It’s a beautifully laid out compound with a Museum of Art, 66 acres of spectacular gardens, Ca’D’Zan, the palatial home of John and Mable Ringling and the Circus Museum.
We took a 5 year old and she loved every inch of it. If you look closely you can see her standing in the banyan tree.
John and Mabel Ringling built the mansion as a summer home in 1924-26 and when they died they left the mansion and the museum to the state of Florida. What a gift! Walking into the Circus Museum I felt someone should be saying, Step right this way!
The tiny little clown car had me trying to figure out how one grown person could fit in it much less 5. The parade wagons were beautiful, the posters, the costumes and the cannon that shot fearless and a little bit crazy performers through the air brought back many memories. And our five year old was just as fascinated. She took her time looking at every stateroom on the luxurious Ringling train car complete with a galley, bathrooms and sitting compartment. She was mesmerized by the 42,000 piece miniature Circus as we all were.
Ca' D'Zan, the mansion and the terrace overlooking the bay were like something out of Newport. Big rooms filled with period pieces and big windows letting in all that Florida sun. The large terrace is made of multi colored marble and is a perfect spot for a wedding. One of the docents told us it is booked for weddings from April to October.
The gardens were lovely, and just beginning a show of spring flowers. The grounds are dotted with banyan trees and I’m always amazed when I see what I think is a big grouping of banyan trees to find out it is really only one. There’s also a playground with a 2 story slide and it deserved two visits.
My favorite place on the property was the Museum of Art in a pink Renaissance style palace and the courtyard filled with copies of well known sculptures. A replica of the Statue of David stands majestically at the bayside end of the courtyard. There are lots of fountains there and sitting on a bench was quite the Zen experience. Each wing of the museum highlights a different exhibition and there’s something for everyone from modern, to Asian, to ancient and medieval works.
It’s open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, Thursday until 8 pm. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day. Go to ringling.com for more information. Well worth your time and the detour.