I was very fortunate to get a behind-the-scenes tour last week of Sunnylands, the former Walter and Leonore Annenberg estate in Rancho Mirage, now serving its role as a facility available for leaders meet and talk in a casual atmosphere.

That’s a pretty big mission, but the 200-acre estate is up to the task. Built by the Annenbergs from 1963-66, the publishing magnate, former US ambassador to the UK and political power couple willed their onetime winter home to a foundation to maintain and preserve.

Walking through the house, with expansive public spaces, visitors are surrounded by history, with photos of leaders meeting, significant artwork and comfortable surroundings.

From the photo of President Ronald Reagan watching TV, to chef Bobby Flay talking with President Barack Obama and his guests at a dinner prepared by Flay, to the Annenbergs’ private spaces, it’s an amazing place.

Now “used to advance world peace and facilitate international agreement,” the home and grounds are available to the President and other leaders.

It’s viewed as a spot for private retreats that allow leaders to work in a casual, private environment, much like Maryland’s Camp David Presidential retreat.

For the public, a visitor center is open daily and has a cafe, exhibits, movie and walking area through the gardens. Public tours of the house and main grounds are only held in May and June; word is they sell out fast.

Modern dance on Sunnylands lawn
Modern dance on Sunnylands lawn

Check the website for public activities. When I visited, a reception and opening was held for a new outdoor sculpture by artist Lita Albuquerque. A modern dance recital was held on the main lawn, followed by a reception in the expansive visitor-center lobby.

I’m working on another Joyride Guru book on the area, which I hope will be out this summer. I’m including a bit on Sunnylands.

Thanks to the Geoff Baum, Director of Communications and Public Affairs for Sunnylands, and his crack staff for the hospitality.


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