What It’s Like to Visit Paisley Park, Prince’s Private Estate and Recording Complex

What It's Like to Visit Paisley Park, Prince's Private Estate and Recording Complex

In a suburb 30 minutes west of Minneapolis, Prince built a 65,000-square-foot, $10-million facility in 1987. Named after a song that describes a beautiful and peaceful place, Paisley Park served as a recording studio, soundstage, and occasional residence for The Purple One for nearly three decades. Here is what you can expect when you visit Paisley Park in Chanhassen, Minnesota. 

I paid full price to visit Paisley Park in Chanhassen, Minnesota, and fan girl over Prince for an hour. But you can count on me to always share my honest opinions no matter who is picking up the tab.

Back in the 20th century when a 5’-2”, ruffled-shirt-clad skinny legend owned the Billboard Hot 100 after the release of Purple Rain, I was just entering high school. I knew there was no way my parents would allow my newly minted teenage self to go see Prince in concert at the Cow Palace in March of 1985, so I did the next best thing. 

We talked a friend’s older brother into renting Prince’s R-rated movie of the same title so we could watch it at her house. Thinking back on it now, that may be the only thing I managed to get away with growing up in a household run by a career Army officer and a teacher. They were hard to trick!

Despite what it may seem, my parents were very open-minded and certainly understood generation gaps, especially when it came to music. While they were finishing high school, they watched the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show while their Lawrence Welk-loving parents admonished the Fab Four for their “long” hair. And as my folks’ college years took them to the end of the 1960s and through a decade of significant social and cultural changes, they loved Peter, Paul & Mary, Joan Baez, James Taylor, and other “long-haired hippy” folk singers whose songs represented their generation’s ideals.

My parents never censored the music I listened to, even after Tipper Gore’s crusade against Prince got his album slapped with a “parental advisory” sticker. But there was no way they would have ever allowed me to travel 60 miles to San Francisco to watch a half-naked man sing about a girl named Nikki who I guess you could call a “sex fiend.” 

While I don’t think I ever loved a Prince song more than “Let’s Go Crazy” from Purple Rain, I still admired his other music over the years. There were the hit songs he wrote for Sinead O’Connor and the Bangles. I was still a fan when he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol in 1993, and I think his killer Super Bowl halftime show set the bar so high that only Lady Gaga’s performance a decade later was even in the same realm. 

And there was Jimmy Fallon’s recapping how Prince kicked off a performance of “Let’s Go Crazy” at the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special with the words, “Dearly Inebriated.”

Like so many people around the world, I was heartbroken by the news that Prince had suddenly passed away at the age of 57 on April 21, 2016. And with Prince’s Paisley Park studios now open for tours, it was the first thing I worked into my itinerary for a long weekend in the Twin Cities.

Primarily constructed to be a recording studio and soundstage, Paisley Park looks very industrial from the outside. Photo Courtesy of Paisley Park-NPG Records and Meet Minneapolis.

Have You Visited Paisley Park?

Share your favorite photo with me by tagging @sagescott.kc on Instagram and using the hashtag #everydaywanderer


Be Punctual, Your Tour Guide Ain’t Got Time to Waste

If you arrive for your Paisley Park tour like a little red Corvette that is much too fast (more than 20 minutes before your tour starts), security guards will deny you access to the Paisley Park parking lot. And, just off of Arboretum Boulevard (AKA Highway 5), there isn’t really a place to wait unless the preschool across the way wants you loitering in their parking lot. (They probably don’t.)

Sage Advice:  If you allow lots of extra time for traffic and find yourself in Chanhassen a bit early for your scheduled Paisley Park Tour, there is a Starbucks at Arboretum Boulevard and Chanhassen Road that is a five-minute drive from Paisley Park.

But, if you arrive too late and miss your scheduled tour time, you’re also out of luck. So channel your inner Baby Bear from the Goldilocks tale and be sure your arrival at Paisley Park is just right!

Located on the east side of 930 Hennepin Ave. in Minneapolis, the “Baby I’m a Star” mural blends Prince lyrics and a comic book style to “celebrate the diversity of Hennepin Avenue and downtown in a fun, colorful way,” according to its artist, Greg Gossel.

Can You Picture This?

Perhaps it’s because of his unique sense of style or maybe it’s from watching his music videos over the years, but I envisioned Prince’s Paisley Park to be a truly extraordinary building. So the first time I saw the industrial-looking, square-tiled exterior of Paisley Park in a photograph, I was stunned.  “That’s it?!? That can’t be it.”Even on the outside, Paisley Park Studios is much cooler in person than it looks in a photograph. But stepping over the threshold into the star’s former recording studio and home provides the expected ambiance.  In the foyer, where guests show their tickets to begin the Paisley Park tour, sky blue walls painted with puffy white clouds butt up against purple walls ranging from lavender to royal purple. As we headed toward the Paisley Park atrium, one of the first stops on the Paisley Park tour, a pair of Prince’s eyes painted on the wall high above us watched our every move.

The atrium of Paisley Park features Prince’s love symbol embedded into the tile and painted doves flying toward the skylight. Photo Courtesy of Paisley Park-NPG Records and Meet Minneapolis.

In the atrium, under a soaring skylight that lets some of the only natural light into Paisley Park, the love symbol that once doubled as the artist’s unpronounceable name is tiled like a large mosaic into the floor. As our tour guide, Corri, encouraged us to gather around, she noted that no one one would step on the symbol, as if it were sacred. Across from a kitchen where Prince would enjoy snacks and meals with guests, a flock of doves painted high on the adjacent wall flies toward the heavens. And live doves in a large cage on the second story sometimes coo for guests.  Yes, this is much more what I expected, and the tour was just getting started…

While most artists are recognized outside the First Avenue nightclub in downtown Minneapolis with a silver star, Prince’s star shines brightest in gold.

You Can’t Take a Picture Sweetie (Even If You’re a Star)

Intensely private in life, Prince remains the same in death. Absolutely no phones, cameras, or any other recording devices are allowed inside Paisley Park. It’s best to keep them locked in your car (after all, they’re pretty safe out there with the security guard monitoring access to the parking lot and all).  For some people, leaving a cell phone behind is like losing a limb. But, if you bring your cell phone into Paisley Park, it will be locked in a grey pouch until the tour ends about 70 minutes later in the gift shop.

No Forgiveness If You Go Astray

If you are caught taking a photo or video inside Paisley Park, you’ll be immediately escorted out of the building and permanently banned from Prince’s recording studio. And, I promise you, if you try to break this rule you’ll be caught, because security is always present at Paisley Park. 

I was so busy taking in my surroundings that it took me a while to notice how security works at Paisley Park. Before Corri moved us to a new section of Paisley Park, she quietly announced our plans into a small headset. “The 10:10 GA tour is moving to the recording studio.” Just like a Secret Service agent is trained to blend into the crowd while guarding a subject with his or her life, an additional security guard would appear like magic in each room as our tour progressed. In contrast to Corri’s bubbly enthusiasm for sharing Prince’s life and legacy, these guards were all business as they stood in a corner and kept an eye on the crowd.

Your Pretty Baby Can’t Come with You

My youngest baby (and the only kiddo left at home) is 12. She can definitely identify many of Prince’s most popular songs. After all, two of her dance team members did a duet to “U Got the Look” this past season. But there was a lot I had to explain to her, and there were a few videos that were a tad racy.  She was definitely the youngest person on our General Admission (GA) tour, and that is partly because Paisley Park has age requirements for its tours. The GA tour we took requires visitors to be at least five. The VIP tour requires children to be at least 10, and the Paisley Park Ultimate Experience requires participants to be at least 12.

According to our tour guide, Corri, Prince loved paisley because they came in all sizes and different colors, just like the human race.

He’s Got the Look

From ruffled shirts to elaborate suits, and from high heels to fingerless gloves, Prince was a fashion icon. So it’s no surprise that Paisley Park has many displays featuring Prince’s outfits and accessories. You’ll see the iconic white high-collared ruffled shirt topped by a purple jacket from Purple Rain and his cloud-covered suit from his “Raspberry Beret” video. His quirky three-lens aviator glasses, a black fedora, and a diamond-studded ear cuff are also on display with many, many other items.

Baby, He’s a Star

The Purple Rain exhibit at Paisley Park features Princes purple leather-bound script for the movie, his iconic purple jacked and ruffled shirt, and the motorcycle featured in the film. Photo Courtesy of Paisley Park-NPG Records and Meet Minneapolis.

From a wall in the entry with framed gold records to another long wall of awards behind glass, Paisley Park showcases the accomplishment of a superstar. In his four-decade career, Prince won seven Grammys and an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score for Purple Rain. He also won four MTV Music Video Awards that look like a silver astronaut planting a flag on the moon, in addition to a myriad of other awards. 

Fun Fact:  In June 2016, Prince was posthumously awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters by the University of Minnesota.

Dance to the Funky Music

Recording Studio A at Paisley Park. Photo Courtesy of Paisley Park-NPG Records and Meet Minneapolis

One of the primary reasons Prince spent $10 million to build Paisley Park was as a recording studio. Each Paisley Park tour includes a visit to Studio A, a 1,500-square-foot recording studio with several isolation rooms. In one of the rooms, a music stand holds a notebook with handwritten lyrics to the last song Prince was working on before he passed away.

Fun Fact:  Although uncredited, Prince played guitar on three songs from Madonna’s Like a Prayer album, and the track “Love Song” was recorded at Paisley Park. 

Life is Just a Party

From the GA tour to the Ultimate Experience, every Paisley Park tour includes a visit to Prince’s NPG Music Club Room. With soaring ceilings and a kitchen hidden behind a swinging stainless steel door, this surprisingly intimate space includes a small stage surrounded by candles where Prince would often perform, and guests — from superstars to local residents — could fill the dance floor or relax on a comfy couch with a cocktail. 

Sage Advice:  A few times a month, Paisley Park offers an After Dark experience that allows guests to enjoy a live dj dance party in the NPG Music Club room from 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm.

Fans around the world were devastated to learn that Prince passed away on April 21, 2016.

But Parties Weren’t Meant to Last

My favorite part of the Paisley Park tour was the soundstage. When Prince was alive, this four-story, black-draped room featuring a full stage was used to rehearse for tours and to record music videos and movies. Now that Paisley Park is a museum, a large screen projects clips of Prince’s most popular music videos while guests take in a large display of Prince’s costumes, three of his cars, quotes that illustrate his approach to life, and many other artifacts.

Fun Fact:  In addition to Prince’s Graffiti Bridge, the Paisley Park Soundstage was used to shoot scenes from Grumpy Old Men and commercials for Burger King, McDonald’s, Lincoln Mercury, and other companies.  

The music videos were mesmerizing and brought back a flood of memories. I wanted to read each sign and drink in the artifacts on display. It would have been great to have another 15 minutes (or three hours) in this room.

The Elevator (Question) Will Bring Your Tour Group Down

If you tour Paisley Park, do not inquire about the elevator where Prince died. I know this etiquette because a woman on our tour asked that question and Corri politely replied that they prefer to focus on Prince’s life and don’t share that detail out of respect for his family. 

This is What it Sounds Like When Doves Cry

Just as every life will eventually come to an end, so does the Paisley Park tour. The last display is a collection of the signs, drawings, and other memorabilia left by fans at the fence around Paisley Park beginning on April 21, 2016, when news broke that the music legend had passed away.  

Corri shared that all of the items left at the fence have been carefully preserved and the Paisley Park museum regularly switches out the items displayed on the fence in the final exhibit before the Paisley Park tour ends.

Paisley Park is In Your Heart

From the mural of Prince’s eyes that watch you as you walk into the atrium to the love symbol embedded on the tile floor under the soaring sky light, from the unfinished song lyrics on a music stand in recording Studio A to the small stage in the NPG Music Club room, Prince’s spirit remains omnipresent at Paisley Park. I could feel his love, creativity, and uniqueness around every corner.

When Paisley Park opened as a museum in October 2016, Prince’s ashes were on display in the middle of the atrium, housed in a custom urn shaped like his recording studio with the love symbol on top. A few months later, at the request of Prince’s family, the urn was moved to the atrium’s balcony. While Prince’s ashes remain at Paisley Park, as of a few months ago they are no longer on display or part of any Paisley Park tour.  In “Paisley Park,” the Prince of Funk sang of a place that speaks of profound inner peace. As his lyrics express, I hope that he is enjoying a lifetime lease on Paisley Park. 

To Visit Paisley Park in Chanhassen

What is Paisley Park?

Part museum, part recording studio, and part concert hall, Paisley Park is the former home and recording complex in the Minneapolis/St. Paul suburb of Chanhassen.

Where is Paisley Park located?

Prince’s Paisley Park studio and home is located at 7801 Audubon Road in Chanhassen, Minnesota. It’s about 30 minutes west of downtown Minneapolis.

Can you tour Paisley Park?

Paisley Park offers several tour experiences, from the General Admission (GA) tour to the Ultimate Paisley Park Experience. Including service and facility fees, ticket prices range from about $45 to about $175. 

On your tour of Paisley Park, you’ll start in the Paisley Park atrium and see Prince’s recording studio, the Paisley Park soundstage, and museum-like exhibits featuring items from Purple Rain and Prince’s performances.

For the latest information, including special exhibits and events, visit the Paisley Park website.

What does it cost to visit Paisley Park?

There are several Paisley Park tour packages. Once you add service fees and other charges, Paisley Park tickets range from about $45 to $175 per person.

Have You Visited Paisley Park?

What did you like most about your tour of Prince’s recording studio and home? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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28 thoughts on “What It’s Like to Visit Paisley Park, Prince’s Private Estate and Recording Complex”

  1. Hello 🙂 Thanks a lot for your review !

    I will try to go there this year. I just wanted to ask if there are really no place we can make pictures ?
    I know it has to be a “secret” place, but I am coming from France and I would be really sad to not have even one picture memory to watch sometimes ou to show to my family…

    The Hall with love symbol at the beginning, the phones are already under seals ?

    Thank you 🙂

    1. To remember a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Paisley Park, I have three photo suggestions for you:
      1) Snap a selfie outside Paisley Park
      2) Visit the underpass between Lake Ann Park and Paisley Park (also known as Graffiti Tunnel or Tribute Tunnel) and photograph all the tributes to Prince there
      3) Upgrade to the VIP Experience where you’ll be allowed to have your photo taken at one spot along the enhanced tour

      And, yes, they are ABSOLUTELY serious about not having your phone with you and they WILL lock it up if you bring it on site (rather than leave it in your car).

      All of that said, visiting Paisley Park was one of the highlights of my trip to the Twin Cities!

  2. I enjoyed Paisley Park tour through your post. You described every bit of it and showed how much love people has for him even after his death. I have a friend who fell in love with him and said he’s the most sexiest man on earth ever. She will love Paisley Park.

  3. I’m definitely doing this tour next time I’m in Minneapolis. I, too, had to sneak and watch Purple Rain at a friend’s house and in the late 90s he played an after-hours show in Chicago – I of course had a camera (always had one!) and tried to sneak a photo. A huge hand came out of nowhere and grabbed my camera. A few minutes later, the same hand returned by camera with the film ripped out. So, yeah, dude really didn’t like photos!

  4. Stephanie Withers

    I had no idea this place existed….or how badly I wanted to visit! Thanks for sharing this!! Growing up with a super religious mom, our music was definitely censored when we were in the house. But I remember being glued to the radio anytime I went anywhere haha. I loved Prince and I think this sounds like a super awesome visit!

  5. I didn’t know there was such a museum dedicated to Prince in Minneapolis. This is how little I know about the artist despite having few of his songs on my playlists. Having said that, this would definitely be something I would want to see, seems very interesting and fun.

  6. Crazy that you can’t so much as have your phone on you. But I’m sure it was a great tour. What an awesome experience!

  7. I didn´t know about the park, but your post has made be interested since I love ´80 music. I would like to visit the recording studio, it must be so exciting to be in the enviroment where such an amazing artist was recording!

    1. If you are a Prince fan. Or a Madonna fan. Or a fan of any artist that ever set foot inside Paisley Park, you MUST go. There was just an amazing spirit that filled every room we visited!

      1. Hi love your posts!!! I’m on way to P Park to experience Prince for my Bday March 13 th. I’ve been Prince fan admirer since day one of his iconic beautiful career n life. Even changed my name to Nikki!!! I m comming n just can’t wait!!! Lifetime dream bout to come true. Blessed to be able to come w my whole family.

        1. How exciting! Have a wonderful time, and share your favorite pic with me by tagging @sagescott.kc on Instagram and using the hashtag #everydaywanderer. P.S. My birthday is March 13th, too!

  8. I didn’t know you could visit Paisley Park so that’s on my radar now. I loved Prince and was sorry to see him leave us so early. I am a big fan of Minnesota and would love to incorporate this into my next trip!

    1. Yes, Paisley Park opened as a museum in fall 2016, about six months after Prince’s death. It was such a cool experience to visit this special place and see so many amazing awards and artifacts from over the years. It sure brought back a lot of wonderful memories!

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