We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“Excellent Museum - Staff somewhat aggravating!”
Review of The Ringling

The Ringling
Ranked #1 of 141 things to do in Sarasota
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Owner description: The Ringling is located in Sarasota, Florida and preserves the legacy of John and Mable Ringling. It is home to a Museum of Art, the historic Ca' d'Zan Mansion, Bayfront Gardens, an Art Library, the Circus Museums and the Historic Asolo Theater.
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Level Contributor
1,033 reviews
312 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 502 helpful votes
“Excellent Museum - Staff somewhat aggravating!”
Reviewed 18 August 2014

This is very long so please bear with me as there is so much to impart! We spent four hours here at the weekend and could have easily used some additional time but ran out of time (heavy rain getting there delayed our arrival plus the museum was very busy so we had to park at the back of the huge parking lot). Note the museum is open from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. so if you want to see all three museums and Ringling's House, you will want to allot yourself at least 4 hours, preferably 5 to do it all justice. Let me start off by saying I have been to many museums in my lifetime all over the world, but the staff here were so overly anxious to protect the exhibits that it became annoying so that is the only reason I am giving a Very Good instead of an Excellent. The museum gets an excellent rating. Our group of 8 was told over and over again, don't get too close to the paintings, mind your bag, watch your umbrellas (all of which were safely in plastic bags) etc., the problem is (we are all in our 50's and 60's) - you can't read what the painting is without getting close to the wall because the font on the description is hard to read. Then if you get close to the painting to read the description you get told off! I felt like I was back in school! We are all adults and we know to be careful - I just felt the staff were over the top. That being said, onto the museum. The Renaissance-style pink art museum is very large and full of Baroque/Renaissance paintings; the majority of them are by lesser known painters but there are some lovely Rubens paintings and tapestry paintings. We had a very enjoyable docent tour by Alba, she was terrific and held our attention with her lovely stories and sense of humor. We loved the courtyard/gardens in the middle of the museum with the replica of David. When you consider John and Mable Ringling's humble beginnings which I will write about later, it is amazing that they managed to amass this volume of paintings in their somewhat short lifetimes. There are some magnificent rooms purchased from the original Waldorf Astoria in NYC that are amazing, some lovely marble fireplaces, some great day beds with superb woodwork so something for everyone. A new center for Asian Art is currently being built which is scheduled to open in 2016. Next, the amazing Circus Museum. While I am not personally interested in the performers costumes or outfits, the cannon that shot performers into the air, the parade wagons and posters and the fantastically restored personal railroad car of the Ringling's is amazing. Also there is a terrific 35 minute film called the Life and Times of John and Mable Ringling, narrated by Hal Holbrook. which takes you from their very humble beginnings and features the amazing lives of John and Mable Ringling, the history of Ringling Bros. circus, the building of their home Ca’ d’Zan and the Museum of Art, as well as John’s influence in the development of Sarasota.There is no denying that the best thing in this museum is the 44,000 piece Howard Brothers Circus model which is absolutely amazing. The 50 years or so of work that has gone into this project by one man - Howard Tibbals with help from his wife - is completely mind blowing. We went round it three times and spent 1.5 hours just in this one exhibit because the detail and the logistics are incredible. Even if you are not the slightest bit interested in art, it is worth coming here just for this exhibit. Outstanding! The gardens are also beautiful as is the Ringling's personal home Ca' d'Zan - a gorgeous house on the water which is beautiful. You can tour the ground floor for free as part of your $25 entrance fee, but the upstairs rooms require an additional payment which we declined to pay! The house is gorgeous and the fixtures and fittings, especially the bar with it's Tiffany glass and the kitchen are fascinating. Sadly Mable enjoyed only three winters here before she died at quite a young age. Thank goodness the Ringling's bequeathed this beautiful estate to the people of Florida! Thank you!

Visited August 2014
3 Thank mwooduk
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Write a Review

5,256 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • Danish first
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Hungarian first
  • Italian first
  • Japanese first
  • Portuguese first
  • Russian first
  • Spanish first
  • Swedish first
  • Any
English first
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
47 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
“Very enjoyable couple of hours”
Reviewed 18 August 2014

We went on a Thursday evening, which is $10 admission for adults, $5 for students with ID. Great value. Our group of college students loved the circus museum, somewhat surprisingly. It's an important piece of history well told by the exhibits, and the miniature shows the logistical challenges of moving a 'small city' every day. The Thursday night admission does not allow you inside the mansion, but we walked around the outside and looked at the beautiful views. We skipped the art museum - I had been there before and was underwhelmed, plus this family group would not have found it interesting. Highly recommend circus museum for families who have children old enough to appreciate the history.

Visited August 2014
Thank Debra128
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
15 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Free on Mondays!”
Reviewed 17 August 2014

Went to the ringling museum cause it is free admission on Mondays! Great deal! Really enjoyed all the fabulous art. The grounds are fabulous too. Wonderful way to spend a afternoon.

Visited August 2014
Thank KT4905
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Dallas-Fort Worth
Level Contributor
36 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 48 helpful votes
“A gem of a museum complex”
Reviewed 17 August 2014

Since the beach at Siesta Key was somewhat of a disappointment (see related review), we visited the Ringling Museum several times during our short sojourn in the area. The staff was unfailingly polite and helpful. I wanted to see the art museum, which contains some important European Old Master paintings, but I found myself surprisingly delighted by other aspects of the museum complex as well: the Ca d'Zan, with its Venetian Gothic architecture and eclectic furnishings; the circus museum, with its enormous and highly detailed replica of a circus that took Howard Tibbals over 50 years to make; the small Asolo theatre, moved from the eponymous town in Italy and restored to its intimate charm; the Treviso restaurant (my tuna nicoise salad was DELICIOUS)...and the bittersweet love story of John and Mable Ringling. FANTASTIC, thank you.

Visited August 2014
1 Thank Parma
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
6 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Wonderful Museum”
Reviewed 16 August 2014

A super museum highlighting the collection of the "Ringling" family.

It is a very scenic property and well worth a visit.

Visited August 2014
Thank EMillsSmith
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

Travellers who viewed The Ringling also viewed

Sarasota, Southwest Gulf Coast
Sarasota, Southwest Gulf Coast
Sarasota, Southwest Gulf Coast

Been to The Ringling? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing