Sarasota is the cultural capital of Florida, with gems like the magnificent Ringling Museum of Art, the Asolo Center for the Performing Arts, and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. The John and Mable Ringling Museum Of Art is my favorite museum in Florida. Actually, on the 77 acres of lushly landscaped grounds of the estate, you will find not one but three museums – the Art Museum, the Circus Museum, and Ca d’Zan mansion (your $15 admission includes it all). Believe it or not, it is the largest museum complex in the nation.
Take a trip back in time as you stroll through 21 galleries of this world-class museum (allow 4 hours, at least). Housed in a pink U-shaped Italian Renaissance villa, Ringling Museum is filled with more than 500 years of European and American art. The collection contains now over 10,000 objects including paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts objects. The Old Master collection (over 750 paintings) includes five world-renowned tapestry cartoons by Peter Paul Rubens – those are actually giant paintings, 14 by 19 feet. Visitors can see also paintings by Cranach, Poussin, Hals, Van Dyck, Pietro da Cortona and others. You can easily spend a day exploring the treasures. The use of photography (cameras, video) is permitted without a flash indoors, and freely outdoors.
A gallery of 91 antique Italian columns of various styles surrounds the courtyard. Some of the columns date from the 11th century. Inside the courtyard you will find a sculpture garden (copies of the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses), with the West Galleries dominating one end of the courtyard. John Ringling hand-selected over 50 bronze sculptures, cast from originals in European museums such as the Vatican in Rome and the Louvre in Paris.
In the Circus Museum, you can watch the 45-minute television show about the circus, costumes, clowns, etc., and see some circus memorabilia, including parade wagons, costumes, calliopes, and colorful posters.
On the estate grounds near the mansion stands the historic Asolo Theater. Ca’d’Zan mansion is also a part of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Explore two wonderful estate gardens - the Rose garden and the Dwarf garden. And the view of the Sarasota Bay from the Ca’d’Zan terrace is breathtaking.
Museum open 7 days a week, 10am – 5:30pm; Estate grounds open until 6pm
Admission: Adults: $15
Seniors (65+): $12
Children 12 and under: Free with adult
Florida Students: Free with ID
Florida Teachers: Free with ID
Admission is free on Mondays to the Museum of Art only.
Admission to the Cà d’Zan public tour and Circus Museum is only $10 on Mondays.
April 16, 2005
From journal Englewood, Gem of the Florida Gulf Coast