Exploring Sarasota, Florida (winter home of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus) includes a must-see trip to The Ringling which includes the Ringling Museum of Art, The Circus Museum, Ca’ d’Zan (House of John), the Historic AsoloTheater, and Bayfront Gardens including Mable Ringling’s rose garden, reported to be the oldest rose garden in Florida.
My day trip occurred on a Monday when the Museum of Art entrance was free to the public. This also included entry into Bayfront Gardens (which are free and open to the public daily).
As you enter The Ringling Visitor Pavilion, stop on your left for a brief movie recounting the history of the family and property. Information and maps are available of the grounds. Tours are available for the Ca’ d’Zan and the Circus Museum for a fee and are available for purchase in the Visitor Pavilion.
The property covers 66 acres so be prepared to walk and/or ride the tram around the property. The buildings are handicap accessible with the exception of the upper floors of the Ca’ d’Zan. One of the trams is wheelchair accessible.
As we strolled through the rose garden we viewed an abundance of Italian-made statues adorning the walkways.
We spotted roses with names such as Cherry Parfait, Hot Cocoa, John F. Kennedy, Mable Ringling, Julia Child, Dolly Parton, and even Marilyn Monroe.
In case you work up an appetite there are two eating facilities to choose from as well as picnic tables close to the Dwarf Garden and the playground area for those who want to bring their own meals. May I suggest a picnic lunch seated at one of the tables located alongside or behind the Ca’ d’Zan overlooking the bay? Umbrellas are provided! For an afternoon pick-me-up you might want to stop by Starbucks located on the second floor of the Visitor Pavilion.
The Art Museum is exceptional! It is filled with paintings, statues, tapestries, and even a few pieces of furniture. These are from John Ringling’s private art collection. You won’t be disappointed.
The inner courtyard of the museum is home to various statues, both high and low.
Ca’ d’Zan (translated to House of John) was designed by Architect Dwight James Baum and is located at the back of the property. This waterfront mansion has its own dock, accessible from the expansive terrace at the back of the home. Many politicians and celebrities were entertained there. The home was built at a cost of $1.5 million dollars and is a reflection of the Ringling’s love of Italy.
Be sure to check out the Secret Garden where John and Mable’s final resting place is located. I am thankful for the generosity of Mr. and Mrs.Ringling as they bequeathed the property and art collection to the State of Florida. A visit to their home allowed me to see a little more of the world…through their eyes.
There is so much to explore here that I can’t wait to go back for another visit!