Marfa: Cowboy Cool meets Music and Art in West Texas

by Shelley Seale in Fall 2016
HOTEL SAINT GEORGE Marfa Water Tower by Trey Dillon copy

Mysterious ghost lights, a fake Prada store as art installation in the middle of nowhere, and the crumbling remains of the Reata mansion set from the 1956 movie “Giant” are some of the things that the West Texas town of Marfa is known for.It’s a wholly unique place—a one-stoplight town in the middle of the desert that attracts artists, filmmakers and in-the-know visitors from around the world.

Marfa is cool and creative, but a little too rebellious and rough-around-the-edges to become jaded or fully hipster. It has never tried to market or reinvent itself; it’s never had to. Ever since acclaimed minimalist artist Donald Judd left New York City to escape the art scene he claimed to disdain and arrived in Marfa to set up camp at an abandoned Army base, the town has been a natural hub for creatives who want to escape the “scene” and find an authentically inspiring place to work.

Art, film and music lovers soon followed. Today, Marfa is home to dozens of galleries, workshops and cultural art spaces such as Ballroom Marfa, which offers exhibits, events, performances, workshops and lectures.

It also has a wide range of F&B offerings, from food trucks to quirky spots like Planet Marfa beer garden and the Grilled Cheese Parlor, alongside upscale restaurants such as Cochineal and LaVenture.

Lost Horse Saloon is the most tenured watering hole in town, owned by cattle rancher and professional actor Ty Mitchell, who can’t be missed because of his patch over one eye.

A great place to see and be seen is Hotel Paisano, which James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson called home during the filming of “Giant.” Enjoy one of its famed margaritas in the bar, appropriately named Jett’s Grill after Dean’s character in the film, and take a look through the “Giant” memorabilia room.

Hotel Saint George is the new kid in town, with 55 rooms rebuilt on the footprint of an 1880s hotel of the same name. It’s a genuine Marfa endeavor, steeped in the character and history of the town, with La Venture restaurant, the Bar Saint George—serving light bites—and a separate event space called Farmstand, all decked out with salvaged materials, vintage and industrial pieces.

A Marfa mainstay is the quirky El Cosmico, a compound with vintage trailers and teepees for overnight guests, and camping spaces. It’s also a centerpiece for local music and art, where a variety of performances take place along with the annual Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love (see sidebar). A constant calendar of workshops, classes and community programs take place at El Cosmico.

It might be a long way from anywhere, but that’s part of Marfa’s draw. Its unhurried pace, unique lifestyle and cowboy chic has a reputation like no other in Texas.


Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + LoveA group of intrepid wanderers convene at El Cosmico every September for a weekend of live music, sandlot baseball, workshops, art installations and more in the West Texas majesty of Marfa. Just like Marfa itself, Trans-Pecos is a little funky, with a bit of a psychedelic touch. It’s intimate, with a sense of community—like a big weekend field party where you know just about everyone.

More than 1,000 people attend each year. Performers for 2016 include headliners Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, Kacey Musgraves,  Calexico, Neko Case, Mexrrissey, and Ben Kweller in addition to an eclectic array of folk, rock, country, indie, Americana musicians and bands.

There are also plenty of El Cosmico workshops going on during the weekend, from poetry and crafting to cooking and yoga. There’s no shortage of food trucks and tents on-site, as well as art displays and vendors of jewelry, vintage goods, clothing and more.

11th annual El Cosmico festival September 22 – 25