It's Always Sunny in Sunnylands
Sunnylands is not only a beautiful Californian desert oasis but also a storied location that doubles as a place of historical resonance, relaxing hospitality, and global diplomacy.
Visiting during a pandemic necessitates different precautions and limitations. We checked the helpful Sunnylands website prior to our Palm Springs trip and knew that the gardens were open (yay for free admission!) and that the exhibition center and historic estate were currently closed. Normally, the spacious, contemporary Sunnylands center houses "a rotating art exhibition, café, gift shop, and multimedia offerings that detail the history of Sunnylands and its founders, Walter and Leonore Annenberg". We made a mental note to come back during non-pandemic times, but in the meantime, there are still close to 15 acres of gardens and walking paths to explore.
What's striking about Sunnylands is how well organized and well adjusted the organization's approach has been to these times of corona(virus). We noted this in the website itself and also when we made our first stop at the outdoor information tent. We were promptly greeted by a friendly (masked) face who also had a big photo ID badge with the person's smiling face sans mask, some hand sanitizer, and helpful intro info (available digitally), including information about Sunnyland's various self-guided garden audio walks.
With over 70 species of native and arid-adapted plants from North and South America, Africa, and the Mediterranean, such bountiful and beautiful plant life made up quite a feast for our eyes.
There's even an adorable bird "hotel" called The Feathered Hilton for any fine feathered friends who want to stop by.
Sunnylands also has a small labyrinth (anyone else think of minotaurs whenever they hear the word "labyrinth"?) with rows of winding Wedelia. Visitors are welcome to wander through at their own pace. Several trees tower above the labyrinth, creating some welcome shade and a peaceful atmosphere.
One of the popular attractions at Sunnylands is a replica of the bench that President Barack Obama gave President Xi Jinping of China when they met at Sunnylands during the U.S.-China Summit of June 2013, which has been termed a “shirtsleeve summit” for its more informal attire (and location).
We stopped to take photos for some fellow tourists who asked and assured us of their cell phone sanitation practices; they offered to return the favor, but we were deterred by large fire ants scurrying around the bench. Also, in this day and age, even though I wipe my cell phone down with rubbing alcohol frequently, I wouldn't feel comfortable asking a stranger to touch my cell phone anyway.
Sidebar: consider wearing fire ant appropriate attire when visiting... But what exactly would that be? I suppose it's whatever you feel comfortable wearing when you are in the vicinity of fire ants.
We loved seeing the mountains on the horizon while wandering the grounds:
Some shots of the mid-century modern style of the Sunnylands center, with its signature roof and circular driveway:
Last but not least, Sunnyland's bathroom facilities are very clean and well organized. There is someone stationed near the facilities to instruct guests to use hand sanitizer before entering each single occupancy restroom.
Another view of the majestic mountains on the way to Sunnyland's restrooms and parking lot:
Have you been inside Sunnylands before? We'll be looking forward to coming back when the exhibition center and indoor facilities reopen.
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