Your guide to the top things to do and see in West Texas.
Davis Mountains – Far west Texas isn’t just open desert like the movies would have you believe. Explore Davis Mountains State Park’s miles of trails, camping, and informational programming… More
McDonald Observatory – The stars at night are extra big and bright at this West Texas mountaintop observatory. Hundreds of miles from bright city lights, the McDonald Observatory offers unbeatable star gazing… More
The Gage Hotel – This historic desert oasis in Marathon, TX was voted among the top Texas hotels by Condé Nast. Talk about old country charm!… More
Marfa – In this tiny West Texas town, there’s a Gram-worthy photo around practically every corner that is sure to elicit jealousy from friends… More
Alpine – Explore the town of Alpine, located between Marfa and Marathon. Catch a semi-pro Cowboys baseball game at historic Kokernot Field… More
The stars at night are extra big and bright at this West Texas mountaintop observatory. Hundreds of miles from bright city lights, the McDonald Observatory offers stargazers unbeatable views. Plan your visit around catching a Star Party where you’ll have access to outdoor telescopes at the observatory’s park and an interactive overview of the night sky. Star Parties are offered on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Dress warmly with layers because nighttime temps dip, even in the summer. Daytime activities are also offered if you’re not a night owl.
Weather conditions can quickly change near the observatory, so if the skies are overcast in the morning, things may clear up by evening. If it happens to be cloudy during your visit, you’ll be offered alternative programming indoors, or you may be able to reschedule.
Explore the town of Alpine, located between Marfa and Marathon. Get a sense of place at Stylle Read’s wall mural Big Brewster outside of the Kiowa Gallery. This mural portrays notable town figures including visionaries such as Everett Townsend who spearheaded the creation of Big Bend National Park, successful rancher Herbert Kokernot who established the Alpine Cowboys baseball club in 1946, and local celebs such as Dan Blocker who became better known as Hoss Cartwright on the“Bonanza” TV series also appear in the mural. Keep an eye out for more murals scattered throughout Alpine.
Catch a semi-pro Alpine Cowboys baseball game at historic Kokernot Field during the season that runs from May through August. With inexpensive tickets, a boisterous local crowd, the Davis Mountains as the field’s backdrop and brews from nearby Big Bend Brewing Co., you’re guaranteed to have a good time. Fun fact: the 06 symbol found throughout the park tie in to the Kokernot family’s cattle branding from back in the day. Not in town during baseball season? You can still visit the field’s exterior intricate ironwork.
The Museum of the Big Bend at Sul Ross University is worth a visit. The Big Bend Legacy exhibit gives visitors deep insight into the natural and human histories of the region. Other temporary rotating exhibits include Terry Cockerham’s “Big Bend and the Terlingua Project” and “Early Education and the Annual Summer Normal in Alpine.” Admission to all exhibits is free!
The Gage Hotel is located in the charming town of Marathon that still has a frontier feel to this day. On the U.S. National Registry of Historic Places, the Gage Hotel was built in 1926 by successful rancher Alfred Gage and later converted into a hotel.
Guests can stay in the historic Western style hotel, pueblo style adobe brick rooms in Los Portales, or have complete privacy in casitas. Enjoy the hotel pool, gym, White Buffalo bar, and V6 health conscious foods for your coffee and smoothie needs.
Watch people and trains passing by from the ivy covered porch in a wooden rocking chair, mediate in a courtyard, or cool off in the pool with a frozen drink from the White Buffalo bar. With so much old country charm, its no surprise that this historic desert oasis was voted among the top Texas hotels by Condé Nast Traveler.
Located a short distance across the train tracks is the manicured Gage Gardens, covering a lush 27 acres. We recommend visiting early in the morning to enjoy cooler temps and beautiful lighting.
Far west Texas isn’t just open desert like Hollywood movies would have you believe. The Davis Mountains rise up above the open plain and exposing interesting rock formations along the canyon walls. Explore Davis Mountains State Park‘s miles of trails, camping, and informational Ranger programming. Trails range from easy stroll to challenging, offering something for every level of hiker. Remember to bring plenty of water on hikes, and keep in mind that burn bans may be in effect during your visit, so plan accordingly. For those looking for further hiking and camping, the Davis Mountains also serve as a gateway to nearby Big Bend State Park.
Checking information boards near the entrance of any park or campsite will give valuable information, such as check-in/out procedures, information on burn bans if applicable, maps of the area, and more.
We enjoyed a ranger programming event on our visit with a costumed Civilian Conservation Corps soldier. He discussed events of the particular time period and demonstrated what soldiers would have carried with them to set up camp. Check upcoming Ranger events before you go.
The McDonald Observatory is a short 15-20 minute drive away from Davis Mountains State Park. Plan to work this into your West Texas travels–it’s an incredible experience!
A tiny blip on the radar, Marfa is a far West Texas town turned cultural art mecca. Getting there won’t be easy though — the nearest airports are located in El Paso and Midland and are both about 3 hours away — but we promise the extra effort will be worth it! In this tiny West Texas town, there’s a Gram-worthy photo around practically every corner that is sure to elicit jealousy from friends. Here are our top photo op picks and things to do in Marfa.
The Paisano Hotel
The historic Paisano Hotel has old world charm, so its no wonder the film stars of the movie epic Giant, including Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean chose to stay here when filming nearby. The hotel courtyard offers a tranquil relaxation spot, and the bubbling fountain makes you almost forget you’re in the west Texas desert. Step inside the lobby to view photography on exhibit from the making of the film epic Giant. Bonus: Grab a super cheap and delicious breakfast burrito served up at the hotel restaurant in the am for just $5.
Presidio County Courthouse
The charming pink building is nestled at the end of Marfa’s main street and can be seen from almost any spot in town. The view from the top of the courthouse tower is phenomenal, especially if you get up early to catch it at sunrise.
The surreal Prada Marfa shop is a short 30 minute drive from Marfa through ranch land and desert. You’ve probably seen celebs like Rihanna pose in front of this false storefront, so why not snap a picture in front of it yourself? Plan to drive out in the evening to catch sunset for great lighting.
El Cosmico campground
Just minutes from the heart of Marfa, El Cosmico campground offers visitors an eccentric glamping paradise. Stay overnight in colorful trailer homes, teepees or yurts. Communal spaces with hammocks and an outdoor kitchen give guests a chance to meet fellow travelers and exchange stories.
Renowned artist Donald Judd created larger than life installations in and around Marfa. The Chinati Foundation building in town exudes desert vibes with its dusty colored exterior. This converted building was formerly the Marfa Wool and Mohair Building in the center of town located just off the railroad tracks. Today, the building houses the installation of John Chamberlain’s 22 sculptures in painted and chromium-plated steel. Take a short trip out of town to visit more contemporary art installations that are part of the Chinati Foundation.
Pure Joy Marfa tower
Located a few blocks off of the main street, this silo will remind you to find happiness in the little things.
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Located in Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico
Elevation: 9,206 ft – 12,481 ft
Some of the best terrain in North America
1) Amazing terrain. With 300+ inches of annual snowfall and 1,294 acres of skiable terrain, the Taos Ski Valley slopes offer over 100 runs. Skiers enjoy light, dry powder, interesting terrain (including steep shoots, big bumps and challenging tree glades) and essentially no wait for lift lines, even during busier times.
2) Do a ski week. Al’s Run looming over the base area may intimidate skiers, but there’s plenty of skiable terrain for all levels. Take advantage of Taos Ski Valley’s renowned ski school and sign up for lessons. You’ll enjoy tailored instruction and perfect technical skiing skills on some slopes that may have been too difficult to tackle on your own. Overlap your visit with an Adult Snowsports Week and get 6 two-hour morning lessons in addition to “tech talk” evenings.
3) Affordability. Reasonable flights and hotel rates make this destination a no brainer. Lift tickets start from $54 if purchased online, and accommodations are just as affordable. Stay 10 min from Ski Valley in the unique town of Taos for as little as $60 per night. Hotel rates at the base of the mountain won’t take a chunk out of your paycheck either. We loved our chalet-style room at Alpine Village Suites and soaked our sore muscles after long days of skiing in the outdoor hot tub and sauna.
3) Nearby day trips. Easy day trips from Taos Ski Valley include Taos Pueblo, Rio Grande Gorge, and Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa to name a few. Santa Fe is only a couple hours away and on the way to Taos if you’re flying out of Albuquerque. Stop over in Sante Fe for jewelry shopping, pueblo architecture, native history, and delicious food. We stopped at the well-known restaurant Cafe Pasqual’s, nestled into a pueblo style building off the main square.
4) Bustling art scene. The town of Taos has a rich art history with notable artists having settled in the area, drawn to the region’s “drama of vast spaces.” Pop into an art gallery and marvel at the local artists’ talents.
5) Come for the slopes, stay for the memories. When planning our ski trip to Taos, there were plenty of articles boasting about the fantastic skiing. What we weren’t prepared for was the local culture of hospitality experienced throughout our visit. Everyone we interacted with, from ski shop employees and ski patrol to fellow skiers, was incredibly friendly. We even made some new friends sitting out by the fire pit at the base. We’ll definitely be back soon, Taos!
New York City – A dazzling skyline, compact boroughs, streets packed with interesting shops, and unique people. In all its multifaceted angles, there are a thousand ways to “do” a trip to NYC. We decided to tackle the City in 48 hours and experience as much of it as we could in one short weekend. And boy did we pack in a lot! We took an urban wandering approach to experiencing NYC in the fall and let the structure of the city guide our daily journeys à pied.
Evening: Nightlife. We arrived into the city in the evening and headed directly to dinner in the Upper East Side at Candle 79 for an unbelievable fine-dining experience and vegan, organic plates. Stephanie was especially excited to dine here because loves the chef’s cookbook! Afterwards, our good friend currently living in New York joined up to show us a night out on the town. We were ambitious and traversed half of the city from East Village to Chinatown to Brooklyn.
Morning:Weekend brunching is part of the NYC lifestyle. We highly recommend a casual brunch at Jack’s Wife Freda in West Village. This charming yet understated American-Mediterranean bistro is super popular with locals and tourists alike. We ordered their Eggs Benny, Madame Freda, and cappuccinos with cute “coffee art” to go with.
Afternoon: Wander West Village past local outdoor markets, small neighborhood parks, and high end boutiques. Charming brick winding streets lined with old brick buildings give the area a lovely laid back feel. Seasonal veggies and homemade goodies were displayed in stalls at an outdoor neighborhood market. We also hopped into a few shops to browse their fall/winter collections, including Intermix, Maje, and Sandro (some of Stephanie’s favorites).
Afternoon:Explore Chelsea Market. This indoor urban space includes a diverse food market and local arts scene. It’s also one of New York’s hot spots for unique antiques, collectibles, and vintage clothing. Chelsea Market was a fun pit stop and great entry point to access the High Line.
Afternoon:Walk the High Line. The High Line is an elevated freight line turned walkway that runs from Ganesvoort St. up the West Side. The walkway offers pedestrians an urban oasis and a different perspective of the city. Expect crowds in the afternoon, especially on a sunny day, and great people watching. You can hop on/off the High Line at several access points, but we walked the path in its entirety.
Afternoon:Times Square and shopping. If you didn’t take a picture in Times Square, did you even really go to New York? This tourist packed mecca is one for the books, and while we don’t love most overcrowded tourist attractions, we felt like this was still a NYC bucket list must. The Square is full of New York’s famed hustle and bustle energy, and the massive flashing billboards are also dazzling by night.
Afternoon: In NYC, you’ll walk. A lot. What was meant to be a rather short cab ride from Times Square back to our place turned into an adventure in itself. As hard as we tried one late afternoon, we couldn’t hail a taxi (they were all full!) and decided to take the city blocks by foot. We walked all the way back from Times Square to the Upper East Side and on the way passed interesting architecture and notable New York landmarks including the New York Public Library, Bryant Park, and designer shops on Park Ave.
Evening: Sip a cocktail at an upscale rooftop bar. The Press Lounge came highly acclaimed by local friends. To get there, take the elevator up to the 16th floor at the Ink48 Hotel. You’ll be rewarded by panoramic views of the city and the Hudson River. We sipped on cocktails poolside and caught the sun setting over the city and stayed for a beautiful full moon rise.
Evening: Dine in Hell’s Kitchen. With a lot of restaurant variety in the area, it can be hard to choose where to stop.We popped into a Thai restaurant called Obao, which had amazing and affordable plates plus a hip club-like ambiance. Take a stroll around Hell’s Kitchen past late night restaurants and bars up to Times Square to experience the neon-lit block by night. On the way out of of the tourist-packed Square, we discovered a reverse happy hour at Bar Catalina (675 9th Ave A) and stayed for bubbly rose and impromptu dancing with the bar staff. Go for great happy hour/reverse happy hour options and a fun cozy vibe!
Morning:Local coffee spot. Strolled around Upper East Side to Birch Coffee, a local coffee chain, to get our morning dose of caffeine. Not only is Birch Coffee delicious, but the company also purchases coffee beans from sustainable farms around the world with the aim of “making the coffee industry a fair and sustainable one.” Oh, and the pastries! You know we had to try the gourmet Texas-sized donuts. We split a dulce de leche donut and our taste buds got sent to heaven.
Afternoon: Pop into the Plaza Hotel & stroll Central Park. The Plaza Hotel dominates the square at the lower end of Central Park. Inside the revolving glass doors, you’ll be rewarded with giant chandeliers and the definition of New York luxury. From there, walk into the park past ponds, bridges, and benches. You may also discover some tucke treasures like the Alice in Wonderland statue and the Belvedere Castle. On your way out of the Park, walk down the grand avenues on the West and East peripheries with adorned facades that will definitely inspire major home design envy.
Evening: On the road again. Hail a taxi or ride sharing service directly from your phone to catch a ride back to airport. While Uber and Lyft are good ride sharing options, many New Yorkers use Gett and Via. Vacation Vagabond tip: First time Gett users will get $20 off their first ride by entering the code GTTEGOT. First time Via users will get $10 off their first ride with referral code stephanie6j7b. Until next time, New York!
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3 days, 8 stages, 100+ bands. Now in its 15th year, Austin City Limits Festival (ACL Fest) continues to draw big crowds and a good mix of big and up-and-coming names. Whether this is your first or fifth ACL Fest, here’s your guide to navigate the huge Austin festival with ease and grace. Trust us, we’re locals!
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Look the part
Austinites are all about understated cool.
ACL Fest go-ers typically blend casual style with festival inspired looks, resulting in a lot of fringe, crochet, and suede. Need to pick up a last minute crop top, vest, or trendy sunglasses? Check out Feathers Boutique on South Congress, Prototype Vintage Design just next door, or Buffalo Exchange for some fresh vintage festival finds. Buffalo Exchange also has a lot of great looks for guys.
Make your hair a mane attraction.
Opting for a braided updo ensures you’ll feel and look cool ’til sundown, ladies. To take things up a level, book a hair appointment through Priv. They come to you and do some serious magic! And guys, ditch the office comb-over, and get ready to rock out!
Shimmer and shine.
Did you know that Flash Tattoos (aka Flash Tats) is a local Austin company?! Theses metallic jewelry-inspired tattoos have caught on and are trending with festival-goers who want to stand out and shine. I especially love the Henna and Child of Wild editions. Flash Tats are carried at lots of boutiques in Austin like Still & Sea and Maya Star.
What to pack
~Sun protection ~
Reapply sunscreen throughout the day and bring a pair of shades to protect your eyes and skin from the bright Texas sun. For maximum sun protection, ladies can opt for a cute floppy hat with a wide brim, and guys can rock cowboy or baseball hats.
~ Reusable water bottle ~
Reduce waste and bring your own water bottle or camel back. All liquid containers must be empty upon entry, unless its already sealed. Free water refill stations and misting station are located inside the festival grounds.
~ Portable phone charger ~
Large crowds in a contained area means poor cell reception for the majority of us, and is a major drain on your cell battery. Be prepared for your phone battery to drain much faster than normal as its working hard to connect to your network, and bring a portal charger!
~ Mini first aid kit ~
Great to have just in case for mini scrapes and blisters. Medical tents are also located throughout the festival grounds if you need any assistance.
Have a great time and enjoy the music!
At the end of the day, music festivals are all about the music and the community. So have FUN!!! Here’s a little Vagabond Tip: download the ACL Fest app on your phone and have a game plan ready for each day to make sure you catch all your favorite performers. Come early, to discover new talent, and stay late. Because ACL Fest only comes twice a year!
We’ve visited Yellowstone dozens of times and have spent enough time in this park to consider ourselves professional Yellowstone tourists. We’ve compiled a list of the top reasons why you should plan your trip to Yellowstone!
Only place in the world where can you see so many thermal features
Yellowstone contains half the world’s geothermal features and over 300 geysers. Grand Prismatic Spring pumps out over 4,000 gallons of water every minute, making it the largest hot springs in North America. Old Faithful is the most famous of the Yellowstone geysers thanks to its “faithful” timing; this geyser erupts regularly every 60-110 minute. Three of my personal favorite thermal features are Black Pool, Morning Glory Pool, and Castle Geyser. Our favorite geyser basins are West Thumb Basin and the Old Faithful area.
Vagabond tip: Download the National Park Service’s geyser app for up to date eruption predictions to time your routes around geysers accordingly. This was invaluable during our last visit to the park!
To see native animals in their natural habitats
Lots of open space which is also the perfect environment for other wildlife including elk, deer, moose, pronghorn, wolves, and more. The Yellowstone bison herd is the oldest and largest public bison herd in the U.S. Bison roam freely througout the park, and you may see at least a couple from the side of the road. Visitors seek out Lamar and Hayden Valley in particular for these areas’ large number of animal sightings. Wolves were only recently reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995 after being absent from the park for seven decades and are a big attraction.
Vagabond tip: Always be alert driving through the park, as you never know what animals you may sight from your vehicle. And never approach wildlife, even if they look peaceful–they can be unpredictable and may charge without warning.
Camp under the stars
Have you ever seen the Milky Way with your own naked eyes? Grab a sleeping bag, pitch a tent, and star gaze in Yellowstone. The park offers several campsites, or if you’re an adventurous sort, take your gear backpacking to get away from the crowds. We camped out along a scenic river in between tall pine trees, but it was the view of the stars at night that took our breath away.
Visit the only supervolcano on land in the world
There are only 30 active super volcanoes in the world, and the Yellowstone Caldera is the only one in North America, and is also the only one located on land. Did you know that the entire area of the park is located on top of this gigantic volcano that stretches about 34 by 45 miles (55 by 72 km)? So cool!
Experience a part of history
Signed into law by Congress in 1872, Yellowstone was the first national park in U.S. history. Yellowstone’s history begins much earlier than that though, with Native American tribes in the area for centuries who were followed by pioneers traveling west. Many iconic greats in American history have left a footprint on the park since it was established. President Roosevelt laid down the first cornerstone of the Roosevelt arch located at the northern entrance in Gardiner, which is inscribed with a quote from the legislation which created Yellowstone.
Vagabond tip: It’s fun to stroll some of the tourist shops along the Gardiner main street with an ice cream cone of some of the best we’ve ever had!
Take a hike
Explore the back country of some of America’s most beautiful land. We recommend breaking up full days of driving with at least one hike to stretch and go exploring off the park’s paved roads. Some interesting hikes are Uncle Tom’s Trail, which is short but steep and descends 500 feet toward the base of the Lower Falls, and Mystic Falls, which is a moderate 2.5 mile hike and gives you an overlook of Biscuit Basin.
Vagabond tip: Safety first! Always carry bear spray and make noise throughout hike. Park rangers also suggest that hikers travel in groups of three or more. (P.S. Check out our favorite NPS Rangers, Christina Warburg’s Instagram account @christinaadelephoto for some of the most beautiful photos of U.S. national parks and interesting anecdotes.
Inspiring landscape and wildlife sure to spark wonderment at all of the sheer natural beauty. Even the drives are stunning with roads skirting cliffs with canyons and rivers coursing below, waterfalls at bridge outlooks, and always scanning for a glimpse of wildlife. The park attracts artists from all over the world seeking inspiration. It’s no surprise, then, that one of the most iconic views of the yellow stone of the canyon is aptly named Artist Point.
Old Faithful Inn
Experience one of the most interesting American architectural feats for yourself. Old Faithful is constructed of lodge pole pine and looks like a giant wooden cabin. It was built in a unique style in its conception and inspired an entirely new architecture genre, National Park Service rustic. No two windows are alike, with the architect intending the building to reflect the non-parallel symmetry of nature. Another interesting feature of the Inn is the Crows Nest. Grab a spot on the outdoor deck facing Old Faithful geyser for the geyser’s nearly hourly entertainment. In the evenings, grab a drink and settle in for live music in evenings.
Soak in a natural hot tub
Ditch the spa for a dip in one of Mother Nature’s hot tubs. Most of the park’s thermal areas are way too hot to touch, but a few places are safe for a dip. We were thrilled to visit Boiling River just north of Mammoth Hot Springs, where hot springs enter Gardner River to create an enthralling experience. Imagine one side of your body icy cold from the mountain river, and the other half steeping in steaming water from hot springs. Winter visitors can also visit Boiling River, since the northern entrance from Gardiner into the park is open through the park’s colder months.
Great trout fishing
Trout Fishermen claim Yellowstone to have some of the best fishing in the U.S. Test your skills and fling a cast into Yellowstone Lake or Madison River for either fly or lure fishing. Yellowstone waters are home to sizable native cutthroat, brown trout, rainbow trout and brook trout.
Make lasting memories
Reconnect with yourself, friends, and family in nature. Yellowstone is the perfect place to make lasting, timeless memories. Stephanie’s family has been visiting Yellowstone for decades, and we’re already planning our next trip to Yellowstone together!
*All pictures are our own unless stated otherwise.