First Choice Power loves Texas! So to show our love for this state, we keep bringing you fresh, fun series that explore the Lone Star State’s vast beauty, our rich cultural ethos, and how to hit the road and enjoy it all one mile at a time. With FCP’s Budget-Friendly Trips in Texas, we take you to areas of the state where you can explore our state’s beauty on a budget. We will share affordable accommodations, ways to eat and not overspend, and the sights and scenes to visit that won’t break the bank.
Pack your bags and load up the car as we take you first to one of the state’s most incredible areas, west Texas. Quirky at times, sweeping with beauty, and home to those mythical big Texas skies, there’s a little more than roadrunners, cacti and coyotes when your scratch the surface in these parts.
Big Bend National Park
An adventure doesn’t get more budget-friendly than entry and time spent at a national park. If you are a true outdoor lover, then buy yourself a National Park Pass that gives you access to all national parks.
Hugging the border of Mexico along the Rio Grande River is Texas’ crown jewel, Big Bend National Park, dramatic and beautiful, and rich with geologic time.
This national park includes hot springs, mountainous hiking trails, ruins of a bygone era, and the Santa Elena Canyon, to name just a few features. Mountain lions, javelinas, bears, and coyotes call this place home, and seeing these animals in the wild, if you’re lucky enough, is like nothing else.
The skies are so big and the stars so bright at night that little more is needed than a packed lunch, a big bottle of water, sunblock, hiking boots and a hat, to spend a solid week exploring the 1,252 square miles of beauty Big Bend offers.
For budget accommodation, consider camping in the back country. Or if you’re traveling with a group of friends, consider pitching in to rent a house within driving distance of the park. Rentals can be found within 35 miles of the park entrance outside the nearby town of Terlingua or Lajitas. When renting a house you have access to a kitchen, which makes it cheap to eat breakfast and dinner, and to pack your lunch for your day trip.
While there is one restaurant in the park up in the Chisos Basin, we recommend loading up on groceries in the nearby town of Terlingua and bringing food into the park. Get even more creative and cook yourself an early dinner by bringing a camp stove in the park itself. A great place to do this is at the Santa Elena Canyon, where you’ll find picnic tables along the Rio Grande complete with overhead shelter to protect you from the elements.
This little town in the middle of nowhere is home to some of the greatest minimal art in the country, as well as the mysteriously famous Marfa Lights, and a bit of old Hollywood history with the filming of Giant in 1956. It’s a small mecca of culture that twists high brow art with down-home Texan vibes, and attracts all walks of life from far corners of the country, and world.
If art calls you here, then a visit to Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation is a must, and rather than paying the full price for a full tour, a self-guided tour is available for $10 per adult to see his 100 aluminum boxes. The installation is open from noon-3 pm, Wednesday through Sunday.
Another must-see is the Prada Marfa installation, located on a deserted highway in the small town of Valentine just outside of Marfa. There is no cost to view this quirky one-of-a-kind permanent installation, and when you arrive, you’ll understand the quip of “art for art’s sake.”
You’ve come all this way, so you must reserve an evening in search of the mysterious Marfa Lights. The official Marfa Lights Viewing Area is located 9 miles east of town on Highway 90, towards Alpine. Bring your sense of wonder and optimism as you wait for the lights to appear!
For budget accommodation we head to El Cosmico, where you can camp, rent a renovated vintage trailer, stay in a safari tent, a Mongolian yurt, or stay in a Sioux-style tepees. You can also rent bikes to cruise the town.
El Cosmico also offers several communal spaces for guests, along with an outdoor kitchen and dining area. Grab groceries from The Get Go in town, and spend a few meals getting to know a few other like-minded travelers.
A great little budget-friendly place to grab a bite is at the lunch-only food truck, Food Shark, known for it’s Mediterranean menu and seating in an old bus. Check their Facebook page for times they are open. If there’s one thing to know about Marfa, it’s that restaurants and businesses aren’t open as often as you find in the city.
Just 21 miles north of Marfa is Fort Davis. The Davis Mountain State Park is a gorgeous place to hike during the day and see the sprawling landscape of West Texas from above. Pack a sandwich into your backpack and head out for the day.
But the astronomical McDonald Observatory is perhaps the main destination for travelers that venture to these parts. Boasting a 9.2-meter telescope and hosting star gazing parties at night, some say that this area is the very best place to view stars in the entire United States. Entry to the observatory is affordable, and the staff is very knowledgeable about all things starry.
While camping is available at the Davis Mountains State Park, there is also a ranch outside the town to camp at called Crow’s Nest Ranch. No-frill cabins are also available for $65/night that include a kitchen to cook in and a front porch to do a little star gazing at night. Here you are far from any sounds or lights of the nearby town, and can soak up that West Texas emptiness you came in search of.
The Stone Village Market is an affordable little spot to grab a bite and includes vegan options for those with dietary restrictions. For dessert, head to the Caboose, a cute little ice cream parlor located in an old train caboose where you can find hand-scooped ice cream with all the fixins!
Did we miss your favorite spot in West Texas? Share with us below and let our readers know!