Texas Travel: Day 2- McDonald Observatory, Marfa, and the Holland Hotel

Day 2 of our West Texas Roadtrip began a little later than the Day 1– both because we were worn out after the long drive and then very full day of hiking and also because we needed to wait until the auto-parts store opened to get a reader on Garen’s truck since the check engine light came on (it mysteriously went off later and was never an issue).  We elected to make this our “slow day” for the trip and called an audible to make a trip to McDonald Observatory, followed by a fast visit to Marfa.

McDonald Observatory

McDonald Observatory, located close to Fort Davis, is a great place to go learn more about our universe.  It’s actually part of the University of Texas system, which I found interesting.

  • We went on one of the daytime tours that they had available
    • It’s 2 hours and you learn a lot about stars, including our sun, and then actually get to go into one of the big telescopes to see how it works.  Pretty cool for nerds like us.
    • With small children, we likely won’t do the 2 hour tour during the day because it might be a little hard for fidgety preschoolers but if you’ve got older kids they might enjoy it.
  • Be aware that they are currently shut down due to COVID-19 until at least April 19th according to their website (as of the day I’m writing this).  They had already cancelled their Star Parties for the night we went.
  • When we (hopefully) get to go back to Big Bend with the kids this summer, we’d like to plan far enough ahead to take them to a Star Party but also go during the day to check out the self-guided tour.
  • The views are great from the mountains that these are on.
  • We were shocked by how many telescopes there are.  Pretty amazing to have these right here in our state.


After McDonald Observatory, we headed over to Marfa.

  • We were going to go check out the Chinati Foundation for the famous exhibit that’s out there but they closed at 4:00 and eating was more important to us so we headed out in search of food.
  • We got there at a weird time to get lunch- like 3:00 in the afternoon.
    • There’s not much available after lunch hours (which ended at about 2:00 for a lot of places).
    • We enjoyed fried artichoke bites and shrimp nachos, both of which we highly recommend.  We washed them down with some tasty cocktails.
  • After that we walked around looking at shops but were surprised by how many were closed.  In retrospect, I’m not sure how much of that already had to do with COVID-19 or just that shop owners don’t open until crowds come in for dinner reservations.
  • We did manage to find Garen a stylish new Steson hat at one of the stores that were open.  It was called Communitie and it had a fantastic selection of hats and beautiful stones.  The staff in there were super friendly and helpful.  They’re currently closed now too.
  • Overall, I have to say that Marfa was a bit of a let-down for me.  I’m not sure exactly what I expected but I guess I often overestimate things like this. Of course, maybe if we’d gone on the weekend it would’ve been different- I have read this.  I would still go if I’d not been before but I can’t imagine spending more than one day there.

Scrabble and Plaine Coffee

  • After our excursions to McDonald Observatory and Marfa, we made our way back to Alpine.  We were still pretty full from the late lunch/snack/drinks at Jett’s Diner, so we elected to go for coffee.
  • We would’ve shopped around in Alpine but EVERYTHING seems to close at 5:00 or 6:00 there.  If you want to do any shopping there, do it early.
  • Cedar Coffee Supply, which we visited on Day 1, was already closed for the day, but Plaine Coffee was open until 8:00 so we grabbed some very tasty iced coffees there and played a game of Scrabble, which was something we rarely do but pretty entertaining.  Of course, Garen sported his new hat, which I happen to think looks fantastic on him.
    • We went back for coffee there another day after this and they’d changed their policy to be only pick-ups, no staying in the shop due to COVID-19 already.  I’ll admit that at this point I felt like that might have been overboard.  Man, I had a lot to learn about all of this still.

Holland Hotel- Century Bar and Grill

  • After we finished up our Scrabble game, we attempted to go eat pizza at Guzzi Up but they were closed (we did end up eating there on Friday night though and it was fantastic).
  • We instead went over to the Holland Hotel, where they have the Century Bar and Grill.  It was PACKED and they had a band playing so it took us about 30 minutes to get a table.  I would recommend making  reservation if you’re planning on going there during dinner hours.
  • The wait was totally worth it.  I had some sort of magical bacon-wrapped Dr. Pepper pork tenderloin pieces and probably the best brussels sprouts I’ve ever had.  When I say magical, I mean magical.  If I’m remembering correctly, Garen had the chicken fried steak, which was also delicious.  Can you tell from our trip description that we love food at this point???

We slept well after that back at the Big Bend Biker Hotel and woke up ready to get going early for Day 3 and sunrise at the Hot Springs at Big Bend.



Published by Liz

Crazy busy wife, mother of four kids and a cat, employee, friend, amateur chef, and wanna-be crafty person who often times is running around like a chicken with his head cut off.

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