Last year, the winter home of publishing magnate and former U.S. Ambassador to the the United Kingdom ( under President Nixon) was opened to the public. The home is called Sunnylands and is located in Rancho Mirage, California, about a twenty minute drive from Palm Springs.
Sunnylands is still used as a retreat. In the days of the Annenbergs, Sunnylands was visited by United States presidents and dignitaries from around the world.
Both last year and this year, I tried to book us on one of these tours, both times unsuccessfully. Even though tours go every 15 minutes, several times a day, Wednesday through Sunday, they sell out almost instantly. They are very popular and, with only 7 people per tour, it is nearly impossible to book a tour.
The Sunnylands Visitor Center and Gardens are open to the public, with no admission charge. ( The house tour costs $35 per person).
And, there is a free guided tour of the gardens every Thursday at 11 a.m.
So that's what we did today.
The garden tour took about an hour. Our guide, who has been part of the gardens and public programs since the Center and Gardens were started, led us through the more formal grounds as well as a wildflower garden. She identified plants, discussed hard scape, ground cover, irrigation, showed us nesting birds, and much more, giving everyone on the tour...and there were a lot of us...an understanding and appreciation of Sunnylands.
Sunnylands also offers bird tours. On our walk through the gardens, she pointed our eyes to a nesting hummingbird. Quite the thrill.
Lenore Annenberg wanted a labyrinth in the gardens...and there is one. Jim and I went back to it after our lunch. Our gardens guide had given us tips on labyrinth etiquette, which we followed, but most there with us did not: a labyrinth differs from a maze in that you can't get lost. There is a single entrance/exit. A labyrinth is meant to be a place of meditation. The etiquette on entering a labyrinth is to wait to start until the person ahead of you rounds the first bend.
The Sunnylands Center has a lovely cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. If you want to have lunch there, go before 12:30. By then today, they were starting to run out of sandwiches and salads.
Also, be sure to view the 20-minute video about Sunnylands and the Annenbergs. It shows every half hour.
Maybe next year a house tour for us? A girl can hope.