Coronavirus restrictions prohibit access to indoor spaces
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Sunnylands Center & Gardens is opening its 9-acre art garden to the public as a venue for peaceful walks and the exploration of desert plants, starting Wednesday, Sept. 16.
The gardens and their 1.5 miles of walking trails will be available free of charge from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. The public will not have access to Sunnylands’ interior spaces, including the Center and the historic Annenberg home, until further notice. Tours of the estate and public programming, such as Yoga and Tai Chi on the Great Lawn, are currently on hold.
The reopening of the gardens marks the first time that the public will have access to Sunnylands since California officials issued stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March. While restrictions for some businesses eased around Memorial Day, Sunnylands remained closed, adhering to its routine of using the summer months to prepare for a new season beginning in mid-September.
This year, Sunnylands is planning a gradual reopening of its facilities, starting with the gardens only. Currently, Riverside County has not met the state criteria that would allow museums to open their interior spaces. Sunnylands is revamping its operations and retrofitting the Center to allow for social distancing when indoor visits and house tours resume.
Sunnylands is requiring guests to wear face masks that cover the nose and mouth and to maintain a 6-foot distance from people not in their party while in the gardens. Sunnylands will monitor attendance to make sure the gardens do not become overcrowded. Outdoor hand-sanitizing stations will be available, as well as very limited access to the Center for use of the restrooms.
“The purpose of opening the gardens is to provide the public with a safe, outdoor option for walking, meditating, and enjoying the beauty of this place,” said Janice Lyle, director of Sunnylands Center & Gardens. “Our 7:30 a.m. opening time is an hour earlier than usual to encourage visits during the cooler morning hours.”
Opened to the public eight years ago, the gardens at Sunnylands were inspired by Walter and Leonore Annneberg’s masterpieces of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, which now hang in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The 53,000 plants were chosen not only for their ability to thrive in a desert environment but, when planted in groups and rows, to invoke images of brushstrokes on a painting.
The public is invited to stroll the walking paths, relax on shaded benches, or use their cell phones to take any of five self-guided audio tours (found on the Sunnylands website). This season, inspirational signs will be placed throughout the gardens to help visitors explore their surroundings and consider the visual and audio relationships that they encounter there.
The public should be aware that, at this time, there is no access to the Sunnylands gift shop or café. However, some select gift shop items, including Sunnylands Olive Oil, will soon be available for purchase online at www.sunnylandsshop.org. Purchases may be shipped or picked up outside the Center during operating hours.
Guests are encouraged to bring drinking water on their visit, to wear sun block, and to dress for warm weather.
~ Update as of 10/14 ~
Sunnylands to begin offering outdoor tours of the historic Annenberg estate in November
The coronavirus pandemic has halted indoor tours for now
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – As part of its gradual reopening during the coronavirus pandemic, Sunnylands Center & Gardens will offer outdoor tours of the historic Annenberg estate beginning in November.
Tours inside the Annenbergs’ midcentury modern home, however, are not being offered at this time to safeguard the health and safety of employees and guests.
The three outdoor tours of the 200-acre estate are:
- Historic Walk – Guests take a leisurely, one-mile walk onto the estate accompanied by a knowledgeable guide. The 60-minute walk focuses on the history of Sunnylands, the Annenbergs, their guests, midcentury modern architecture, and design. Offered Wednesdays through Sundays. $25 per person.
- Landscape Tour – Guests may reserve a tour for as many as six people of their choosing who will take a guided, 45-minute, open-air shuttle ride throughout the grounds of the estate. The tour features Sunnylands’ landscape, outdoor sculpture, nine-hole golf course, and sustainability efforts. Offered Wednesdays through Sundays. $125 per shuttle
- Estate Bird Walk – Guests join an experienced birder for a 90-minute birding walk on the estate, discovering the variety of birds that prompted the Annenbergs to dedicate 25 acres of their land as a sanctuary for resident and migratory birds. Offered Thursdays and Saturdays. $38 per person.
Guests on all tours must be at least 10 years old. Guests are required to wear face masks that cover the nose and mouth and to maintain a 6-foot distance from members of another party and their guides.
Tours begin on Nov. 11 and depart from Sunnylands Center & Gardens at 37977 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage.
Tickets for the Historic Walk are sold in person on a first-come, first-served basis on the day of the tour at the Center. Payment is by credit card only.
Tickets for the Landscape Tour and Estate Bird Walk can be purchased only online at www.sunnylands.org, with tickets for November’s tours going on sale on Thursday, Oct. 15 at 9 a.m. Pacific time.
A $1 processing fee is added to all transactions. For more details, please visit www.sunnylands.org.
Currently, Sunnylands’ gardens are open to the public free of charge from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.
Beginning Nov. 4, opening hours will change to 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the Sunnylands café will open to outdoor seating. All food and beverages, including lattes and French press coffee, will be packaged as “to go” items that guests can take home or to an outside table on the Sunnylands patio.
Sunnylands Center & Gardens is located at 37977 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage.