Sunnylands – “Camp David of the West”

In 1966 the Annenbergs built a 25,000 square-foot home and transformed the desert landscape into 200 acres of beautifully lush, green landscaped property. This oasis in the desert included a golf course, 11 artificial lakes, and guest cottages in Rancho Mirage, California. Many US Presidents, international leaders, movie stars and other friends of the Annenbergs visited here for social relaxation time and/or diplomatic conferences so world challenges could be discussed in less formal ways, thus the “Camp David” reference. (You’ll see a replica of a bench one of our USA presidents gave the leader of China when they met here.)

A visitor needs no ticket to walk the couple of gardens near the visitor center which has an informative video about the Annenbergs, an art gallery, cafe and gift shop. This visitor center was built per an arrangement in the 2002 trust stating the property would be open to the public in 2012. With some planning, various tickets need to be purchased ahead of your visit if you are interested in any of the various tours of the grounds or the house. There are bird walks, historic walks and open air shuttle rides if you want to see more of the property and not go into the house, or tickets to visit the historic house. Be sure to check the Sunnylands website so you can plan your visit, especially if you wish to visit this historic house. I had not realized tickets are like hotcakes and gone within 10 minutes of their on-line availability!

My friends and I walked the area around the visitor center. This area of grounds was beautiful and no doubt when the wildflowers bloom will be most colorful. I was happy the guide at the entrance to the visitor center encouraged us to watch the 20 minute video about the Annenbergs. It was informative and I would encourage all visitors also to view the video. I realized I was only seeing a fraction of the property and as beautiful as it was, I could only imagine how amazing their home was and especially in the 60’s and 70’s in the middle of a desert! Someday I will return and see more of the property on an available tour. I’ll just have to remember to plan months ahead!

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