36 Hours in Sarasota, Fla. via The New York Times
WHERE else can one spend the morning reveling in the beauty of works by Peter Paul Rubens, Frans Hals and Botticelli and the afternoon lolling on a powdery white sand beach? That is the lure of Sarasota, the city perched on the Gulf of Mexico where John and Mable Ringling, the circus impresario and his wife, set the stage for a vibrant cultural life after buying land there in 1911. Not only did John Ringling create the old-master-filled John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, but he brought the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus to winter in Sarasota.
His elephants even hauled timber for the John Ringling Causeway, which links the mainland to Lido Key. Nature, which initially attracted the Ringlings and other wealthy Midwesterners, provides its own set of pleasures beyond the beaches: whether it’s fishing, watching manatees and sea turtles or strolling past orchids and mangroves in an expansive botanical garden. For more civilized diversions, there is a plethora of restaurants and shops, and even an opera and orchestra.
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