This is the second post in a 3-part series about the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. 

My first post on the Ringling Museum was about the spectacular Beyond Bling show. But the museum has tons more to offer! I think it must be fairly unique in that it has a well-stocked traditional art museum, a circus museum, gardens, and a historic home on the same property. I’ll cover the art and circus museum in this post, followed by a post about the home and gardens next week.

John Ringling, of course, was an owner of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus. The winter quarters for the circus was at one time in the Sarasota, Florida area and Mr. Ringling and his wife eventually made it their home. He had some fabulous art pieces, so he wanted his own museum to showcase them. After his death,  he bequeathed the art museum he had built to the state of Florida. Thus, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art was born. For more information about this, visit

Today, the Ringling Museum houses wonderful paintings by Rubens, van Dyck,  El Greco, and other artists. In addition, there are sculptures and other priceless items such as furniture and vases on display. The Museum also features traveling exhibitions that span many time periods and subjects.

The Circus Museum was created in 1948 and touts itself as the first museum of its type in the United States. On display you’ll find costumes, posters, tools, wagons, memorabilia, and more. I always enjoy the large display of circus posters. It’s fun to see how they changed over the years. The exhibits also pay respect to many of the important clowns and performers, like Emmett Kelly, and there is a planned expansion in Fall 2011 that will showcase them even more. One of the other popular parts of the Circus Museum is the The Howard Bros. Circus Model. This is lots of fun–very musical and magical.

Something I don’t recall seeing is the private Ringling railroad car on display. Sounds like I need to plan a visit this fall when the expansion opens to see all the new sites!