We love our houses in Midland and Odessa, but there’s nothing like Memorial Day to get us thinking about summer fun and weekend getaways from the Permian Basin.
We’ve put together 4 wonderful weekend getaways that are each under 3.5 hours’ drive from Midland, from spectacular stalagmites and minor-league baseball merriment, to fabulous fishing and family fun. Read on to see our top 5 picks for your travel enjoyment!
1. ART, MYSTERY, AND CELESTIAL BEAUTY IN MARFA
DISTANCE FROM MIDLAND: 191 miles
The tiny Far West Texas town of Marfa may only have 2,000 residents, but it’s home to a blooming art community. In town, Ballroom Marfa is a cultural space that presents cutting-edge artists working in the visual arts, performance, film, and music. Greasewood Gallery at the historic Hotel Paisano (where the James Dean movie Giant was filmed in 1956) exhibits carefully curated shows featuring the work of Marfa artists, and Marfa Contemporary features art, education, and an artist-in-residence program. Head out of the city to the Chinati Foundation for large-scale art minimalist installations on the grounds of a former military fort—lots of chances for personal interaction.
When thirst strikes, grab a cold one at the Lost Horse Saloon on East San Antonio Street, the most tenured watering hole in Marfa. Go gourmet for supper at Maiya’s, or grab a bite in a beautifully renovated 100-year-old adobe at Padre’s Marfa (they claim to serve up the best burgers north of Terlingua, which is a tall claim!).
When the sun goes down, you’ve got two stellar options. About 40 minutes away from town in Fort Davis is the McDonald Observatory, where you should dress warmly for a Star Party on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. This is two hours of family fun, with sky constellation tours and views of celestial objects through a number of enormous telescopes. The early-evening Twilight Program is a one-hour educational program intended to enrich the Star Party experience.
After being enchanted by the stars, head back for some spooky fun with the Marfa Lights, 9 miles east of town on Highway 90. These red, blue, or white mystery lights have been reported since the 19th century, appearing randomly on the horizon southeast of Marfa, an area that is almost totally uninhabited and extremely difficult to traverse. The source? Nobody can say why they dance throughout the night.
2. MYSTERIES UNDER THE DESERT AT CARLSBAD CAVERNS
DISTANCE FROM MIDLAND: 163 miles
Do you remember learning the difference between stalactites and stalagmites in science class? I think it was, “stalactites hold tight to the ceiling and stalagmites might grow up to the ceiling.”
See these types of cave formations and others for yourself at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, where there are more than 119 known caves under the rugged terrain of the desert. You can go in for a self-guided tour every day of the year, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. If you want more adventure, hire a ranger for a guided tour, where you can crawl around in Spider Cave, visit an underground wilderness in Slaughter Canyon Cave, or climb some slippery flowstone in the Hall of the White Cave. Awesome!
3. “PLAY BALL!” AND SEE THE SIGHTS IN AMARILLO
DISTANCE FROM MIDLAND: 255 miles
Baseball fans, spend a weekend celebrating baseball at Amarillo ThunderHeads Stadium, a minor league baseball beauty opened in 1949 and home to the Amarillo Thunderheads team. Opening day is tomorrow, when they host the St. Paul Saints, and funding has been approved for major renovations, including improvements to the playing field, the locker rooms, dugouts, concessions, and other amenities throughout the stadium. Tickets are $10 for field-level box seats, $7 for club-level seats, and $5 for general admission.
When you’re not cheering on the ThunderHeads, drive out on Route 66 and visit Cadillac Ranch. In 1974, art-hippies from San Francisco made this public art installation by burying ten Cadillacs in a field, nose-down, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville. It’s a tribute to the evolution of the tailfin, and over the years, thousands have visited and sprayed graffiti on the cars.
You should also make time to visit the “Grand Canyon of Texas,” Palo Duro Canyon State Park, the second-largest canyon in the U.S. From June 2 to Aug. 15 on Tuesdays through Sundays, catch a show of a musical performance, Texas, performed in the Pioneer Ampitheatre, carved out of a natural basin in the canyon. Adult tickets range from $16.95 to $30.95 and you can grab dinner at the Chuck Wagon Bar-B-Que for $16.
4. CAMP, HIKE, & FISH IN SAN ANGELO STATE PARK
DISTANCE FROM MIDLAND: 112 miles
Get acquainted with Mother Nature in San Angelo State Park, where there’s awesome camping, picnicking, and fishing. There are campsites for backpackers, tent campers, and RVs, as well as cabins and multiple group facilities. If you don’t have your own gear for fishing, you can borrow rods, reels, and tackle boxes with hooks, sinkers, and bobbers. You’ll also find more than than 50 miles of hike, bike, and horse trails crisscrossing the 7,700-acre facility.
The area is home to Indian petroglyphs, primitive drawings carved into sandstone some 600 to 1,200 years ago, which you can see on ranger tours. There’s also a tour to see ancient Permian animal tracks, the fossilized trackways of animals that existed 250 to 270 million years ago, predating dinosaurs by at least 100 million years.
Nearby Fort Concho, a restored historic fort built in 1867 to protect area frontier settlers, patrol and map the region, and quell hostile threats in the area. Locals volunteer to reenact aspects of fort life for visitors, like the Fort Concho Buffalo Soldiers, who tell living history lessons of frontier life, the Fort Concho Calvary, laundresses, and a vintage baseball team.