Lodging

Fort Davis and Beyond: Exploring West Texas

Explore Indian Lodge with kids.
The Indian Lodge features a pool for the kids with a view of the Davis Mountains. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

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.

The Marfa Lights are a West Texas legend ripe for teens.
The Marfa Lights are a West Texas legend ripe for teens. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker 

Marfa, the Art Town of West Texas

The town of Marfais 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’s Chinati Foundation, located at 1 Cavalry Row.

The Carful of Kids on a West Texas Road Trip, Marfa, Art,
Art oozes out of this in West Texas town with galleries and installations. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker 

When traveling with kids choose outdoor art installations and we make it quick. Chinati works, 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 Chianti Foundation is modernism set in a retired military installation.
The Chinati Foundation is modernism set in a retired military installation, Marfa. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The carful of kids take a break from art and head to check out the Hotel 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 stay without the kids.

El Paisano Hotel, where Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson stayed during the filming of "The Giant". Paisano Hotel, Marfa, Texas,
Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson stayed here during the filming of “The Giant”. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

One last art stop–John Chamberlain’s installation at the former Wool and Mohair Building in 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.

The carful of kids love art as much as the next kid so this art installation was great for kids. Maria, Texas, Chianti Foundation,
The carful of kids love art as much as the next kid so this art installation was great for us. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

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

Is it ever too cold for ice cream? Not for the carful of kids. Fort Davis Drug, Texas,
Is it ever too cold for ice cream? Not for the carful of 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 the Fort 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.

Fort Davis National Historical Park is one of the best examples of a western frontier fort. Fort Davis, Texas, road Trip,
Fort Davis National Historical Park is one of the best examples of a western frontier fort. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Up the road is the Fort Davis National Historic Site located 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 Site offers 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 visited Fort Lancaster in 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 the Indian 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 is located in the Davis Mountains State Park. CCC, Fort Davis, Texas, southwestern hotel,
The Indian Lodge is located in the Davis Mountains State Park, a CCC-constructed hotel for the 1930s. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

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.

McDonald Observatory

Looking out the window, the flakes are getting fatter. Fun but not the best for the carful of kids’ next destination–the McDonald Observatory, located at 3640 Dark Sky Drive, 12 miles north on Texas Highway 118. The carful of kids have tickets to the Twilight Programand the Star Party for this evening.

The McDonald Observatory hosts Star Parties on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights. A must for school-age kids. Fort Davis, Texas,
The McDonald Observatory hosts Star Parties. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

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.

Mt. Locke are 15 degrees colder than in Fort Davis. McDonald Observatory, Star Party for kids,
Dress in layers, the temperatures on top of Mt. Locke are 15 degrees colder than in Fort Davis. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

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

Head to West Texas for a desert getaway with star parties, western forts, world-class art and national park site. Fort Davis offers a state park, a historic lodge, an observatory and more in a quiet desert town easy to explore year-round. Get details for your trip like where to stay and what to do during your getaway. #NPS #NationalParks #Texas #FortDavis What to do in Fort Davis | CCC lodges in Texas | Star Parties in Texas | National Park Sites of Texas

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