Alpine and Marfa, Texas

Perched at almost 4,500 feet, Alpine is a remote small Texas town, home of The Museum Of The Big Bend On The Sul Ross University Campus. Nearby, Marfa lures visitors with its mysterious lights, historic downtown, and art scene. Less than an hour’s drive up the mountain, the McDonald Observatory is a must-see!

What caught my eye immediately as we rolled into Alpine on a chilly January day, was its artsy vibe: vibrant murals adorned the walls of old downtown buildings, and boutique shops waited for visitors.

We teamed up with David’s sister Cheryl and with Mike, who attended Sul Ross, to give us a better tour of the area.

Isolated and small, Alpine is 90 minutes’ drive away from the Mexican border and Big Bend National Park. Closer by is the town of Marfa, famous for its mysterious and elusive lights that seem to appear in the horizon to lucky eyes. There are many theories about the lights’ source, but none has been actually proven. The Native Americans believe that the colorful lights dancing in the distance are the souls of ancestors, while scientists argue that they might be caused by natural gasses or electrical charges. We didn’t see the lights, but walked among the arid dessert garden around the visitor center and learned more about the area.

Even in the middle of nowhere, fashion makes its way and mark. We admired Prada shoes and bags in the iconic art display on the side of a long and lonely road in Marfa. Visitors sealed their presence with locks, crosses, and even handcuffs placed on the surrounding wire fence, creating a new and growing art display.

Downtown Marfa offers a plethora of historic buildings, including El Paisano hotel, which we visited. Built in 1930, the hotel features a traditional Spanish architecture and served as the location of the movie Giant. Yet another art installation outside of town features the hotel’s famed guests Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean, the stars of the movie filmed in Marfa.

We walked into a local shop, and admired the carefully crafted cowboy hats and leather accessories. Farther down the road, we passed the Art Deco Palace Theatre, formerly the Opera House. The Marfa water tower peaked in the distance. We walked through the quiet back streets, guarded by stone churches and giant aloes until our dogs got tired and we got hungry.

The Waterstop is a small and casual place—and it offers THE BEST chicken and waffles I’ve ever tasted!

With our taste buds satisfied, we set off to get a taste of modern art. We played among the 3D art displays of Donald Judd, finding new angles for interesting photos.

A different day brought us to Sul Ros State University’s campus, where we visited the Museum of the Big Bend. We walked among fossils, a giant Quetzalcoatlus gliding above us. On display was also the local Bravoceratops, a new species of horned dinosaur that was discovered in Big Bend in 2013. Mike’s point of pride was a map he purchased and donated to the museum.

Click on the image for a video overview of the museum.

The highlight of our visit to the area for me was the McDonald Observatory. Bundled up, we sat under the stars and listened to a presentation before we took turns at gazing through the different telescopes. It is definitely worth going back someday, when it’s not freezing. Summers are best, but be aware that the lines to get in can get very long.

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