If the first word that pops into your head when you think of museums is “boring,” a trip to Sarasota’s best museums will change your mind. You can get up close and personal with a manatee, marvel at a 14,000-piece re-creation of the “Greatest Show on Earth,” explore a rainforest, gaze at faraway galaxies, or even cozy up to a priceless Ferrari. Here’s just a sampling of the surprises that await you!
Want to relive the smell of sawdust and hot buttered popcorn as daring aerialists fly overhead, view priceless art treasures, tour a spectacular Venetian mansion, and end your day with a leisurely picnic in an elegant bayfront garden? If so, The Ringling is the place for you.
John and Mable Ringling made Sarasota the winter home of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1927. Today, The Ringling Museum is their perfectly-preserved estate, and it includes the State Art Museum of Florida, the Ringling’s Ca’ d’Zan Venetian Mansion, an education center, the Circus Museum, and the 66-acre Bayfront Gardens.
The Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy
The imposing pink flamingo and stainless steel rocket ship in the outdoor gardens tell you right away that the Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy isn’t your ordinary museum. Marietta Lee, the museum’s founder and curator, thought that Sarasota’s art-friendly community would make the perfect home for her diverse collection.
Today, the Marietta Museum brings together offbeat paintings, sculptures, and more. Be sure to check out the Lee Family Arch, the “Pigs” sculpture by Fred Prescott, and the “Lace Slipper” installation by Joe DiMarco.
Sarasota Classic Car Museum
If you dream of the wind blowing through your hair as you speed along Florida’s Gulf Coast in your vintage Porsche, the Sarasota Classic Car Museum is a destination you have to see for yourself. This rotating collection of around 75 cars includes legendary American and European automobiles, which span over a period of 100 years.
This museum is the second-oldest continuously operating antique car museum in the country, with self-guided tours seven days a week. The Automotive Art of Ferdinand Porsche & Enzo Ferrari Exhibition is open now through May, so be sure to check it out!
Sarasota Art Museum at Ringling College of Art + Design
You don’t need to be in school to appreciate this museum, which is dedicated to the celebration of contemporary art. Housed in the historic Sarasota High School, the Sarasota Art Museum at Ringling College of Art + Design contains 15,000 square feet of exhibition gallery space.
This relatively new museum focuses on pushing artistic boundaries and appeals to the young and the young-at-heart. Current artists, such as Vik Muniz, also offer Artist Talks to explain their unique artistic vision.
Bishop Museum of Science and Nature
Want to meet a manatee? Then you must visit the Bishop Museum‘s Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat. Museum visitors can get up-close views of the 60,000-gallon manatee habitat, where they are treated for injuries and prepared for reintroduction into the wild.
If you prefer out-of-this-world views, you have to check out the museum’s all-digital planetarium, which is the Gulf Coast’s premier astronomy education facility. It even has a state-of-the-art projection system, which makes it totally worth the 30-minute drive to Bradenton.
Marie Selby Botanical Garden
The Marie Selby Botanical Garden is unlike any traditional museums — it’s a breath of fresh air! This 15-acre living museum and tropical oasis features more than 20,000 greenhouse plants, including 6,000 orchids. Marie Selby loved nature and gardening, and she left her estate for the Sarasota community to enjoy.
Plan on getting dirt under your fingernails at their many interactive stations. The Children’s Rainforest Garden even allows children of all ages to enjoy hands-on interaction with rainforest plants. You can also explore the grounds, purchase an exotic plant or two, and have a bite to eat.
Ready to Start Exploring Sarasota’s Museums?
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