Seven definitive Sarasota County historical attractions

Sarasota County’s treasure troves include striking natural beauty, magnificent arts, and not to be forgotten, a rich cultural heritage. Learn more about that heritage by visiting these seven area attractions.

Not only does Sarasota County have a wealth of natural beauty, it’s also home to a rich history. So, if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, or you’re just a history buff, we’ve put together a list of the seven must-see historical destinations in Sarasota County.

Sarasota Classic Car Museum

Come for the cars; stay for the history. The Sarasota Classic Car Museum is recognized as the second oldest continuously running antique car museum in the country, and it boasts a collection of more than 75 antique, exotic, European and even one-of-a-kind automobiles, including cars owned by John Lennon, Paul McCartney and John and Mable Ringling. With classics, muscle cars and other rarities, there’s sure to be something to get your motor running.

Circus Museum

It’s no secret that Sarasota is a circus town, and the Circus Museum at The Ringling is the perfect place to soak up all the big-top history. Peruse the parade wagons; admire the glimmering costumes and bright show posters — even get an up-close-and-personal look at the human cannon.  If your inner history nerd is still unsatisfied after seeing all the circus memorabilia, hit the Ringling Archives, which contain records, manuscripts and papers of the American circus. 

Bidwell-Wood House

Take a step back in time in the oldest remaining residence in Sarasota County. Built in 1882, the Bidwell-Wood House is one of the earliest documented buildings of the area's exploration and settlement phase. Although the home has been relocated to Pioneer Park from its original location, the home still has its ties to Sarasota’s origins.

Crocker Memorial Church

Located just next to the Bidwell-Wood House in Pioneer Park, the Crocker Memorial Church is another architectural link to Sarasota’s past. Civil War veteran and retired lighthouse keeper Peter Crocker built the church in 1901, and its original location near Bee Ridge Road and U.S. 41 was home to one of Sarasota’s first cemeteries. The church was dismantled and moved piece by piece to Old Bradenton Road in 1927 before finally arriving in Pioneer Park in 2006.

Historic Spanish Point

This aptly named destination -- Historic Spanish Point -- is 30 acres of history and natural beauty. Learn about the region’s early historical, environmental and archaeological significance with exhibitions like “A Window to the Past,” which explores the 140-year-old pioneer heritage of the site, on Little Sarasota Bay.

Sarasota Opera House

Originally called the Edwards Theater, the Sarasota Opera House was unveiled in 1926, after which it became a popular venue for entertainers, including Elvis Presley in 1956. It also served as the venue for the world premiere event of the Cecil DeMille movie, “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Ca’ d’Zan

Sarasota Bay mansion and former home of John and Mable Ringling, the Ca’ d’Zan was built in 1926 for the couple as a nod to Venice’s Ducal Palace, Ca’ d’Oro and the Grunwald Hotel. The extravagant five story, 36,000 square-foot house is truly a sight to see, and tours are available.