"...tell them the circus is coming to town."
Last week, with some time off (not for good behavior, mind you. It's "lack of work" behavior), I visited relatives in Bradenton. We ended up spending half a day in The Ringling Museum in Sarasota.
Unlike any fictional story about circus life and carnivals, travel side shows and animals, the Museum sprawls 66 acres and can take hours to view each individual building, as the history of John and Mable Ringling can be quite an ordeal... in a good way.
After paying the necessary admissions fee(s), you're allowed to walk around the grounds and view the paintings, architecture and collectibles at your leisure. There are several scheduled tours you can hop on, to get a more in depth / verbal history of the Ringling's estate, but depending on what you're interested in, it could cost a few more dollars (member or not) and you need to keep a keen eye on the clock so you know when to meet the tour group.
The people I went with, did the 2pm tour of the Ca' d' Zan ("House of John") and learned a lot about the wintering of Mr. and Mrs. Ringling (like their chandelier is the original fixture from the Waldorf Astoria). John and Mable liked fancy things in their $1.5 million house, and it's obvious from the decor, that they were quite the entertainers when 36,000 square foot, 41 room mansion was completed. It's too bad neither of them lived long enough to enjoy the fruits of their labor, as Mrs. Ringling died within a few years of moving in, and Mr. Ringling lost most of his fortune in The Great Crash. He would succumb to his own demise shortly after that.
Pictures or it didn't happen (all pictures taken with a Canon EOS Rebel T3 Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens):
The following photos were taken in the The Circus Museum Tibbals Learning Center, which was built to feature the "world’s largest model circus, the Howard Bros. Circus Model". It was made through out the course of "50 years by master model maker Howard Tibbals".
Some pictures of the outside of the Venetian Gothic "Ca' d' Zan":
And one inside: The original Waldorf Astoria's chandelier:
More information about the property can be viewed at the following sites: