The Ringling Estate: Much More Than Circus Elephants

There has been so much focus on the circus end of the Ringling Legacy lately, and I know I am guilty of it just as much as the next person. Especially since I have had so many half edited posts sitting in my draft folder… BUT here we are, so we might as well make the most of it right?

Ringling Legacy

John Ringling is very much so the man behind Sarasota‘s establishment and what it is today. Over the years, John and his wife made Sarasota their home leaving behind a legacy that can be seen in practically every corner of our sunny town. The most notable of these is The Ringling Estate and Museum.

With 66 acres with a prime Sarasota Bay location, The Ringling houses beautiful bay-front gardens with hundreds of native and exotic trees. Historic banyans shade the walkways of the stunning estate which is also home to the oldest rose garden in Florida.

Founded in 1913 by Mabel, the rose garden comprises 27,000 sq ft with more than 1200 roses. There is even one variety named after Mabel in the garden that is laid out in wagon wheel design, heavily inspired by Italian architecture. Near John and Mabel’s home you will find, tucked away in a quiet area, the secret garden burial place where the Ringling’s were laid to rest. The area was previously the part of the estate where Mabel once grew specimen plants given to her by friends and family.

Museum of art was built to house John and Mabel’s incredible art collection, mainly European pieces acquired by John in the late 1920’s. The impressive collection features pieces by Rubens, Veronese, Velazquez, and Gainsborough. The museum which opened to the public in 1931 is also the home of a bronze copy of David, a symbol now of Sarasota.

The collection continues to grow as new modern and contemporary art pieces as well as art from Asia are added. The collection and museum carries on the remarkable legacy of the circus owner, art collector, and financier. Special exhibits are held throughout the year and with the recent announcement that the circus will be closing, I think it is safe to say we will see a Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey exhibit in the works soon. At least I really hope we do!

Tips for Guest Visiting

  • Plan to spend a whole day at the estate, there is a lot to see!
  • Exhibits and events are always going on, check the calendar to see if there is anything you’d like to plan your visit around
  • Pay attention to seasonal hours!
  • The guide tours are really wonderful and all the docents very knowledgeable so take advantage of those great resources
  • They have student discounts and Florida Residents get in free or discounted on specific dates

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