Circus magnate John Ringling and his wife, Mable, came to Sarasota in 1912, spending winters in the small coastal town before, at one time, owning nearly a quarter of the real estate here.
Mable, a lover of Venetian Gothic architecture, dreamed of a house in the style of Italian palazzi. And so Ca’ d’Zan, or “House of John,” was built – today, just one component of the world-famous Ringling Museum, which also includes a Museum of Art, Circus Museum, Historic Asolo Theater, an Education Center and Bayfront Gardens.
John often traveled to Europe in search of the latest and greatest circus acts. It was here that he acquired much of the art now on display in the halls of the Ringling’s Museum of Art.
He opened it to the public in 1931, hoping to promote the arts and education, especially to youth.
There is so much history here to learn and to love. Collections range from antiquities to decorative art, circus memorabilia, modern art, Asian and European art. There are also beautiful grounds for strolling.
A nod to the circus king who bequeathed this magical place to the State of Florida, Howard Tibbals handcrafted nearly 1 million pieces to make up his miniature circus – including 1,500 performers, 152 wagons, 7,000 folding chairs for spectators and dishes and tableware to serve 900 people.
You could spend all day here.
And, if you do, there’s a great little place for lunch near Mable’s beloved rose garden.