We started our trip to Florida’s West Coast in Fort Myers and then headed to Sarasota. Allow me to preface this post by saying how much this part of the trip meant to me at the time and still to this day. My mother the week prior was given her bleak prognosis from her medical team. There was nothing more that could be done in treating her brain cancer. So, in my best attempt at coping with this news and maximizing the time I had with her, I gave her and my father no other choice then to come and join on the journey. Despite the saddening circumstances we savored every moment, enjoyed the exploration of a new area, and most of all treasured the memories we were making. Usually the moral of the story comes at the end, but spoiler alert – here it is: take the time to do the things with the people you care about because time is evanescent.
The Greatest Showman had just come out and I was pretty obsessed. The music and theatrics was right up my alley. So, when we decided to take the trip, we knew The Ringling Museum was a non-negotiable must-see on the schedule. If you thought the movie was magical and inspiring, seeing the real deal was incredible. The grounds include the Museum of Art, a Circus Museum, Mable’s Rose Garden and John Ringling’s breathtaking Venetian Gothic styled home, Ca’d’Zan – all on 66-acres! We purchased general admission tickets which included entry to the Museum of Art and Circus Museum, as well as access to the gardens and outside grounds. It did not include entry to the Ca’d’Zan but there really is no need to go inside, the exterior is equally as gorgeous and fun to see!
I gained such insight into who John Ringling and his family were and how influential the circus was during that time. It brought laughter and imagination as well as jobs to so many people. It was a new form of entertainment, showcasing diversity and inclusion… quite innovative for that period. Even the mechanics behind what it took to create and run the show city to city seemed improbable, but it goes back to what John Ringling stood by, making the impossible, possible.
Some fun facts (all sourced via The Ringling):
- In 1925, John Ringling built the art museum as a legacy meant to outlast his business interests and as a memorial to his wife, Mable. By sharing the arts of Europe with the people of Florida, Ringling aimed to educate and encourage curiosity.
- Over 44,000 pieces were used to create the Howard Brothers Circus Model that visitors can observe. This was one of my favorite displays, as it shows the progression of the circus and what it came to be. You can’t help but appreciate the labor of love this was to create – it was an imaginative way to showcase the timeline.
- John Ringling was worth an estimated $200 million, making him one of the richest men in America during the roaring twenties.
- The estates 14 Banyan trees are the largest collection in Florida and oh what a beauty they are
- Learn more about the history of The Ringling
We worked up quite the appetite from roaming The Ringling grounds, so my family and I ventured into town to grab dinner and rest our heads for the night. We rounded out the trip with a random drive to an interesting location, a power plant that was home to hundreds of manatees. If you are ever in the area you won’t be disappointed – there are tons of them just hanging out in the water surrounding Tampa Electric. It seemed odd at first, but the water is warmer in that area which is why they all congregate there. I can’t imagine the water is very healthy (I could be wrong) nor the air for all the visitors (there is smoke pummeling out of the plants chimneys) but it’s worth the quick trip. The trip concluded with a pit stop in Winter Park, Orlando where we thoroughly enjoyed the best pancakes I have ever had at Briarpatch (not pictured) – a must-do when visiting that area.
The West Coast of Florida is sincerely so beautiful. The beaches are much different than those on the East Coast and the pace seems a bit slower and relaxed. Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota… these are only some of the places I have been to and can recommend. It only takes a couple hours to cross the state, so these destinations can be considered day trips or staycations. You don’t have to travel far to find adventure, it really is in your own backyard. And if you can’t find it, you aren’t using your imagination.
Disclaimer: I am aware of the mixed emotions that surround John Ringling and the Circus. Many believe it was more exploitation that took form as entertainment. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. The museum gives great insight behind the scenes of the Circus and its characters. Despite differing viewpoints, I still stand by my belief that The Ringling Museum is worth visiting when in Sarasota.
Reference: factual information via The Ringling Museum website