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  • Marfa, Texas
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    Marfa,

    Texas

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    Marfa is a city in the high desert of the Trans-Pecos in far West Texas, between the Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park. It is the county seat of Presidio County, and its population as of the 2010 United States Census was 1,981. The city was founded in the early 1880s as a water stop; the population increased during World War II, but growth has stalled and reversed somewhat since the late 20th century. Today, Marfa is a tourist destination and a major center for minimalist art. Attractions include Building 98, the Chinati Foundation, artisan shops, historical architecture, a classic Texas town square, modern art installments, art galleries, and the Marfa lights.
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    Budget Travel Lists

    5 long weekend trips across Texas

    As the second largest state in the U.S., Texas delivers big when it comes to things to see and places to visit. A long weekend offers the perfect opportunity to check out more of what the state has to offer, whether you’re a native interested in exploring your own backyard or you’re a traveler looking to make the most of your visit. 1. Wind Down in Wine Country You don’t need to jet off to Napa Valley to enjoy a wine-filled retreat. Instead, head to the center of the state to enjoy the Hill Country, where over 50 wineries dot the rolling green hills. Founded in 1846, the charming city of Fredericksburg makes for a good home base for your weekend trip through Texas wine country. Here, you can take your pick from unique lodging options like a luxurious room at Hoffman Haus bed and breakfast, or a quaint cottage at Fredericksburg Herb Farm designed like the Sunday houses German settlers used when they came into the city on the weekends. To get going with the wine, stroll up and down Main Street where you’ll find many tasting rooms from popular wineries like Grape Creek and Narrow Path. Alternatively, you can hop on one of the town’s wine tours and shuttles to leave all the logistics to the professionals and visit multiple vineyards in the area. When it’s time to take a break between tastings, immerse yourself in the German heritage of Fredericksburg with a beer at The Ausländer, a cozy meal at Rathskeller, or a swanky dinner at Otto’s German Bistro. Want to balance your culinary explorations with a bit of history? Pay a visit to the National Museum of the Pacific War or the Pioneer Museum. The fun doesn’t stop at Fredericksburg’s borders, so carve out some time to check out the other attractions around the Hill Country. Outdoor lovers shouldn’t miss a hike up Enchanted Rock, a massive granite dome just 20 minutes north of Fredericksburg. Also worth a stop is Luckenbach, a tiny community that consists of a general store, bar, and dancehall where you can catch some excellent country music. Cypress Valley. Photo: Cindy Brzostowski 2. Hide Away in the Highland Lakes Region Why visit just one lake when you can visit multiple? Stretching west out of Austin, there’s a chain of lakes made by dams in the Colorado River known as the Highland Lakes region. Along this stretch, there are so many recreation options that you may have trouble deciding how exactly you should spend your long weekend. For starters, there’s all the boating, fishing, and swimming your little heart may desire at any one of the lakes, including Lake Buchanan, Lake LBJ, and Lake Travis. Those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground will be in heaven hiking the trails of nearby parks like Inks Lake State Park and Pace Bend Park. There’s even more fun to be had from deep underground all the way to the treetops. Go under the surface to see stunning cave formations on a guided cave tour at Longhorn Cavern State Park, which was developed in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Then there’s Cypress Valley, where you can join a zoom your way through the canopy on one of their ziplining tours. Better still, you can set free your inner kid and actually stay in one of the property’s gorgeous treehouses. Aside from those cozy nests, local accommodation options include lakeside resorts for anyone who wants to stay in style for the weekend like Lake Austin Spa Resort and Lakeway Resort and Spa. When all that adventuring gets your stomach rumbling, you can’t go wrong with a hefty chicken-fried steak and slice of pie at Blue Bonnet Cafe, or with some mouthwatering brisket alongside a side of their famous butter beans at Opie’s Barbecue. Galveston. Photo: Cindy Brzostowski 3. Go Out to the Gulf Coast If a beachy getaway is more your vibe, drive to Galveston Bay and the Gulf Coast just outside of Houston. You’ll probably want to spend most of your long weekend exploring Galveston Island itself, which offers a mix of historic sites and modern tourist attractions. Along with its beautiful old mansions and the historic downtown known as the Strand, one of Galveston’s draws is simply the beach. There are a few spots to pick from like Stewart Beach or East Beach. If you really want to get a lay of the land, go for a walk along the Seawall, which is 10 miles long and was built between 1902 and 1904 as hurricane protection. Eventually, you’ll come across the historic Pleasure Pier where you can hop on a ride or have a go at some carnival games. While you’re on the island, don’t forget to check out Moody Gardens, a popular destination that stands out with its three giant pyramids. One houses a 1.5-million-gallon aquarium, one is a rainforest exhibit, and one is a discovery museum. Conveniently right next door is Schlitterbahn waterpark, yet another local attraction calling for your attention. From Galveston, you can take the ferry across to Bolivar Peninsula to explore Fort Travis, the first fort established by the Republic of Texas in 1836, and has even more beaches. Alternatively, you can head north to Kemah, a city on Galveston Bay that’s known for it's boardwalk full of family-friendly entertainment. South Padre Island. Photo: Cindy Brzostowski 4. Get Some Sun on South Padre Island If you can make the time for the drive, another relaxing island destination awaits all the way at the southern tip of Texas: South Padre Island. While the journey out here might be long, you’ll be rewarded with whiter beaches and warmer temperatures. You may have heard of South Padre before as the hotspot for spring breakers, but there’s so much more here to enjoy than its wild reputation may let on. Of course, there’s the beach, and there are access points all up and down the eastern coast of the island. For fewer crowds, drive all the way up to the aptly named End of the Road, which is the northernmost point where the island’s main road ends. From there you can walk out over picturesque dunes to quieter expanses of seashell-covered beach without any resorts in sight. Wildlife lovers and families traveling with kids should pencil in time at two of South Padre’s most popular attractions: Sea Turtle, Inc and the South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary. Sea Turtle, Inc is an organization focused on rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing injured sea turtles, as well as educating the public about conservation efforts. At their center, visitors can check out the resident turtles as well as the ones there as patients. At the South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary, walk along the long, beautiful boardwalk to get an excellent opportunity for birdwatching. It’s not just about the birds here though—they also have an alligator sanctuary on-site, which is home to the 12-foot, 6-inch–long gator known as Big Padre. For sustenance, you have to have some seafood while you’re down here. Blackbeard’s, Ceviche Ceviche, and Sea Ranch are all good options. Big Bend National Park. Photo: Cindy Brzostowski 5. Escape to West Texas Going out to West Texas feels like entering another world. Things are quieter, the distances are longer, and the sky feels bigger. Since it might’ve taken you a good portion of your long weekend just to drive out here, one thing you definitely want to make time for is Big Bend National Park. Going right up to the border with Mexico, this 800,000-acre park has numerous trails across desert and mountains for hikers of all levels. Santa Elena Canyon is one of the park’s highlights and also happens to be a quick, easy hike to tackle if you don’t have too much time. For lodging, you can camp within the park, or you might rather rest your head in Terlingua, an old mining town turned quirky ghost town. Don’t worry, they have accommodations there like the chic, modern casitas at Willow House. Elsewhere in West Texas, one of the most popular places to spend the night is El Cosmico in Marfa where you’ll find unusual abodes like yurts, teepees, and safari tents. Speaking of Marfa, that small town is another gem of the area that beckons many creatives with its respectable art scene. From the Chinati Foundation to various smaller galleries, Marfa is like a contemporary art oasis in the middle of the desert. Out here, you won’t have any trouble seeing a sea of stars in the night sky, but for extra close viewing, check if you can catch a star party at the McDonald Observatory. When making your way in or out for the weekend, you may want to swing a trip to Monahans Sandhills State Park where pristine sand dunes make up an ocean of sand. While you’re free to explore the area on foot, a far more fun way is to rent a sand disk and surf your way down the many peaks—some up to 50-feet high.

    Budget Travel Lists

    10 Totally Adorable Trailer Hotels

    For lovers of the open road and Americana culture, few accommodations are dreamier than a vintage Airstream. And as temperatures drop, trailers also provide a good alternative to camping outside. With retro options running the gamut from eco-friendly to stylishly bohemian to high-end glamping, trailer park life has never looked so good—and all while reducing the environmental footprint, too. 1. El Cosmico: Marfa, Texas (Nick Simonite) Situated on 21 acres of high plains desert by Texas hotelier Liz Lambert, El Cosmico (elcosmico.com) is more of a way of life than a campground. Choose to wake up in a yurt, a Sioux-style teepee, or a safari tent, if not in one of the property’s 13 refurbished 1950s-era trailers, painted in colors like robin’s-egg blue and daffodil yellow. Each trailer comes equipped with creature comforts like cozy serape robes, Geneva bluetooth speakers, Chemex coffeemakers, and minibars stocked with essentials like Topo Chico and rolling papers. Outdoor showers and a communal outdoor kitchen continually invite you to connect to your surroundings, while hammock groves and wood-fired Dutch hot tubs—not to mention a purposeful lack of WiFi—encourage you to truly unplug and enjoy the peaceful pace of desert life. Pro tip: Check El Cosmico’s calendar and plan a visit around its diverse programming, from the annual Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love to film screenings, yoga classes, and outdoor cooking intensives. 2. Kate’s Lazy Desert: Landers, California (Kate's Lazy Desert) Kate Pierson, a founding member of the B-52s, and her wife, Monica Coleman, opened Kate’s Lazy Meadow (lazymeadow.com) to create a truly campy (wink!) travel experience. It all started in Woodstock, New York, where they added Airstream trailers to a cabin-studded campground, but when flooding from severe rainstorms damaged the newly renovated vehicles, they moved them somewhere safe and dry, and Kate’s Lazy Desert was born. Just 20 minutes outside of Joshua Tree National Park in California's Mojave Desert, the six trailers, which have names like Hot Lava and Tinkerbell, are colorful and kitschy, thanks to artist team Maberry Walker. After exploring the surrounding region’s near-intergalactic landscape by day, take in the star-glittered sky at night, or head to the iconic Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneer Town Palace for live music and burgers. 3. Hotel Luna Mystica: Taos, New Mexico (Amanda Powell) Hotel Luna Mystica (hotellunamystica.com) is located eight miles from the heart of Taos, just across the street from Taos Mesa Brewery. Described on its website as “12-plus acres of mesa, 10 vintage trailers, 60 campsites, one planet, one moon, a gazillion stars,” the property features a collection of refurbished trailers from the 1950s through the 1970s, including Spartans, Airstreams, and Aristocrats. Each has a private bathroom, a kitchen, and a patio, plus amenities like high-quality linens, locally made soap, and French-press coffee makers. All the trailers maintain vintage vibes while incorporating eclectic design elements like potted succulents, Turkish lanterns, and colorful pillows. Some also have WiFi access, but living off the grid is really the best choice here. How better to enjoy the breathtaking mountain views before gathering around the fire pit to share stories with fellow travelers at night?  4. The Shady Dell: Bisbee, Arizona Unlike most renovated trailers that rely on modern amenities, the dwellings at The Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court (theshadydell.com) include period-specific books, magazines, décor, and even appliances like percolators, phonographs, and black-and-white televisions. These 10 trailers range in style, from a 1947 Airporter converted into a tropical tiki oasis to a 1955 Airstream exuding Southwestern chic. Cooking is not permitted inside the trailers, but there are outdoor grills available at this adults-only, seasonal park (it closed every summer and winter). Located 30 minutes south of Tombstone, once the center of the Wild West, and just a few minutes south of quirky Bisbee, it’s a perfect home base for exploring the historic mining town. 5. Caravan Outpost: Ojai, California Located just a stone's throw from downtown Ojai, Caravan Outpost (caravanoutpostojai.com) features 11 refurbished Airstreams shaded by lush tropical foliage. Each trailer comes with a stocked kitchen and peaceful outdoor shower and sleeps between one and five people. Most are pet-friendly. Record players add to the vintage feel, and vinyl can be swapped out at the on-site General Store. The hotel also offers tailor-made experiences like wine tastings and vineyard tours, visits to hot springs, meditation packages, and outdoor adventures from surfing to rock climbing to mountain biking. And even when they’re not hosting farm-to-table dinners or speaker series, there’s plenty of opportunity to connect with fellow travelers, particularly over s’mores and conversation around the nightly bonfire. 6. The Vintage Trailer Resort: Willamette Valley, Oregon  Perfect for those who want to sample trailer living before committing to owning one, The Vintages Trailer Resort (the-vintages.com) is one section of the 14-acre Willamette Wine Country RV Park between Dundee and McMinnville, Oregon. With 33 vintage trailers of varying sizes and styles, each stocked with upscale amenities like L’Occitane bath products, plush bedding, pour-over coffee, and luxurious robes, the Vintages really does live up to its “trailer resort” designation. All accommodations are equipped with private bathrooms, and some also have private showers or even plunge tubs. There are also propane grills, so you can cook up a flame-kissed steak to enjoy alongside a glass of the Willamette Valley's famed pinot noir. The park also features a pool, outdoor yard games, and a dog park. A free cruiser bike rental for two is also included with each reservation, making day trips into Oregon’s wine country a breeze. 7. Hicksville Trailer Palace: Joshua Tree, California Many travelers go to Joshua Tree National Park to disconnect in the desert and get away from it all. But Hicksville Trailer Palace (hicksville.com/joshuatree/motel.html), located in the heart of the small bohemian town, offers so much to do, you may never make it off the grounds. Choose from mini golf, darts, ping-pong, bocce, cornhole, archery, and a BB-gun shooting range, or just soak in the sunset from the roof-deck hot tub. Each of the 10 refurbished vintage trailers is uniquely decorated, from the alien-focused Integratrailor, which comes equipped with a star machine, to the big top–striped Sideshow. From March through November, enjoy a solar-heated saltwater swimming pool; in fact, this entire hippie kingdom runs off the power of the sun. And though the 420-friendly complex certainly encourages fun, note there is a list of rules (i.e., no geotagging on the property) that all guests are required to read and abide by.  8. Shooting Star RV Restort: Escalante, Utah The last thing one would expect to find in the middle of Utah is a collection of Airstream trailers designed to look like old Hollywood stars’ dressing trailers, but that’s just the kind magic created by Shooting Star RV Resort (shootingstar-rvresort.com). Choose from Marilyn Monroe’s Some Like It Hot hideaway, Elvis’s Blue Hawaiian paradise, Ann-Margret’s Viva Las Vegas cabana, and more. Each of the nine trailers captures the feel of the film’s era and the actor’s character, but with comfortable amenities like queen-sized beds, flatscreen HDTVs, and fully outfitted kitchens. During the day, go explore the stunning state and national parks nearby, and be sure to reserve one of the hotel’s vintage Cadillacs, where you can enjoy a movie at the on-site drive-in theater once the sun sets. 9. AutoCamp: Guerneville, California AutoCamp (autocamp.com/guides/location/russian-river/) opened its first trailer park in downtown Santa Barbara in 2013, and another will launch in Yosemite this winter. But the Russian River location in Guerneville is the only one surrounded by breathtaking redwoods. Each of its vintage Airstreams features sleek midcentury-modern interiors and the amenities of an upscale hotel—think luxurious bedding, memory-foam mattresses, plush towels, and walk-in spa showers. And it's in the heart of Sonoma, an hour-and-a-half north of San Francisco and minutes from the California coastline, so there are endless opportunities for exploration. Hike through the redwoods, canoe the Russian River, cycle to wineries, and recount it all with new friends later at night around the fire pit. 10. Flamingo Springs Trailer Resort: Arkansas Tucked away in the woods of Arkansas, this Palm Springs-inspired resort features eight renovated trailers from the '50s to the '70s. The website’s descriptions of each are as quirky as the themed spaces themselves: The Pour Some Shasta On Me allows you to “experience all the glitz and glamour of a '90s hair band without the drug problem and the narcissism,” and Candy Cane Lane is decorated in vintage Christmas decor, including “a nice selection of terrible Christmas albums.” In addition to 50 acres of woods to roam, Flamingo Springs also offers a variety of yard games (horseshoes, bocce, ladder ball, and baggo), plus a circular pool, a BB-gun range, ping-pong, vintage video games, and a jukebox that plays 45s.

    Inspiration

    Venturing Into West Texas

    Panoramic sunsets and whimsical doll museums. Paranormal phenomena and 1940s-era motels. High art and cowboy kitsch. Across the expanses of Big Bend Country, at Texas's extreme southwestern border, attractions run from oddball to sophisticated, quaint to amazing. Mining and ranching towns have transformed themselves into tourist destinations, each locale working its own little niche. Meanwhile, Big Bend National Park, the main draw, needs no gimmick. As the Rio Grande turns east, rough desert converges with mountains, creating a landscape that'd make a giant feel small, an egoist insignificant. Just remember that this kind of isolation doesn't come easy. Marathon, the first stop on this road trip, is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the nearest airport, Midland International. And Midland International isn't what anyone would call a hub. Day one: Midland to Marathon The initial part of the drive from the airport to Marathon is, in a word, hideous. On either side of the road, barbed wire encloses flat oil fields that stretch to the horizon. Only a belch of smoke from the occasional refinery breaks the monotony. Then, somewhere around Fort Stockton, everything changes. The rusty pumps and industrial wasteland disappear in favor of the desert hills and valleys of Big Bend Country. Cactus flowers bloom along the highway and roadrunners periodically scurry across the road. As it materializes in the distance, the tiny town of Marathon (the last syllable rhymes with "sun") looks like nothing more than a few feed stores and mobile homes. But as you arrive in the center, its nature becomes apparent. Upscale shops and galleries line the main street, most in adobe buildings with well-tended gardens. There's even a day spa. A leisurely afternoon helps me adjust to the slow pace of Big Bend Country. When I ask someone to name the most popular entertainments, he says, "Sunset watching and stargazing." I poke about in the shops and galleries, chitchat with locals and other visitors. The name Texas comes from the Spanish word tejas, meaning friend. Although welcome, misanthropes and recluses may find themselves uncomfortable. Two Marathon hotels are attractions in their own right. Opened in 1927 by a prosperous banker, the luxurious Gage Hotel quickly became the region's social epicenter. It eventually fell into disrepair, but a lush 1992 restoration returned the brick-and-adobe structure to its former glory. On any given night, all of Marathon's visitors and quite a few locals gather in the elegant bar and courtyard. Just west of town on I-90, the less expensive Marathon Motel & RV Park has a vintage 1940s ambience, with its original neon sign and windmill. Postcards and posters sold across Big Bend Country feature the sign, which boasts that the rooms have TVs. From a small wooden building on the premises, the owner also operates what is pretty much the only radio station available out here (100.1 FM). When I knock on the door, the DJ/desk clerk invites me inside the booth for a tour and offers to take my requests. The motel's adobe courtyard has a fireplace and a shrine to the Virgin Mary; it's a great place to enjoy the sunsets, which are straight out of a Technicolor Western. Afterward, I head back to the Gage for dinner, drinks, and, indeed, stargazing. Day two: Marathon to Terlingua The drive to Big Bend National Park takes about 45 minutes; the entrance is nothing more than a small gate, usually unattended. (Park headquarters is at Panther Junction, another 30 minutes' drive.) Once inside the gate, most evidence of civilization vanishes. Gone are the fences and livestock, leaving only the brutal desert and distant mountains and mesas. Vultures circle overhead, but the cactus flowers that splash the land in yellow and purple somehow make them less intimidating. The speed limit drops to 45 mph, and I follow it. I'm tempted to go faster, but driving at lower speeds prevents pollution, and gives me a chance to stop for the two coyotes that dash in front of my car. The park teems with wildlife, and if you don't see a coyote, you'll likely see a deer or a javelina (also called a peccary). Though they're plump and pig-like, javelinas aren't pigs; park rangers insist they're only distantly related. Native only to the American Southwest, these non-pigs inhabit every corner of the park, moving about in groups and eating prickly pears. They're the mammals most often spotted by visitors. Just don't approach: They smell mighty bad. The 801,163-acre park can't be seen in a day, so I choose to explore the green and mountainous Chisos Basin. Its temperatures tend to be moderate and its trails well maintained, and it's home to the only full-service restaurant in the park. The Basin's twisty mountain roads (with the prerequisite daunting precipices) mark the beginning of bear and mountain lion country, but the map assures me that sightings are rare and attacks rarer. I take the medium-level Window Trail hike, which winds into the basin and affords utterly gorgeous views of the mountains, the desert, and waterfalls caused by recent rains. In the midafternoon, I drive into Terlingua, historic ghost town and self-styled chili capital of the world, famous for an annual cook-off. Skip the newer part of town, with its souvenir stands and river outfitters, and drive to the ghost town proper. Its squat stone buildings are on the side of a hill a few miles up the road. Most have been restored by artists and other eccentrics. Walking around the old mining village is encouraged, but signs warn you not to disturb the many private residences. Public buildings include the former jail (converted into restrooms), a partially renovated church, and an upscale gallery. My favorite spot is the peaceful, crumbling cemetery, where rocky graves and makeshift crosses memorialize doomed fortune hunters. If you have a yen to shop, the Terlingua Trading Company sells souvenirs to fit every budget--from small carved crosses ($6) to unassuming woven baskets ($600). After carefully putting down the basket, I wonder if some of the adventure tourists milling around might have more cash than their looks imply. Day three: Terlingua to Marfa Marfa, the ranchers' town made famous by the 1956 movieGiant, attracts visitors on three fronts. It has the James Dean connection (he lived here during filming). The town also has the Marfa Mystery Lights, unexplained colored lights that appear outside of town. Then there's the art: Marfa is home to one of the world's largest private art installations. After a quick stop for coffee at the Marfa Book Company, I arrive in time for the Chinati Foundation tour. Big-shot minimalist artist Donald Judd set up the Chinati in 1986 so he and select cronies could show large-scale, permanent works. He chose an old cavalry base for the cheap land, cavernous buildings, and lovely vistas. Judd created big aluminum boxes and laid them out in rows, while his friend Dan Flavin made fluorescent-light displays. The Chinati can only be seen via guided tours Wednesday through Sunday. Part 1 starts at 10 a.m. and lasts for a couple of hours. After a lunch break, Part 2 begins at 2 p.m. Good shoes, sunglasses, and water are recommended; the walks between buildings are long. Minimalist art isn't for everyone. I like it rather than love it, and when the effusive praise of aluminum boxes becomes too much, I can at least admire Judd's ambition and the enthusiasm of the art scenesters who make the pilgrimage. Back in town, I peek in the lobby of the Hotel Paisano, decorated with enough animal heads and leather furniture to make a rancher proud. It's where the cast of Giant, including James Dean, Rock Hudson, and Elizabeth Taylor, stayed during filming. The movie is perpetually screened in the lobby, and you can buy related T-shirts and trinkets at the front desk. After sundown, I go in search of the Marfa Lights. First reported in the 1880s, the lights dart and bounce above the ranch land between Marfa and Presidio. Or so they say. Different people have different explanations: reflecting headlights, swamp gases, evidence of alien visitors and/or government conspiracy. Assorted tourists and I wait at a viewing center west of town on Highway 90, but a local says that going east of town on 90 gives you the best odds of seeing them. I try that, too. It's rather like waiting for Godot. Day four: Marfa to Midland Since I have a late-afternoon flight, I stop at Fort Davis, a countrified resort town near the Davis Mountains. Stables offering trail rides are plentiful, and the shops sell plaques with aphorisms like never squat with your spurs on. Astronomers consider isolated Fort Davis "the darkest place in the lower 48," or so says a guide at the University of Texas's impressive McDonald Observatory. Touring the giant telescopes pleases the scientific part of my personality the way the Chinati pleased the artsy side. If you're not into telescopes, outdoorsy attractions include Davis Mountains State Park and the Fort Davis National Historic Site. Meanwhile, the free Neill Doll Museum nearby houses a strange, impressive collection. I head back to Midland through some lovely mountains and ranch land. Savor the view: Midland and Odessa's industrial scenery reappears before you know it. Finding your way Midland International is served by Sun Country, Continental, Southwest, and American Eagle; many flights connect via Houston or Dallas. Fall is high season: Rains cause the desert to bloom and the air to cool. 1. Midland international to Marathon 168 miles Arrive early: Marathon is over two hours from Midland/ Odessa. Take I-20 west to Hwy. 18. At Fort Stockton, get on Hwy. 385 south to Marathon. Stay at the Gage Hotel, the Marathon Motel, or the Adobe Rose Inn. Meals at the Gage are $20-$30 per person, but the food and ambience are excellent. Marcie's Kitchen, at the Marathon Motel, serves only breakfast. 2. Marathon to Terlingua 110 miles From Marathon, take Hwy. 385 to the west entrance to Big Bend. Leave the park via the western gate and Hwy. 118. Take Hwy. 170 to the Terlingua ghost town and Lajitas. Chisos Mountains Lodge is the only full-service restaurant in Big Bend, but all the stores sell snacks and sandwiches. (Cell phones rarely work, and the heat kills, so bring plenty of water. Carry cash because there are no ATMs.) The Hungry Javelina, a roadside stand on Hwy. 170, serves burgers and hot dogs. Dinner at the Starlight Theatre and Bar in Terlingua is a must. There are no hotels in the ghost town, but there are a few nearby. Stay inside the park at the Chisos Mountains Lodge, or near Terlingua at the Chisos Mining Company or the Longhorn Ranch Motel. 3. Terlingua to Marfa 110 miles From Terlingua, take Hwy. 118 to Alpine, then U.S. 90 west to Marfa. Grab coffee downtown before heading to the Chinati Foundation. Stay at Hotel Paisano or the Riata. Jett's, in Hotel Paisano, serves decent American food. 4. Marfa to Midland 200 miles Take Hwy. 17 to Fort Davis (about 20 miles). Continue on Hwy. 17. Sometime after Balmorhea, it will become I-10 for a few miles; take Hwy. 17 north, when it exits I-10, to Pecos. At Pecos, get on I-20 east and it'll lead you to the airport. The ride from Fort Davis takes approximately three-and-a-half hours.

    Inspiration

    The Motel Gets Its Groove Back

    What you'll find in this story: trendy motels, new motel accommodations, New York accommodations, Miami accommodations, Portland accommodations, affordable lodging Portland, Oregon This 43-year-old building in Portland's booming Lower Burnside neighborhood (known as LoBu) has history: The lounge in the downstairs area used to be an underground piano bar in the '60s called Sam's Hideaway, an infamous secret meeting spot for trysts and backroom business deals. Kelsey Bunker, a former lawyer, joined forces with Tod Breslau, a local real-estate entrepreneur, after Breslau heard the club and motel (which had become a Travel Inn) was up for sale. Bunker loved the place enough to change her career path, and they took a full year to renovate the 80 rooms. "The bones were really good, but there was so much dry rot," says Bunker. "It needed a ton of gutting and maintenance." Six months ago, the Jupiter Hotel officially opened. Among the playful new additions: Wall-size photoscapes of forests or city scenes, an outdoor fire pit, and slate doors that invite doodling (colored chalk is provided). Bunker kept the spirit of Sam's alive in at least one way. After midnight--and a few too many at Doug Fir, the Jupiter's alpine-style lounge--you can stumble upstairs for only $49. Just ask for the special Get a Room rate. 800 E. Burnside, 503/230-9200, jupiterhotel.com, normally from $79.  --Adrien Glover Marfa, Texas Marfa was a dying west Texas ranching town, best known for being where the James Dean movie Giant was shot, when artist Donald Judd established the Chinati Foundation there in 1986. Hipsters have made the pilgrimage ever since, some even staying to open bookstores, art galleries, and cafés. Now there's a fitting place for arty types to crash when they make the trip: the Thunderbird. Last year, Liz Lambert--owner of the Hotel San Jose in Austin--coordinated a redesign of a 1959 former motor court on Highway 90. The result, open since January, could be described as Cowboy Zen. Each of the 24 minimalist rooms has cowhide rugs on smooth concrete floors. The Thunderbird's landscaping is similarly true to its Texan roots, with gravel, cacti, and horizontal lattices made of pipe salvaged from nearby oil fields. There's also a pool and an outdoor fireplace for the cold desert nights. 601 W. San Antonio, 432/729-1984, thunderbirdmarfa.com, from $79.  --Michael Hall Miami Beach, Florida Four years ago, when Collins Avenue north of 14th Street began to crest as Miami Beach's hippest new district, a surfer named Eric Gabriel decided to get his feet wet in the motel business. He took over the slab-concrete Seadeck, a 1952 motel that had become a home for retirees. As part of his year-long renovation, Gabriel filled the 45 rooms with mid-century accessories like teak headboards. In name, the Aqua Hotel may have graduated from motel to hotel, but it still has telltale motel markers: It's two stories high, and you enter your room from the courtyard, where there's a pool-size hot tub and tropical garden. To enjoy it fully, snag one of the two sun beds--they're free, a rarity in Miami. 1530 Collins Ave., 305/538-4361, aquamiami.com, from $99.  --Jason Cochran Mt. Tremper, New York After buying the Lazy Meadow in 2002 as an investment, Kate Pierson of the B-52s restored the Catskills motor lodge. She created bright, cheerful rentals, put "Kate's" in front of the name, and reopened in May 2004. Work is still in progress on two of the units, but the finished seven are delightfully reminiscent of the motel's early-'50s glory days: The two-bedroom efficiencies even have matching turquoise or pink appliances and cupboards. "Every item was personally selected by Kate," says Monica Coleman, Pierson's partner in business and life. That includes the psychedelic mushroom ottoman, the 3-D nature murals, and the toiletries, which Pierson picked up during her years on the road. Rooms 7 and 8 also have a kitchen with a breakfast bar, a spiral staircase leading to the boudoir, a glass-walled shower for two, and a posse of good-spirited gnomes in the living room. Rehabbed Airstream trailers, down by the river, will be available for rent this summer. 5191 Rte. 28, 845/688-7200, lazymeadow.com, from $150, trailers from $125. --Carole Braden Wildwood, New Jersey While the working-class resort town of Wildwood has no shortage of motels in the kitschy architectural style known as Doo-Wop--think tiki torches and plastic palm trees--the Starlux Hotel is the first of the area's 200 mid-century lodgings to get a makeover. Owner Jack Morey, a Jersey Shore native, began a $1.1 million yearlong renovation of the Starlux starting in 2001, and in doing so, he spearheaded the beginning of a Doo-Wop preservation movement. Morey added a fourth floor to the three-story 1951 motel--formerly known as the Wingate--as well as a 16-suite wing and a glass-front lobby showcasing George Nelson saucer lamps and butterfly chairs. Rooms and suites are done in Jetsonesque decor, with modish accessories like lava lamps, but a funkier option is (again) two spruced-up silver Airstream trailers. 305 E. Rio Grande Ave., 609/522-7412, thestarlux.com, from $69. --Michelle Kleinsak Roxbury, New York "Meltdowns? We had them daily," says Greg Henderson of the yearlong redo he and his partner, Joseph Massa, did on the Roxbury, a 1961 Catskills motor lodge. The two theater vets had a weekend home nearby, and in 2003 they used the 11-room Roxbury as an excuse to move permanently from New York City. Once a fleabag, the Roxbury is now a colorful clash of '60s and '70s mod by way of Ikea, the Container Store, and local auction houses. Each room has its own vivid color palette, and all have zebra-print sofas, pillow-top mattresses, DVD players, and retro lamps behind apple-green doors. If the whole gang's coming, book Inspiration Peaks, a mountaintop manor outside the neighboring town of Andes. The large home, which sleeps 10 (from $400 a night, two-night minimum), is also owned by the pair and is decorated in a similar style. 2258 County Hwy. 41, 607/326-7200, theroxburymotel.com, from $85.  --Carole Braden Austin, Texas The Austin Motel is proud of its flavor. so close yet so far out reads the flashing marquee outside the motel, which was built in 1938. After decades as a central-city motor court, the Austin--and the South Congress Avenue neighborhood where it's located--got a little down on its luck in the '80s. Things took a turn for the better in 1992, when Dottye Dean, daughter of the second owner, took over. She initially made small cosmetic changes (laying down new carpets and hanging fresh drapes), and then started tackling bigger projects in 1995. But Dean's still not done: "Renovations are ongoing and probably always will be as long as I am in charge," she says. Now, each room has a unique theme, from the kitschy (room 258's Monet Honeymoon wall mural) to the beyond (the original '60s lime-green-and-blue wallpaper in room 145, Polka Dot Surprise). The website includes images of all 41 rooms; scope them all out and book the one that suits you best. 1220 S. Congress Ave., 512/441-1157, austinmotel.com, from $52.  --Michael Hall Palm Springs, California The 1954 motel now known as the Desert Star did some time in the '70s and '80s as condominiums, but Steve Samiof brought it back to its rent-by-the-night roots. The graphic artist moved into one of the condos in 2001. "When I saw the building, I fell in love," he said. Samiof bought six of the seven condos (one remains privately owned), renovated them one by one, and took his first booking the same year. The furniture reflects the mid-century aesthetic that reached its peak in the desert: reissued Nelson bubble lamps and Eames fiberglass chairs. But there are also 21st-century touches like large-screen TVs. Wooden accordion doors separate the spartan bedroom from the living area, which looks out on the central pool, giant cacti, and retro chaises. For all that, Samiof just sold the Desert Star--the new moteliers, Walter Popin and Davy Aker, promise not to make significant changes. 1611 Calle Palo Fierro, 760/778-1047, hopespringsresort.com, from $120.  --Celeste Moure More information A few savvy chains are also bringing design within reach. Joie de Vivre, based in San Francisco, has juiced up two former motels. The Phoenix Hotel, long a grungy favorite with bands visiting town, underwent a revamp last summer. The Tenderloin location, however, will probably keep everyone but groupies away (800/738-7477, from $99). Much more family-friendly is Hotel del Sol, in the Marina--it's a 1998 conversion of a '50s motor lodge, now with bright yellow and green decor (800/738-7477, joiedevivre.com, from $129). Two years ago, Best Western overhauled the Capitol Skyline Hotel, a '60s relic in Washington, D.C., with neoclassical blue and gold leather furniture--that's it above (800/458-7500, bestwestern.com, from $99). And in December, the chain will put the finishing touches on the three-year renovation of its Hollywood Hills Hotel. Look for contemporary oak furniture and gray walls (800/287-1700, bestwestern.com, from $109). Finally, this month André Balazs opens his third Standard Hotel. It's in Miami Beach, and it's a conversion of a '50s motel-turned-spa originally designed by Morris Lapidus (305/673-1717, standardhotel.com, from $150).  --Jessica Shaw

    Inspiration

    Marfa, Texas

    A dusty three-hour drive southeast of El Paso, Marfa couldn't be more off the map--except to the art world. For years now, artists and writers have been making the pilgrimage to the Chinati Foundation, a museum founded by artist Donald Judd and dedicated to the preservation of minimalist art. Two artillery sheds house Judd's giant, block-like aluminum sculptures; also on the grounds are works by Dan Flavin and Claes Oldenburg plus several other artists (Guided tour $25, self guided walking tour $15, reservations required). A new generation of artists/entrepreneurs have followed in Judd's footsteps. "The vast emptiness is relaxing, and the sunlight is amazing, even in winter," explains Saarin Keck a former artist and graduate of Rhode Island School of Design and now co-owner of the Pizza Foundation. Pizza Foundation is known for their 18in pizzas that are well worth the wait. But to avoid the wait - plan ahead and schedule a time to pick up your pizza. Virginia Lebermann and Fairfax Dorn, native Texans who were involved in the New York City art world, moved to Marfa in 2003. Their venue, Ballroom Marfa, doubles as a multipurpose art and performance space. (Admission is free but reservations are encouraged) photo courtesy of El Cosmico website There are several hotels, vacation rentals and campgrounds in Marfa . The Thunderbird is a 2005 reinvention of an old horseshoe-shaped roadside motel. The renovation transformed the structure into a model of modern design while maintaining the original hotel’s bygone feeling. If you are up for getting away from the hotel scene and looking for something unique try El Cosmico where you can stay in a trailer, yurts, safari tents or a cosmic kasita. For more information on places to stay and things to do visit the Marfa visitor's site.

    Inspiration

    Honeymoon Paradise for Less (You MUST See the Perks!)

    Real talk from a bride-to-be: Never did I fully comprehend the huge buildup and subsequent letdown of sketching out a honeymoon plan until I got engaged. Years ago, before even I met my fiancé, I naturally assumed that the grown-up me would go on a romantic, Ulysses-esque epic honeymoon journey. Maybe we'd see the Acropolis in Athens, swing through the Piedmont region of Italy to sample Barolos, stop in French Polynesia to admire exotic birds from an overwater bungalow, take the train to the South of France for aromatherapy in fields of lavender, taste street food in Thailand, and then spend a night or two in L.A. in a hotel with a full view of the Hollywood sign en route home to New York... I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea. I was gonna go big. Now close your eyes and imagine the sound of a record needle screeching and young dreams shattering, because that's what happened when I entered the preliminary figures for my wedding budget into an Excel spreadsheet. That initial lump sum of money that would have been perfect for embarking on a mini 'round-the-world excursion quickly got chopped in half, and then in half again, and then in half again due to the cost of having to actually get married and hold a reception. Whatever amount is left over is fair game, but waving buh-bye to all of that cash is, ironically, heartbreaking. To all the brave couples who eloped; created a honeymoon registry on a site like Honeyfund, Zola, or Blueprint Registry; or threw a modest wedding in order to spend on a massive trip later, you have my utmost respect...and envy. Like many of you who are mapping out a post-wedding escape, I'm going to have to cut honeymoon costs where I can once we nail down a destination. But if there's one thing I believe, it's that Budget Travelers shouldn't have to sacrifice the perks they fantasize about in order to vacation within their means. In that spirit, we found six affordable honeymoon resorts and hot spots that not only welcome newly married couples, but offer a slew of free extras—we're talking complimentary bubbly, on-the-house farm-to-table meals, and free activities like nighttime concerts. Because when you're looking to take a breather from wedding madness and get to know your partner better, those little add-ons are priceless...or so I've heard. Negril, Jamaica: Sunset at the Palms Prepare for Romance with a capital "R" at the all-inclusive, adults-only Sunset at the Palms resort, which consistently gets high marks from travelers for its romance quotient and intimate, tropical atmosphere (think 10 acres of lush gardens and rustic, elevated treehouse-style bungalows with Asian-inspired decor). Cost: From $226 per couple, per night, all-inclusive Perks for lovers: Stay five nights or more and get a free bottle of champagne and 15 percent off spa services. (Mention the Free Honeymoon Package.) An upgrade to the Romance at Sunset package that includes a massage and four-course dinner is available at an extra cost, but if you're trying to work within your budget (and who isn't), the Sunset chain offers a honeymoon registry through Honeymoon Wishes so your guests can gift you everything from safaris to indulgent spa services like milk-and-honey body wraps. There is, however, a service and handling fee of up to 9.65 percent that you and the gift purchaser are responsible for, so if that bugs you, you might be better off asking for cash-stuffed envelopes instead. Walla Walla, Washington: Marcus Whitman Hotel How does a no-cost glass of wine or two sound after all that anticipated wedding hooplah? If your answer is "oustanding," consider Washington's wine country, says Dr. Pepper Schwartz, author of Places for Passion. The Marcus Whitman Hotel downtown can serve as home base. "There are numerous wine tasting places within a few blocks, many of which will not charge for the chance to sample their wines," she says. Cost: From $125 per couple, per night Perks for lovers: The Marcus Whitman has a free hot breakfast, and complimentary wine from surrounding tasting rooms is plentiful, even on non-"barrel" weekends, when winemakers show off their new vintages and dole out samples. Check out the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance's website for more information. Nassau, Bahamas: Breezes Resort & Spa Who wants a free wedding? "Super-inclusive," no-tipping-allowed Breezes Resort & Spa on Nassau's Cable Beach offers a complimentary Endless Love package that provides a wedding planner, cake, officiant, marriage license, bouquet/boutonniere, champagne, music and festive decor, and four guest passes. Also available gratis upon request: a sand ceremony, jumping the broom, and a unity candle lighting. Aside from weddings, the 391-room resort has a restaurant equipped with loveseat-style tables for two in their Garden of Eden restaurant and a rule that all resort guests must be 14 years or older. Cost: $200 per person, per night, all-inclusive (check the resort's deals page for discounts) Perks for lovers: Did we mention the free wedding? Even if you're getting hitched somewhere else, all honeymooners get in-room fresh fruit and sparkling wine. Marfa, Texas: El Cosmico hotel and campground Earthy couples, if all you want after you tie the knot is calm and reconnection in a hip, artsy, pared-down atmosphere, El Cosmico "nomadic hotel and campground" in the Texas desert is for you. Pick a tepee, yurt, trailer, or tent to sleep in—but know that this isn't your grandpa's campsite. You're welcome to go spartan with an $85-per-night tent and use the communal kitchen and bathhouse, but even the top-end restored vintage Imperial Mansion trailer is affordable at $170 a night, and it comes with its own full kitchen, bath, heat/AC, and private cedar deck, with two Acapulco chairs for gazing out on the West Texas evening together. Cost: From $85 per couple, per night Perks for lovers: Quiet hours start at 11 p.m. every night. Free outdoor concerts called Sunset Soundtracks occur under the stars at regular intervals, as do reasonably priced classes like craft-spirit-making sessions. When evening rolls around, rent a wood-fired hot tub for four hours for $85—the hotel will stoke the fires for you (don't worry, that's not a euphemism). Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: Barceló Bávaro Beach If a veritable king and queen's banquet of honeymoon perks at a value rate appeals to you and your new spouse, Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, offers nice extras for cheap, says Susan Breslow, honeymoons expert at About.com. One example: the adults-only, all-inclusive resort Barceló Bávaro Beach, a 589-room behemoth with nine à la carte restaurants perfect for having romantic dinners sans the buffet-table lines. Cost: From $168 per person, per night, all-inclusive Perks for lovers: Barceló's In Love package is completely free. Here's what you get: a room upgrade, late check-out, a bottle of sparkling wine delivered to the room, honeymooners' T-shirts (because why not?), a 15 percent discount on spa services, a 10 percent discount on tours with Vacaciones Barceló, and a printed picture from the photo shop. Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania: Glasbern Inn R&R is inescapable at the Glasbern Inn, a country retreat that offers elopement packages (larger, full wedding packages are available too). As honeymoon accommodations go, relationships expert Schwartz says the half-timbered rooms, fireplaces, and beautiful grounds are darn near unbeatable, especially in the wintertime. Cost: From $150 per couple, per night Perks for lovers: A full country breakfast for two is included, as are free farm walking trails for private strolls. Even one of the least expensive Main Barn rooms has a whirlpool and a separate private sun room. Do you have any honeymoon-planning advice for me? I need all the help I can get! Tell me your best advice in the comments.

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