Let me warn you that Sarasota, in addition to being home to some of the finest museums & house museums & gardens in the United States, is well-populated with an abundance of the best antique stores in the country. I have made many happy purchases there! (Hubby says, “Too many!” but really, what does he know?)
Some town history- in 1763, the area was dubbed, probably by the Spaniards, as “Zarazote.” The town was incorporated in 1902 & then as a city around 10 years later. There is a definite ambiance of age everywhere you go in the city.
When I want to expand my Florida house museum experiences outside Tampa Bay, it is a delightful day trip. If you are taking the kids (or yourself) to Disney in Orlando, it is just over 2 hours. But check Google Maps. There’s almost some bit of construction slowing things down to a crawl.
If you want to make a longer trip of it, you can lie on Sarasota’s white sand beaches. Visit the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium with more than 100 species of marine animals. Touch a stingray. Their shark tank is enormous with over 100,000 gallons of water!
For those of you who prefer mammals, there’s also Big Cat Habitat where you can do yoga with tigers.
BUT I GO TO SARASOTA FOR THE HOUSE MUSEUM!
And well, yeah, the antique shops. So, let’s hop in the old Caddy & go.
The Ringling is a 66-acre complex of attractions, each one extraordinary in its own right. I’ll start with the Museum of Art. Completed in 1930 as a gift to the people of Florida, Ringling, an avid collector of art, sought to widen the knowledge & curiosity of the wider world. Please read the history of the museum on its page on the site so that you can understand the true magnificence of this gift.
Walking through the courtyard that joins the galleries you are transported to a world in which beauty reigns supreme & you get a glimpse into the genius & sheer vitality of Ringling.
In 1927, Ringling made Sarasota his winter headquarters & many performers relocated there, generously donating costumes & other memorabilia from the earliest years of the circus here. Again, view the website for images of the museum displays. There you are transported to an era when the circus announced its coming with colorful posters & when the train arrived, gathered the town for a circus parade down Main Street complete with a brass band, elephants blanketed in spangles & bejeweled carriages pulled by horses wearing headdresses.
As a child, until I attended school, I wore only costumes, refusing to appear in regular clothing. I was a ballerina, a mermaid, a bride, a tightrope walker, draped with all sorts of ornamentation that my dear mother cheerfully provided for her imaginative daughter.
In this museum I saw what my little girl self had so clearly imagined when she adorned herself in her mother’s cast-offs- hoop skirts & sparkles & tassels & feathers & tutus & shoes that laced to the knee. After hearing my mother’s stories of her own childhood in the early 20’s, seeing these colorful, period items were a fantasy come true.
You can also see a real circus wagon complete with calliope that was used in the parade when they arrived in town to invite everyone to come to the Big Top!
Wait, there’s more. There’s a miniature circus complete with the circus train that runs through old towns to arrive at its destination. You see tiny people who set up the tents, the bleachers, the mess area. Again, the early world of my mother tales which made it all the more wonderful for me.
Please let me know about your visits to the museum in the comment section below. I hope it touches you as it did me.
(House of John)
That’s the Venetian. In Italian, it would be Casa di Giovanni. Much less exotic, they made the right choice!
Ca’ d”Zan is John & Mable Ringling’s 36,000 square foot home, modeled on the great architecture of Venice. It displays a number of architectural styles, including that of Venice, Italy, Spain & the Moors from different historic periods. The Venetian Gothic influence predominates. The style is likely to have originated in the 13th Century & experienced a revival in the 19th Century inspired by the writings of my buddy, John Ruskin whose quote about the nature of the home introduces the blog.
As amazing as the architecture & interior features are, the furniture & décor are astonishing in their beauty & opulence. The Ringling’s were world travelers & collectors & every piece was chosen to enhance the beauty of the house.
I am not a big fan of displays of wealth, but I have to admit that house museums, from modest settler houses to grand mansions are my favorite places to visit. Again, look at the website to see images of this amazing house but realize, it doesn’t compare with what will what you will experience gazing at the ceiling of any one room.
This garden, completed in 1913 under the watchful eye of Mable Ringling, has everything I love, rose gardens, banyans & a Dwarf Garden. My mother & grandmother grew roses & you already know how I feel about them! I love banyan trees because they are so Florida & so ancient. Though native to India & Pakistan, they escaped cultivation & in all of North America, they grow only in this state. Their branches grow roots that grow down into the soil & these roots can become as large as trunks, making a single tree look like a thicket.
Here I am in my favorite overalls, having a lovely respite in the garden after a day of being bedazzled by the museum. The statuary is extremely lifelike & adds an intriguing bit of life to the gardens.
Historic Asolo Theatre
By the time I made my way to the theatre, I was completely exhausted! So, just see what the website has to say about it.
Please let me know about your experiences in these places that are so dear to me. Feel free to comment below!
TIP: Visit my article about other wonderful historic places in Florida to visit HERE.
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