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Miniature circus.

World's Largest Miniature Circus

Field review by the editors.

Sarasota, Florida

Enjoy all the glitz, glam, and spectacle of a live circus but find it to be sometimes overwhelming? Maybe the clowns are too frightening or the elephant poop too smelly. Might be you're the sort who wants to know how it all goes down behind the scenes. Or perhaps you just have an appreciation for time and talent spent in the pursuit of one's passion.

If so, then it's time to take a trip to the Ringling Museum and the World's Largest Littlest Big Top.

In sunny Sarasota, where the Baltimore Orioles and Geriatrics play, hides Howard Tibbal's life work -- an exact 3/4-inch-to-the-foot scale replica of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus as it might have looked from 1919 - 1938.

Tiny doctors treat injured performers.
Tiny doctors treat injured performers.

All the fixings are present -- acrobats fly gracefully above the audience. A legion of mess hall workers bustles to prepare the daily meals. Horses shuffle in their stalls, children sneak peaks into the dark halls of the freak show, and Goliath the ferocious Elephant Seal bellows at onlookers. The Howard Bros. Circus, named after its creator, is 3,800 square feet in size and shows off the entire circus process from the railway to the rodeo.

The scale of it is mindboggling, and in perfect detail to boot. For over 50 years Tibbals has worked with excruciating effort to recreate old circuses from photographs, posters, schematics and old news articles. Thousands of figures the size of your thumb populate the tiny grounds as patrons and performers. Animals from pups to elephants number in the hundreds. Tents tower overhead. In fact, there's so much going on that an observation deck was created just for you to get a bird's eye view and take it all in.

Under the Big Top.

The Howard Tibbal workshop is also part of the museum, so you can watch as figures and scenes are sculpted or repaired.

[Report by Melanie Archibald]

World's Largest Miniature Circus

Circus Museum at The Ringling

5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL
At the end of University Parkway, along the Bay.
Daily 10-5, Th 10-8 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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