Sarasota, Florida’s The Ringling Museum is a complex that was created by John and Mable Ringling, known for their association with the circus. The couple built their home, Ca’ d’Zan, here in 1912 when Sarasota was little more than a small town. They spent their summers here for many years before opening a small art gallery on the property to showcase the works they collected from Europe. After the death of both John and Mable, the property fell into decline, but the management also opened the Circus Museum in 1948. New management took over in 2000, which totally transformed the property, incorporating the many elements of the property into one museum complex, including a visitor center.
The Circus Museum, which has been expanded in recent years, features artifacts from the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus. Memorabilia includes a model of the circus, carriages, the train car that carried the circus staff, and other decorative elements. Here you’ll find out why it was called “the greatest show on earth” and how it came to be the most well-known circus in the world.
Ca’ d’Zan is the crown jewel of the property and is one of the most beautiful mansions in the South. The Venetian-style mansion was built right on the water and was designed by Dwight James Baum. The five-story, 41 room, 36,000 square foot mansion was filled with luxurious furnishings and art. Today you can tour the mansion and see for yourself the decor that the family would have picked out when they lived here. Go for a guided tour or a self-guided tour, which run on the hour.
The Uffizi Gallery inspired Ringling’s collections of the Old Masters, including works by Velazquez, Rubens and van Dyke. The Ringling is also the state art museum of Florida, surrounded by gardens and outdoor sculptures. Special exhibits include collections from around the world like Iran, China and beyond. A new Asian art wing will showcase work from the Far East.
If You Go
Ringling Museum is located at 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, Florida 34243. The museums are open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, but Ca’ d’Zan closes promptly at 5. The gardens are open from 9:30 am to 6 pm, so you can spend more time before the museums open. Admission is $25 for adults, $23 for seniors, $5 for students and children and free for those under 5. Give yourself at least three hours to wander the museums and gardens.