Visitors to the Center & Gardens enjoy sculpture from the Sunnylands Collection as well as a rotating art exhibition. A 20-minute film, A Place Called Sunnylands, and other multi-media offerings detail the history of Sunnylands and its founders, Walter and Leonore Annenberg. A cafe offers light lunch items and unparalleled mountain and garden views.
There is no fee to visit and reservations are not required. However, if you plan to visit the Center & Gardens with a group of 20 or more, we ask that you register in advance.
The landscape at Sunnylands Center & Gardens was designed by The Office of James Burnett, with horticultural consultant Mary Irish. Inspired by the Annenberg collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, the gardens were designed to reflect the importance of these paintings to the Annenbergs, who bequeathed them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1991.
Burnett’s signature designs are habitable and sensitive, with shade, quiet, and natural elements that appeal to the senses. Twin reflecting pools filled with river stones flank the rear windows of the Center and its patios. To the west, a labyrinth winds through trailing smokebush (dalea greggii), creating a contemplative and quiet space.
Although Leonore Annenberg did not live to see the Center's completion, it was influenced by her vision. The Los Angeles architectural firm of Frederick Fisher & Partners, which has restored three houses by the estate’s original architect, A. Quincy Jones, references the midcentury modern style of the historic house, with its signature roof, outdoor trellises, exposed wide-flanged columns, and circular driveway. The Center's two 16-foot-high lava-stone walls, quarried in Utah, are an homage to the 11-foot lava-stone walls from Mexico used by A. Quincy Jones in the historic house. The walls create a grand frame for the Center's interior space.
Santa Monica designer Michael Smith, who furnished the private living quarters of the White House for President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama, is the Center’s interior designer. Smith emulates the aesthetic of the historic house and the concepts of its original designers, William Haines and Ted Graber. Smith crafted a relaxing public space with the atmosphere of a grand living room. “It’s not imitating the house in any way,” Smith explains. “It’s just instilled with the feel of some of the elements. It frames your experience as a visitor.”
Over 70 species of native and arid-adapted plants from North and South America, Africa, and the Mediterranean are displayed in the 9-acre Gardens.