Wednesday, 23 November 2016 11:13

Which US Presidents Have Visited The Desert?

Written by Jeff Shotwell
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Air Force One Air Force One Wikimedia Commons

Since the 1920s, the California desert has attracted celebrities, dignitaries and notables from all around the world; in fact, a number of US presidents have visited the desert. So which presidents have enjoyed the beauty of the desert and what places in particular did they favor?

Sunnylands has been a great draw to the desert, even having hosted the British royal family. In fact, original owners Walter and Lenore Annenberg visualized Sunnylands as becoming the "Camp David of the West", where diplomats and dignitaries from the US and around the world could have summit meetings in relaxing surroundings.

Following the Watergate scandal, Richard M. Nixon sought refuge at Sunnylands in 1974, staying out of the public eye during the uproar after President Gerald Ford pardoned him (Ford also spent time at Sunnylands). Nixon also wrote his 1974 State of the Union address while at Sunnylands.

President George H.W. Bush also chose Sunnylands as his desert retreat, enjoying fishing in the stocked lakes. But he also chose the estate for political purposes, holding a summit and state dinner there in 1990 with Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to play golf at Sunnydale, setting the trend for many presidents to come, including President Ronald Reagan. The Reagans loved Sunnylands so much, they spent every New Year's Eve there for 18 years.

President Barack Obama has also played golf both at Sunnylands as well as at Porcupine Creek Estate. President Obama used Sunnylands' relaxing atmosphere to host Jordan's King Abdullah, which helped to foster informal conversation between the two leaders. Chinese President Xi Jinping was another of Obama's guests at the desert estate for a two-day summit of private meetings. The Obamas have visited the desert so many times, the media has speculated that they may be interested in owning a home there.

Presidents Nixon, Eisenhower, Ford and George W. Bush have all played golf at the Thunderbird Country Club in the desert. President Ford actually built a house in Thunderbird Heights; in fact, Thunderbird Heights is affectionately known as the "Playground of the Presidents".

According to the Palm Springs Historical Society, every president has visited the desert since Herbert Hoover, with the exception of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter. However, Roosevelt did plan to buy a house in the desert, but he passed away while still in office.


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