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Explore Sarasota From Its Past to Present: Pioneers, Art and Circus

Program Number: 14520RJ
Start and End Dates:
2/1/2015 - 2/6/2015;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Sarasota, Florida
Price starting at: $959.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: History & Culture
Meals: 14; 5 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 4 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Gluten Free; Low Fat; Low Salt    

Though John Ringling was a major force in the development of Sarasota, this Gulf Coast paradise is more than just the circus. Experience the life of the area's pioneers at Historic Spanish Point. Consider how the Gulf of Mexico influences life on land by exploring Mote Marine Laboratory. Discover the major influences on the growth of Sarasota in the 1900s — learning about Ringling's legacies, how Sarasota evolved into the "Arts Capital of Florida," and see a live performance, to be announced.


• Learn about work being done at Mote Marine Laboratory, one of the world’s leading marine research facilities and experience the shark habitat at its aquarium.
• Explore Sarasota's unique sculptures throughout bayfront and downtown, and its plethora of art galleries to learn about its thriving artists community.
• Experience a guided look through John Ringling's private mansion and explore the Ringling museum’s Tibbals Learning Center to see a miniature replica of the world’s largest circus.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to two miles, some uneven terrain.

Coordinated by the Friendship Centers.


Situated on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico on Florida's west coast, Sarasota is rich in cultural treasures and recreational attractions within a short driving distance, including the outstanding John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the Ringling Museum of the Circus, art galleries, golf courses and beaches.

Modern, full-service hotel with swimming pool, Jacuzzi and fitness center on Lake Osprey.
Meals and Lodgings
   Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch
  Sarasota, FL 5 nights
 Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: Modern hotel is located on Lake Osprey in the nationally renowned planned community of Lakewood Ranch, minutes from many of the area attractions. Close to restaurants, a hospital, pharmacy, grocery stores, movie theaters, hair salons etc., some within walking distance.
  Contact info: 6231 Lake Osprey Drive
Sarasota, FL 34240 USA
phone: 941-782-4400
  Room amenities: In room coffeemakers, refrigerator, microwave, hair dryers, iron and ironing board, data ports, 2 two-line phones, desk, ergonomic chair, high speed Internet service, plug in or wireless, color TV/remote, in-room pay movies, cable/HBO, alarm clock radio.
  Facility amenities: Hotel has a heated outdoor swimming pool/spa, fitness center, full service restaurant, cocktail lounge, room service, on site laundry facilities, free parking.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: $119-$149 AAA Rate Please make reservations as soon as possible this hotel fills up quickly during season. Please call the hotel directly at 941-782-4400 not the national toll free number in order to receive the AAA discounted rate.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: $119-$149 AAA Rate Please make reservations as soon as possible this hotel fills up quickly during season. Please call the hotel directly at 941-782-4400 not the national toll free number in order to receive the AAA discounted rate.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Meet between 3:30-5:00pm in the hallway by the meeting room for registration. You will be staying at Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends at 10:30am followed by a box lunch. You will be staying at Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
To Start of Program
  Location:  Sarasota, FL
  Nearest city or town:  Sarasota
  Nearest highway: I-75
  Nearest airport:  Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport SRQ
  From End of Program
  Location: Sarasota, FL
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Tampa International Airport


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Starlight Limousine
phone: 941-923-1896
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Approx. $95, plus gratuity to hotel for up to two passengers.
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


1 hr 




50 miles


They use executive town cars and SUVs, please ask for Rick. This will be your least expensive and most reliable transportation from Tampa, directly to your hotel.


Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport


From Airport




Diplomat Taxi
phone: 941-365-8294


Per Person/One Way:


Approx $35
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


30 min. 




18 miles


Taxis are readily available 24hrs a day at the SRQ Airport.

Driving Directions
  I-75 and SRQ Airport, Sarasota, FL From I-75 North or South take exit 213 University Parkway, East, right on Lake Osprey Drive, Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch is on the left. From Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, East on University Parkway - 7 miles, right on Lake Osprey Drive, Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch is on the left.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Check-in/Registration/Orientation
(Sunday, February 1)

Note: All activities take place at the hotel today.

 Arrive To: REGISTRATION: With Road Scholar is between 3:30 - 4:45PM. HOTEL CHECK-IN: Is at 3:00pm, room may be ready earlier.
 Afternoon: ORIENTATION: Begins at 5:00pm in our private meeting room. We'll have an overview of the program ahead and review the up-to-date schedule, responsibilities, safety, guidelines, emergency procedures, and any other administrative issues. Please be aware that local circumstances may require adjusting program elements. In the event of changes we will notify you as quickly as possible. We appreciate your understanding.
 Dinner: Dinner will be catered in our private room at the hotel at 6:00pm. We offer vegetarian and gluten free meals. If you only dine on fish, chicken or are lactose intolerant, please list on your Personal Health & Information form. Please return this form to us in a timely manner, to ensure a pleasant stay.
 Evening: GETTING TO KNOW YOU: After dinner there will be a getting to know you session for participants to become better acquainted. Now you are ready for your adventure in Sarasota!
Accommodations: Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Beginner birding in Sarasota, Presentation on Bertha Palmer, Historic Spanish Point offers students a look into Southwest Florida's environment and unique past. Evening presentation on John Ringling's Art.
(Monday, February 2)

Note: There will be walking up to one mile at Spanish Pt., at a moderate pace on uneven terrain. Most of the walk is on clearly marked paths.

 Breakfast: A continental breakfast is available.
 Morning: PRESENTATION: Beginner birding in Sarasota. What will you see on your field trips?


PRESENTATION: Bertha Palmer (1849-1918) was an American Businesswoman, Socialite and Philanthropist: Mrs. Palmer's reputation has achieved Legendary Status as she provided opportunities for women in the 1900s that had never been afforded them in the past. Her civic minded-philosophy culminated in "The Women's Building at the Chicago Exposition of 1893." She became among the first to purchase The French Impressionists Art Works which symbolized a break with iron-clad traditions. When she came to Sarasota, Manatee County in 1910, she purchased 80,000 acres of land where she became a land developer, an orchard keeper, and a progressive rancher. Learn how as a privileged women of the Gilded Age she used her elite status to improve the lives of Americas through the prevention of communicable disease, the implementation of better sanitary conditions, educational and professional opportunities for women and children.

 Lunch: Lunch at the hotel or area restaurant.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: To Historic Spanish Point. Over 4,000 years ago, people lived at what is now Historic Spanish Point. Here these early Floridians fished and hunted, made tools from shell, bone and wood, mended their fishing nets, cooked their food and buried their dead. Learn about the burial mound and two middens or shell mounds, which contain the evidence of lives of these early people. The middens were created from shell, bones and other day-to-day accumulations. The unique archaeological exhibition,

A Window to the Past located inside the midden, presents what archaeologists have discovered about these early inhabitants. See the citrus packing house and Frank and Lizzie Webb Guptill's home, which has been restored to its pioneer era beginnings. See Mary's Chapel and the Pioneer Cemetery where the Webb family and other early settlers are buried. The major plant communities and many plants are identified throughout the site. Stroll through the "Gracious Palmer Era" where Bertha Matilde Honore Palmer was a visionary who in 1910 recognized the subtropical paradise of Sarasota as one of the world's choicest locations. Purchasing a large portion of present-day Sarasota County, this widow of Chicago magnate Potter Palmer set about planning her acreage for real estate development, cattle ranching and citrus groves. At Spanish Point, site of her winter estate Osprey Point, she designed elaborate gardens while also preserving the pioneer dwellings and remains of pre historic life. Enjoy the restored formal lawns and plantings, including her Water Garden, the Sunken Garden and Pergola, the Duchene Lawn and the Fern and Jungle Walk with the scenic aqueduct. Although Mrs. Palmer died in 1918, Historic Spanish Point remained in the Palmer family until 1980 when the site was donated to Gulf Coast Heritage Association, Inc.

 Dinner: Dinner will be catered by the hotel's restaurant in our private room at the hotel.
 Evening: PRESENTATION: Learn about the art collection of John Ringling before your field trip to the museum on Thursday with local expert.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: John Ringling DVD, Ringling preview, Mote Marine Aquarium Laboratory, Dinner on your own St. Armands Circle
(Tuesday, February 3)

Note: Mote Marine Aquarium has walking up to 1/2 mile to see all of the exhibits. Bus will drop off participants at St. Armands Circle for dinner on your own, some restaurants are close to the drop off point and some are up to a ¾ of a mile away round trip walking.

 Breakfast: A hot breakfast is available.
 Morning: DVD: John Ringling, narrated by Hal Holbrook, 30 min. long

PRESENTATION: Preview of what to expect, what not to miss and times of docent guided tours of various museums on the grounds.

 Lunch: Lunch at Mote Marine's Deep Sea Diner on site or a short walk to the Old Salty Dog.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: To Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. From its humble beginnings in a tiny shed in a small Florida town, Mote Marine Laboratory has expanded to include a 10.5-acre campus in Sarasota, with field stations and public exhibits in Key West and field stations in Summerland Key and Charlotte Harbor. Florida's extensive coastline and marine and estuarine environments have enabled Mote scientists to build a platform of marine research conducted in the nearshore environment.

From the original focus on sharks, Mote research has expanded to include seven major areas of concentration, organized into seven research centers. While each center focuses on its own specialty, Mote scientists are able to partner with others within the lab to integrate efforts across a number of fields. This approach has led to discoveries that establish Mote as a global leader in many areas of marine science.

Mote recognizes the importance of advancing the understanding of sea science to the general public. To that end, Mote conducts extensive public outreach and operates a public aquarium that serves nearly 400,000 visitors a year. Mote is one of the few organizations in the world that combines marine research with public outreach through a full-fledged aquarium. Mote Marine Laboratory is also one of the world's few remaining private marine research laboratories and, as a non profit organization, is funded through federal, state and local grants and through the generosity of individual donors and foundations. Over the last five decades, the world has learned many things about its oceans. One lesson has remained constant: There is still much to discover. Mote scientists are committed to that process of discovery: Advancing our understanding of the sea and what is needed to sustain it.

 Dinner: A bus will depart for St. Armands Circle renowned as a continental marketplace for dinner on your own directly from Mote Marine. The Circle is a charming and graceful synthesis of past and present. Relax and enjoy a meal from a plethora of award winning restaurants, from gourmet snacks to candlelit feasts, you'll find it all on St. Armands Circle. Get out of the box and into the Circle.
 Evening: Continue to explore St. Armands Circle's rich history and architecture.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 4: Meet Mrs. Bertha Palmer. Explore Sarasota Bayfront and Historic Downtown Sarasota and its art galleries/Evening attend a play at the Asolo Theatre, "Both Your Houses."
(Wednesday, February 4)

Note: Walking up to mile today exploring Historic Downtown Sarasota and the bayfront area.

 Breakfast: A continental breakfast is available.
 Morning: PERFORMANCE: Meet Mary Riley--a charming and engaging interpreter of Mrs. Bertha Palmer, a Sarasota legend. Mrs. Palmer is closely tied into the Sarasota and Manatee Counties. She was a "Force of Nature;" a maverick who, in spite of the limitations put on women during the Victorian Era, became a leader, entrepreneur and land developer. Ms. Riley will explain why "The Queen of Chicago," chose to settle on our Gulf Coast. She will also discuss little known facts about Mr. Palmer.
 Lunch: Lunch in historic Downtown Sarasota.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: Visit Sarasota's unique sculptures throughout bayfront and downtown Sarasota. Explore the plethora of art galleries to gain a better understanding of our local artist community.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
 Evening: PERFORMANCE: Attend a play, "Both Your Houses," by Maxwell Anderson | Directed by Frank Galati. Experience “Both Your Houses,” by Maxwell Anderson. Imagine a divided Congress. Imagine lawmakers more interested in lining their own pockets than serving the national interest. Imagine an idealistic young Congressman determined to expose the corruption by introducing a bill so stuffed with pork it is sure to oink itself to death. Will his fight cost him the support of his peers, his constituents, and the woman he loves — who just happens to be the daughter of the Appropriations Committee chairman? A comic masterpiece that could have been pulled straight from today’s headlines, this marvelous political satire is as relevant today as when it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1933. Colorful characters, sharp wit and glorious wisecracks reminiscent of 1930s screwball comedies add to the fun and fury.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Full day to explore the Ringling Museum Complex.
(Thursday, February 5)

Note: The Ringling Complex: To see everything there is a lot of walking, however, there are plenty of benches to rest on and you can explore at your own pace or with the group.

 Breakfast: A hot breakfast is available.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: Group departs for Ringling Museum Complex. A local expert takes you through Ca' d'Zan, (house of John) the Ringlings' magnificent, 32-room Venetian-Gothic mansion, re-opened in 2002 after a multimillion-dollar restoration. "Tibbals Learning Center," featuring Howard Brothers Miniature Circus. Next see the Circus Museum displays of memorabilia and artifacts from the long and eventful history of the Ringling Bros.
 Lunch: Luncheon at Treviso an Italian restaurant on the Ringling grounds.
 Afternoon: Enjoy the architectural elements of the Art Museum, focus of the collection; Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces and the collecting style of John Ringling. At your leisure explore the gardens and grounds given to the people of Florida, thus preserving for generations to come the exuberant lifestyle of America's spectacular Roaring Twenties. The beautiful landscaped grounds contain over 400 species of exotic Florida trees, plants, flowers, sculpture garden figures and Mable's historic rose garden.
 Dinner: Dinner is catered by the hotel's restaurant in our private meeting room.
 Evening: PRESENTATION: Learn more about Sarasota's outdoor public art from local expert artist.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn-Lakewood Ranch
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Actual clown will relive his days in the circus and share company secrets.
(Friday, February 6)

Note: All morning activities take place at the hotel today.

 Breakfast: A continental breakfast is available.
 Morning: PRESENTATION: Each year Chuck serves as the master of ceremonies for the International "Circus Ring of Fame” induction ceremony on St Armand's Circle in Sarasota. Chuck is featured in an ongoing exhibit at the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art & Circus in Sarasota.
 Lunch: Program ends after last class approx. 10:30am. Check-out Day: Create your own deli sandwich. Students who need to catch an early flight can take their lunch with them. Students who do not need to leave can enjoy their lunch in the classroom or on the patio by the pool.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Free Time Opportunities
  Sarasota, FL Sarasota attractions
Sarasota is known as the cultural arts center of Florida. The area has a plethora of activities: Selby Botanical Gardens, Ringling Museum of Art, Mote Marine Aquarium, Historic Spanish Point, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, Florida WestCoast Symphony, Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, Sarasota Ballet Co., Asolo Theatre Co. The area also offers several high quality beaches, boat rentals, water skiing, canoeing and kayaking. Hiking in two local state parks. Sarasota Polo grounds are close to hotel. For additional information, visit
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Hidden History of Sarasota

Author: Jeff LaHurd

John Ringling: Dreamer, Builder, Collector

Author: John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

Circus Days in Sarasota & Venice

Author: Kim Cool

Priceless Florida

Author: Noss, el al

Ringling: The Florida Years, 1911-1936

Author: David Chapin Weeks

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