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POINT OF INTEREST

The Ringling

5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, Florida

This former winter estate of circus magnate and art collector John Wringling is a piece of the Old World on the Gulf Coast shores. The centerpiece is John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (Florida's state art museum), but make a day of it and visit the Circus Museum, manicured bayfront gardens, and Cà d'Zan, an opulent Venetian-style mansion.

Basic admission includes access to the Museum of Art, Circus Museum, and Bayfront Gardens, while higher tiers grant access to the first floor of the Cà d'Zan or the first and second floors with a guided tour. Scheduling a full day to explore the complex is worthwhile. Visitors with admission tickets can take group museum tours, but private tours, garden tours, and tours of all five floors of Ca’ d’Zan are extras.

The art museum holds 14th- to 18th-century European tapestries and paintings inside a Renaissance-style palazzo, and the Circus Museum preserves artifacts from the Ringling Bros' original traveling show and the pièce de résistance: an intricate recreation of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus in miniature.

  • Sit down for a meal at the Ringling Grillroom, or grab a bite at Mable’s Coffee and Tea or the concessions near Ca' d'Zan.

  • There are designated picnic tables near the Dwarf Garden and the Playspace.

  • The Ringling store sells books, jewelry, and toys.

  • A limited number of wheelchairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis; Ca' d'Zan is not wheelchair-accessible beyond the first floor.

  • There are multiple accessible restrooms throughout the complex.

The Ringling is in the Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores area of northern Sarasota. It's a 10-minute drive from downtown Sarasota along the North Tamiami Trail (US 41) to University Parkway. Parking is free. On public transportation, take the Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) bus lines 2, 8, and 99.

The complex is open from midmorning through early evening, Friday through Wednesday, and it stays open late on Thursdays when visitors can enjoy admission discounts to the Museum of Art and Bayfront Gardens after 5pm. Private tours of the Bayfront Gardens are outdoor and available seasonally from November to April.

There are a few Ringling tours beyond those included with admission. The Ca' d'Zan Experience visits all five floors of the mansion all the way up to the Belvedere Tower. Ninety-minute tours of the Bayfront Gardens give historical and botanical overviews. Private tours, which require a minimum of three weeks of lead time, can accommodate private groups of up to 20 people.

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