sunnylands rancho mirage

Lasting Impression: Sunnylands Center & Gardens

The palatial 200-acre retreat of the late Walter and Leonore Annenberg has hosted nine U.S. presidents, and President-elect Joe Biden might make it 10.

Derrik J. Lang Current Guide, History

sunnylands rancho mirage

PHOTOGRAPH BY MARION BRENNER, 2015

If the city of Rancho Mirage is the Playground of Presidents, Sunnylands is its merry-go-round. The palatial 200-acre retreat of the late Walter and Leonore Annenberg has hosted nine U.S. presidents and many other heads of state since the couple completed the pink-walled property in 1966.

After he left office, Dwight D. Eisenhower, a close friend of the Annenbergs, became the first president to go to Sunnylands. Since that time, every commander-in-chief paid a visit to the property except Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Donald J. Trump.

The presidential usages of Sunnylands have varied over the years: Barack Obama famously hosted China’s president and other world leaders there; George H.W. Bush held a state dinner for Japan’s prime minister on the premises; Ronald Reagan signed the precursor to NAFTA on site; and Richard Nixon found refuge in the Annenbergs’ A. Quincy Jones-designed pad following his pardon.

With the retreat’s on-going reputation as the “Camp David of the West” and this month’s presidential inauguration, the question here in the Coachella Valley is: When will President Joe Biden swing by Sunnylands?

nancyreagan

WHITE HOUSE PHOTO
Ronald and Nancy Reagan dance with a mariachi band in 1983.