Eight U.S. presidents and a long list of Hollywood royalty have visited Sunnylands Center and Gardens in Rancho Mirage, and to simply look at it is to understand why. Designed by architect A. Quincy Jones in the 1960s, the pink-walled property sprawls across 200 acres of beautifully landscaped desert and includes 11 lakes, nine acres of gardens, tennis courts, and a private golf course.
But it's the residence itself, built for publishing magnate and diplomat Walter Annenberg and his wife, businesswoman and philanthropist Leonore Annenberg, that cinches this compound as a mid-century masterpiece. The 25,000-square-foot home incorporates such modern features as open atriums—lined with volcanic stone—a pyramidal roof inspired by Mayan architecture, gleaming glass walls, and furniture by Hollywood’s legendary decorator-to-the-stars, William Haines.
A tour inside lets you peek into the lifestyle of this wealthy and impressively cultured couple. Although much of the Annenbergs' world-class art collection is now on display in museums, outstanding replicas on the home's walls give you an idea of its breadth—you’ll find works by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, and other masters. Photographs show the familiar faces of presidents, royalty, and celebrities, all friends and associates of the Annenbergs (Frank Sinatra famously married his fourth wife, Barbara Marx, at Sunnylands). The estate, nicknamed “West Coast Camp David,” still serves as a meeting place for global leaders.
The couple's artistic taste unfolds in Sunnylands’ extensive gardens too, which are landscaped in sweeping bands of color to evoke impressionist art. A nature and gardening enthusiast, Leonore Annenberg designed numerous plantings throughout the estate, including rose and cactus gardens.
Sign up far in advance to purchase a ticket for a guided house tour. Even without tickets, you can take a self-guided audio walk along 1.25 miles of garden paths in the company of hummingbirds and goldfinches. A conference center, gift shop, and indoor/outdoor cafe with stunning views of the San Jacinto Mountains are also on the site.