Within the 66-acre grounds of the Ringling Museum of Art is the stunningly beautiful Venetian-Gothic Ca’ d’Zan mansion which was the home of circus entrepreneur John Ringling and his wife Mable, from the mid-1920s until 1936. It is now open to the public for tours.
It is located four miles north of Sarasota near the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport. When you arrive at the entrance to the museum, check the tour times of the house for availability and take a self-guided tour through the lovely first floor of the house. Other optional tours and docent-led tours of the house are also available for an additional fee and photography is allowed, without flash.
Ca’ d’Zan Mansion
Built in Venetian Gothic style, the five-story mansion was completed in 1926 and was lavishly furnished for John and Mable Ringling. The name “Ca’ d’Zan” is Venetian and means “The House of John.” The pink sandstone exterior is unusually decorative and very colorful with tiled decoration, an ornate balcony, wrought iron work, and Moorish-style windows. When the mansion was built, money was clearly no object and the huge terrace overlooking Sarasota Bay is of various colorful patterned marbles enclosed by a fabulously ornate balustrade. Take a seat and enjoy the sea breeze, watching the sailing yachts, fishing boats and cruisers on the water, as John and Mable no doubt did long ago.
The ground floor tour begins in the solarium at specific times and then progresses through the gilt carved doors into the ballroom, foyer with its grand piano, furnished central “court” or living room, breakfast room, pantry, and kitchen. There is also a formal dining room and a quaint Tap Room, complete with bar. Many of the formal rooms have beautifully decorative coffered ceilings and there are displays of silverware, dinner services and flatware in the cupboards, just as the family would have left it.
Visitors are sure to enjoy the pleasant gardens of the Ringling Estate which include Mable’s Rose Garden, the Secret Garden where John and Mable are buried, the Dwarf Garden and the Millennium Tree Trail.
The extensive grounds are laid to grass and planted with mature specimen trees including sabal palmettos, Florida’s state tree, and 13 historic banyan trees with their distinctive aerial roots. There is a small lake and the property overlooks the calm Sarasota Bay towards Longboat Key. There is ample seating in wicker-style chairs for visitors to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Where to Eat at the Ringling Museum of Art
There are three separate dining options within the Ringling Museum of Art to suit all pockets and tastes. The Banyan Café is in the gardens close to Mable’s Rose Garden and the Circus Museum. It offers snacks and drinks in a self-service environment with indoor and outdoor tables enjoying a well-designed ambience. Deli sandwiches, hot dogs, salads, cookies, and sweet treats can be enjoyed from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. or how about trying the signature Banyan Ice Cream Sandwich?
The Store Café is part of the Museum Gift Shop and both these casual dining options are open only during Museum hours.
The classy Treviso Restaurant is one of Sarasota’s finest restaurants. It is open throughout the day and into the evening, with outdoor tables enjoying views of the lake, fountains, and museum buildings. The indoor tables are spread over two floors and one wall is filled with a beautiful mural of Asolo, Italy which changes color as you dine.
If you enjoy exploring the Tampa area, both north and south, you may be interested in my book Day Trips Around Orlando available in both paperback and electronic versions.