Let’s just get one thing straight: There’s no easy way to get to Marfa. The closest airport, in El Paso, Texas, is a three-hour drive away and most airlines don’t even fly there directly. If you’re coming from New York, like I did, it’ll take longer to get to Marfa than L.A. or even Europe. Though the epic journey can be daunting, it’s part of the town’s strange, mythic appeal. You travel for 10 to 12 hours, flying halfway across the country, driving through the Chihuahuan desert, to find yourself in a little enclave with one of the unlikeliest art scenes in the U.S., if not the world.
It may have been minimalist artist Donald Judd who put Marfa on the map back in the ‘70s, but this tiny town of 2,000 people has enjoyed a major resurgence in the collective consciousness in the past couple of years. Beyoncé visited with her crew, a sleek new hotel opened, the Chinati Foundation got its first new installation in more than 10 years, and—most recently—Jill Soloway filmed the brilliant show I Love Dick there. So if you’ve got your sights set on Marfa, pull the trigger and go! Here’s what to do when you roll into town.
Where to Stay
Hotel Saint George: Opened last year, this boutique sleep is still the cool new hotel on the block. Its design is a subtle homage to Judd, who espoused functionality and loved the Alvar Aalto chairs populating the lobby. Owned by Tim Crowley—a major player in Marfa’s cultural community—the hotel features works by artists with strong ties to the town, like Christopher Wool and Mark Flood. New this summer: the outdoor pool and Bar Nadar, which serves chips and guac, Mexican street fruit, and tacos—exactly what you want to be eating in the Texas heat.
El Cosmico: Perhaps the world’s most Instagrammable campground, El Cosmico is a collection of teepees, tents, yurts, and refurbished vintage trailers spread across 21 acres. The brainchild of hip hotelier Liz Lambert (the woman behind Austin’s uber-cool Saint Cecilia and the new Hotel San Cristóbal in Baja), this place aims to fulfill all your psychedelic, flower child, music festival fantasies. There’s a communal kitchen, bath house, and bike rentals to help you get around town. Plus, it hosts the annual Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love every September.
Hotel Paisano: Opened in 1930, this old-school hotel played host to Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson when they filmed Giant here in 1955. It still exudes the Spanish colonial-meets-Wild West charm found throughout Texas thanks to a renovation that restored it to its original glory. This place is not trying to be hip—it’s a classic.