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Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Visit to Sunnylands

Last week, while a good friend was in town for a visit, we decided to take a wander through the Sunnylands Garden. Sunnylands is sometimes referred to as the "Camp David of the West" as US Presidents through the years have convened meetings there. We had driven by the estate many times but never really fully understood its significance. It's fairly easy to spot...it is surrounded by a pink concrete wall! President Obama has come into town whilst we have been here, often stayed there, and always held meetings and played a few rounds of golf as well. This heightened our awareness.

So after looking at their website, I realized that the gardens are free and open to the public. The historic estate can only be toured with a reservation which is incredibly hard to obtain. After visiting the gardens, I really want to see the estate so we'll likely try to get in on a tour sometime soon.

The history of Sunnylands is quite interesting. Their website states the mission as the following: "To address important issues facing the nation and the world and to serve as a sanctuary for high-level national and world leaders seeking the privacy needed for solving the most pressing issues of the day." It is such a lovely sentiment and is definitely in keeping with the Annenberg life philosophy.

It's incredibly impressive from the moment you turn onto the large driveway that is lined with these gorgeous trees, at the moment, in full bloom with these gorgeous golden flowers. The visitor center reflects the modernist style of architecture that is so prevalent in Palm Springs. The glassed wall that greets you as you enter the visitor center that overlooks the great lawn reveals an absolutely breathtaking view. 

Inside the visitors center are walls lined with photographs depicting many of the historical gatherings that have taken place on these grounds. Of course, professional golfers have often been invited to share in the many rounds of golf numerous presidents have played here. I was impressed that this retreat is non-partisan. Dwight Eisenhower was the first president to visit Sunnylands and Barack Obama was just there in February of this year. 

The gardens themselves pay homage to the beauty of the desert landscape. Paved walkways take you in and out of the various landscapes. Free walking tours are available on a daily basis but this time around we just wandered ourselves. And the stunning views of the surrounding mountains combined with the desert landscape is part of what makes the Coachella Valley so special. 

The gardens are not all that large. We spent about an hour wandering around. I will definitely go back. That it is free for the public to come and enjoy shows the Annenberg's commitment to bettering society. I look forward to frequenting the stunning gardens of Sunnylands.