There’s something about entering a big top tent, smelling fresh popcorn, and watching acrobats fly through the air that appeals to the child in all of us, no matter our actual age. In Sarasota, Florida — known as the Circus Capital of the World — the unique thrills of “The Greatest Show on Earth” can be enjoyed every day, not just when the circus trains roll into town. Put yourself in center ring with these interactive destinations.
See Where it All Began
John Ringling — the force behind the legendary Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus — moved his winter headquarters to Sarasota back in 1927, where he started a circus tradition that lives on today. His legacy of riches is shared at a complex known simply as The Ringling ($25 adult). Onsite, you’ll find a circus museum, where historical relics share space with a miniature clown car that you can try on for size. Be sure to check out the Howard Bros. Circus model, an awe-inspiring 3,800-square-foot miniature recreation of the circus from its heydays. Got time on your hands, or just really love the circus? Your admission ticket also includes access to Ringling’s opulent home, Ca’d’Zan, as well as the Museum of Art and Bayfront Gardens.
Become a Circus Performer
Fly through the air with the greatest of ease with the aerial arts classes offered by The Circus Arts Conservatory. Professional circus performers will teach you the basics of soaring on a trapeze ($40). If you’re more action-shy, try your hand at in-air suspension by silk fabrics ($20).
Walk With Circus Greats
Among the trendy shops of St. Armands Circle, 115 prominent members of the Circus Ring of Fame are honored with plaques located along the sidewalk, much like the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A statue of John Ringling is located nearby.
See Circus’ Next Generation
Sailor Circus performers might look a lot younger than the circus acts that you’re used to. After all, this entertainment troupe is made up of students ages 8 to 18. But don’t let their fresh faces fool you — this intensive, non-profit afterschool training program puts on shows that are highly regarded around the world. Known as “The Greatest Little Show on Earth,” it is America’s longest-running youth circus and is known for creating future circus performers that keep the legacy alive. ($16 adult)
Eat on a Circus Train
Bob’s Train is not only an authentic Ringling circus car, it’s also a delicious restaurant. While the budget-friendly food is certainly palatable ($5-$10), it’s the memorabilia and Bob’s non-stop stories of circus history that are the real stars of the show here.