Step Right Up! Experience the Big Top at The Ringling Circus Museum in Sarasota, Florida

If you’re vacationing in the beautiful beach towns near Sarasota, Florida, then consider chiseling out time to visit a one-of-a-kind experience. Nestled in the heart of Sarasota lies a hidden treasure that’s sure to captivate the entire family – The Ringling circus museum.

In an era where the traditional circus may seem like a distant memory, this attraction offers an opportunity to share the magic and enthusiasm of the circus with our children.

What to Expect

As you approach the first building, you’ll be greeted by the quintessential Big Top tent. As memories flood adults, children can’t help but bounce with anticipation. As an adult, I even found myself a little giddy upon arrival.

Photo Credit: The Ringling

Start your journey by wandering through the Circus Museum, where you’ll discover a treasure trove of memorabilia from the golden age of the circus. Marvel at vintage posters advertising daring acts, peer into miniature circus models that bring the big top to life and learn about the journey the circus made when it came to town during their heyday. You’ll find yourself immersed in a world of wonders. From the dazzling costumes and elaborate props to the fascinating history behind the original Ringling Brothers Corporation.

Photo Credit: The Ringling

But the fun doesn’t stop there! Make sure to spend time at the Tibbals Learning Center, where the magic of the circus truly comes alive. Watch in awe as intricate miniature circus replicas, crafted by master model maker Howard Tibbals, recreate the thrills and excitement of the big top. Each painstakingly detailed model showcases the intricate workings of a bustling circus, from acrobats soaring through the air to clowns entertaining the crowds below. Howard Tibbals dedicated over 50,000 hours of meticulous work to create the miniature circus replicas, consisting of over 42,000 individual pieces. His passion for preserving the magic of the circus shines through in every singular detail, capturing the essence of this beloved form of entertainment.

Photo Credit: The Ringling

Your trip won’t be complete unless you visit the iconic Ringling Bros. Circus Train, a charming reminder of a bygone era. Climb aboard and imagine what it must have been like to travel with the circus as it crisscrossed the country, bringing joy to audiences far and wide.

Don’t leave without taking a stroll through the beautiful grounds of the Ringling Bros. Museum. Admire the stunning architecture of the historic buildings, explore the lush gardens, and maybe even enjoy a picnic on the lawn.

Photo Credit: The Ringling

In addition to the museum, the site is home to the magnificent Ca’ d’Zan mansion, once the winter residence of John Ringling, one of the founders of the Ringling Bros. Circus. The mansion’s breathtaking architecture and opulent interior offer a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of the circus elite during the Roaring Twenties. Pay homage to the circus founders with a visit to their final resting place on the grounds.

Sarasota offers abundant places to unwind and refuel with restaurants and lodging galore. For dining, you can enjoy delicious seafood at Marina Jack, which offers stunning waterfront views. For a more casual dining experience, head to Owen’s Fish Camp for some Southern-style seafood in a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere. I highly recommend.

Where to Stay

When it comes to lodging, Sarasota has a variety of family-friendly options to suit every budget. Because Sarasota is so close to the beaches, your family may find yourself en route to your final destination. We didn’t stay in Sarasota. We stayed at Venice Beach, a mere one hour drive away.

The Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport is conveniently located nearby, making The Ringling Museum a perfect stop either when you arrive in or depart from this wonderful town.

Whether you’re a longtime fan of the circus or experiencing its magic for the first time, this enchanting museum is sure to leave you smiling with a lifetime of memories. Our children may not have ever witnessed what we know as the circus, and that is even more reason to share in the historic and nostalgic way of life us parents experienced during our childhood.

So why wait? Make The Ringling circus museum in Sarasota, Florida your next family adventure. After all, who can resist the allure of the circus?

Step right up and prepare to be amazed!