Indio, California: Today we were
able to tour inside Sunnylands, the impressive Mid-Century Modern estate of
Annenberg in Rancho Mirage. The Annenbergs, from Philadelphia, were a very
popular, powerful and rich (mostly from publishing) couple who were generous
philanthropists (mostly to education). They built Sunnylands as their winter
home. Since their death (Walter in 2002 at 94; Leonore in 2009 at 91), the
Annenberg Foundation operates the property.
The house is often used for meetings, conferences, retreats and official
government functions. Seven US Presidents have stayed at Sunnylands and the
house has also hosted, Queen Elizabeth and her family, Margaret Thatcher and a
very long list of Hollywood elite - Bob Hope, Ginger Rogers and Jimmy Stewart.
Barbara and Frank Sinatra were married at Sunnylands.
Due to all the activity at Sunnylands, the tour schedule is very erratic. Dates
are announced on their website, and - much like trying to buy tickets to a
popular rock concert - the tickets sell-out within minutes. Portland friends, Jim and Marci have
tried several times previously, but were lucky a few weeks ago and bought six
golden tickets! They invited us, and Kathy and Woody to join them.
Eternal Spring (circa 1884), by Auguste Rodin, in the Visitor Center
Tours start in the Visitor Center, which houses informative
displays about the architecture of the house, the art collections and family
history. There are videos to watch, a cafe and a small gift shop. Behind the
Visitor Center are gardens and paths to wander along while waiting for your
The gardens behind the Visitor Center
Kathy & Woody
Jim & Marci
We all posed on a replica of the bench
President Obama gave to Chinese President, Xi Jinping,
when the two leaders met at Sunnylands in 2013. We are
More photos of the garden:
At our allotted time-slot, we were led to an eight-passenger golf cart and
driven by our tour guide, Mauricio, to the historic estate. The front doors
opened and we were inside beautiful Sunnylands.
Photography of the house interior is forbidden during the tours, but Sunnylands
provides photos and video (with no sound) for the press. And me.
Prince Phillip, Leonore Annenberg, Queen Elizabeth and
Walter Annenberg at the entrance of the historic house -
December 31, 1981 - Nancy & Ronald Reagan
(with Marine One helicopter in the background)
Xi Jinping and Barak Obama at Sunnylands, 2013
The house was decorated in the 1960's and most of the
rooms are yellow and pink (Mrs. Annenberg's favorite
colors) and filled with their extensive art
collections and framed photos of famous visitors and
friends. One entire wall is filled with framed Christmas cards from the Queen
We saw the formal living areas, the master bedroom, kitchen,
dining room, staff quarters and several other rooms in the main house and then
were led outside to another low building with four guest suites and a shared
living area that has a bar and movie screen. Outside, we were allowed to
photograph - but only views away from the house. (Our guide said this was for security
purposes.) From the following photos, you can see the weather was about to make
The swimming pool and guest quarters
Kinetic sculpture: Square Waves by Yaacov Agam
After the tour, we again boarded the golf
cart and were returned to the Visitor Center. As the
cart made a wide pass in front of the estate, our guide
stopped and we were allowed to take a photo of
That's as close as I could get, Dear
Much thanks to Marci and Jim for snagging the tickets!
By the time we left the grounds, the sky was black and
it was raining. By the time we arrived back to our
motorhome, the sky was black, it was raining and the
wind was blowing 40 mph. Dave's brother, Steve, arrived
(well, he actually kinda blew-in) to our
campsite late afternoon for an overnight visit. He used
our casita as a bed and breakfast on his drive from
Sacramento to Tucson for business. We threw-in dinner as
well and fed him two types of pie:
Until my next update, I remain, your Sunny correspondent.
Sunnylands Center & Gardens
37977 Bob Hope Dr
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
Tour tickets are $40.
You may also like:
The Annenberg Foundation
2012 story and photos of Sunnylands from the LA Times
ASEAN Summit at Sunnylands in February 2016
Collecting art at Sunnylands - Palm Springs Life,
New York Times, 2012 - Public opening of Sunnylands
RV PARK: The
Motorcoach Country Club
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