If you’re in the Sarasota, Florida, area, and you haven’t visited The Ringling lately, you’re missing out.
This cultural gem–once home to circus magnate John Ringling and his wife Mable–features an art museum with European baroque art, a grand home right on Sarasota Bay, and a circus museum.
Yet that’s just half the story.
The museum and the home (called Ca’D’Zan, which means House of John) are very worthy of their admission fees--generally $25 per person for the museums and $20 extra for the home tour. (By the way, admission is free on Mondays everywhere except the Circus Museum and the Ca’D’Zan). However, we recently relished in the fact that walking on the grounds of The Ringling is free. As in gratis, no money. Next time you need a break and some fresh air, stop by. We think everyone in Sarasota should be taking advantage of this.
Here’s our guide on 11 things to do at The Ringling Museum Estate, aside from the museums–and here’s a link to a Ringling Estate map to help guide you. If you’ve ever visited the grounds, some of these ideas may be familiar. However, we hope that some will lead you on a treasure hunt.
Revel among the roses. Mable Ringling had a rose garden built at her home, and it’s full of a variety of roses with names like Popcorn, Love Song, and Barbra Streisand. The garden has stone-carved cherubs and benches for quiet pondering. Get your telephoto lens ready for closeups of these floral beauties. Volunteers maintain this Italian-inspired garden.
- Be among the banyans. Banyan trees are special because they form a huge canopy over the ground with its roots and secondary trunks, creating a tangled but lovely mess (see a picture at the end of this article). Find 14 banyan trees at The Ringling. It’s the largest collection of banyan trees in Florida.
- Play. The David F. Bolger Playspace at The Ringling is located near the banyan trees and seems to stay pretty busy. It features a slide, hand-powered fountains, and basket swings.
- Find where this is located (see picture to the right). Let us know when and where you find it!
- Bring a sketchbook and drawing pencils or painting. You’re likely to spot several artists on the grounds. Perhaps it’s a nod to Sarasota’s appreciation for the arts, or perhaps it’s because New College of Florida and the Ringling College of Art and Design are so close. And we know you’ll already have your phone out for Insta-ready pics.
- Find out about native Florida trees. If you’re at Ca’D’Zan facing the bay and look to the left, walk just a few short minutes to find the Millennium Tree Trail, which gives background info on trees that are native to Florida. If you’ve been in the sun all day, the trail provides some welcome shade. Which tree is your favorite?
7. Thought-provoking art–discuss. Although we’re sure some of the art on display at The Ringling changes occasionally, we found this, er, interesting statue during our visit. From afar and from only the back, we assumed it was The Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz.” Then we saw the face. The Cuban-American artist Coco Fusco created this in 2018 in response to divisive politics in the U.S. Love it? Hate it? Discuss!
8. Take in the horizon. The Ringling has so much beauty to see, but you can put that aside for a moment and just focus on the Sarasota Bay. Check out the water, and you may see fish or even the occasional sting ray. With the right lighting, you may snap a memorable pic of boats on the water. Imagine what it’s like to live at some of those houses with bay views.
9. Pay your respects. Somewhat hidden but near Ca’D’Zan you’ll find the Secret Garden and Ringling Burial Site. The feel of this small area is a little more somber than the rest of the grounds, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. Pay your respects to the cultural gift that John and Mable left Sarasota.
10. Get a “free” tour of the museums. Can’t make it to the museums? Then the gift shop is a plausible alternative until you have time or money to visit. Get a sense of the European, Asian, abstract, and circus art at the museums from the gift shop souvenirs.Get some gift ideas for the holidays or for the art appreciators among your friends.
11. Eat. As you walk in to the Visitor’s Pavilion, you’ll find The Muse Restaurant, which pleasantly surprised us with its gourmet vegetarian dishes such as squash gouda dumplings and fried green tomato ALT (avocado/lettuce/tomato). The Muse is operated by The Tableseide Group, which also owns Libby’s and Louies Modern. Later on, find the Banyan Cafe for a snack.
Let us know if you have other fave things you like to do at The Ringling!
As you head on your road trip or vacation this summer, you’ll have some idle time where you’re waiting in line at an amusement park, sitting in traffic, or simply chilling at the beach. Make that idle time fun for your family or yourself by taking this pop quiz of Florida knowledge! All of these are true or false. Answers appear at the bottom of the page. Good luck.
- Florida has 67 counties.
- Explorer Christopher Columbus named Florida.
- The movie “Scarface” was filmed in Florida.
- Florida ranks number three among U.S. states for its population.
- More than 90% of the oranges grown in Florida are used as whole fruit (not for orange juice).
- Lake Okeechobee is the state’s largest lake.
- The capital of Florida is Orlando.
- More than a million alligators live in Florida.
- The fabled and famed creature Bigfoot has been seen regularly in Florida.
- Florida’s famous love bugs were created in a lab at the University of Florida.
- More than 70 million people visited Orlando in 2017.
- Florida has more than 1,300 miles of coastline.
- Plant City, Florida, is called the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World.
- Florida has produced two U.S. presidents.
Gatorade was named for the University of Florida Gators.
Florida Fun Facts Pop Quiz–Answers
- True! Palm Beach County is the largest county in terms of land mass.
- False. Explorer Ponce de Leon named the state “la Florida,” which means “flowery place” in Spanish.
- False. Although this famous movie with Al Pacino focuses on Miami and the Cuban exiles, most of the film was shot in Los Angeles.
- True. The only states that rank higher are California and New York.
- False. Actually, 90% or more of the oranges grown in the Sunshine State are used for orange juice.
- True. You can see Lake Okeechobee from space.
- False. It’s Tallahassee!
True. There are about 1.25 million alligators in Florida and a total of 5 million spread across the Southeast U.S. There are also crocodiles in south Florida.
- False. However, the Skunk Ape is Florida’s own legendary Bigfoot-like creature.
- False. That’s a myth. This report on Snopes.com explains why this isn’t true and quotes a UF professor who says, “If we created them, they would be orange and blue.”
- True. Orlando, America’s most visited destination, attracted 72 million people in 2017, according to Visit Orlando.
- True. It ranks second only to Alaska for its amount of coastline.
- True. This town in the Tampa Bay area produces an abundance of yummy strawberries in the winter. It even hosts an annual Strawberry Festival that attracts national music acts.
- False. It is one of the most populous states in the U.S. but surprisingly has not been the birthplace for a president.
- True. The drink was developed at UF.
So how’d ya do? If you need to brush up on your Florida knowledge, make sure to read other articles on Florida Culture Travel. We have more than 60 Florida-focused articles where you can have fun learning about the Sunshine State. Got a place in mind for us to visit in Florida? Then leave a comment!
There’s no shortage of things to do in Bradenton, Florida. After all, the Bradenton/Sarasota area garners worldwide praise for its beaches, natural beauty, and arts and culture. Most of the time, it’s simply a matter of choosing what you’re in the mood for on a given day.
Here are 5 things to do in the Bradenton area that Florida Culture recommends.
1. Beach it out. OK—a recommendation to go to the beach in our area is low-hanging fruit, as that’s probably what drew you here in the first place. Still, try the beach at various times of the day for different vibes. Early morning is great for a walk and shelling, midday is ideal for swimming and people-watching, and the evening draws sunset lovers and picture-snappers from across the globe.
Venture out to try the various beaches around Bradenton and Bradenton Beach. Coquina Beach and the Manatee public beach have lifeguards (and some shade at Coquina), so they’re ideal if you have kids. However, there are other beach enclaves that have their own feel. Bean Point on Anna Maria Island and Beer Can Island (popular with boaters) are also great. Tip: As our beaches become more well-known, the traffic to reach them has gotten more congested year-round—not just in season. Plan your trip to reach earlier in the day, if you can. Or, stay near the beach so you only have a short walk.
2. Stroll down downtown Bradenton’s Riverwalk. Riverwalk offers a scenic 1.5-mile view along the Manatee River in downtown Bradenton. Check out boats, a playground, public art, and the downtown Bradenton library, or South Florida Museum, among other sights. Once that walking tires you out, mosey on over to Main Street for a bite at O’Bricks or any of the restaurants or bars in this growing downtown area. Tip: From October to May on Saturdays, downtown Bradenton hosts its farmers’ market.
3. Find a beach alternative at De Soto National Memorial. Everyone has a favorite local park, and this is ours. De Soto National Memorial in West Bradenton is part of the National Park Service and offers history, spectacular views, and even something for Fido. The park is named for Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto, who landed in the Tampa Bay area in 1539. You can discover more about the area’s history at the visitors’ center or via the historic demonstrations that take place there. However, if you’re hankering more for sun and views, take advantage of the park’s several trails, many of them offering peaceful views of Tampa Bay. Some visitors to De Soto visit as an alternative to the popular beaches and make a day of it as the park has a few sandy areas. De Soto is a big hit with dog lovers, so Fido can be part of your beach day.
4. Get an arts education at Village of the Arts. Located near downtown Bradenton, this funky, colorful area features unique art galleries, stores, and eateries. It was created in 1999 by a nonprofit group as a community where artists could live and set up shop. If you’re looking for an interactive arts experience, this is the place to check out. On the first Friday and Saturday of each month, the Village of the Arts hosts an Artwalk event, where residents and store owners plan special activities for visitors. Don’t miss Bird Rock Taco Shack for tacos of all kinds (including vegan and vegetarian options) and nearby Motorworks Brewery, which is adjacent to Village of the Arts.
5. Dine out. In the mood for seafood? Italian? Farm to table? Yup, Bradenton’s got it. There are too many great places to eat in town to name here, but we’ll share a small sampling. Near the beach, you’ve got the Beach House Restaurant in Bradenton Beach and The Sandbar, both of which offer Florida-caught seafood and farm-to-table dishes (the same company owns Mar Vista in Longboat Key). EnRich Bistro in West Bradenton is owned by a local family and serves gourmet and locally-sourced meals. Ortygia in the Village of the Arts serves delicious Italian dishes.
Have a favorite activity in Bradenton, Florida? Tell us in the comments. Who knows?! We may have a part 2 article to share other ideas!