Sunnylands, the former estate of Ambassador Walter and Leonore Annenberg, is renowned for hosting presidents, world leaders, and stars. Today, the estate serves as a high-level retreat destination, with a visitor center and gardens open to the public. You can tour the estate and residence at selected times with an advance reservation.
Sunnylands Center & Gardens (www.sunnylands.org) is open Thursdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. September to May. The airy center offers breathtaking views of nearby San Jacinto Mountains while echoing the Annenberg main home’s aesthetic — right down to its 16-foot-high lava walls and midcentury décor.
The environmentally friendly building features art collections from the estate, along with a theater room, multimedia kiosks in the exhibition room, a café, multipurpose room, and informational panels on diverse topics. The garden’s nine acres, designed to conserve water, are lined with paths for quiet enjoyment and nature-watching.
The center opens Sept. 1 and launches its season on the 14th with garden walks on Friday mornings focusing on local plants and bird- and wildlife-watching. Monthly third Sunday programming begins Sept. 16 and runs all season, with varying activities and topics. A selection of Chinese objects from the Sunnylands Collection will be on display beginning in January, with pieces from the Emperor Ch’ien-Lung era (1735-1796), including cloisonné. Monthly Wednesday nightlife programs begin in February, as do Palm Springs Modernism Week events (Feb. 14- 24). In March, the center will offer weekly music Sundays in the gardens. Movie nights will launch in the summer months. In June and July, the center’s hours are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday to Thursday. It closes in August.