 Marvel at the Permanent Collection of the Chinati Foundation
The Chinati Foundation began in the 1970s with the arrival of Donald Judd to the small, dusty town of Marfa and has helped put Marfa on the map as an artistic hub.
The Chinati Foundation is a collection of large-scale and permanent works set over 340 acres. The collection includes indoor art galleries and outdoor installations from thirteen artists including founder Donald Judd. The Chinati Foundation Collection seeks to bring art, architecture, and nature together and is a something not to be missed on any Marfa itinerary.
#8 Gallery Hop to Explore All the Marfa Art
Not only are there plenty of electic art installations throughout Marfa, but Marfa is also home to a handful of phenominal art galleries. Spend an afternoon wandering the Marfa art galleries. A few of the art galleries in Marfa recommended are:
- New Star Art Museum – A small funky art museum featuring local artists.
- Ayn Foundation Marfa – A contemporary art museum featuring the works of Andy Warhol and Maria Zerres. The exhibit is open only on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Building 98 (Hacienda Del Arcon) – A former fort complex, Building 98 now houses a museum and a gallery space for artists in residence to exhibit their work.
- Greasewood Gallery – Located in the historic Paisano Hotel, the Greasewood Gallery exhibits a wide array of artistic expression of the local artists.
- Veldt Gallery – The Vledt Gallery showcases the artistic expression of South African born LéAna Clifton.
For a complete listing of art galleries in Marfa check out Visit Marfa.
#9 Hit the Shops in Marfa Texas
The quirkiness of Marfa extends beyond the diverse art installations and galleries that dot the streets of marfa. This tiny town is also home to a handful of interesting shops and it would be a shame not to support the locals who make the country town of Marfa so unique.
Check out The Wrong Store which sells a wide variety of local designed goods from home wares to accessories and more.
Garza Marfa is a great option for handmade textiles and unique furniture.
Looking for gifts for loved ones? Check out The Marfa Store for books, candles, art, jewelry and other locally sourced items.
Or if these are a bit pricey, then check out the Marfa Museum Thrift Store for a chance to score a few vintage pieces.
#10 Attend One of the Many Art Festivals in Marfa
It should come as no surprise to you that a city built around art would have a plethora of festivals celebrating th artistic contributions of its citizens. From April to November each year, Marfa comes to life with festivals celebrating art, music, food, and more. Head over to the Visit Marfa website for the most up-to-date information on festivals to attend in Marfa before booking your Marfa vacation!
#11 Grab a Drink at Planet Marfa
Planet Marfa has the best outdoor patio in Marfa, hands down. When the sun is shining head over to Planet Marfa for a cold beer. Planet Marfa is only open on the weekends, so make sure to plan your visit accordingly!
#12 Sample Wines at Marfa Wine Co
While The World Famous Lost Horse Saloon and Planet Marfa focus on ice cold beers, if you prefer vino then make a beeline for the Marfa Wine Co. Pop in for a wide selection of wines sourced both locally and from afar. Enjoy the wine there or take it to go, just make sure you don’t miss this fantastic wine selection in Marfa!
#13 Sleep in an Airstream
One of the most unique things to do in Marfa is to sleep in an airstream. An alternative to traditional accommodation, staying at the Marfa Yacht Club will really complete your trip to Marfa. Just a mile out of town with stunning views over the nearby mountains, you will not be disappointed with this funky stay in an airstream.
Things to do Near Marfa Texas
You may be surprised to find that there are a surprising number of things to do near Marfa despite its relative isolation in Texas. From exploring national parks to observing the skies, you are sure to find something outside of Marfa that tickles your fancy.
#14 Head South to Big Bend National Park
Straddling the border between Mexico and the United States, Big Bend National Park is one of the least visited national parks in the contiguous of the United States. A arid desert landscape encompassing the entire Chisos Mountains, Big Bend is a truly specatular national park in the United States.
The main thing to do in Big Bend National Park is to hit the trails. There are a variety of trails within Big Bend from desert hikes to mountain hikes and even river hikes! The hikes range from less than a mile to 30+ multi-day hikes.
Adventure seekers can take to the waters for some of the most impressive views of the whole park. A permit is required to be on the water which can be obtained on the National Park Website.
#15 Be Amazed by the Incredibleness of Space at McDonald Observatory
There is nothing better to do in remote locations than to admire the stars and the incredibleness of space. The McDonald Observatory run by the University of Texas at Austin. The observatory is open to the public Tuesday to Saturday between 12:00 – 5:00 pm for a self-guided tour of the 10-meter Hobby-Eberly Telescope for $3 per adult.
If this isn’t enough you can also book a guided tour which takes you up close and personal with the research conducted at the McDonald Observatory or the star party with open air constellation and live telescope viewing.
How to Get to Marfa Texas
Marfa is located in southwest Texas miles and miles away from just about everything. The closest airport to Marfa (unless you have your own private jet) is in El Paso, TX or Midland, TX each about 3 hours away. If you are flying into El Paso you will need to go through border control, so make sure you come prepared with the necessary documents.
As far as the big Texas cities go, distances and time travel are vast with each taking over 6 hours to reach.
- Austin to Marfa = 6.5 hours (~430 miles)
- Dallas to Marfa = 8 hours (~520 miles)
- Houston to Marfa = 9 hours (~600 miles)
- San Antonio to Marfa = 6 hours (~400 miles)
Time of travel will largely depend on traffic in each city which can be pretty horrific during peak hours.
Where to Stay in Marfa
Staying at El Cosmico is an unusual thing to do in Marfa in its own right. More a hip commune than a lodging, this tourism hub is essentially an art collection. Trailers to yurts to tepees to safri tents, choose your pick from their range of electic, funky accommodation options.
Tumble Inn Marfa RV Park
The Tumble Inn is an eclectic RV park on the outskirts of town but still close enough to be able to walk to the town center. This quirky RV park is perfect for those who are looking to pitch their own tent, have their own van, or are swept up in the van life movement.
Complete with all of the bells and whistles you would hope from an RV park, it is the perfect place to stay for those on a budget.
Hotel Accommodation in Marfa
The Lincoln Marfa
The Lincoln Marfa is a collection of eight apartments near the town center that are perfect for a weekend getaway. Each apartment is complete with a kitchen or has access to a shared kitchen. Only steps away from all the main attractions, the Lincoln Marfa is a great alternative in Marfa.
Hotel Saint George
Modern comfort meets Marfa’s eclectic and unique style in this chic hotel in the middle of “downtown” Marfa. Onsite facilities include a restaurant, swimming pool, bar and a fitness center.
Attentive staff go the extra mile at Hotel Saint Gorge. Extra touches like ping pong, art from local artists, and morning coffee with pastries make your stay feel even more special.
The Riata Inn is a great budget friendly accommodation option in Marfa if you want to stay close to town. With rooms suitable for up to four people, this classing motel-style building has everything you need for a comfortable stay.
That completes our list of the weird, wondeful, & unique things to do in Marfa Texas! Let us know what you think of this electic town in southwest Texas in the comments below!