With the passing of Prince in April 2016, music lost one of its most enigmatic talents. There was only one Prince Rogers Nelson and his death at age 57 created a huge void in the lives of his many fans. One very small consolation is that Prince didn’t simply change the course of popular music, he also left behind a rich legacy both in his native Minneapolis and also across the United States.
So it’s time to put on your favorite purple shirt and leather trousers (and a raspberry beret, if you want to go all-in) as we bring you the ultimate sightseers guide to Prince, in Minneapolis and beyond.
Paisley Park, Minneapolis
The ultimate pilgrimage point for the self-respecting Prince fan, this is very literally the house that Prince built: a sprawling $10 million recording complex in suburban Minneapolis that opened its doors in 1987. Here he recorded some of his most iconic records: Sign O’ The Times, Diamonds and Pearls and, of course, the 1989 Batman soundtrack. It contains a recording studio and two rehearsal spaces that double as live venues.
Prince saw Paisley Park as his answer to Elvis’s Graceland. Since his death, it has been converted into a museum and shrine, and stepping through its corridors you can sense his presence. Each April, marking the anniversary of the singer’s death, Paisley Park hosts an annual Prince 'Celebration', including performances by musicians who played with him, talks and other events (visit the official website for ticket info).
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The Capri Theater, Minneapolis
Located in north Minneapolis, the Capri Theater opened its doors for the first time in 1927. But it was not until 1979 that this historic venue carved its place in the rock annals when Prince played his first solo show there. The Capri closed temporarily in early 2019 for refurbishment and renovation, but you can still stand outside beneath its atmospheric red signage. Close your eyes and imagine what it must have been like when music fans gathered 40 years ago, curious about the young local man shortly to make his first foray into rock ’n roll.
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First Avenue, Minneapolis
Downtown Minneapolis venue First Avenue achieved rock immortality when Prince filmed several key sequences at the live-music club for his 1984 movie Purple Rain. Overnight it became an iconic rock club and is intimately bound up in the Prince story. First Avenue was paid $100,000 for use of its space and shut for 25 days to accommodate filming. A silver star bearing Prince’s name is emblazoned on the wall outside, which, after his death, was painted gold. First Avenue continues to host live music events, with bands such as Parquet Courts, Snail Mail and This Is The Kit all passing through (tickets available via the official website).
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The Purple Rain House, Minneapolis
The home in the movie Purple Rain of Prince’s alter-ego, The Kid. Only the exterior of the building features in the movie. Nonetheless, it made such an impression on Prince that he subsequently bought it for himself, just a year before his death. You can take pictures outside, though, as it’s a private residence, be respectful of the current occupants.
Schmitt Music Mural, Minneapolis
Prince was beginning to create waves across the United States and further afield when, in the late Seventies, he posed for a photo shoot with legendary rock photographer Robert Whitman. As a backdrop, Whitman chose this enormous mural in downtown Minneapolis, painted onto the wall of the former headquarters of musical instrument manufacturers, Schmitt.
The company commissioned the music mural in the Seventies, which resembles a giant piece of sheet music, with the notes recreating the score from Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit. It endures today and, while you may not wield a camera with the wizardry of Whitman, the landmark is a perfect selfie spot.
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The RP Funding Center, Florida
The video accompanying Prince’s huge 1983 hit, 'Little Red Corvette', was filmed at this venue in Florida. The singer and his band shot it during rehearsals for their upcoming 1999 tour. Prince told director Bryan Greenberg to keep rolling as he strutted across the empty stage (watch carefully and you will notice there are no crowd shots). He spun across the boards and then delivered an incredible splits.
Dakota Jazz Club, Minneapolis
Prince was a regular at this Minneapolis institution right up to his death. You can sit at his favorite table – where a placard reads ‘rest in peace’. The venue hosts live shows by touring jazz bands.
Electric Fetus, Minneapolis
Prince was, of course, a huge music fan and a regular at this Minneapolis record store. On Record Store Day 2016 he swung by and purchased six CDs including Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book, Joni Mitchell’s Hejira and Santana’s Santana IV.
Las Vegas Rio, Las Vegas
Prince’s final years were characterized by a burst of activity, as if he sensed he had only a finite amount of time left. In November 2006 he rocked up at the Rio Las Vegas hotel for a six-month residency at the complex’s 1000-person capacity live venue. Each night he would perform for up to three hours, playing from an ‘in the round’ (island) stage and wielding a bright orange Stratocaster. The venue is still open and hosts regular live performances.
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Another one for Purple Rain fanatics. In a key scene in the film The Kid tells Apollonia, his love interest, to purify herself in the ‘crystal clear waters’ of Lake Minnetonka (approximately 15 miles southwest of Minneapolis). He reveals soon afterward that they aren’t actually at Lake Minnetonka at all, but the banks of the Minnesota River.
You can visit this 332-mile tributary of the Mississippi, which skirts the south of Minneapolis, yourself. Stand on the bank and imagine what it would have been like to stumble across Prince and his crew filming, what would grow to become, one of the most iconic rock movies of all time.
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