The blog for inspired travel with children

Friday, October 11, 2013

Road Trip: West Texas

We drove out to west Texas this summer, and while it was hot hot hot, we still had lots of fun. Now that temperatures are dropping (well, a little), a road trip out to west Texas sounds perfect. The scenery is spectacular, with an endless sky, beautiful mountains, and incredible light.

We explored the area from our base in Alpine, which is about 20 minutes from the more-famous Marfa. Despite the region's remoteness, there is plenty to do. Marfa is home to the Chinati Foundation, which houses Donald Judd's sculptures and other exhibitions. Some of the work is outdoors, and there's plenty of room to roam, so it's perfect for antsy kids.

Marfa is a very small town and thus very walkable. Traffic is minimal, although beware of the train that blasts through town every so often. There are few chic shops and a number of art galleries all within a few blocks. Marfa Book Company is unexpectedly wonderful. After browsing for awhile, we had a great lunch at the Food Shark food truck parked next door. The line was long but the food is worth the wait. There were lots of modernist picnic tables (meant for sharing), and plenty of room for restless kids to run around during the wait. If you're lucky, the train will chug by while you're waiting!

Marfa is also home to The Get Go, a small but fantastic grocery store. It's packed to the rafters with (almost) everything you could hope for. I bought a cute tote bag as a souvenir.

Downtown Marfa

The Food Shark in Marfa

Hotel Paisano, where we sipped coffee in the courtyard

The Chinati Foundation

We visited the McDonald Observatory, which hosts "Star Parties" most evenings. The night viewing was too late for us, so we opted for a daytime Solar Viewing session, and were rewarded with the sighting of a solar flare. The Observatory was originally dedicated in 1939 with one telescope; the facility now includes five principal research telescopes. 

We also visited the pool at Balmoreah State Park. It's a huge spring-fed pool. Parts of it are paved like a conventional pool, but other parts are natural; in one area the bottom is hard to see it's so deep. We saw a few fish and turtles.

An image from Balmoreah State Park website - look at that water!

Yes, the region a bit of a drive from Austin (or from anywhere!) - but so worth it! It took us about seven hours to get to Alpine, and another 20 minutes or so to everywhere else. The remoteness seems to underline the relaxed mood - there just isn't much to stress you out, and it's pretty easy to go with the flow. We can't wait to go back.