One of my absolute favorite museums to visit is Sarasota’s John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Built on Sarasota Bay, along with their mansion Ca’ d’Zan, the Asolo Theater, the Circus Museum, the Ringling Museum of Art is a gem. The grounds surrounding the museum are absolutely gorgeous and well worth spending an entire day there.
Last week I had the pleasure of spending a few hours at the Ringling Museum on Monday. Each week, the museum offers free admission to the art museum on Mondays. There is still a fee on Mondays if you want to visit John and Mabel’s mansion Ca’ d’Zan or the Circus Museum. The museum is open 7 days a week except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Regular hours are 10am – 5pm Friday – Wednesday and 10am – 8pm on Thursdays in the art and circus museums. Regular admission is $25 for adults, $5 for children 6 – 17 and children 5 and under are free. There are often discounts available for seniors, Florida teachers, active duty military, and college students as well as multiple day passes. Due to the size of the grounds, and for visitors’ convenience, the museum offers complimentary trams back and forth between the art museum, mansion, circus museum and the entrance.
I have been to this museum dozens of times, but each time I discover something new, and this time was no exception. It is great for a one time visit or every few weeks to catch the rotating special exhibits. The Ringling Museum is a fantastic way to spend an hour or even all day in Sarasota. The art museum is host to tremendous works from artists by the likes of Rubens, Rembrandt, El Greco, Marcel Duchamp and many more. What brought me here this trip, in addition to it had just been a while, was a new exhibit that opened last month. The American Moderns collection was beautiful. There were artists of many different modern styles, but my favorites were Norman Rockwell’s The Tattoo Artist and Georgia O’Keeffe’s Black Pansy & Forget-Me-Nots. Just a head’s up, pictures are not permitted in the special collections, unlike the rest of the museum where photography is allowed as long as it is without flash.
The artwork at the museum is only possibly paralleled by the museum and gardens surrounding it. Ceilings seem to stretch 30 – 40 feet high, which is perfect for displaying the gigantic canvases from Rubens you encounter in the first salon. As you continue around to each new room, the ornate designs that greet you are more and more elegant. It is very easy to see the Ringlings had magnificent style and it is carried from the mansion into the art museum. Take time to appreciate and explore the architecture and the courtyard, including the replica of Michaelangelo’s David that is the centerpiece of this breathtaking garden.
I have been to the Ringling Museum for special events after hours several times. Some of my favorites have been charity events around the holidays at night at Ca’ d’Zan and then a separate wine tasting event held outside in the courtyard in the spring. There have also been times where I’ve just explored the grounds and Mable’s beautiful rose gardens. If you get an opportunity, I strongly recommend that you take the time to spend a day at this great museum. If you can go on a Monday or a Thursday when you get even more bang for your buck, even better. The Ringling Museum also regularly holds special events like live music, movies and even yoga on the terrace.
Follow the Ringling Museum on twitter at @theRingling. They also have a fantastic app for smartphones that offer gallery pictures, gps enabled maps, hours, and great info about the museums. It can be found by searching the app store for Ringling Museum Guide.
Have you been to Sarasota to visit the Ringling? It is amazing and I hope you all get the chance to explore this beautiful complex of museums.
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