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"Sunnylands" becomes West Coast "Camp David"

The main house at Sunnylands, in Rancho Mirage, California.
The main house at Sunnylands, in Rancho Mirage, California.Sunnylands.org

The newest addition to diplomatic circles has to be the magnificent estate in Rancho Mirage, California called Sunnylands, once the Desert retreat of philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg.

Upon their passing, the Annenbergs left the modern estate near Palm Springs to their foundation, with the intention that it would become a retreat for world leaders, both political and private, as well as a place to stimulate thought, and to find solutions to world and local challenges.

The fact that President Barack Obama has had two summits at the estate within the past nine months solidifies that dream, and has christened Sunnylands as the “West Coast Camp David.”

“It is truly the culmination of everything we’ve dreamed of,” says Sunnylands spokeswoman Mary Perry. “I have been working with Sunnylands for four years and the whole reason the Annenbergs created it was to have high level retreats to effect change in the world.”

President Obama used the retreat first to meet with the President of China, then to meet with the King of Jordan. The President also was able to engage in his favorite pastime, golf, on the estate’s private course. Its high security is a plus for Presidential visits, as is the nearby Palm Springs Airport, which can accommodate Air Force One and private jets.

Sunnylands had a rich history when it was home to the Annenbergs, who often hosted President and Mrs. Reagan there on New Year’s Eve.

Others guests have included members of the British royal family, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart and seven U.S. Presidents.

The midcentury modern residence was designed by the famed Los Angeles architect A. Quincy Jones.

Tours of the main house are available through the Sunnylands website, but they sell out quickly.

However, admission is free to the Sunnylands gardens and visitors center, which includes an indoor/outdoor café looking out at the desertscape grounds.

Spokeswoman Mary Perry adds, “Even though the tour tickets are sometimes hard to get, I want people to know that visiting the gardens and the visitors center are well worth the time. And both are free.”

So on your next trip to Palm Springs, plan ahead and take a slight jaunt to the east, where you can feel like a King (or a President) at the epitome of California cool. ###