A little over a year ago, Chuck and I made our first trip to Sarasota’s jewel, The Ringling. For those of you who only think of the circus when you hear the name Ringling, this blog post may surprise you.
I’m a bit of a circus junky. As a kid, the ONLY thing I wanted to do was be a clown and attend Ringling Bros Clown College. At one point, I could juggle five pins and ride a unicycle. So, any trip to The Ringling is like a pilgrimage to mecca.
The Ringling Circus Museum & Ca d’ Zan
In the past, we focused on the portions known as the Circus Museum – the Tibbals Learning Center, and the Historic Galleries.
The amount of circus history, memorabilia, and the Howard Bros. Circus Model, with over 44,000 miniature circus pieces, takes up 3,800 square feet of display space and can fill an entire day.
The Historic Galleries have recently been redesigned and air-conditioned, it’s really worth a visit.
We’ve also toured the spectacular Ca d’Zan, the mansion belonging to John and Mabel Ringing. The art, architecture, and furnishings in the house are incredible. The Ringling’s connections and ability to bring people to Sarasota was a large part of why this part of Florida was developed.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
Up to this point in our COVID quarantine, Chuck and I had only gone to local nature preserves in and around St Petersburg. This trip to the Ringling was our first time heading back indoors.
The Ringling required masks of everyone entering the property. While people were able to remove them in the outdoor spaces and gardens, most people kept them on. To maintain physical distancing, they were limiting attendance and not operating the shuttles.
Our focus was the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, a short walk from the main entrance.
The museum, built in 1925, was intended to be a legacy for John and Mable long after their businesses. It brought the art of Europe to the people of Florida.
The museum’s 21 galleries are arranged around a courtyard with incredible reproductions of iconic statues. The galleries themselves were initially designed with elements from the Gilded Age of New York, and the details are AMAZING!
The Ringling Museum Collections
Between 1925 and 1931, the couple collected more than 600 paintings by Old Masters. The collection would eventually include the works of Velazquez, El Greco, Van Dyck, Veronese, Tiepolo, Gainsborough, and Rubens.
Today the galleries have grown to include an extensive collection of Asian and Modern Art.
Not Your Average Garden Gnomes
One of our favorite places to chill out is an adorable gnome garden. The back portion of this lush, well-shaded garden has a few benches and picnic tables.
But, it’s fun to just relax and enjoy the unique gnome statues.
So, when you visit the Sarasota, Tampa Bay area, The Ringling should be added to your list of MUST DO experiences. It’s way more than just a circus museum!