The Ringling, including the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, is home to one of the preeminent art and cultural collections in the United States. Rainy day on the key – drop by to explore this 66 acre estate of John and Mable Ringling which also includes the Circus Museum, Ca’ d’Zan,The Historic Asolo Theater, Bayfront Gardens and more.
Museum of Art: The museum of Art, which has no charge to visit on Monday’s is located in an attractive building with pink colonnades that you will see as you start your tour of the museum grounds. The building was built in 1929 to hold John Ringling’s considerable collection of art works. Built in Renaissance-style around a sunken garden of fountains and statues, the building itself is worth a second look. Docent-led tours take your through the galleries or you can opt for a self-guided tour. Either way, it’s worth watching the 30-minute film about the lives of John and Mable Ringling. The museum is home to a creditable collection of masterpieces from names such as Rubens, Titian, Velazquez, and Gainsborough. John Ringling was able to buy many artworks from European estates that were being sold off due to death taxes or to maintain the estate during this tough economic era.
Circus Museum: There is a huge model recreated village showing the extent of this traveling circus which was transported by rail car. In it’s heyday the circus had around 800 animals, tents, wagons, sideshows and 1300 staff to make it all run smoothly. The Ringling’s had their own plush railcar which is now restored and on display. See the grandeur of the circus in its heyday – the parade wagons, roustabouts, the posters, the incredible costumes, and the cannon that shot daring performers through the air. Wonder at the 44,000-piece Howard Bros. Circus Model celebrating the entertainment that has thrilled America for generations.
Ca’d’Zan: Next to Hearst Castle or the Biltmore, Florida’s Cà d’Zan, or “House of John” has little public attention, but it was created from the same desire to create one of the country’s most elaborate private homes. Built in the 1920s by John Ringling, of the Ringling Brothers Circus, and his wife, Mable, the Venetian-style mansion dominates 20 acres of Sarasota waterfront, accompanied by the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. The home of the circus king and his wife, Ca’ d’Zan stands as a testament to the American Dream of the Roaring Twenties. Designed in the Venetian Gothic style, this dazzling palatial mansion perfectly captures the splendor and romance of the Italy that John and Mable loved so much.
Bayfront Gardens: The Ringling Bayfront Gardens are a living treasure. Courting couples statuary watch over Mable’s Rose Garden, which she created it in a formal Italian wagon-wheel design. Today, more than 1,200 rose bushes make up her rose garden. The garden is filled with swathes of magnificent banyan trees. Be sure to stop by to delight in the whimsy of the Dwarf Garden and more.
Historic Asolo Theater: Created in Asolo, Italy in 1798, brought to Sarasota in the early 1950s and painstakingly restored in 2006, the Historic Asolo Theater is one of the most beloved objects in The Ringling collection.