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A view from the top of Ca' d'Zan.

As a resident of Sarasota for almost 20 years and the (extremely) proud daughter of an artist and a history Ph.D., I'm ashamed to admit that I can count on one hand how many times I have visited the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. This past week I had the opportunity to explore with a friend and am already eager to return. 

Our day began at Ca’ d’Zan (house of John), the magnificently decorated winter home of John and Mable Ringling. The tour took us through the entire first floor of the house, allowing for a sneak peek at the life of luxury the Ringlings lived (I'm talking baby grand piano that up until the most recent renovations still worked and velvet everywhere). Our tour guide, Irv, shared with our group his extensive knowledge of the history behind the Ringlings and their beautiful home before showing us to our private places tour of Ca’ d’Zan's second floor. 

A few winding (marble) staircases later, we were well into the home, which includes guest rooms (a bathroom for each one), a game room, and all of the servants’ quarters. Each room was more beautiful than the next, and then we got to the top. There’s a reason John and Mable chose to move to Florida and build their house on Sarasota Bay. The view was nothing short of magnificent. Our guide joked that the location of the home was partially to keep an eye on all of the property the Ringlings owned—including all of Lido Key—but I bet they just appreciated a nice sunset.

When our tour ended, we had the rest of the afternoon to explore the grounds. A leisurely walk through the Rose Gardens—famous among high school students for their senior portraits and prom photos—led us to the art museum. 

The Ringling's collection, from Baroque art to contemporary, makes my jaw drop. From sculpture to oil paintings there’s art to interest any visitor, and with exhibits changing regularly (we enjoyed the Phantom Bodies and Naked Before the Lens shows tremendously), even local art enthusiasts can experience variety each visit.

We ended our day at the museum with a quick stop at the circus museum, feeling entertained, thankful to live a few short miles from such an amazing piece of history, and sufficiently cultured.  

Built in 1948 and featuring an entire circus worth of replicas to give visitors an accurate perception of what the Ringling Circus may have looked like in the 1920s--the very first of it's kind and a definite Sarasota must see. Our visit left us feeling entertained, thankful to live a few short miles from such an amazing piece of history, and sufficiently cultured.

 

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