Sunnylands center and garden in Rancho Mirage, Desert environment park, home to a variety of plants and wildlife, California, USA. September 26th, 2020; Shutterstock ID 1824982439; your: Meghan O'Dea; gl: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial; full: POI

Shutterstock / bonandbon


Top choice in Greater Palm Springs

Palm Springs has long been famous a celebrity playground, but few destinations in the valley better exemplify that pedigree than Sunnylands, the retreat of publishing giant, diplomat, and philanthropist Walter Annenberg and his wife Leonore. The not-so-little pink roofed house is part of a sprawling 200 acre estate that includes lush guest quarters, cottages, entertaining spaces, and even a golf course. 

Like many of the mid-century rich and famous, the Annenbergs chose greater Palm Springs for their modernist winter home in Rancho Mirage. Nicknamed the "Camp David of the West", the Annenbergs entertained eight US presidents, royalty, heads of state, and Hollywood celebrities, including the Shah of Iran, the Queen of England, Bing Crosby, Truman Capote, and Barack Obama. Frank Sinatra married Barbara Marx at Sunnylands; the Reagans spent ever New Years here for nearly two decades.

Annenberg Foundation Sunnylands
The interior of Sunnylands retains its mid-century modern glam, and some significant artworks © Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The estate's art-filled main home, a 1966 mid-century-modern masterpiece by A Quincy Jones, is accessible only by 90-minute guided tour; book online far in advance. No reservations are required for the exhibits and documentary on view at the architecturally stunning visitor center or to stroll the magnificent, sustainably designed gardens, inspired by impressionist paintings. The gardeners didn't have to go far to find their references, either. While the Annenbergs were alive (Walter passed in 2002, Leonore in 2009), they kept their extensive collection of works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Andrew Wyeth, and Monet here. Those paintings were largely donated the Metropolitan Museum of Art, however, in the early aughts.

Tickets for the Historic House Tour ($48, no children under 10) and Birding on the Estate ($38) are released at 9am on the 15th of the preceding month and sell out quickly. Tickets for the 45-minute Open-Air Experience, a shuttle tour of the grounds and golf course that runs from September to April ($21), are sold first-come, first-served at the visitor center (credit cards only). Neither the Birding nor the Open-Air tour give access to the house.

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