If you happen to be on the West Coast of Florida, I highly recommend a trip to the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. What was once the home of John and Mable Ringling is now the greatest museum on the Gulf Coast! Your entrance fee includes: The Grounds, The Museum of Art, the Ringling Circus Museum and the Ringling Brothers mansion, Ca’ d’Zan.
Here’s a little history about the Ringling brothers. John Ringling, born in Iowa, became one of the most famous men in the world! He and four of his brothers teamed up to become the Ringling Brothers. Through both the circus and wise investments, Ringling became a very wealthy man.
John and Mable Ringling began spending time in Sarasota, Florida in the 1920’s. They bought 20 acres on the bay and began spending winters there. Because he enjoyed Florida so much, in the late 20’s he moved his circus’ winter headquarters to Florida. The 36,000 square foot Ringling brothers’ mansion, known as Ca’ d’Zan, sits along the Sarasota Bay.
John and Mable enjoyed traveling around Europe for many years and they were both big fans of the fine arts. Because John amassed a large art collection, he eventually had a museum built on his property to house his ever growing collection.
Today, the home, art museum, circus museum and the beautiful grounds are open to the public.
How to Get There/Cost
The Ringling is located at 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, Florida. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Orlando going on 1-4 to I-75.
The cost for visiting the museum is very reasonable. Adults are $25, seniors $23, college students and children 6-17 are $5, and children 5 and under are free.
Also, the Museum of Art and the Grounds are FREE on Mondays! So, if you’re a fan of art ~ it’s totally worth just doing the art museum!! Of course, if you want to see the Ringling Mansion and the Circus Museum, you’ll still have to pay the entrance fee.
What to See at the Ringling Museum
The grounds of the Ringling Museum are extensive and beautiful! Some of the highlights you might want to see:
Mable Ringling’s Rose Garden, The Secret Garden, Ringling Burial Site and the Dwarf Garden
Museum of Art
There are several buildings and rooms to the Museum of Art. But, just by wandering around, you should find yourself in all of them at some point. Here’s what to look for:
The Center for Asian Art, Monda Gallery, Searing Wing and Skyspace, and Original 21 Galleries.
Original Circus Museum
You will want to plan on visiting the Circus Museum! This is such a unique peek into the history of the circus. You will be able to see performers’ wardrobes, props, different wagons used in the circus (both utility and parade wagons), and even a cannon that shot a performer across the big top!
And, there is a movie, The Life and Times of John and Mable Ringling. This is a must see in the Circus Museum! It shows the history of the Ringling Bros. circus, the building of the Ringling Mansion, Ca’ d’Zan and the Museum of Art.
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Ca’ d’Zan, the Ringling Mansion
Ca’ d’Zan, the Ringling Mansion, was “John Ringling’s love letter to his beloved wife Mable.” On the Ringling website, it says that John Ringling based his home on the Venetian palazzos of Venice, Italy!
Visit the Ringling Museum
So, as you can see, the Ringling Museum is extensive and very much worth your time! Whether you go on a Monday and take advantage of the FREE grounds and Museum of Art or you pay to see everything, you’ll have a fantastic day steeped in history! The Ringling brothers lived the American dream and now we are able to step into their world and see how they lived!