Sarasota- Circus Museum and Gardens


The Greatest Show on Earth- proclaims the Circus posters promoting the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus.     We learned all about the circus when touring the museum in Sarasota.   First lets talk about the marina … .


If you want to visit an urban upscale marina- this is the place to be.   The open air restaurant actually has 3 or 4 separate venues.  We chose the outdoor bar for an appetizer and drink; but the upstairs dining looked very upscale.

When we bought Moon Shadow, it felt like way more boat than we would ever need. We quickly found that amongst the boaters on the river we were right in the middle- quite an average size.        We were told that boats got larger as you went south; and now understand what that meant.   We are on a pier with boats that are 100 feet long!    Moon Shadow is 39 feet overall (including the swim platform and bowsprit).   Here we see 50 to 65 foot boats every day.

Across from the marina is a beautiful park along the waterfront park.  It is a popular spot for joggers, walkers and dog walkers.

The dolphin water feature view from water feature toward the marina:

Marina jacks sarasota

The banyon trees appear to have the root system above the ground.

Marina jacks sarasota

A popular park art feature is decorated bikes, is it art, or is it someones bike?

Marina jacks sarasota
Here is a view of the water feature from our boat as we appreciate the early sunset.

Marina jacks sarasota

As soon as we backed into our slip, Dave noticed Fins next to us- we had met them several times along the way.  (They are the Mainship to the left of us in this photo)

Marina jacks sarasota


The marina courtesy van driver dropped us off at the museum. We entered the lobby and a volunteer asked if he could help us. Dave replied- ”  We have no idea what to expect”.  The volunteer explained the layout and I knew we there would be much more to see than we imagined.

The first building houses the Circus history displays and also the miniatures.

Marina jacks sarasota

The miniatures are detailed display of tiny reproductions of the circus acts and all the equipment.

Marina jacks sarasota

One man made it is lifelong hobby.

Marina jacks sarasota

The next building housed examples of the wagons, the train car, and the human cannon machine.

Marina jacks sarasota


Movie was  released in mid fifties  –   included young actors: Jimmy Stewart and Charlton Heston .  May have to rent a copy of the movie.

Marina jacks sarasota


Back outside, we wandered through various gardens, and say statues in most of them.

Marina jacks sarasota

The Millenium Tree Garden represents the year 2000. It  includes a shady tree walking trail with exotic trees.   You will find rainbow eucalyptus, bamboo, and various types of Banyon including Shaving Bush, Tiger Claw, Monkey puzzle and more.

Marina jacks sarasota

While John Ringling had a passion for art; Mabel created a rose garden.   The rose garden was designed in 1913.  It was in disrepair along with the rest of the properties from the 1930’s.    The current gardens have been recreated using similar roses- included are Tree Roses, Hybrid Tess, Floribundas.

Marina jacks sarasota

by Mabel inspired for her love of Italy.

Marina jacks sarasota

The Secret Garden surrounds the burial grounds for John Ringling and his sister.

The Dwarf Garden features Italian statues with an amusing features.


First a birds eye view; borrowed from the website of the museum.

John tingling mandion

The gardens surround the mansion overlooking the bay of Sarasota.    Ca’d’zan (House of John) represents the American dream of the Roaring Twenties.   Built in 1913 for $1.5 million   it sadly was left in disrepair for many years.   It had been willed to the people of Florida upon Ringling’s death in 1936; however the state didn’t have the funds allocated to keep it in good condition.    By the 90’s it was in such poor shape, it was used as Miss Havisham’s decrepit mansion in the 1996 movie “Great Expectations”.

Eventually it was restored (at a cost of $15 million)

Marina jacks sarasota

The mansion is 5 stories , built of terra cotta, glazed tiles, ornate tiles,  massive ornate marble.   All restored.

Marina jacks sarasota

Ringling kept his yacht “Zalophus” docked here and entertained during the roaring twenties.

Marina jacks sarasota


After several hours of walking and learning and admiring; Colleen realized we hadn’t visited the Art museum yet!    We joined a Docent  giving a tour  and learned about Rubens, the art renaissance, history of religious art and probably more; but it didn’t all stick.

It was amazing to consider that this had been a private collection.   Ringling had obtained massive amounts of art on his travels.  His travels across Europe  were intended to find and hire unusual talents for the circus, and  were also opportunities to find rare art.

To balance our day; we walked a few blocks to Goodwill and found a Christmas Wreath to hang on our boat.    We hopped on a city bus rather than calling the courtesy van, and found our way back to the  marina.

Upon return to the marina, we found that Phil and Lynn from Fins had left ; and our friends on Captain’s Choice had arrived!

We went to the Christmas parade downtown for the evening.

Another great day!


About mnsailors

Our blog will highlight our travels along America's Great Loop. We sold our sailboat on Lake Superior for a Trawler to do America's Great Loop in 2016.
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