It’s only mildly coincidental that September 1st is my birthday, because that happens to be the precise day tickets to one of the most sought-after home tours in the entire Palm Springs Valley go on sale for its seasonal debut on September 24, 2015—and I’m perennially at the top of the computer queue so that I can make my beloved annual pilgrimage to this very special place. Of course, I’m referring to Sunnylands, the midcentury modern 25,000-square-foot architectural jewel built for Ambassador and Mrs. Walter Annenberg in Rancho Mirage. Completed in 1966, and surrounded by more than 200 acres of lushness, the property was the couple’s winter residence before their deaths in the early 2000s, and is now used as a venue for high-level political and business retreats. The Annenbergs stipulated that the estate would be open for public tours after their passing.
Tickets for said tours go on sale on the 1st of each month for tours starting on the 16th of that month, and on the 15th for those beginning on the 1st of the following month. A guide takes but seven people at a time through the home, so as you can imagine, you get a very up-close-and-personal look at this magnificent estate during your 90-minute visit. Tickets ($40/person) sell out quickly, so plan ahead, and check the website for the possibility of last minute cancelations.
But Sunnylands is about much more than just tours of this beautiful property. The Sunnylands Center and Gardens—an architectural gem in its own right, complete with spectacular vistas of the surrounding mountains—is open to the public free of charge. Besides being the starting point of the home tours, it permits visitors to enjoy fun and interactive displays, films, and art from the Sunnylands collection; stroll through the beautifully landscaped gardens; peruse the gift shop; and indulge in a wonderful variety of lunch items, including sandwiches, salads, snacks, desserts, and beverages.
Sunnylands offers an extensive roster of programs and events (many of them free to the public), including bird tours; walking garden tours; yoga, tai chi, and films on the great lawn; photography and plein air painting in the gardens; family days; singles gatherings; and much, much more. Check the Sunnylands website for all the specifics, and be sure to make the time to take advantage of this incredible landmark in the heart of the Palm Springs Valley.