Tour the Historic Estate

TOUR THE HISTORIC ESTATE

Sunnylands is currently on summer hiatus and will reopen on Wednesday, September 14.

 

All tour tickets are sold online and are first made available at 9 am Pacific time on the 15th of each month for tours the following month. For example: Tour tickets for the month of January will be released on December 15.

Visitors may check with the reception desk for the availability of same-day tickets.

Guests on all tours must be at least 10 years old. You may find guidelines to visiting here.

Due to the unique mission of Sunnylands, public access may be limited or prevented during high-level retreats, thus requiring the cancellation of scheduled tours–even those already ticketed. In these rare cases, refunds will be made promptly.

All tours depart from Sunnylands Center & Gardens.

Please note: Sunnylands has a new ticketing partner, ModTix, and a new purchasing page that offers a streamlined look at the tours that are available each day. We think the purchasing process is easy to navigate, but if you get lost you can contact customer service via the “Need Help?” link at the top right corner of your screen on the ticketing page.

Tour Descriptions

Historic House Tour—Available September through early June. In the company of a guide, explore the Annenbergs’ historic winter home—a 25,000 square-foot midcentury modern masterpiece through the spaces where history took place, including extravagant New Year’s Eve parties, nationally and globally important meetings, and intimate moments spent with the Annenbergs’ family and close friends. This 90-minute tour requires the ability to walk and stand for a sustained period. $55 per person.

Birding on the Estate—Available September through May. Join an experienced local birder for this 90-minute birding tour 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 does not include access to the historic house. $39 per person.

Open-Air Experience—Available September through May. 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 a shuttle. This tour brings guests to the doorstep of the historic house but inside access is not permitted. $28 per person.

Historic Walk—Available October through April. 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. This tour requires the ability to walk for a mile. This tour includes close-up views of the exterior of the historic house but does not include inside access. $26 per person. Purchase same-day tickets at the Center & Gardens. Tickets sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Guests may check ticket availability at the reception desk.

More information on estate tours

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.