Culture Heritage and History

Learn About, See and Be the Circus in Sarasota County

Thanks to the legacy of circus magnate John Ringling, Sarasota is known as the “Circus Capital of the World,” with many offerings designed to honor the past, present and future of the circus.

Learn About the Circus and History of The Ringling

  • The Ringling campus was created to preserve the legacy of John and Mable Ringling by educating and enabling a large and diverse audience to experience and take delight in a world-renowned collection of fine art in the Ringling Art Museum; Cà d’Zan, the Ringling historic mansion; the Circus Museum; the original Asolo Theater, now called the Historic Asolo Theater; and historic architecture, courtyard, gardens and grounds overlooking Sarasota Bay.
  • Located on The Ringling campus, The Ringling Circus Museum is a 44,000-piece Howard Bros. Circus Model and the Greatest Show on Earth Mural celebrating the entertainment that has delighted packed houses in great cities and small towns across America for generations.
  • The Cà d’Zan, modeled in the Venetian-Gothic style, was the winter home of John and Mable Ringling. The home was built in 1925 at a cost of $1.5 million.
  • After John’s death in 1936, the mansion was closed until 1946, when it was opened to the public, and then closed again from 1999 to 2002 for restoration.
  • The Ringling Art Museum is a state museum of Florida and home to one of the preeminent art and cultural collections in the United States.

See the Circus

  • Circus Arts Conservatory is the umbrella organization for Circus Sarasota, Sailor Circus and Laughter Unlimited. World-renowned circus performers, Pedro Reis and Dolly Jacobs, created the organization in 1997 as an educational organization dedicated to elevating the performance, education and community outreach of the circus arts.
  • Circus Sarasota presents an annual performance each winter under a one-ring European-style big top.
  • The Sailor Circus Academy, America’s oldest youth circus, is an after-school training program for students aged 8-18 who put on two annual performances each year, once in the winter and once in the spring.
  • Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary is a rescue center not only for lions and tigers but for bears, monkeys and birds and was founded by Kay Rosaire, another one of Sarasota County’s famous circus families.
  • The Circus Ring of Fame, located on St. Armands Circle, pays tribute to past and present circus legends.

Be the Circus

  • Started in 1949, Sailor Circus teaches children grades four through twelve the skills needed to be real circus performers.
  • The Circus Arts Conservatory offers weekly drop-in classes for children five and up. Adult classes are also available.
  • Tito Gaona’s Flying Trapeze Academy & Flying Fantasy Circus, featured in the 2015 film Flight Fantastic, sports classes and parties for adults and children on the island side of Venice’s Circus Bridge.

For more circus resources, contact Visit Sarasota County©  at (941) 706-1253 or  Information may also be found on smartphones and tablets by downloading the Visit Sarasota County©  app.