Under the Big Top in Sarasota

by Gail Gold


“Come down for a long weekend” friends urged. So I did.   It had been many years since visiting Sarasota and at the end of a cold Chicago January, not only was it a good idea, but a good tonic as well.   An easy direct, non stop flight took me from 10 to 80 degrees, sunny days and cloudless skies.   My host and hostess chose 3  premier attractions to show me.

First up was the Ringling, a sprawling Venetian 56 room estate which includes a house tour, museum, gardens, history, beautiful architecture and a collection of Baroque art. Named Ca’d’Zan, is is a 1920s statement of architecture. The Ringling preserves the legacy of John and Mable Ringling.  He was the founder of the Ringling 3 ring circus we all grew up with and adored.   Established in 1927 and upon death given to the people of Florida, as a lasting legacy.  One of the fun things on the grounds is the Howard Brothers Circus Model at the Ringling. Howard Tibbals documented the miniature circus collection of the Ringling museum. In 2006 the building opened with a large exhibit and a true representation of circus life shown through precise models.


The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are on the waterfront of Sarasota Bay. Lush Botanical gardens show massive banyan (Ficus) trees and flora and fauna from Florida.  Strolling the gardens at a leisurely pace, resting on shaded benches to  feel the wonder of beautiful outdoor spaces or taking in a Cuban music concert, the Selby provides a visual delight in every way.  There was a rarely seen Gauguin print exhibit of life in French Polynesia in the original Selby home which was interesting to see.

You won’t want to miss a collection of 100 specialty shops on St. Armands Circle. Sarasota happens to be one of the only American towns not to have paid parking meters so it is very enjoyable to stroll the circle and then dine at Colombia, a Spanish/Mexican restaurant.  Originally from the Tampa area, Ybor City, where cigars were made, Colombia has traditional, delicious food.

There wasn’t enough time to see an opera performance or hear a symphony but culture abounds in Sarasota~it isn’t just beach, golf and tennis.  There is something for every taste and a wonderful weekend was had. Try it, it’s a guaranteed fun Florida time.