Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage Opens to the Public

Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage Opens to the Public

By Jaffa King. CREATED Feb 29, 2012

RANCHO MIRAGE - Sunnylands Center and Gardens, part of the Annenberg estate in Rancho Mirage, will open to the public Thursday.

Tickets for tours March 16-31 will go on sale at 9 a.m. Thursday. Tickets will be released on the first and 15th of every month and can only be bought online at Though access to the Sunnylands Center & Gardens is free, visitors will be turned away when the parking lot is filled.

The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands incorporates a retreat center, historic house, education center, art gardens, and solar farm.  Owned and operated by The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, the property was the 200-acre Rancho Mirage, California estate of Ambassador Walter and Leonore Annenberg. Designed by architect A. Quincy Jones with interiors by William Haines and Ted Graber, the 25,000 square-foot mid-century modern house is located in the middle of landscaped grounds including a private golf course designed by the legendary Dick Wilson. The Annenbergs lived in this oasis in the desert for approximately five months each year following its completion in 1966. It is here that they entertained United States Presidents, royalty, international political figures, and cultural and entertainment icons.

The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands will present and host a variety of high-level conferences, retreats, and seminars on issues of national and international importance. Working with national and international leaders from a range of fields including government, philanthropy, education, and the arts, staff will develop programs designed to have an impact on society.

Sunnylands Center and Gardens will feature a wide range of tours including a study of the art collection and interior design; exploration of the architecture of the home; a review of the 20th-century cultural landscape; the introduction to 21st-century greening of the 15-acre Center and Gardens; and a review of

films, videos, and publications detailing the historic events of the time and the role played by the Annenbergs as well as their generosity and commitment to education and the arts.  

Visitors will be able to examine the exhibits placing the estate in the context of an architectural movement referred to as Midcentury modernism. They can view the orientation film in the theater and engage with the interactive multimedia kiosks that will bring alive Sunnylands, its residents, heritage, and context. 

Visitors will relax in the great room with its spectacular view of Mt. San Jacinto, enjoy the menu options at the café, and browse in the store. Outdoor activities include exploring the unique nine-acre gardens that uses desert plants to paint a living canvas based on the Annenberg collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. Interpretive materials will explain the ways in which solar panels will supply energy for this LEED Gold project as well as the minimal amount of water used to support the Gardens. 

The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands is committed to environmental sensitivity. The newly constructed center utilizes a solar field for electrical power and a geothermal system for heating and cooling. The new desert landscape will use no more than 20% of the permissible water under Coachella Valley Water District regulations. At the historic estate, demand for water and power is being dramatically reduced via a state-of-the-art irrigation system, a new lake circulation system, and implementation of a composting program. Retrofitting of the house and estate are being accomplished while carefully considering the cultural landscape that is Sunnylands.