What kid doesn't like going to the circus? For that matter, what
kid-at-heart doesn't have fond childhood memories of watching
the animals and performers under the Big Top?
Sarasota, along the Gulf of Mexico on Florida's southwest coast,
is referred to as the Circus Capital of the World and Florida's
Cultural Jewel, and that's why it's such a wonderful destination
for grandparents and their grandchildren.
John Ringling and his four brothers founded a circus bearing
their name and later purchased another circus to create Ringling
Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. In 1927, the brothers made
Sarasota the winter headquarters for their circus.
Sarasota's huge circus connection equals lots of attractions for
younger and older generations to visit. At the top of the list
is the Circus Museum which is one of several structures located
on the 66-acre John and Mable Ringling Estate.
Ringling Museum of Art.
Peanuts and cotton candy, the Ringmaster, trapeze artists,
clowns, bareback riders, upright elephants, tigers doing tricks
to the whip-crack of their animal trainers, hand-carved wagons,
and those artwork-like circus posters advertising The Greatest
Show on Earth -- the Circus Museum brings them to life via
exhibits, artifacts and memorabilia.
You haven't seen a circus from beginning to end, lengthwise and
width-wise -- and neither have your grandchildren -- until you
see one amazing, incomparable sight at the Circus Museum. It's
called Howard Brothers Circus Model, a miniature replica of
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The Howard Brothers Model, miniature circus.
This largest miniature circus in the world (1/4"-to-the-foot
scale) is the creation of Howard Tibbals, a Tennessee
philanthropist who constructed eight tents, 152 wagons, a 57-car
train, 800 animals and 1,300 circus performers and workers
including performers who move about. Everything is tiny and
exquisitely detailed. This miniature circus takes up 3,800
square feet of space; you and your grandkids can spend hours
looking at it.
Touring a historic house may not sound exciting to youngsters,
but Ca' d'Zan, the Venetian Gothic mansion in which John
Ringling and his wife Mable lived during the 1920s, is an
exception. Children taking the guided tour will be awed by how
rich and powerful Ringling was, thanks mainly to the wealth his
Topped with a Belvedere Tower and designed to resemble the grand
homes of Venice, Ca' d' Zan looks like a 56-room palace full of
ornate furnishings, balconies, chandeliers, tapestries, coffered
ceilings and, like something out of "The Great Gatsby," a
overlooking Sarasota Bay. John and Mable hosted parties on the
terrace. A few steps below, Ringling would launch his gondola to
take Mable for rides on the bay.
Belvedere tower of ca' d' zan, John and Mable Ringling's
John and Mable were avid art collectors. Aside from furniture,
they bought loads of paintings, statues and objets d'art during
their European travels. Today, much of the artwork fills the
John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, which is the State Art
Museum of Florida. It is located at the Ringling Estate.
Although kids and teens may yawn at the prospect of going to an
art museum, what they will come away with is, at the least, a
close-up view of the work of the Old Masters.
Of the paintings John and Mable collected,
some individually cover almost an entire wall.
There are paintings by Rubens, Velasquez, El Greco, Titian and
many other painters.
The art museum's courtyard is beautiful, not only for the palm
trees and plantings, but because of the statues, especially
along the upper perimeter of the courtyard, where copies of
marble statues of Roman and Greek gods and goddesses stand like
sentinels. The real focal point is a copy of the statue of
David, which is at the end of the courtyard.
Legend says that John Ringling built St. Armand's Circle in
downtown Sarasota so that Mable wouldn't have to schlep to Palm
Beach to do her shopping. Upscale shops and cafes fill the
circle. If you're old enough to remember names like Emmett
Kelley, the Flying Wallendas, Gunther Gebel-Williams and P. T.
along the Circus Ring of Fame -- in-ground plaques surrounding a
small park at St. Armand's Circle.
Take the grandkids to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. This
14-acre attraction is a delight for all ages, from the orchids
and Koi Pond to the Ann Goldstein Children's Rainforest, an
interactive, elevated rainforest display. Kids can climb on the
powerful roots of a 100-year-old banyan tree, see plants that
grow on rocks, walk across a rope bridge and enjoy nature-themed
arts and crafts at the Kids Corner, etc
There's something fishy about Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium,
which is a good thing, because you and your grandkids can take a
close look at sharks, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, stingrays
and eels that are among 100+ marine species here. The aquarium
features touch pools, viewable working labs and high-tech
interactive exhibits. Want to have some ichthyology fun? Tour
the Seahorse Conservation Lab.
You probably don't think of Sarasota as Amish country, but yes,
Pinecraft is an Amish (and Mennonite) community in Sarasota.
Treat your grandchildren to breakfast or lunch at Troyer's Dutch
Heritage Restaurant in Pinecraft. The Amish-style,
fresh-from-scratch food choices - the broasted chicken and
homemade pastries are yummy -- earn a "thumbs up." The upstairs
gift shop sells Amish jams, cookbooks, handmade jewelry, etc.
A word about the beaches. Sarasota's beaches, from Siesta Key to
Lido Key to Longboat Key, certainly are in the "family fun"
category. They're clean and beautiful. When it comes to
traveling with your grandchildren, you'll be looking for
family-friendly activities and attractions.
Sarasota doesn't know how to disappoint.
For more information about Sarasota:
American Roads and
Global Highways has so many great articles you may
search it for you favorite places or new exciting destinations.
Ads fund American Roads and Global Highways
so please consider them for your needed
If you enjoy the articles we offer, donations
are always welcome.