No matter which way you arrive in Marfa, you'll start to feel the quirky vibes of this desert art oasis long before you've reached the center of town. Come from El Paso — about three hours east, where you’ll find the nearest airport — and you’ll know you’re close when you pass Prada Marfa, which at first glance might seem an out-of-place luxury fashion boutique amid the wide-open Texas ranch lands, until you realize it’s Elmgreen and Dragset’s famous art installation. Arrive from the south, likely after hiking the majestic desert capes of Big Bend National Park, and you’ll be welcomed by the giant concrete boxes of Donald Judd, the pioneering artist who put this dusty enclave on the map when he opened the esteemed Chinati Foundation in 1986. Approach from the west, and you’ll be greeted by signs for the mysterious Marfa Lights, the nightly phenomenon of unexplained orbs that flit and bob across the darkened mountain vistas.
To be sure, this Old West town has been known for its New-Age cool for decades. Artists have been coming here since Judd’s days and Texas’ next big names in fashion and design are continually coming from — or flocking to — the town of less than 2,000 residents. On any visit, you’ll want to check out classic sites like the Chinati — which recently reopened its impressive John Chamberlain Building after a years-long renovation — and the Hotel Paisano, where Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson stayed while filming the area’s most iconic film, 1956’s Giant. You’ll no doubt want to take a piece of that irresistible Marfa magic home too, so mark these spots offering the best (and funkiest) amid the coolest little town in Texas.
THE MARFA STORE
Make your own Marfa starter kit at this everything-and-more boutique where you can browse the usual mementos — coffee mugs, tees, and caps — along with handmade bronze bolos (also known as Marfa’s oh-so de rigueur Texas ties), colorful serape blankets, and even prickly-pear mixers to spruce up your margaritas like a local. --themarfastore.com
One of many galleries in town, Rule resides within a whitewashed adobe casita and is designed like a private home to give visitors a sense of what it’s like to live with the art on exhibit. You may be tempted to take a seat in the living room — where vibrant paintings by Marfa local Martha Hughes hang — or cozy up with one of Sarah Bowling’s cement cushion sculptures in the bedroom. All the work is for sale, with a focus on Texas artists and the greater Southwest. --rulegallery.com
This showroom in the old West Texas Utilities Co. building is a mecca of modern Marfa aesthetic. Owners Jamey Garza and Constance Holt-Garza have filled it with a colorful smattering of covetable local art and design, from ceramics by Mimi y Roberto to paintings by Meghan Gerety. Garza’s own collection of vibrant Khadi textiles are the ultimate souvenirs for design aficionados of every type. --garzamarfa.com
If you want to fit in, you’ll need a Stetson, bandana ... and some healing crystals. It’s all part and parcel to the Marfa experience, and you’ll find it at this boutique dotted with giant piles of amethyst and obsidian and neatly folded ‘chiefs designed by local artists like Saint No. There’s also a selection of slip dresses, cashmere sweaters, and stylish Western wear for the kids. --communitie.net
Marfa is home to a handful of vintage shops of varying quality, but Pronghorn has the most diverse—and best-curated—selection of pretty much everything you could wish for: fringed leather jackets and cowboy boots, one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces from local and Native American designers, and handmade ceramics potted with succulents that could pass as works of art themselves. In the adjoining gallery, you’ll find a proper exhibition of rotating paintings, sculptures, and photography. --pronghornmarfa.com
HEY, I LIKE IT HERE
Located within the (relatively) new Hotel St. George, this gallery and boutique is fast becoming a hub for Marfa’s cultural elite, thanks to its regular art openings and ever-growing showcase of local talents. Shop Sunshine Silversmith’s exquisite jewelry dotted with jelly opal, agate, and other stones, or pick out a limited-edition silk scarf from Emma Harling Studio. Slide open any of the drawers lining the gallery, and you’ll discover even more eye candy: photographs, paintings, and even small sculptures by more creators from the community. --marfasaintgeorge.com/hey-i-like-it-here
THE WRONG STORE
If this gallery is wrong, we don’t want to be right. One-part art space, one-part design shop, it’s brimming with colorful expressions of Marfa’s funky spirit. Find painted ceramics from Jocelyn Miller, resin popsicle sculptures filled with found objects by Lisa Chestnut, and a series of tongue-in-cheek wooden objets d’arte by Camp Bosworth (our favorite is the cartoonish Prada handbag—an homage to Prada Marfa, of course). --wrongmarfa.com