The carful of kids have a lot of ground to cover after driving in from Central Texas. After waking up in Alpine we’re off to Marfa and Fort Davis then ending the day at the Davis Mountains State Park at the Indian Lodge.
The weather is much colder than originally forecasted so a quick stop to pick up some hand warmers. The carful of kids will be outside and the high is forecasted to be 44ºF. It’s 28 miles west to Marfa on US Highway 67 from Alpine and along the way you pass the Marfa Lights Viewing Station.
Marfa, the Art Town of West Texas
The town ofMarfais home to about 2000 people and it is the county seat for Presidio County. It started as a water stop then evolved into a military training area, now it’s an art town–home to galleries, museums and movie sets. The most notable being Donald Judd’sChinati Foundation,located at 1 Cavalry Row.
The carful of kids love art like every other kid so we prefer outdoor installations and we make it quick.Chinatiworks, we walk the path with 15 untitled concrete blocks where the kids can run and there is no charge for admission. Inside the repurposed artillery sheds are 100 of his works in mill aluminum, they are open a 2 p.m., so we look in the windows instead.
The carful of kids take a break from art and head to check out theHotel Paisano, located on 207 Highland Street. Built in 1930, it’s a National Registered Historic Place; Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson stayed here during the filming ofThe Giant. A quick stop for the carful of kids but it would be a lovely place to staywithoutthe kids.
One last art stop–John Chamberlain’s installation at the formerWool and Mohair Buildingin the center of town is just blocks away from the Hotel Paisano. This is an art hit with the carful of kids–large, free-standing sculptures of mashed-up cars (I apologize to all my art history professors including my mother for my description). Again, we make it quick and don’t over think it.
Final words on Marfa, there are a ton of galleries but they seem to operate on West Texas Time– most are closed over the Christmas Holidays. Marfa is a cool, little town but it is crawling with hipsters and over-dressed art enthusiasts. So if this bothers you, move on. If not, you can make it into a three-day art adventure, including stays at hip hotels.
Fort Davis for Kids
The carful of kids need to change gears, we head north on Texas Highway 17 to Fort Davis, where we will spend the rest of our day. Our first stop is theFort Davis Drug Store, located on 13 State Street, for lunch and their old-fashioned soda fountain. Good kid fare and a quick stop to warm up–it’s snowing now.
Up the road is theFort Davis National Historic Sitelocated at 101 Lt. Henry Flipper Drive (open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The admission if $7 for those 16 and older, free for kids 15 and under.
Fort Davis National Historic Siteoffers a NPS Junior Ranger badge. Budget a couple of hours to complete the requirements, Junior Ranger badges are interesting for the adults as well. Touring the grounds is a must for understanding the frontier fort life.
Yesterday, we visitedFort Lancasterin Sheffield, Texas,to tour the foundations of the former fort so this is a great teaching moment. Fort Davis is intact, the majority of the buildings have been preserved. It is also on the old San Antonio-El Paso Road that lead pioneers to California.
The carful of kids get a real feel for fort life, the bugles bellow over a loud speaker and many of the buildings are furnished. The boys love it, running around looking at guns and cannons then imagining encounters with the Apache. We should have brought the Nerf guns.
Davis Mountains State Park
Before our final activity of the day, the carful of kids check into theIndian Lodge, located in the Davis Mountains State Park, just 5 miles away from Fort Davis on Texas Highway 118. I reserved this room months in advance and our trip is routed around its availability.
The Indian Lodge was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, if you have the opportunity to visit a CCC-constructed site, DO. They are exceptional properties.
The rooms are comfortable, spacious and reasonable with all the original details including furniture made on-site. The original building and the 1967 addition blend seamlessly.
The carful of kids have a newer room with two queen beds ($95/night) and the standard amenities including air-conditioning. There’s a restaurant and pool on site, both exceed my expectations for a state park. Traditional camping is available also.
Looking out the window, the flakes are getting fatter. Fun but not the best for the carful of kids’ next destination–theMcDonald Observatory, located at 3640 Dark Sky Drive, 12 miles north on Texas Highway 118. The carful of kids have tickets to theTwilight Programand theStar Partyfor this evening.
When we arrive at the McDonald Observatory, the program has been moved inside due to the weather. The astronomers offer a series of talks and demonstrations on our solar system and nearby stars. Typically, visitors gaze at the stars through their collection of telescopes. This is a popular attraction with many visitors, plan according, especially during school breaks.
After close to four hours inside the McDonald Observatory, I find six inches of snow on the ground and the SUV. I look at the carful of kids and announce, “Is now the time to tell you I’m not the best at driving in the snow, in the dark, down a mountain road?”
The usual chatter died.
Know before you go:
- Reservations are a must for the Indian Lodge and the Star Parties at the McDonald Observatory.
- It’s about 15 degrees colder at the McDonald Observatory than Fort Davis.
Up Next: Big Bend National Park