- September 4, 2013

Laguna Gloria: Pretending to Picnic in Italy


My boys and I have been feeding my neighbor’s cats for three weeks while she is vacationing in Europe. With envy, I picture her touring castles and roaming gorgeous countrysides, and then I tell my husband how much I want to go to Italy (without kids) for a dream vacation. That’s when he reminds me it’s called a “dream” vacation for a reason. Our bank account would laugh in my face over such a crazy idea.

But with three kids, I am pretty experienced at using my imagination. And you know what? I can absolutely sneak away to one of my favorite Austin spots, The Contemporary Austin’s Laguna Gloria, for FREE and feel transported to somewhere dreamy for a few hours.

Last week, my older boys started back at school, leaving my three-year-old sad and grumpy without their company at home. To cheer him up, I proposed that we go on a grand picnic. At his request, we planned to act as characters from Disney Channel’s Sofia the First and have a lovely time pretending we were at a castle. Laguna Gloria, the Mediterranean-style estate and art museum with gorgeous views of Lake Austin, would be the perfect spot!

We arrived at the grounds of Laguna Gloria on a Tuesday morning, when the museum is absolutely FREE. (The grounds open at 9 a.m., and the museum opens at 10 a.m.) We only got as far as roaming through the rose garden and admiring the view of Lake Austin from the back fountain, when the sky immediately grew dark and rain started pouring on us. We ran quickly into the museum for cover.

I had planned to spend the majority of our outing exploring the grounds. I wasn’t even sure that I would do more than briefly peek around the museum with my energetic three-year-old. But the rain forced us in, and it worked out very well. A lovely docent was getting ready for a tour group, but she welcomed my little guy in to show him photos about Clara Driscoll who had built the estate. She told us an abbreviated overview because she was short on time and she could see that my son is short on attention.

Clara Driscoll and her husband purchased the property in 1914, and it reminded them of their honeymoon spot in Lake Como, Italy. Clara was an author, playwright, businesswoman and politician, but she was also an avid gardener. She designed the many gardens surrounding the villa by herself, which include statues from “the finest gardens of Old Italy”, which visitors are invited to explore on the lush 12-acre estate.

My son and I were pleased to roam the museum at our own pace. And it was delightful to see what pieces of art appealed to him. He favored an abstract piece as well as some photography. He loved the peacock pattern in the fabric on an antique piece of furniture. There were plenty of unique elements to the design of the home to keep his attention.

Once the rain stopped, we walked the grounds, which is also home to The Contemporary Austin Art School. We walked through the art school, enjoying several sculptures.

More Information:

Laguna Gloria
3809 West 35th Street
Austin, Texas 78703


  • Grounds – Mon. – Sat. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Galleries – Closed Mon. Open Tues.- Sun. 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Drop-in Tours: Sat. and Sun. at 1 p.m., free with admission
  • FREE Tuesdays
  • FREE for visitors 18 and younger & Military
  • FREE on Austin Museum Day, Sept. 22, 2013
  • Adults $5; Seniors and students $3
For information on scheduling a group tours (with suggested donation per guest), visit The Contemporary Austin’s website.

Freelance web producer, Heidi Okla is mom to three boys (ages 3, 5, and 7), and can’t pass up any opportunity for fun family adventures.