Since the early days of development in the Palm Springs Valley, there has never been a shortage of famous faces gracing the resorts and homes in my beloved desert. From Lucy and Desi, Bing Crosby, and Bob Hope to some of the most famous and newsworthy people in the world today, Rancho Mirage and the communities of the Greater Palm Springs Oasis have been a draw for those seeking endless sunshine and graceful living.
Sunnylands, the seasonal 25,000 square foot home of Ambassador Walter Annenberg and his wonderful wife Leonore—and its 200-acre property with 9-hole golf course—has undergone extensive renovation and restoration since their deaths, and is now open to the public for tours (for a small fee) when it’s not being used for high-level political retreats. The newly built, 17,000-square-foot visitors center and sumptuous gardens adjacent to the home are also treats that should not be missed. With no entry fee, this is one of the most delightful outings in the area, especially for coffee or a light lunch in the cafe, or just to laze in the gardens. www.sunnylands.org
Just down the road a bit is Porcupine Creek, the former 249-acre Blixseth estate, complete with 19-hole golf course and 18,000-square-foot house. Now owned by Oracle mega-billionaire Larry Ellison, this compound is sadly not open to the public. Therefore you, like I, will have to wait with bated breath for a proper invite.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit a fabled celeb residence in Palm Springs when the current owners of the former desert home of dearly departed Elvis Presley decided to open this tremendous 5100-square-foot dwelling to the public. Owned first by the Jergens cosmetics family, then by McDonald’s founder Roy Kroc, it was bought by The King of Rock in 1970. Sadly, he and Priscilla divorced just a few years later, but despite that, in ensuing years, the former couple, along with their daughter, Lisa Marie, often visited the house. On those occasions when all three were there together, Elvis utilized a separate entrance to a suite of rooms he had built to ensure his privacy. The home is now used for weddings and private parties, and is open for the occasional tour. www.elvispalmsprings.com