you’ll land in the sparse, vaguely yellow-tinted land via an airport that’s a good three hours away, driving. you’ll want to rent a cool car, something worthy of a dusty road trip through west texas terrain, the stark orange of far off refinery fires dotting the landscape. you’ll also want some tunes. I’d recommend anti, rihanna’s latest, greatest and most road-trip-worthy offering to date. now, here’s what you’ll do.
9 a.m.: stop off at prada marfa (us-90, valentine, tx). for me, this chic little piece of art in the middle of nowhere is marfa. it was my first virtual experience with the town after I stumbled across photos of beyoncé + crew leaping in front of the fake store.
here’s what you need to know, though: you won’t be alone. there are two types of encounters you’re guaranteed to have at prada marfa, no matter how short your visit. one is exchanges with über-friendly locals. they’ll honk from their trucks, or, in our case, stop, turn around and drive back to the installation to exchange trite jokes with you. enjoy this.
second is other visitors. have your camera ready for those photo opps because there’ll be other cars waiting for their chance as well.
11 a.m.: brunch at buns n’ roses (1613 w san antonio st). don’t be fooled by the sign outside that says “light” breakfast is served, because it’s anything but. heaping omelettes loaded with gooey goodness, waffles, potatoes and a variety of breakfast meats are all on the menu. they’ll be served up slowly, but they’ll be delivered with a smile. this is dining in marfa, and you should adjust your city expectations accordingly.
what you absolutely should not leave without trying (and maybe, filling up on as a meal in their own right) is the handmade, yeast donuts. to say they are a treat is like saying the hot boys reunion I’ve been waiting on for 15 years would be a treat. it’s to say the 2 euro bottle of french champagne you’d pick up at any parisien market is a treat. the first buds of cherry blossoms after a finicky winter are a treat. that is to say, they’re so much more than a treat. they are divine.
1 p.m.: explore the town on foot. park at the hotel paisano (207 highland street), and don’t forget to peruse their gift shop, full of books, western apparel and cowboy trinkets, and a nice shop in its own right. be sure to walk up highland street to snap a pic of the kitschy, cotton candy-colored presidio county courthouse (301 highland street). take in some of the town’s random art exhibits (there will be converted garages with their doors open, beckoning you to digest a series of abe lincoln portraits) and stop by the famous ballroom marfa (108 e san antonio) where local and nationally known artists are routinely on display. (this place was, unfortunately, closed during our stay). find a street sign with your home state’s name, and be sure to get a photo underneath it.
3 p.m.: stop by the get go (208 s dean st) for tent snacks. the reputation of this small-town-fancy market precedes it—it’s a brand of its own. you’ll load up on prosecco and red wine, the perfect balance of hard and soft cheeses, raspberry sorbet, a tin of water crackers and a stack of paper products to consume them all in. consider grabbing one of their Instagrammable totes, consider the massive stack of canvas grocery totes strewn within your kitchen cabinet, reconsider and settle your tab. carry your wares to the trunk of your rented car in a cardboard box because disposable bags aren’t allowed.
4 p.m.: check into el cosmico (802 s highland st). grab your campsite map and wander around, looking for tent #12, damning yourself for picking a weekend when all the cool airstream trailers were already taken. find your tent, laugh at the mini-bar.
4:30 p.m.: more arting and shopping: make the most of the rest of the sunshine and check out some of artist donald judd’s handiwork at the chinati foundation (1 calvary row). without any explanation or context, try to find meaning in the concrete structures. give up. enjoy walking in the dry sun and take desert portraits of your friends.
explore some of the local shops, and learn about the shop owners. stop in to cast + crew (203 e san antonio) for a lucky, refurbished horseshoe. pop by mirth (105 w texas st). marvel at the delicate, ornate home wares. walk around some more, and note how many vintage cars you see.
7 p.m.: relax for a cocktail and seasonally appropriate fare at cochineal (107 w san antonio). you’ve called and made reservations, so you’re guaranteed a seat in this restaurant of maybe 15 tables. sit near the chefs, chat with the server, enjoy the tequila and rave about your salmon. watch as patron after patron goes directly to the counter in front of the kitchen to tell him how life-changing the asparagus was. eat said asparagus, and wonder why your life is still the same.
8:30 p.m.: feel very ufo-y, so head back down the highway to try to catch the famous marfa lights. the sun is just down, and the temperature has dropped dramatically, so you won’t be able to brave the outdoors for long before you pack it up, heading anywhere for warmth.
9 p.m.: look up at the sky! you’ve never seen so many stars! resist the urge to stomp and clap to “deep in the heart of texas.” thank the underground music gods there’s a free concert at el cosmico. bundle up, settle in and discover a new artist.
10 p.m.: bed. or nightlife. whatever floats your goat.
11 a.m., the next day: pop out of your tent, like “whoa!” you survived a night outside in the desert. applaud yourself for finding your way back to the correct tent after your nighttime bathroom breaks; marvel at the sounds of livestock waking and get ready to hit the dusty road again.