We recently visited the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. The 66- acre museum complex, which was the winter estate of John and Mable Ringling has something for everyone. There is really a lot to do and see and you can easily spend all day there. If you are visiting with kids in tow, like we where, it is a good idea to plan to spend the day there or consider making more than one visit.
The Circus Museum
The Circus Museum is actually made up of several museum buildings. In the main buildings you will find exhibits that depict the history and evolution of the circus from the sideshow to the modern day Cirque du Soleil and includes lots of interesting facts and vintage circus posters. This area really appealed to me as there was so much to learn and this exhibit gives you a perfect excuse to teach your kids about history and when the subject is something as fun as the circus they are sure to find it interesting!
Another building houses the hand carved animal wagons and Ringling’s personal railcar. For my little guy who loves anything related to trains and railways this was a real treat. One of the highlights of the Circus Museum is the the 3,800 square foot Howard Bros. Circus Model, a 44,000-piece re-creation of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus combined shows from 1919-1938. Each piece is hand carved with intricate details and all of it was made by one man, Haward Tibbels, who worked on the model for 50 years. The newest wing of the Circus Museum is filled with interactive exhibits. Here my kids walked the wire, squeezed into a clown car and had their picture take with a faux tiger.
The landscaped grounds include a beautiful rose garden and a banyan tree forest that includes the largest banyan tree in Florida. The kids had a great time running around the huge banyan trees and playing hide and seek.
The John and Mable Museum of Art
The museum houses a collection of 14th to 18th centry European art. A central courtyard and sculpture garden is filled with replicas of Greek and Roman statues.
Filled with colorful and interesting works of art both of my kids really enjoyed the art museum, much to my surprise. It was great to be able to go out into the courtyard and take breaks and let the kids burn of energy outside so that we could then return and continue delighting ourselves on the wonderful works of art.
Cà d’Zan or House of John was John and Mable Ringling’s winter estate. Overlooking the Sarasota bay the house is designed with a combination of Venetian Gothic, Renaissance and baroque styles. While we toured the grounds and the delighted in the view from the beautiful marble patio we did not get to see the inside of the house as the kids where too tired by then but hope that we can get a chance to see it soon.
Plan Before You Go
- The beautifully landscaped grounds and rose Garden are free to the public during open hours.
- On Mondays The Art Museum is free, by itself.
- On Thursdays from 5pm till 8pm you can enjoy discounted admission to the the Museum of Art and Circus Museums (adult/child $10/5). The Art After 5 admission also includes admission to select Art After 5 Events.
- Strollers are permitted in all buildings except on the second floor of the Ca’ d’Zan. If you did not bring your own, strollers are available for free but they are first come first serve.
- Complimentary tram service is available to transport visitors around the grounds but expect to wait a few minutes for it and not all trams are able to accommodate strollers.
The Ringling Museums website has many recommendations for families including a family tour itinerary that you can check out HERE. #Sarasota
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