It’s hard to believe that summer is over and that the autumn season in the Palm Springs Valley is upon us. And a harbinger of great things to come is the recent seasonal opening of what is arguably one of the most amazing venues in the desert: Sunnylands, the former estate of Ambassador and Mrs. Walter Annenberg in Rancho Mirage. As you may know, the 25,000-square-foot home on more than 200 acres at the juncture of Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra Drives was the winter home to this titan of media and his lovely wife, Leonore. Now used as a very high-level retreat known for its recent visits by President Barack Obama, the home is again open for tours to the public. (Note, tickets sell out almost instantly when they are released, so check the website to see how you can be one of the lucky ones to obtain a place on one of the seven-person per tour golf carts.)
But Sunnylands is about more than just this special home—as fabulous as it is! The adjacent Sunnylands Visitor Center & Gardens, which is open to the public free of charge Thursdays through Sundays, offers a respite from reality that includes miles of gorgeous garden paths through spectacularly-designed grounds, breathtaking mountain vistas, a lovely café for coffee or a light lunch, and a wonderful gift shop. Free garden tours are available daily. In addition, you’ll find twice-an-hour screenings of the 20-minute film “A Place Called Sunnylands,” along with educational kiosks that highlight its history and midcentury modern architecture as well as the Annenberg’s collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art.
But that’s just the beginning. Special programs abound throughout the fall, winter, and spring. One of my favorites on this year’s schedule is the Center’s celebration of Day of the Dead / Día de los Muertos. On October 29 – 31, from 6:15 – 9:00 p.m., visitors are invited to bring a flashlight and tour Día de los Muertos altars at dusk, and to see the calavera (skull) that was designed for Sunnylands by area students. Altar artists will be on hand to meet guests and discuss the cultural significance of this celebration.
Films on the lawn, early entry for artists, lectures, bird walks, mixers, and all kinds of other delights are in store throughout the season. If you’ve already visited Sunnylands, you know of what I speak. But for those who have never been, don’t miss this gem in the heart of the Palm Springs Valley. www.sunnylands.org