Marfa, Texas (we'll explain the name later) is becoming a destination for those intrigued by Marfa's mysterious lights and for those wanting to experience a fun and funky out-of-the way Texas town. Traveling art exhibits of national importance, and an up and coming new vineyard add to the attraction.
Marfa is located just north of Big Bend National Park off of Highways 90 and 67. Map
What's In a Name, Marfa?:
Marfa, population 2,424, is said to have been named by a railroad engineer's wife after a character in The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky. "Marfa" means "Martha" in Russian. Founded as a water stop on the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio (Southern Pacific) railroad, Marfa lies on a semi-protected highland plain of the Chihuahuan Desert between three mountain ranges at an altitude of almost 5,000 feet.
Mysterious Marfa Lights:
Marfa may be best known for the mysterious lights. The sign at the viewing spot explains, "The Marfa Lights, mysterious and unexplained lights that have been reported in the area for over one hundred years, have been the subject of many theories. Variously described as campfires, phosphorescent minerals, swamp gas, static electricity, St. Elmo's Fire, and "ghost lights," the lights reportedly change colors, move around, and change in intensity."
The Marfa Lights Festival is an annual event celebrating the mysterious Marfa Lights. Activities over the Labor Day Weekend include food and crafts booths, a main street parade, contests, concerts and street dances. The festival has become a Marfa tradition and a reunion time for former residents and natives.
Cowboys and Rodeos:
Marfa is home to an annual Cowboy Rendezvous. The event is usually held Memorial Day weekend. Marfa also boasts a Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Art and Film (yes, the Arts are Alive and Well in Marfa!):
Marfa is also home to a growing arts community. Cultural centers such as Ballroom Marfa attract art and film exhibits of national acclaim. Ballroom Marfa is a non-profit dedicated to contemporary art and culture. It is a place in which varied cultural perspectives are explored through the visual arts, music, and film. Website
Places to Stay:
Visitors to Marfa have quite a selection of accommodations. You can stay in a quaint B&B, a historic hotel or even a ranch.
Places to Eat:
If you are hungry, you can get the usual western fare. We were surprised to find a gourmet restaurant in Marfa. The owner and namesake, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, moved to Marfa 11 years ago for its burgeoning art environment. The menu includes attractive and innovative offerings such as Chicken Agrodolce, a roasted chicken breast, savory tomato sauce, red skinned mashed potatoes, and grilled Portabella mushrooms. They have an excellent wine list.Website
Marfa, Texas -- A Highlight of Big Bend Country:
Marfa is an eclectic, fascinating oasis of activity in the Texas Big Bend country. An amazing arts community co-exists with cowboys and western culture. The Marfa arts community began with the arrival of world renowned artist Donald Judd in the mid-1970's and the creation of the Chinati Foundation.
When visiting, be sure to take note of the newly restored Presidio County Courthouse. Marfa was the location in the 1950's for the filming of Giant, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean. Stop by the Marfa and Presidio County Museum and the Hotel Paisano to view some of the memorabilia.
Visitors can hang-glide, hike, witness the mysterious Marfa Lights and then, in the evening, settle down to a relaxing gourmet meal. Wine lovers can visit the new Starlight Vineyard
and view the Marfa lights from their property.
Marfa is certainly worth a stop on your Big Bend Country travels.