Tour the Historic Estate

TOUR THE HISTORIC ESTATE

New tours begin November 11.
Tickets for the Landscape Tour and Estate Bird Walk go on sale October 15.

To safeguard the health of employees and guests during the coronavirus pandemic, tours of the Annenberg historic house are not available at this time. See our rules for visiting. Visits to the historic estate are outdoors and by guided tour only. Guests on all tours must be at least 10 years old, and are required to wear face masks that cover the nose and mouth and to social distance from members of another party and their guides. Each of our tours are small, personal, and requires a ticket. We do not offer large group tours.

 

  • Landscape Tour—Reserve a special tour for as many as six people (your family members, your friends) who will take a guided, 45-minute shuttle ride throughout the 200-acre estate. The tour features Sunnylands’ landscape, outdoor sculpture, nine-hole golf course, and sustainability efforts. No walking is required on this tour; passengers must be able to board shuttle. This tour does not include access to the historic house. $125 per shuttle
  • Estate Bird Walk—Join an experienced local birder for this 90-minute birding walk on the estate. Discover the variety of birds that prompted the Annenbergs to dedicate 25 acres of the estate as a sanctuary for resident and migratory birds. This tour requires the ability to walk up to three miles and does not include access to the historic house. $38 per person
  • Historic Walk—Meet a knowledgeable guide and take a leisurely walk onto the estate. This 60-minute walk focuses on the history of Sunnylands, the Annenbergs and their guests, midcentury modern architecture, and design. Unlike the Estate Bird Walk and Landscape Tour, the Historic Walk is not sold online. Guests may purchase tickets for the Historic Walk in person at the Center on the day of their visit. This tour requires the ability to walk for a mile and does not include access to the inside of the historic house. $25 per person

In depth tour descriptions and updated guidelines

A MODERNIST ESTATE

In the mid-1960s, Walter and Leonore Annenberg hired interior designer William Haines and Los Angeles-based architect A. Quincy Jones (1913-1979) to create a midcentury modern residence in Rancho Mirage.

Integrated into the Landscape

Jones, who for many years was dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California, was known both for designs that integrated houses into the landscape and for "statement roofs." His signature style is evident at Sunnylands, where he used overhangs to shield the interiors from the direct sun, plus walls of glass to allow the climate's brightness to fill the rooms.

As with most midcentury modern buildings, the house’s architectural structure is exposed rather than hidden. Trellises, steel beams, and coffered ceilings are all evident. Mexican lava stone walls on which were hung the Annenbergs’ collection of art create a bold style. And that statement roof? An iconic pink pyramid. The color was chosen in accordance with Leonore Annenberg’s wish to match the pink glow seen at sunrise and sunset on nearby mountains.

Many key figures of the 20th century enjoyed Sunnylands as guests of the Annenbergs. The list includes seven U.S. presidents, the British royal family, and Hollywood icons like Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, Ginger Rogers, and many others.

The Annenberg tradition of being gracious hosts and extraordinary philanthropists extended to their final gift of Sunnylands to the public.

"We set out to get things that we genuinely loved and respected and wanted to live with."
- Walter Annenberg

An Historic Course, Famous Golfers

Dwight Eisenhower was the first president to tee off at the Sunnylands golf course, followed in time by Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, as well as Vice President Dan Quayle and Secretary of State George Shultz. In fact, Shultz and Reagan had a regular game at Sunnylands every New Year's Eve for several years.

Dick Wilson, a highly regarded golf course designer in the 1950s and ’60s, designed the Sunnylands course in 1964 in a parkland style. Golf course designers Tim Jackson and David Kahn, responsible for the course’s 2011 restoration, used painstaking research into Wilson’s original concept and created greens that average 8,000 to 9,000 square feet, allowing for a double-looping, 9-hole, par 72 course. Moreover, the course’s irrigation system was upgraded for efficiency and environmental sustainability and roughly 60 acres of turf grass was removed then to reduce water use.

The Sunnylands course is unique for its distinctive landmarks. A magnolia tree sits on the seventh hole, given to the Annenbergs in 1972 by President Richard Nixon, who kept a set of clubs on the property. The tree came from a cutting taken from one at The Hermitage, the home of President Andrew Jackson in Nashville, Tennessee. On the fifth fairway is a 30-foot Kwakiutl totem pole. A visiting Canadian official suggested the piece in 1976, and the Annenbergs then commissioned it from Canadian First Nations artist Henry Hunt.