Spend a day exploring the extensive Ringling Museum, a 66-acre museum complex in Sarasota, FL. You’ll find incredible examples of art, historic memorabillia and architecture at the Museum of Art, Circus Museum, Ca’ d’Zan mansion, Bayfront Gardens and more.
John Ringling was one of five brothers who founded and operated the famed Ringling Bros. Circus beginning in the late 1800s. His work on “The Greatest Show on Earth” earned him a small fortune and he became one of the richest men in America at the time. John and his beloved wife Mable purchased 20 acres of waterfront property in Sarasota, and in 1924 began construction on a Venetian Gothic style mansion.
Known as the Ca’ d’Zan or “House of John”, the 36,000 square foot mansion was completed in 1926. The staggering $1.5 million estate served as the winter home of John and Mable Ringling. The 41-room bayside home is filled with impressive architectural details and luxurious furnishings. Mable Ringling oversaw every detail of the design and construction of the home, and it was truly her own work of art.
Self-guided and guided tours of the mansion are available for an additional fee. Check the website for additional pricing and information. Due to the delicate nature of the home and artifacts inside, all visitors must purchase a tour ticket prior to entering the home and photography is not allowed inside.
We definitely recommend going inside on a tour of Ca’ d’Zan. You’ll get to experience amazing architecture and furnishings.
photos courtesy of ringling.org
Museum of Art
The Ringling is the State Art Museum of Florida and home to one of the preeminent art and cultural collections in the United States. After the completion of Ca’ d’Zan, John Ringling built a 21-gallery Renaissance-style museum to house his extensive personal collection of paintings and art.
Ringling filled the Museum with European paintings, paneled rooms from the Gilded Age Astor mansion in New York, and ancient and medieval objects purchased from distinguished collections. Upon his death in 1936, Ringling bequeathed the Museum to the people of Florida.
The Art Museum is gigantic. An art lover could happily spend a day in this portion of the grounds alone. The galleries feature everything from antiquities to old masters, modern artists, bronze casts of iconic sculptures (includine Michaelangelo’s David), and the more recent addition of the Asian Art wing.
Guided tours of the art museum are included with standard admission.
While the Ringlings did not create this portion of the grounds, it pays homage to the legacy they created with the circus. The museum features memorabilia from the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus like colorful costumes, props and posters.
The Tibbals Learning Center houses additional posters and memorabilia, plus interactive exhibits like a tightrope walk and clown car. But its most impressive feature is the 3,800 square foot Howard Bros. Circus Model, a 44,000-piece re-creation of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. This amazing exhibit is a must-see.
The extensive Ringling grounds showcase amazing banyan trees, tropical plants and palms, and Mable’s Rose Garden. You can also view the Ringlings’ final resting place in the Secret Garden near the mansion.
Before You Go
- Admission cost is $25 per adult and $5 per child. There are several discounted admission options, so be sure to check the website before your visit.
- The admission price includes the grounds, circus museum and art museum. If you would like to simply wander the grounds and enjoy the views of the bay, it’s just $5.
- Open daily from 10am – 5pm
- We recommend allowing at least 4-5 hours to explore the whole complex especially if you plan to do a guided tour
- The grounds are expansive – you’ll be doing a lot of walking on your visit to the Ringling. Wear comfortable shoes! The mansion is about a 1/2 mile trip from the visitor’s center. It’s scenic and if it’s a nice day you will definitely enjoy the walk.
- However, complimentary golf cart shuttles are available to take you between the different buildings if you wish.
- If you plan on taking a tour of the home, make sure you purchase it at the visitor’s center with your admission. You will need to select a tour time and present a ticket.
- Parking is free and is available in the front parking lot of the FSU Center for the Performing Arts.
- Picnic areas are available throughout the grounds and you are able to bring your own food and drink.
- There is a cafe in the visitors center and another small cafe out in the grounds. The Muse restaurant is also open in the visitors center.
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The information in this post was accurate at the time of publishing to the best of the author’s knowledge. If you are planning to visit any of the sites mentioned in this post, we recommend checking the most up-to-date information on their respective websites.