Experience the John Ringling Museum in Sarasota FL

Sarasota is home to many attractions and has so much to offer its numerous visitors. How do find a place for all ages to enjoy a gorgeous day, yet still have a place to escape to the comfort of cool air conditioning?

As the saying goes “Attention! Ladies, gentleman, and children of all ages, welcome” to the John Ringling Museum in Sarasota FL.

This attraction boasts beautiful gardens, a circus museum, the famous waterfront Ca’ d’Zan mansion, the art gallery, gift shop, restaurant, and a warehouse full of the Ringlings’ processions actually used in their show. When walking around the grounds of the John and Mable Ringling Museum with its palm trees and views of Sarasota Bay, a visitor can easily see what appealed to two Midwesterners when they arrived almost a century ago. Iowa native John and his wife, Mable, from Fayette County, Ohio, weren’t just your typical Gulf Coast-loving Midwesterners: The fortune they built as owners of the Ringling Brothers circus led to the eclectic collection of fine art and memorabilia that are at the heart of this hidden gem.

Gardens, Circus Museum & So Much More...

The Ringling attraction is a museum, gardens and 1920s estate, all rolled into one — a veritable three-ring circus where one could easily spend an entire day. There’s no need to be a big fan, or to even remember the heyday of the traditional circus to enjoy a visit to the sprawling 13-acre property. For those who do remember experiencing the magic of the circus as children, the museum captures an age when the "circus coming to town" was the highlight of the year.

Begin your visit at the main circus museum, containing an eye-popping array of brightly colored costumes and memorabilia from the golden age of the circus. One highlight is what’s known as the world’s largest miniature circus - a true spectacle. The extremely detailed, elaborate display is a replica of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus between the years of 1919 and 1938, created over more than 50 years ago and first displayed at the 1982 World’s Fair in Tennessee. With moving parts and lighting that replicates day turning to night, the model captures in fascinating detail the circus, both the show and behind-the-scenes images, such as performers washing their clothes and caring for the animals.

Circus Life Revisited

The circus building features a wonderful collection of restored circus wagons, which also give a fascinating peek at the circus life that most people never saw. One restored circus train car shows the close, spare quarters that most circus workers shared on the road. Another, much more luxurious car was used by John and Mable Ringling. The warehouse like building also contains items of more recent vintage, such as extravagant costumes from Cirque du Soleil productions that bridge the gap between the old-style circus and the more contemporary version. The extensive grounds are part of the experience. Frequent trams and golf carts circulating between the buildings make getting around easier and quicker, although, if you have time and especially if the flowers in the rose garden are in bloom, you might want to linger and not rush from building to building.

Art Museum

The core of Ringling's legacy was the art museum that he envisioned sharing with the world. The collection reflects the wide-ranging interests and tastes Ringling developed in his world travels. It includes ancient artifacts, massive European oil paintings and works of the old masters and the 20th century. There are revolving tours that come through the gallery tasting styles such as the baroque era, the contemporary, and even the classical movement that swept its way around the world to land in our town of Sarasota. There are guided tours available for those looking for more in depth information and commentary of the displayed paintings. You may also take a recorded self-guided tour, travelling at your own speed, or choose to guide yourself, leaving the details at the front door - allowing your eyes to feast uninterrupted.

Ringling Mansion - Ca'd'Zan

The Ringling mansion, overlooking the bay, was restored to its late1920s glory a decade ago with a $15 million renovation -10 times what the house cost to build in 1925. The Venetian-Gothic style mansion, named Ca’ d’Zan (House of John) in honor of Ringling, was richly decorated with fine furnishings and extravagant finishes. It provides a glimpse of how the very wealthy and eccentric lived in the 1920s and 1930s. The mansion's mishmash of styles from different eras and countries offer fascinating clues about how times have changed. For example, the insignificant closets, to the old “appliances,” and not forgetting the candle sconces. Not one detail was left unfinished and represents the epitome of a luxury waterfront home for its day!

Personally the Ringling mansion is one of the most magnificent homes I have ever had the pleasure of stepping into and enjoy scrutinizing the fine details ranging from the roof, to stained glass windows, to its eye capturing water view, and not forgetting the luxurious flooring.

No matter your age, gender, race, or culture, I think everyone has dreamt of joining the circus when they were children; this gives you the ability to indulge in those feelings and put yourself right in the middle of a miniature model circus. The benefit of having this cultural jewel right in our city of Sarasota is simply a wonderful opportunity for all. For visitors and residents, this compound is an all-day adventure into Sarasota's history that you simply must experience.

Inside and out, this is one of my favorite places to visit and I am always referring my friends and clients to join in on the fun that this attraction has to offer. Judging by the Ringling museum and estate, though, life was pretty sweet at the top, the big top that is!

If you would like to learn more about homes or attractions in Sarasota, please don't hesitate to contact us at (941) 284-4474 or Toll free (941) 404-4737. One of our qualified agents will gladly get back to you.

Contact Us

 Keller Williams Island Life Real Estate       The Coffey Group Fine Homes International        Florida Suncoast Property Management 

206 Harbor Drive S,                                    1972 Hillview Street,                                              13801 Tamiami Trail Suite A, 

Venice, FL                                                   Sarasota, FL                                                           North Port, FL

34285                                                          34239                                                                    34287

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          4125 Lakewood Ranch Blvd,

Bradenton, FL


13801 Tamiami Trail Suite A,

North Port, FL