Tour the Most Popular Attraction in Sarasota – The Ringling Museum

Lido Key, Florida, is the ultimate vacation destination when you’re seeking out a relaxing and luxurious getaway. This little slice of paradise is full of breathtaking white sand beaches, countless restaurants featuring fresh seafood, fascinating historical sites, and so much more. Whether you’re visiting with your sweetheart or your entire extended family, there’s always something new and fun to explore!

One of the best parts of staying in one of our Lido Key accommodations is the ease of creating a wonderful day trip. Sarasota is just 10 minutes away and offers so much more to do! While exploring all the interesting Sarasota attractions, you’ll want to take some time to visit The Ringling Museum. Everyone in your group will love this stunning space, whether you’re traveling with art lovers, history buffs, nature enthusiasts, and everyone in between. Here’s everything you’ll need to know before you go!

The History

The Ringling Museum and its various attractions were the brainchild and property of John Ringling and his wife, Mable. You might recognize the name from the famous Ringling Brothers Circus! John and Mable were married in December of 1905 in New Jersey, but they first started coming to the Sarasota area in 1911 when they purchased a home on the Bay and called it Palms Elysian. Throughout the 1920s, the Ringlings mainly spend the winters at Palms Elysian and its 20 acres of land, but as the decade progressed, they kept purchasing more and more land; they even owned more than 25% of Sarasota’s total area at one point!

In 1926, John contracted Dwight James Baum, a New York architect, to design the Ca’ d’Zan home, which spanned more than 36,000 square feet and cost over $1.5 million to complete! Soon after, John built a vast museum to show off all the painting and art pieces he’d collected from his travels with the circus. Unfortunately, Mable passed away in 1929 and did not live to see the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art opening in 1931. John passed away in 1936 and bequeathed his Ringling Estate to the people of Florida.

The Ringling Museum’s first director, Arthur Everett “Chick” Austin, Jr., was hired in 1946, and just two years later, Austin established the Circus Museum as a tribute to Ringling’s legacy. For decades, the local community has adored the entire Ringling Estate, even helping raise the money to restore Ca’ d’Zan in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Today, the Ringling maintains education centers, museums, theaters, libraries, gardens, and more!

3 Attractions

The name “The Ringling Museum” might imply just one attraction, but there’s so much more to this destination than that. There are three main attractions here for you to explore: the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Ca’ d’Zan, and the Circus Museum.

To start, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art holds 31 unique galleries full of artwork, both old and new. You’ll find both permanent collections and rotating exhibits to show something unique every single time you come. Many of the older pieces in the museum were collected by John himself on his travels throughout Europe. You can spot details from the Baroque, Late Medieval, Early Renaissance, and other impressive periods of art history. 

As we mentioned, Ca’ d’Zan was built by Dwight James Baum and served as John and Mable’s home for three years until Mable’s death. Today, visitors can admire than 36,000 square foot house and stand in awe of the incredible furnishings and designs inspired by the architectural style of Ducal Palace in Venice. Everyone who visits is impressed by the stunning colors, lavish furnishings, countless rooms, and beautiful courtyard.

Finally, the Circus Museum transports you right back to the days of the Ringling Brothers Circus. This museum was established in 1948 and was the first museum to document the world of circus performance. You can view John’s original papers and records from his time in the circus, costumes, and memorabilia used in his shows, posters, cannons, wagons, and more.

Tips for Visitors

Before you visit The Ringling, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the facility offers printable guides, itineraries, maps, and audio guides to take you through the museum and teach you all the insider tidbits about the pieces you see. Visit their website to access this material. If you’re feeling artistic, you’re welcome to bring your pencils and sketchbook! Finally, you’re welcome to take photos and videos outside and within the galleries, but flash photography or videography is never permitted. 

General Information

The Ringling is located at 5401 Bay Shore Road. They are open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on every day of the year except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. You can find parking available for free on either side of the esplanade as you’re approaching the front of the Museum. There is also overflow parking located across the esplanade in an unpaved lot and the FSU Center for the Performing Arts parking lot.

Where to Eat

If you get hungry while you’re exploring these incredible Sarasota museums, you don’t even have to leave the premises to get a great meal! Located in the John M. McKay Visitors Pavilion, The Ringling Grillroom offers fantastic dining both for dine-in and take-out, so you can enjoy your food wherever you’d like. Their menu changes seasonally to feature the best and freshest local ingredients. You can still expect a wide variety of seafood dishes, delicious pasta options, excellent sandwiches, and mouthwatering desserts.

Are you looking for something on the lighter side? You’ll want to visit Mable’s Coffee and Tea, located in the John M. McKay Visitors Pavilion. Here, you can grab a Starbucks coffee or cold beverage and choose from their countless selections of salads, sandwiches, and parfaits. If you’d instead bring your food along with you, there are convenient picnic facilities in the David F. Bolger Playspace and the Dwarf Garden.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Once you’re done at The Ringling, there are so many more exciting Sarasota things to do just moments away! Just down the street is the Sarasota Jungle Gardens, where you can explore more than 10 acres of gardens with fascinating exotic animals. This is the ideal attraction for the animal lover in your life! The Ringling is also just a couple of blocks away from the shoreline, so you can head over to the beach and soak up some sunshine. Even just a few minutes away, you can catch a show at the Sarasota Opera House, see local marine life at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, or stroll through the tranquil Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. The possibilities are endless!

Where to Stay

When you’ve finished exploring Sarasota for the day, it’ll be time to head back to Lido Key for the evening to reflect on all the incredible exhibits you got to see at The Ringling. You’ll need a luxurious and comfortable place to stay while you’re in town, and we’re proud to offer the most luxurious rentals in the area.

lido key rental called the Key West Cottage

Accommodations Near Longboat Key

Once you’ve spent your day discovering all the most exciting Longboat Key things to do, come to have a delicious meal at any one of these exceptional local restaurants. No matter what you’re in the mood for, you can find it in excess! At the end of the day, head back over to Lido Key and settle into one of our Lido Key rentals for a relaxing evening with your partner or family. Contact us today to learn more and to book your dream vacation to Lido Key, Florida.