Paisley Park: The Ultimate Experience
If you’re a Prince fan then a pilgrimage to Paisley Park in Chanhassen, Minnesota, has to be near the top of your travel list.
If you’ve been going through that internal debate about whether or not to make the trip, do it. And don’t go cheap, grab the gusto and chip in for what they refer to as The Ultimate Experience. I know it’s a bit pricey but you’ll be glad you did.
I’ve been a Prince fan since back in the Purple Rain days. I have a half dozen of his cds, the Purple Rain movie dvd and an oversized coffee table book of his life Darling Daughter gifted me one Christmas.
I fell in love with his music because it was different from everything that was out there at the time. He had a unique sound that was all his own and he wasn’t afraid to share it. I also appreciated his support of so many female musicians, especially when that was even less the case in general than it is today.
My favorite Prince song has always been, always will be, When Doves Cry:
Prince, and Purple Rain, won Academy Awards for both Original Music and Original Song Score. You can see both Oscar statues during the Paisley Park tour.
Prince’s musical genius spread far beyond his own recordings. A fun fact that fans know, but probably not many others, is he wrote numerous hit songs for other artists, often using a pseudonym in the credits.
Alexander Nevermind wrote the hit Sugar Walls for Sheena Easton.
Christopher wrote Manic Monday for the Bangles
Joey Coco wrote You’re My Love for Kenny Rogers, yes, the country guy.
For the song Batdance in the 1989 Batman movie, we know it’s Prince but the liner notes list lead vocals by Gemini, Prince’s astrological sign.
One sad note, as my mind does its typical wandering aimlessly about, Prince’s death has a connection with the Quad Cities where I live. His plane made an unscheduled stop here for medical reasons on April 15, 2016, just six days before he died at Paisley Park.
Prince reportedly felt ill following a performance in Atlanta, became unresponsive during his flight home and landed at the airport in Moline, Illinois, just across the river. He was treated at the local hospital before returning to the plane for his flight.
Enough of that.
The first thing I have to share about the Paisley Park tour is the tour guide was amazing. The Ultimate Experience tour is three hours long, pretty much without a break until nearly the end.
The amount of information she has to remember and relate to the visitors is a ton and her ability to do that, plus simultaneously wrangle a dozen people who want to wander off in all directions, and keep them all moving in a single direction, was incredible. She has to have been a performer of some kind in her earlier life.
The second thing is don’t bother to bring a camera, no photos are allowed on the tour. The ones I’ve posted here are from the Paisley Park performance space at the end of the tour, the only place photos are allowed.
And don’t think you’ll be able to sneak a photo with your phone when the guide isn’t looking. All guests are required to turn off their phones before entering and place them inside a locked cushioned pouch. You do keep the pouch with you but you’re not going to be able to get into it. The guide unlocks it just as you enter the performance space.
The tour starts right off with Prince’s office and meeting spaces, essentially left the way they were when he died. Guests are allowed to walk through the spaces, just don’t be touching anything.
Across a small open area from those rooms is the kitchen, an area that looks kind of like a 50s diner and where Prince would entertain a visitor or two, or just stop in himself while he watched a movie on the television located inside.
The facility’s three recording studios are the main attraction for most visitors, where you get the chance to stand right inside the room where Prince recorded so many hits.
The list of artists who have recorded there is long and illustrious: R.E.M., George Benson, Steve Miller, Barry Manilow, Kool and the Gang, Patti LaBelle, Jermaine Jackson, Mavis Staples, Sheila E. and even the Sesame Street touring company.
There is nothing quite like standing in the studio, learning how Prince created his work and, literally hearing the original music played from tape on the studio speakers.
Many of the spaces throughout the facility are now filled with artifacts from Prince’s career, his awards, costumes and more.
Speaking of which, possibly my most favorite single space was the shoe room. Open just over a year ago, the room features more than 300 of Prince’s shoes.
You walk in, the room is dimly lit and then, when they light it up, it’s like being in Times Square or the Vegas strip.
In addition to seeing the shoes close up, videos are playing interviews with the shoe designers and the company where they were made.
As mentioned above, the next-to-last tour stop is the performance venue, actually a 12,500-square-foot sound stage. Videos of Prince live performances roll on the giant screen while guests wonder around the many more mementos, including a piano, costumes, one of the Oscars and motorcycles from the movie.
Many a party was held in that room over the years. A few quick clips I shot in the sound stage:
Believe it or not parties, in a smaller setting, continue today and are open to the public.
The final stop of the tour is the NPG Music Club, just on the other side of the sound stage. The club is a intimate venue where performances are still being held.
Now that I’m aware of that you can bet I’ll be checking it out to see if something is happening there on my next trip up to the Twin Cities.
Ok, I’ve left a lot out of this, that’s why you need to go check it out for yourself. And really, do yourself the favor and go for The Ultimate Experience. There were two couples on my tour who had taken one of the smaller tours previously and just couldn’t wait to come back for the full experience.
Final Note: Chanhassen is located 20 miles south and west of downtown Minneapolis. Paisley Park is easy to get to. When Prince first built it, the surrounding area was mostly empty fields. That’s no longer the case, now filled with all sorts of commercial, retail and fast food establishments.
**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address, alansheaven.com, or a link back to this page.