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Meet in Magical Marfa

By Tiffany Marascio

At just 1.6 square miles in size, Marfa may seem small, but it packs a big punch in style. Known as an art hub, the West Texas town is hip, quirky, and fun—its proximity to Mexico is easily apparent in its minimalist style and culture.

Marfa has become a destination of choice for small group gatherings. As part of the Big Bend Region, Marfa’s landscape is comprised of sweeping views of desert, mountains, and plains, which offer beautiful backdrops for outdoor events. 

With a population of under 2,000 residents, it is the perfect location for an intimate event. “Even though we’re small, we have a lot to offer,” says Abby Boyd, president of the Marfa Chamber of Commerce. “We have world-class art, great food, and events throughout the year.”

Observation platform at Mara Lights Viewing Area

Adobe Stock

The Journey: Getting to Marfa isn’t easy, but most would agree it’s worth the trek. Marfa is on U.S. Highway 90 about 60 miles east of the Mexican border. It’s about a three-hour drive from the two closest major airports in Midland and El Paso, although there are smaller airports for private planes nearby. Driving from Austin is about seven hours, while the drive from either Houston or Dallas is about 10 hours. 

An Abundance of Art: From the world-famous Prada Marfa to the Chinati Foundation, Marfa is truly an art lover’s dream. The Chinati Foundation, founded by artist Donald Judd, displays huge minimalist outdoor installations on an old army base, in addition to indoor art pieces. Artists from all over the world have made Marfa their destination for inspiration. You can find galleries on-site at many venues. 

Mara welcomes visitors with its distinctive charm.

Adobe Stock

The Mystery 

Marfa’s “Mystery Lights” bring in people from all over the world. The otherworldly orbs appear to float and bob on the horizon, with the Chinati Mountains serving as an earthly backdrop. Although there is no precise scientific explanation for the phenomena, the effect is magical. The Marfa Lights Viewing Area is a platform at the edge of town built just for those wishing to catch a glimpse of the lights. Every year, the three-day Marfa Lights Festival celebrates the mysterious lights with a parade, concerts, and a variety of entertainment. 

The History 

Marfa was founded in the 1880s as a railroad stop. The town was in decline until the arrival of artist Donald Judd, who turned Marfa into a haven for art and artists. Judd’s minimalist art can be found throughout the city, from outdoor installations to his Chinati Foundation. Marfa transcends time with its modern, minimalist feel with a strong rustic tie to its Texas roots.

“There’s no way to really understand unless you visit and get to experience it for yourself,” says Boyd. “You really have to leave your expectations behind and appreciate it for what it is.”

Out-Of-This-World Events at El Cosmico: For an adventurous event, go off the grid at Marfa’s eccentric El Cosmico. El Cosmico has renovated vintage trailers and tents for guests to stay right by the action. The 21-acre property offers event space for five to 500, including a hammock grove and wood-fired Dutch hot tubs.

Gathering at El Cosmico

El Cosmico

The Luxury Ranch Retreat: Situated on 30,000 acres of land with lake and mountain views, Cibolo Creek Ranch is a luxury resort with a mix of Texas spirit and modern conveniences. True to Marfa’s creative vibe, there is an art exhibition on-site. This working cattle ranch has a variety of event spaces, including a large poolside deck, lawn, and three historical forts for private and all-inclusive experiences. The forts’ adjoining haciendas allow guests to stay mere steps from the event space. The largest of the three forts can accommodate up to 25 people. Catering is also available from the on-site restaurant, and 45 people can be seated comfortably for private events in the Great Hall.

Poolside lounge chairs at Cibolo Creek Ranch

Cibolo Creek Ranch

Historic Hotel Paisano: Hotel Paisano sits on the National Register of Historic Places and was used as the headquarters for the cast and crew of the 1956 film “Giant.” The 41-room hotel offers a mix of renovated rooms and original, historic rooms. The 3,000-square-foot ballroom and conference space can accommodate seating for up to 100 people. “We also have a central courtyard that can be rented as a private venue,” says Vicki Barge, general manager of Hotel Paisano. “Our on-site restaurant, Jett’s, offers daily dinner and bar service, as well as group and event catering.”

Hotel Paisano opened its doors in 1930 and quickly became known as “the most elegant hotel between El Paso and San Antonio.”

Lauren Myers