5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota; 941-359-5700; ringling.org
Built to house the multimillion-dollar art collection circus magnate John Ringling acquired during the ’20s, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art remains one of the country’s top places to admire European paintings from the late Middle Ages to the 19th century as well as various traveling exhibitions. The Ringling also contains The Circus Museum, the Ca’ d’Zan mansion overlooking Sarasota Bay, the Historic Asolo Theatre and the Bayfront Gardens and, for the children, the impressive David F. Bolger Playspace.
Also, be sure to enjoy a meal and perhaps a glass of Freakshow wine at The Ringling Grillroom. One of the biggest openings of 2020, it’s a Modern American restaurant with open-air seating overlooking the museum grounds. Pro tip: The Ringling offers free admission to the Art Museum and Bayfront Gardens on Mondays.
3701 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota; 941-355-5305; sarasotajunglegardens.com
A gorgeous getaway located just off U.S. 41 and only a few miles north of downtown, Sarasota Jungle Gardens is where children of all ages go to hand-feed free roaming pink flamingos, get their picture taken while petting an alligator, and explore tropical trails spread across 10 acres in a classic Old Florida setting.
Other fun things to do include holding a parrot, watching ring-tailed lemurs at play, and feeding a giant tortoise. A Sarasota landmark dating back to 1939, Jungle Gardens is 90 percent outdoors with the popular animal shows held throughout the day in a covered, open-air amphitheater.
The Ringling contains the Museum of Art, Circus Museum, the Ca’ d’Zan mansion (pictured) overlooking Sarasota Bay, the Historic Asolo Theatre and the Bayfront Gardens and, for the children, the David F. Bolger Playspace. WADE TATANGELO/HERALD-TRIBUNE
Hand feed the flamingos at Sarasota Jungle Gardens. DAN WAGNER/HERALD-TRIBUNE