There’s a quiet retreat waiting for you. And if you live in Austin, it’ll only take you a few minutes to get there.
Feel free to take your dog, child, significant other, or best friend. But you may find that Laguna Gloria becomes your favorite place in Austin to explore all by yourself.
Laguna Gloria was built in 1916 by an amazing woman named Clara Driscoll. Clara was a world traveler who loved Italy especially, so she styled her new home as an Italian villa.
Laguna Gloria was a socialite’s paradise in its youth, hosting international dignitaries and politicians, as well as many friends. Romantically, party goers often arrived by boat!
In 1943, Clara Driscoll donated Laguna Gloria to the Texas Fine Arts Association. Today it belongs to AMOA-Arthouse, which has a second art museum on Congress.
Laguna Gloria is home to unique art. New Works by Texas artist Michael Menchaca is being housed through February 17, 2013 in the Gatehouse Gallery at Laguna Gloria. In the villa itself, artists Ann Tarantino and Bethany Johnson are turning heads with their creativity.
Ann Tarantino has used washable ink to decorate the walls of Laguna Gloria with feathery artwork. And I love Bethany’s Rain Collection series, which turns real-life rainfall in Austin into artwork with sooty glass and balls of flour!
How to Enjoy Laguna Gloria
For your first visit to Laguna Gloria, I recommend that you take a docent-guided tour. Tours are only offered twice a week: at 1 PM on Saturday and Sunday. I narrowly missed the tour on my visit (I didn’t realize they’re given so infrequently), but I hear that they’re wonderful and give a lot of interesting insight into Clara Driscoll’s story. As I mentioned, she was a fascinating person. Did you know that she single-handedly saved the Alamo? Or that she once lived in Oyster Bay, NY…the home of my favorite president ever? (Brownie points to whoever guesses which president!)
I was surprised that there wasn’t more to see in the villa itself beyond a few works of art. There is a beautiful solarium upstairs that can be rented out, but on the average day it’s not much more than an empty room. Fortunately, even after you’ve seen the art and taken the tour, Laguna Gloria still has something for you. The grounds are open for you to explore, sit with a journal or a friend, or enjoy a picnic lunch with a group.
You will be astounded by the natural beauty of this property! There’s a lagoon on one side, Lake Austin on another, and ancient-looking foliage all around you. The Garden of the Four Seasons borders the villa, as well as the Sunken Garden, where I found a beautiful statue by Charles Umlauf, a childhood friend of mine (his wife Angie, who recently passed away, was the closest thing to a grandmother that I ever knew).
Lover’s Lane, where I half-expected a nymph to pop out from the trees, will lead you to the Temple of Love on the lagoon. It’s no surprise that Laguna Gloria hosts 80-100 weddings each year. It’s brimming with romanticism and quiet peace.
I love being outside and I’m an introvert who appreciates time away to regroup and think. So if you’re anything like me, I think you’ll absolutely adore this place.
As far as the practical nitty-gritty goes, you’ll get to Laguna Gloria by taking 35th St. west until it dead-ends. It’s just beyond the turn-off for Mt. Bonnell and it’s right beside Mayfield Park. Seriously, this amazing paradise is in the middle of Austin! You can enjoy Laguna Gloria for free, although a donation is recommended (the basket inside the villa requests $3/person).
Editor’s Note: As of March 2013, there is a small admission fee to view the villa and art galleries. The grounds are still free to explore. See admission details here.
Do you have any Laguna Gloria stories? What do you like to do when you visit?
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