For years, pop star and cultural icon Prince groomed his Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota to become a museum. Now, just six months after his untimely passing, his home, located about 20 miles from Minneapolis, has been opened for a limited amount of tours. Here’s what to expect once you make it to Prince’s sanctuary.
One thing to know in advance, you will see Prince’s Paisley Park-styled urn at the entrance of the facility’s atrium. The sight of his ashes made me cry and lose significant balance in my knees but I ultimately appreciated the time to thank him. Near his remains, there are two cages holding his 24-year-old white doves Majesty and Divinity and it may all feel like too much. But there’s joy to discover ahead as you walk through various rooms on the first floor boasting instruments, costumes and work spaces.
There are two levels of admission, a general and relatively self-guided 70-minute tour ($38.50) and a 100-minute guided VIP tour ($100). I chose the latter, which includes access to more rooms and artifacts as well as a photo opportunity with the shell of one of Prince’s purple touring pianos and a guitar. Visitors can have one shot with each purchase of a purple Paisley Park flash drive or you can bring one from home.
While I found myself frequently tuning out the tour guide in favor of my own quiet exploration, that longer experience is well worth the extra money, especially if you’ve travelled a bit to reach Prince’s stomping grounds. The recording gives you more time to be in and absorb the incredible spaces where the “Diamonds and Pearls” singer was most creative, like the recording studios, massive soundstage and sexy nightclub, which are all mind-blowing. The elongated tour also allows you the chance to observe tiny details, like a copy of In Praise of Black Women, Volume 1: African Queens in the video editing suite or a rare look at the handwritten lyrics of “Soft and Wet” in a notebook that gets little fanfare on the tour or in the media.
Tour groups begin every 10 minutes and are kept small and intimate. I loved the extraordinary stories of everyday fans and a small group is an ideal way to hear good anecdotes, like one beautiful black woman who lit up while recounting her experience of running on stage at a Prince show in Honolulu and “getting lei’d.”
The tour ends in a tent, where you can buy an odd assortment of merchandise including T-shirts. I ended up with a shirt with a picture of Prince and Apollonia on the bike from Purple Rain, captioned “This Could Be Us But You Playin.” You can order vegetarian dishes and sweets prepared by Juell and Ray Roberts, who were Prince’s personal chefs for the last three years. You can eat your goodies there or have them boxed up to go. Juell and Ray operate seven locations of their cafe Peoples Organic in the greater Minneapolis area, hit up the location in near Eden Prairie, which has a convenient drive-thru if you’re short on time.
If you decide to stay in Chanhassen—a wealthy and quiet suburban town with about 25,000 residents, almost all of whom are white—for at least a night, I’d recommend following my lead and booking a reservation at the Country Inn & Suites, which runs about $160 per night. Set in a shopping center, the hotel’s rooms are suite-sized and have an amazing view, albeit across a parking lot, of a beautiful Prince mural painted on the back of the Chanhassen Cinema. Prince often rented out all the screens to watch late night movies with the community.
I enjoyed watching people drive up to the Prince mural and taking pictures. Snapping shots of myself is far from a favorite pastime, but I may have taken about 20 kissing selfies with my big Purple guy before crying in the parking lot while thinking about what I just saw at Paisley Park. Visiting his personal and creative universe evoked a range of emotions for me and all of them are worth feeling very deeply. The official Paisley Park website is the best place to go for the latest updates and to book tickets through December 2016. Tickets for 2017 are expected to open up later this month.