While Josh and I where staying with my grandparents in Florida, we took a trip to Sarasota to visit the Ringling Museum. I went there the last time I was in Florida a few years ago, and remembered it being absolutely beautiful. This visit was no different, and I fell in love with the place all over again.
In 1924, John Ringling of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus began construction on his vast grounds by Sarasota Bay. He and his wife, Mabel, had spent winters in Sarasota and fell in love with it. Her travels provided the inspiration of the mansion’s Venetian Gothic design, and his entrepreneurial wealth provided the $1.5 million that it took to build the mansion.
After the mansion was finished two years later, John’s art collection grew so much that he built his own Museum of Art on the grounds. He and Mabel collected art and antiques during their trips in Europe to decorate the museum and its courtyard. Though the art collection is impressive, with works from prominent artists such as Rubens, Velazquez, and El Greco, the museum’s courtyard is my favorite part. Pink arched hallways surround a garden of statues that the Ringlings collected in Europe.
The Ca’d’Zan, the Museum of Art, and the Circus Museum (which was added to the grounds after the Ringlings’ death) are all great ways to delve into the life and times of the Ringlings, but my favorite thing to do while exploring the grounds is to admire Mabel’s flower gardens. She first started with her rose garden, and as with the mansion, it was Italy that inspired her.
There are hundreds of different types of roses in the garden, and many of them have their own special names.
I could have spent hours in the Rose Garden, but there were other flowers to be seen. Mabel’s Secret Garden is smaller but still just as magical as her Rose Garden. Surrounded by trees, this secluded garden is brimming with bright flowers of all varieties that spill onto the pavement. I felt so happy being surrounded by all of the beautiful colors.
The Rose Garden and the Secret Garden are where you’ll find most of the flowers, but nature certainly isn’t restricted to those two places. The landscaping throughout the grounds is incredible, and I felt so small walking along the banyan-lined paths.
The Ringling is full of history, but even more than that, it’s full of beauty. John Ringling’s accomplishments are unique, as any visitor who visits the circus or art museums will learn, but it is Mabel’s legacy that inspires me the most. And that’s why this place will always be on my itinerary whenever I’m in the area.
Post-Graduation Update: I’ve picked out a school in China where I would like to teach, and I’m waiting to schedule an interview with the Director of Studies of that school. Should be finding out within another few weeks if this is going to be a good fit for me!
*I’m grateful to my grandparents for introducing me to this place two years ago and for taking Josh and me back this year!
If you would like to visit, more information can be found on The Ringling’s website.