Ringling Circus Museum – Sarasota, Florida
Established in 1948 the Circus Museum was the first one in the country to document the rich history of the circus. When you visit the museum you will be enchanted with the opportunity to see the colossal parade and baggage wagons, sequined costumes, and a sideshow banner line that document the circus. You will see both memorabilia and artifacts of the history of the Ringling family circus. You will see documents of John Ringling as the Circus King, and the greatest circus movie, The Greatest Show on Earth.
John Ringling bought the American Circus Corporation in 1929. This purchase enabled him to be the King of the sawdust rings; he held all of the major circus railroad shows in the United States.
At the Museum you will also be able to see the private Rail car of John and Mable Ringling called the Wisconsin. It was built in 1905 during the golden age of rail. You will be able to see the elegance of this type of travel that the Ringlings experienced.
In the Circus Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center you will see an exhibition of circus posters of all sizes. The posters were used to advertise the circus in windows and even large enough to be on the side of a barn. It was a great way to let everyone know that the circus was coming to town.
The Howard Bros. Circus Model train is a replica of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily Circus from 1919 to 1938. It was built by master model builder and philanthropist Howard Tibbals over a 50 year period.
Opening in 2012 will be the exhibitions that celebrate circus performers. It will showcase the magic of the center ring.
Location: 5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, Florida 34243
While in the area be sure to take a stroll around the grounds and garden. These are works of art that will take your breath away. There is Mable Ringling’s Rose Garden which is one of the loveliest spots on the estate. It is 27,225 sq. ft. and was completed in 1913. It is patterned after a traditional Italian circular garden design. Today the garden consists of roses introduced between 1867 and 2002. There are Tree Roses, Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, Grandifloras, miniature roses, shrubs, and Old Garden Roses. A rose dedicated to Mable Ringling is also featured in the garden.
Just north of the Cà d’Zan Mansion is Mable Ringling’s Secret Garden. Mable Ringling created this garden with plants that were given to her during her winters at Cà d’Zan. Here she would entertain guests with tours. Today, varieties of Bromeliads, Philliline Violets and Variegated Bougainvilleas thrive.