It’s no secret that Sunnylands—the estate of the late Walter and Leonore Annenberg in Rancho Mirage—is now open to the public for tours of their spectacular specimen of midcentury modernity. Yes, there is a small charge for the house tour, and yes, you have to plan ahead (check the website for reservations details). But what few have realized is that the gorgeous gardens and beautiful visitors center built right next door to the estate is also open for visits—and all for free!
The ever-changing seasonal gardens are a site to behold, and when you get tired and want to return to some always-appreciated air conditioning, it may just be the perfect time to seek out a bit of retail therapy and a little lunch.
Gift shop/café manager Rick Aronson and his team have amassed a beautiful array of items sold in the simple and spare boutique, everything being reminiscent of the taste level of the Annenbergs, notorious for their exquisite style and love of beautiful design. You’ll find a selection of bowls, glasses, serving pieces, art books, and even a fun collection of midcentury-inspired birdfeeders and houses.
After shopping, stop into the café right next door for a light lunch of salads or sandwiches—or just chose a sweet snack. If you’re lucky, you’ll be served by the very pleasant Ruben, whom we found out is a trained opera singer! Ask politely and he may just show you his vocal talent. On my last visit I grazed on a great Asian Grilled Chicken Salad while my companion Crystal munched on a Mesquite Roasted Turkey Sandwich. We finished off sharing an awesomely rich brownie and choose from a selection of loose leaf teas and French press coffees. This is my idea of an afternoon out with a friend. Why don’t you join me?