Marfa, a small ranching town and arts community, has three claims to fame. Firstly, James Dean's last film, the 1956 epic, Giant, was filmed here; the cast stayed at the historic and swanky Hotel Paisano downtown on Hwy-17 (Tel:432/729-3669 or 1-866/729-3669, Web: www.hotelpaisano.com ).
Next, there's the "Marfa Lights": mysterious bouncing lights that have been seen in the town's flat fields since the 1880s, attracting conspiracy theorists and alien-hunters. The town's visitor center, in the Hotel Paisano, can give advice on good vantage points to see the ghostly illuminations; if in doubt, head for the viewing center, nine miles east of town, between two and four hours after sunset.
Marfa's third attraction, just outside town, is the extraordinary Chinati Foundation (tours Wed– Sun 10am & 2pm; $10; Tel:432/729-4362, Web: www.chinati.org ). Founded by minimalist Donald Judd, the avant-garde works on show here include some of the world's largest permanent art installations, set in dramatic contexts both indoors and out. The Judd Foundation at 104 S Highland also has art spaces open to the public (Mon– Fri 9am–5pm; Tel:432/729-4406).
Besides the Paisano, another lodging option is the Thunderbird Hotel (601 W San Antonio; Tel:432/729-1984, Web: www.thuderbirdmarfa.com ; Price: $101-130), a renovated motor court turned hipster hotel. The cheapest place to stay is the Riata Inn on Hwy-90 east of town (Tel:432/729-3800; Price: $51-75).
For such a small town, good eats abound in Marfa, led by Maiya's downtown at 103 N Highland St (Tel:432/729-4410, Web: www.maiyasrestaurant.com ). The New York Pizza Foundation, 102 E San Antonio (Tel:432/729-3377, Web: www.pizzafoundation.com ), has the best pizza in the Trans Pecos region, while Adobe Moon, 200 S Abbot (Tel:432/729-3030, Web: www.adobemoon.com ), has good BBQ. For breakfast, try the Brown Recluse at 111 W San Antonio (Tel:432/729-1811, Web: www.brownreclusemarfa.com ).
There are innumerable, high-end galleries in Marfa that wouldn't be out of place in New York or LA. At the friendly Marfa Book Co, 105 S Highland St (Wed– Sun 10am–7pm; Tel:432/729-3906), you can browse its selection of art, architecture, and Texana titles.