How To Spend A Day At The Ringling Museum In Sarasota Florida

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The Ringling, with its beautiful pink exterior and intricate architecture, is the gem of Sarasota Florida. It stands as a captivating testament to art, culture, and circus history that has shaped the city over the years. Nestled on a sprawling estate, this must-visit attraction includes the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the Circus Museum, and Ca’d’Zan, the opulent mansion of the museum’s founders.

With its impressive collection of European masterpieces, preserved circus memorabilia, and the grandeur of a Venetian-inspired mansion, the Ringling Museum offers visitors a look back in time. Beyond its exhibits and buildings, the meticulously landscaped gardens and the shimmering Sarasota Bay as the backdrop, provide a beautiful setting for the estate.

Whether you have one day to spend in Sarasota or you’re in the city for a full on vacation, this place should be at the top of your list. You can spend just a few hours there or spend the whole day exploring the 66 acre estate. Either way, it is worth stopping by the Ringling as it’s one of the best things to do in Sarasota.

History of the Ringling

John and Mable Ringling first purchased the waterfront property in 1911. John Ringling was one of the brothers who owned the circus called “The Greatest Show on Earth”. From this success John became one of the richest men in America at that time, allowing him to build this stunning home.

Mable wanted a home that resembled the Venetian Gothic style palace so they hired an architect to help with the process. Other than their main home, John also built a huge museum to hold the galleries of his paintings that he acquired. During the Great Depression, John took a financial hit as well and started to fall into debt. Soon after he died, leaving the estate to the state of Florida.

However, the estate was poorly managed for a while until the state passed on the estate to Florida State University. Soon after, money was allocated and raised to start renovations and the Ringling Estate was brought back to its former glory. It was opened up again to the public and remains open today where you can tour the grounds and buildings.

Visiting The Ringling In Sarasota Florida

Is the Museum Worth Visiting?

The Ringling Museum is unlike any other place that you will see in the area and one of the best places to see in Florida. With the stunning architecture highlighted in pink and the beautiful gardens across the acres, the estate is definitely worth visiting.

The paintings in the art museum are worth a stop as well. There are over 20 galleries of collections that span from the Renaissance era to modern day art. It is a romantic thing to do in Sarasota for couples, great for families looking for a way to pass the day, and it’s the perfect place for those instagrammable shots.

The Ringling Museum and Estate


The Ca’d’Zan, or the “House of John”, was their primary home and sits right on the Sarasota Bay at the back of the property. It was built to reflect the Venetian Gothic style of the palaces in Venice, Italy that are on the banks of the Grand Canal.

This mansion was intricately designed in a light pink color with orange accents and exudes opulence and charm. The ornate structure boasts intricate details, including terra cotta ornamentation, and elegant furnishings that transport visitors to a bygone era of extravagance. The back of the home was lined with stained glass windows to have incredible views of the water.

As you step inside, the rooms reveal the Ringlings’ luxurious lifestyle, featuring their living quarters with a splendid dining room and living areas. The entrance to the Ca’d’Zan is an extra fee in addition to the entrance fee which allows you to see how the Ringling family lived in the mansion.

Museum of Art

The art museum is the first thing you see as you turn into the parking lot of the estate. It’s the centerpiece of the estate drawing in visitors from around the world. The museum is home to impressive European masterpieces including collections that showcase the work from Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical eras.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the art collection is the sheer size of the paintings. Many pieces span the whole height of the tall walls of the museum. Not only that, but they exhibit extremely detailed work of the talented artists. As you explore the art, you will also find a section of modern art and sculptures from artists living in the 21st century that bring a refreshing view of the art world.

The museum’s architecture itself is a work of art, with the grandeur of the building enhancing the overall aesthetic experience. It is U-shaped with the galleries lining the sides of the building and as you exit the galleries, you are greeted with beautifully manicured gardens. There are many statues around the garden but one that stands out is the statue of David, a replica of Michelangelo’s David, that stands overlooking the courtyard.

Circus Museum

The Circus Museum is where the legacy of the Ringling brothers successful circus careers comes to life. In the Circus museum you’ll find everything modeled after the once extremely successful circus owned by the Ringling brothers.

The museum features glittering costumes that once adorned daring performers and a fascinating cannon that once shot them into the spotlight, you can catch a glimpse of the extravagant circus that it once was. As you wander through the memorabilia, vintage posters and artifacts, imagine what it was like to be part of the circus. You can test your abilities by walking on the tight rope that’s part of the interactive display.

Bayfront Gardens

The gardens at the estate offer a serene escape amidst the cultural treasures. Meticulously landscaped, the gardens have a harmonious blend of botanical diversity and artistic design. Visitors can meander through vibrant flower beds and sculpted hedges along the pathways.

The stars of the show are definitely the majestic Banyon trees and Mable’s rose garden. The rose garden was completed in 1913 which was Mable’s first major landscaping undertaking. Another garden not to miss is the secret garden where John and Mable are buried along with John’s sister Ida Ringling North.

Historic Asolo Theater

This theater was originally constructed in 1798 in Asolo, Italy. So, although the rest of the estate was just a resemblance of Italy, this theater is actually a piece of Italy that was brought over in 1949. It was meticulously dismantled, shipped, and reconstructed to showcase performances ranging from classical plays to contemporary productions in Sarasota. The first performance that had its debut in the Historic Asolo Theater was in 1952. Since then it has been equipped with the best technology to provide high-quality performances in this historic setting. So, if you want a fun theater going experience that is filled with history, be sure to stop by the Asolo Repertory Theater.

Visiting Hours and Cost For the Ringling


Open Daily 10:00am – 5:00pm, Thursdays until 8:00pm. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.


On Mondays the entrance to the grounds and the art museum is free. However, the entrance to the rest of the areas are still for a fee.

Thursday nights are also discounted for admission called Art after 5. You get to explore the Museum of Art and the Circus Museum. This also includes access to limited programs and events. Whether it is a Gallery Walk and Talk, Ringling by the Bay, or a self-guided tour, there is something for everyone.

On any other day, Museum Admission which includes entry to the Museum of Art, Circus Museum, and Bayfront Gardens but doesn’t include entrance to the Ca’d’Zan is as follows:

  • Adult: $25
  • Senior (65+) $23
  • Children (6-17) $5
  • Children under 5 Free
  • Members Free

There are also discounts provided for active military, Florida teachers, college students and personal care attendants, however, a current ID is required for proof. To avoid waiting in lines upon your arrival, you can also purchase tickets online.

If you don’t want to see everything, you can also purchase tickets to only the things you want to see on the estate. The tickets for that come out cheaper since the cost can be split up depending on what areas of the estate you want to see.