I was shocked and saddened when Prince died on April 26, 2016. I bet you were, too. An incredible talent like his is rare indeed and the world cried purple tears that day. As a former Minnesotan and huge Prince fan, I am sorry to say I never got a chance to see him in concert. I let the high cost of tickets keep me from fulfilling that dream. But I wasn’t going to miss a chance to visit Paisley Park, where Prince lived, worked and recorded dozens of albums. Here’s what it’s like to tour Paisley Park.
Paisley Park History and Rules
Just six months after Prince’s death at Paisley Park, his residence became a museum open to the public. This facility began construction in 1986 and concluded one year later. Much of it was designed by Prince himself. As much as possible, the museum’s owners and management have tried to keep Paisley Park exactly as it was before Prince died. Paisley Park is a behemoth white block building along an unassuming road in a Minneapolis suburb, Chanhassen. It looks more like an office building than the place where an uber-talent like Prince resided, recorded dozens of albums, and hosted private concerts.
Prince wanted a space that would function seamlessly as a work and living space, with recording studios, offices, and concert spaces all under one roof. Before he passed away, there were about 50 people employed at Paisley Park including security staff, wardrobe, assistants and other employees.
The rules at Paisley Park remain the same as when Prince lived here. No cursing. No alcohol. No smoking (even in the parking lot!). No meat besides fish and seafood. So, leave your baloney sandwich at home!
Arriving at Paisley Park
Paisley Park is located 22 miles from downtown Minneapolis and 17 miles from the Mall of America. Be sure to purchase your Paisley Park tour tickets online before arrival. You can't buy tickets on-site.
Enter the Paisley Park lobby through glass doors and check-in at a curved receptionist desk. After showing your tour reservation tickets (printed or on your smart phone), you will need to turn in any cell phones. Staff will place your phone into a little pouch that locks. Unfortunately, no cameras of any kind are allowed during the tour. You can unlock your smart device after the tour so you can take photos of a hallway filled with posters, many of which you will see in this post. Prince hated cell phones, so it makes sense that they would be forbidden during the tour. Touring without a cell phone or camera forces you to live in the present moment, just like Prince did.
Prince’s eyes are painted above the indoor doorway to Paisley Park. He wanted everyone who entered to know that he would be watching everything that happens here. The tour commences in a hallway lined with just a sampling of his numerous gold and platinum albums. Our tour guide, Natasha, said these impressive albums were not important to Prince, though, because they were, “just based on numbers.”
Paisley Park Interior Courtyard
Next, you step into an open two-story square lit by huge pyramid-shaped skylights. At night, they emit a purple glow to the outside world. Sky blue walls are dotted with painted puffy white clouds and doves in flight toward the heavens. Perched below the skylights is a miniature replica of Paisley Park inside which are Prince’s ashes.
Oprah interviewed Prince in this very spot in 1996. Looking up to the second floor you can see Prince’s pet dove, named Divinity, in its spacious white cage. The artist’s love symbol is embedded in black tile on the otherwise white floor. Purple cushy chairs flank two sides of this space. (No sitting on any furniture at Paisley Park, please!)
Surrounding the tiled space is carpeting featuring images of the sun, moon and stars. The room's curved columns create different patterns, depending on the angle from which they are viewed. Prince wanted a combination of colors and shapes at Paisley Park to represent the multifaceted aspects of his music, movies and other artistic endeavors.
Along one wall of the indoor courtyard are alcoves that were closets during Prince’s lifetime. Today they act as display cases, showing off Prince’s unique clothing and cloud guitars. Prince designed his signature cloud guitars himself and had them made by a local company.
Along one wall of the indoor courtyard sits the Little Kitchen. It contains two diner booths beside a small wall kitchen. A plush crimson couch on one side of the room is where Prince liked to sit to watch his favorite movies like Some Like It Hot on a large screen TV. He also watched basketball games here. Prince was a huge fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves and the WNBA Lynx team. Fun fact: all 5-foot-three-inches of the artist played on his high school basketball team.
Offices at Paisley Park
Three office stretch along another wall of this courtyard area. Portions of Prince’s personal office have been roped off, but otherwise it has been kept as he used the space. Prince was an Egyptian history buff and a large art piece with Egyptian symbols hangs on one wall. A purple landline sits atop Prince’s desk. A tall, old school CD holder contains some of his favorite music by artists like Joni Mitchell and Sly and the Family Stone, as well as some of his own albums.
Prince's Video Editing Bay
Next up is Prince’s video editing bay. Here you’ll take a seat on the golden-colored carpet to view some of the music videos Prince edited here at a curved electronic console. Behind that is a large purple couch and an unassuming glass coffee table. Despite his larger than life persona, many of the furnishings look plush and comfy rather than ostentatious.
Pictures and Ping Pong in Studio B
Studio B is the only place where you can have your photo taken inside Paisley Park. For an additional fee at check-in, you can purchase a thumb drive on which the photos will be added. You’ll pose in front of what appears to be a purple baby grand piano, but which has actually been outfitted with an electric keyboard. Note: this is only offered to VIP Paisley Park tour ticket holders.
A ping pong table sits across from the piano. Prince was a great ping pong player and loved to challenge fellow musicians to a game. The best part? You can play a round or two here on the very same table where Prince played!
Studio B utilizes analog recording, as do all three of the music studios at Paisley Park. This studio also includes a vintage DeMedio Console, which Prince had special ordered.
Before entering Studio B, there is a small room with a love seat for relaxing after recordings. The Galaxy Room, as it is named, is lit by black light to make neon images of stars and planets glow bright on dark walls.
New Music by Prince in Studio A
Next you’ll visit Studio A with its parquet wood floor and granite-walled control booth. Many famous singers recorded in this room, including James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Madonna and R.E.M. You’ll see some half-melted candles in the control booth, where Prince sang his own lyrics. Most recording artists typically sing in a smaller, soundproof recording booth. Prince, however, acted as producer on all 39 of his albums and therefore had to remain in the control booth. In Studio A, we were treated to a sampling of yet-unreleased music recorded by Prince prior to his passing.
The hallway outside Studio A contains a long sunset-colored mural that Prince had commissioned. On the left you'll see images of artists that Prince influenced, like Lisa and Wendy from The Revolution, Cat Glover, Apollonia, Vanity 6, Morris Day and The Time, Sheila E. and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. The right side of the mural depicts the artists that greatly influenced Prince, such as Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Hendrix, Carlos Santana and Chaka Khan, among others.
Purple Rain Room
A room once used as a dance rehearsal space/basketball court has been transformed to celebrate all things Purple Rain. It still features the wood floors and mirrors used by the dancers, but the single basketball hoop has been removed. While the movie Purple Rain plays on a mounted flatscreen TV, you can look at memorabilia from the beloved Purple Rain movie, album and song. View Prince's Oscar for best movie soundtrack, his purple jacket and white puffy shirt worn in the movie, his bound Purple Rain script filled with his personal notations, a white cloud guitar, and one of the three motorcycles used in the movie.
While touring this room, take a look at the top of the upright purple piano with electronic keyboard inserted. Prince famously danced atop pianos during his performances and jumped from them. (These jumps may have contributed to his hip surgery and subsequent opioid addiction and accidental overdose). You'll see scuff marks on the top of this instrument, caused by Prince's own high-heeled boots and shoes.
Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge Room
In the adjoining room, you'll see memorabilia from his lesser known movies, Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge. Smaller than the Purple Rain Room, this space was also once used as a dance studio. It has been split in half, separated by different flooring and lighting.
Walking through the History Hallway, you will view a timeline that chronicles Prince's career from 1978 (when his first album debuted) to 1996, with one large photo representing each year. Our tour guide, Natasha, jokingly explained why the timeline stops at 1996, “Well, the hallway is only so long.”
The Arcade Room is so named because this is where Prince used to play stand-up arcade games back in the day. Today it is filled with an unusual yellow couch, oversized sculptures of flowers (think Georgia O'Keefe), and a Schimmel Pegasus piano with a hydrolic lid inscribed with Prince's symbol. He paid over $100,000 for the piano in the 1990s.
Paisley Park Studios Soundstage
Graffiti Bridge, sequel to Purple Rain, was filmed almost entirely in the 12,240-square-foot soundstage at Paisley Park. Other clients who used the space for filming or rehearsal include Grumpy Old Men (the movie), McDonald's, Porsche, and the Muppets, among others. Two of Prince's cars are on display in this vast space: a powder blue Bentley and a purple Plymouth Prowler.
NPG Music Club
Prince used to jam out in the NPG Music Club for and with fellow musicians and celebrities. He also invited local fans to come for free concerts here. Often he would not make an appearance until 2 or 3 in the morning. Sometimes, if he wasn't feeling the vibe, he wouldn't show up at all. Instead, he'd play one of his favorite movies, like Finding Nemo, on a huge movie screen to entertain those seated in the cushy curved purple booths. Today this space is used for brunches on Sundays, dance parties with a DJ on Friday nights, and movie screenings on Saturday nights.
I attended the brunch and ate scrambled eggs topped with a unique spice (think Moroccan flavors), s'mores French toast, and a Hasselback potato. You can also order from a menu of Prince's favorite dishes from a menu to eat on-site or take to go, like coconut curry with black rice and chickpeas, and macaroni and cheese.
Paisley Park Store
In the days, weeks and months following Prince's death, fans from Minnesota and far beyond brought notes, artwork, and handmade gifts to Paisley Park. Prince loyalists left these in and beside the fence surrounding the property. The Paisley Park Museum has collected every single item left in Prince's honor. A portion of a fence is displayed in the store along with the fans' memorabilia. The items are rotated so that everything can eventually be shown to Paisley Park visitors.
You can buy all sorts of souvenirs celebrating The Purple One at this store, including Prince's favorite vegan peanut butter crisped rice treats, purple guitar picks, and concert t-shirts and posters. I couldn't help myself; I bought Purple Rain t-shirts for both my husband and myself.
My Love of Prince
I have been a Prince fan as long as I can remember being a fan of music. When my family moved away from Eden Prairie, Minnesota in 1982, Little Red Corvette was all the rage. My rule-following mom purchased spray paint for us to leave a mark on the town's small train bridge. It was already coated several times over with drawings, team slogans and lovers’ names. This was, of course, Prince's Graffiti Bridge. (Don't bother searching for the Graffiti Bridge during your visit to Minnesota; it was removed in 1991.)
A couple of years after our move to Arizona, I bought my first-ever album, Purple Rain. My grade school best friend and I listened to that soundtrack until all of the lyrics spun in circles in our brains. (Yes, even Darling Nikki.)
After college in the Southwest, I returned to Minnesota for four years, where I went on a first date with a charming guy to First Avenue. Known to locals as First Ave, that's where Prince launched his music career and put Minneapolis on the music map. A couple of years ago, that same charming guy (who’s now my husband) and I considered buying tickets to a Prince concert. But at a couple hundred dollars a pop, we resisted our musical urges and stayed home with our kids. It’s true what they say about regrets. It’s the things you didn’t do that gnaw at you more than those you did.
Why Tour Paisley Park
You can no longer see Prince play live in concert. But you can go get a glimpse into the mind and life of this music icon during a Paisley Park tour. You need to make reservations to visit Paisley Park. You can buy the standard ticket but I suggest getting the VIP tour for additional access and information, as described in my story above. You won’t regret it.
Do you love Prince as much as I do? Take a musical stroll down memory lane by listening to Prince's The Hits/The B-Sides or watching Purple Rain, Under the Cherry Moon and Grafitti Bridge.
Would you like to tour Paisley Park? Let us know in the comments below!
A Note from The Travel Mama: I did not receive any comps or media discounts to tour Paisley Park. This story includes affiliate links. Your clicks and purchases help to keep TravelMamas.com a free resource for readers like you.