Ballroom Marfa Art Fund


Marfa Myths: Insider Tips

3 Mar 2016

Ballroom Marfa and Mexican Summer are presenting the third Marfa Myths over March 10-13, 2016. To prepare for your visit to Marfa, check out our very secret insider tips (CDRI and Mimms getting strong shoutouts).

CDRI. Photo by Laura Copelin.
The Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute near Fort Davis. Photo by Laura Copelin.

Laura Copelin, associate curator
Do the canyon hike at CDRI in near-by Fort Davis and eat breakfast or lunch under the grape arbor at the Capri.

McDonald Observatory
McDonald Observatory, courtesy of their site.

Sarah Melendez, exhibitions and programs coordinator
• Drink a million Topo Chicos!
• Get a smoothie at here and admire all the ‘mazing animals painted by Nalu!
• Go to the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute and admire all of the cute bb cacti! They have over 200 species native to the Chihuahuan desert.
• Check out a star party at the McDonald Observatory! You’re in dark sky territory. Be sure to blow lots of kisses to Orion and never miss a sunset!

The walk
The edge of Mimms Ranch — photo taken with an (old) iPhone! And yet — incredible vista! Do you see what I’m talking about? Mimms! Now and forever!

Nicki Ittner, director of music
My favorite thing these days is take a walk on the northeastern corner of town, right against Mimms Ranch, especially before sunset, or at sunset, or let’s be honest, any time. My other pleasure is Mando’s. Every time I’m feeling stressed, nothing seems better than sitting in one of those booths, eating chips and zoning out.

Bonus non-sexy tips:
• Make sure to make reservations a few days in advance for all of your dinners!
• Don’t plan your visit for a Monday and Tuesday, so many places are closed, you will be sad.

CRDI, photo by Caitlin Murray
The CDRI. Photo by Caitlin Murray.

Caitlin Murray, archivist and programs manager at the Judd Foundation
Let’s see! Does a hike at the CDRI count as a Marfa insider tip? I love that place! A drive down Pinto Canyon! Pinto Canyon as a secret place to look for the Marfa lights!

Tim Johnson.   Photo by Alex Marks.
Tim Johnson. Photo by Alex Marks.

Tim Johnson, owner of Marfa Book Company/informal mayor of Marfa
• Insider tip: Watch out for COPS!
• That weird pickle drink at Capri is actually very good.
• Don’t sit on the stools at the Capri past your first drink. Very tippy!
Mimms Ranch walk is at the end of Austin St. and it’s beautiful.
Ramona’s burritos, of course.

rosa mcelheny and hilary dupont, real news.  photo by david fenster.
Rosa McElheny and Hilary duPont, Real News artists-in-residence. Photo by David Fenster.

Hilary duPont, Real News artist-in-residence
• Drive the Scenic Loop!
• Call ahead to order lunch
Grand Companions thrift store in Fort Davis
Stone Village market sandwiches
(heavy Ft Davis recs)

Rosa McElheny, Real News artist-in-residence
top of the courthouse! or point of rocks!
(Editor’s note: The cupola at the Presidio County Courthouse is open Monday-Friday, 10:30am-11:30am and 3-4pm on Fridays.)

Rangra Theater. Courtesy of Cinema Treasures.
The Rangra. Photo courtesy of Cinema Treasures.

Daniel Chamberlin, communications director
Though it’s not quite the quaint mountain town its name suggests, Alpine has many pleasures to offer. All of the regions in the Big Bend have their own thing going on, and Alpine is perhaps most easily contrasted with Marfa in terms of the prevalence of camo-clad, big-bellied working cowboys and ranch hands, over the turquoise-and-tattoos Gram Parsons-ish look common in our town, sometimes known affectionately as “cowboy drag.”

If you don’t have a ticket for Marfa Myths’ sold-out Sunday film screenings, we suggest that you don your best Mossy Oak gear and head to Alpine’s Rangra Theater for first-run movies playing every evening. You’ll know it by the mural on its facade, crude renderings of posters for Star Wars, Tootsie and Apocalypse Now. Tickets are six bucks (cheap!), the seats are worn and creaky, and the whole operation has a delightfully decrepit vibe.

A few more highlights if you head over earlier in the day: Alpine closes early! Excellent coffee at either Cedar or Plaine (an anagram of Alpine, though we would’ve gone with Pineal, just sayin’).
If you make it over for lunch we recommend the green chili-cheese special from Cow Dog, a foot-long beef weiner slathered as promised and sprinkled with Fritos, served hot out of the truck parked in front of Plaine. There are also two low-key but satisfying old-school Mexican-American restaurants, Alicia’s and La Casita.

Alpine also boasts one of the best short hikes outside of south county destinations: Hancock Hill behind Sul Ross University. It’s a quick, easily navigated walk to the summit, where you’ll find an old desk that’s been up there since 1981, with a battered notebook in one of the drawers that serves as a peak register. It’s as close to alpine as you’ll get in El Pine; the 360-degree desert views are best experienced under a full moon, sharing a flask of small batch mescal with a friend.

———————————– Want more? Check out last year’s tips for more gems or Wrong Marfa’s recommendations, which are also excellent. For general info about Marfa, download our visitor guide — which has more details about eating, tours, and shopping — or visit and, where you can find housing suggestions, ride shares, and more.

Buy tickets to Marfa Myths here. Residents of Brewster, Jeff Davis and Presidio counties may purchase tickets at a discount in-person in the Ballroom Marfa gallery until March 1.