Howdy! I’m back with my second installment about the Big Bend, Texas road trip. Last week I told you about The Local Chapter and how we spent most of the week glamping while exploring Terlingua and the Big Bend area. We had a couple of days to explore Marfa and the surrounding areas of Alpine and Marathon, Texas. I’ll explain why in today’s blog post. Spend a day in Marfa, Texas and surrounding areas. It’s a fascinating part of the Lone Star State!
While this is definitely a road trip, we chose to fly and land in Marfa, Texas. Pete has been a pilot for over 35 years and we have owned our small, six seater plane that long. In fact, the same mechanic has serviced the plane the entire time and no one else but Pete flies it. It’s how we “road trip”. All the years our kids attended summer camp in the Texas Hill Country (Camp Waldemar and Lonehollow), this is how we picked them up. It’s a great way to land and enjoy the fabulous Cooper’s BBQ in Llano, Texas on the way home! While Taylor and P.J. were attending Baylor University, this is how we would visit them. This was always an excellent way to avoid traffic on I-35! Bottom line, Pete is a great pilot with over 2,500 hours and we have been traveling this way the entire time we have been married.
The municipal airport in Marfa, Texas offers rental cars through Visit Marfa. You reserve one from the City of Marfa by clicking here and they will have it waiting for you at the airport. When I travel to a new destination, I loosely plan my itinerary. That’s because I want to discover the destination as I go. I knew I wanted to stay at Hotel Paisano, get “the” Prada and Target shots and then head to The Local Chapter. Beyond that, we were game for anything. When you travel like this, I highly recommend contacting the visitors bureau. I find that their websites are very helpful. The Visit Marfa site is no exception.
While this area offers endless things to do, we were only there for a couple of days early in the week. To answer your question, NO we did not see the Marfa lights. That’s because we had an overcast day and night with light drizzle. I also noticed that due to Covid-19, there are a lot of closings or shorter opening hours. Marfa and the surrounding areas tend to be a weekend destination. Plan accordingly!
I’m going to break down our pictures by location and show you what we did. I’ll also list other things to do in case you have more time. There’s also lots of pictures, videos and more information in this saved Instagram Story highlight. There’s just never enough time to do it all…
Things to do in Marfa and the surrounding areas
I knew I wanted to stay at the Hotel Paisano in Marfa, Texas. It’s where the cast of GIANT stayed while filming during the summer of 1955. The memorabilia around the hotel is incredible. It’s not luxury but it is a historic site. They also have cute little shops in the hotel with one shop being dedicated to GIANT movie items. Be sure to make reservations at Jett’s Grill and have drinks in the bar. Both are fabulous! The “Hotel Paisano Tuesday 12:00” sign in the bar refers to some meeting that used to happen back in the day (Lions Club, Rotary Club…). By the way, Marfa, Texas is a small town with 2,000 residents.
Other recommendations for Marfa, Texas: Pizza Foundation, Convenience West (BBQ), The Water Shop, Do Your Thing Coffee, Al Campo Wine Garden & Bistro, Marfa Burrito. Be sure to check out The Chinati Foundation outdoor self-guided walking tours. Due to the pandemic, all museum indoor spaces were closed. Go view the Marfa Lights! The Marfa Lights Viewing Center is 9 miles east of town on US highway 90. To do so, you will need a clear night. Marfa is located near the Davis Mountains and not far from Fort Davis. If you have time, try to make it to McDonald Observatory. From Marfa, you take highway 17 and then 118 to get there.
I found the guide books that Visit Marfa put in our rental car to be excellent! In particular, they have guides broken down by day trips that you can take if you are basing yourself in Marfa, Texas. For example: One day excursion from Marfa to the south – Pinto Canyon by FM 2810. There were at least 10 guides with very specific information about separate day trips. I appreciate that detailed level of communication!
Alpine and Marathon, Texas
Alpine, Texas is a charming town of about 6,000 residents. It’s home to Sul Ross State University which I had never heard of. While there, be sure to visit the Museum of the Big Bend (on campus). It’s FREE and we found it to be an excellent overview of the history of the Big Bend area. One of my followers on Instagram told me to eat at Reata and are we glad we did. You can’t do West Texas without indulging in a good ole’ Chicken Fried Steak! It was well worth the calories. FYI – We didn’t worry about Keto that week.
Alpine is only about a 30 minute drive from Marfa via US 90. If you continue down the highway, you’ll hit Marathon, Texas. It’s home to the Gage Hotel and the town has a population of 400. The Gage Hotel was built in 1927 and it’s gorgeous! It’s definitely a destination hotel. Be sure to eat at the 12 Gage Restaurant and have drinks at White Buffalo Bar – both are located inside the hotel. Marathon, Texas is known for star gazing.
These towns are located between the Del Norte Mountains and Glass Mountains. This is a gorgeous part of Texas!
Getting “the” shot
Because I always incorporate fashion into my blog posts and social media, I knew I wanted to visit these two famous places to get “the shot”. Prada Marfa was installed in 2005 off of US Highway 90 as an art installation. It is not an actual store and the door does not open. You just take pictures in front of it. Technically, its actually located in Valentine, Texas. It’s 26 miles northwest of Marfa.
Target Marathon is similar but started becoming a “thing” in 2016. There’s an actual shopping cart and you can use it for your shot. The building has a bit of graffiti on it so I cleaned that up in editing. It’s located about 15 miles west of Marathon on US 90.
For both shots, you literally pull off the highway and just take the picture. There were a couple of people taking pictures in each location so we just waited our turn. I bet we were only there for 10-15 minutes. We even offered to take pictures of other people. I posted this video on my Instagram and it was an instant hit. I couldn’t miss getting these gems! What do you think?
If you are traveling to West Texas to do the Big Bend area anyway, I highly suggest spending a few days in these little towns. They are charming and full of history! If you don’t eat a chicken fried steak were you really even there?
xoxo – Tanya
photo: Pete Foster
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Tags: Alpine, Big Bend, Marathon, Marfa, road trip, Texas, The Local Chapter, west texas