There are only a few free Sculpture Gardens in Minnesota and they are not all created equal. Some claim to be free but they have hidden costs associated with them, like parking. But the Franconia Sculpture Park near Taylors Falls MN is truly one of the only free ones around. It has an ever-changing array of different artwork being added each year thanks to its amazing artists. But one thing is for sure, this one has stuff even your kids will love.
The History of Franconia Sculpture Park
The Franconia Sculpture Park was created over 20 years ago by a series of artists. It covers 43 acres in the St. Croix River Valley. Each year artists stay on site to create new large-scale sculptures. Inside the artist’s studio, you can stop in and say “Hi” and see what they are working on.
What to do at Franconia Sculpture Park
As one of the only free sculpture parks in Minnesota, this place has attracted over 150,000 visitors a year. The sculpture garden style is nothing like the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. It has a mix of different materials that have been repurposed. Their size ranges from small, to larger than life. Even with as many visitors as they get, with its size, you never encountered crowds of people. Some of my favorite pieces were:
Sapling By Kevin Dartt
Mixing a tree with a street lamp, brings a connection between both modern technology and the world. What I loved were the different angles. This piece could be transported anywhere because it was solar-powered. I would love something like this in my own backyard. The artist, Kevin Dartt likes to focus on how advanced technologies have affected people and our environment.
Playstation by Bridget Beck
This piece was designed with kids in mind. But it was just kids that loved it as adults ventured up to try it out. This was the first example of interactive exhibits at the park. While most installments at other places have a look but don’t touch, this encouraged guest to be a part of the exhibit. Art should be something that everyone can play with.
Northern Oracle: We Will Tear the Roof off the Mother by Heather Hart
This piece was fun because both of my kids looked at it and couldn’t figure out what happened. It was a perfect rendition of what might have happened to Dorthey’s Farmhouse after the tornado ripped through Kansas. The kids found out it was just a roof. But it was still fun.
The park has so many more exhibits to explore through its winding pathways. It was hard to pick my top 3. Most of the sculptures took older things and recycled them into something fun and quirky. All the seriousness is left for the ‘other’ sculpture parks.
Other Things to Know
The Franconia Sculpture Park is always free. They accept donations at the gate to help fund the artwork. They also have golf carts around to help you get around the park, for a recommended donation of $10. But it’s not required. They are available, first come first serve. The park is open to the public from dusk to dawn, 365 days a year.
The Franconia Sculpture Park is hard to miss, due to the size of the sculptures. They are located at the intersection of highway 8 and highway 95, 8 miles west of Taylors Falls. Parking is free from the lot.
Tips for your visit
- For a more interactive time, take one of their Walking Tours. They run from April through November, Monday through Friday and cost $4 per person. The tours are led by artists to help you learn more about the park.
- Dress appropriately for the weather. The entire park is outdoors and they are open rain or shine.
- Consider bringing a bottle of water or something else with you if the weather is hot. There are a few shaded areas of the park.
- Don’t leave your puppies in the car, they are welcome to enjoy the park as well. Just make sure to clean up after them.
- Head over to their website and check out their children’s art workshops. They will get to build their own creations.
Other things to do near Franconia Sculpture Park
Other Attractions to Visit
The Franconia Sculpture Park is situated between Taylors Falls and Chisago City. My favorite stop is Winehaven Winery in Chisago City. You can stop at them on the way into our out of town. Make sure to get a glass of their famous Honey Wine. During the summer months, chill out on the patio and enjoy views of the vineyard overlooking the lake.
Also, head into Taylors Falls and explore Interstate Park. They have great hiking trails and you’ll watch rock climbers in action. It’s relatively a low-cost activity. If you want to spend a little more, I also recommend doing a ride down the St. Croix River Valley with Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours.
For more ideas on the area, make sure to check out: How to spend a weekend in Taylors Falls.
Where to Eat Nearby
There are a few good places to eat in the area, but my favorite place to visit with kids is the Drive-In. They specialize in Root Beer Floats, Milkshakes, and burgers. You can get just about anything at this 50’s style car hop.
If you want more fine dining, I recommend driving into Osceola and visiting Mango’s Mainstreet Eatery. Their prices were reasonable and everything we ate was amazing. I never mind paying a little more when the food is that good. Everything had an island feel to it.
Where to Stay
If you’re looking to stay overnight to do more in the area, here are the local places to stay. First is the Holiday Inn just over the border into Wisconsin, they have great accommodations. The second option is to camp at either Interstate State Park or Wildwood RV Park. Interstate Park accepts reservations early in the year and will fill up fast on the weekends. Plan ahead.
If you only have an Hour
If you only have an hour to explore the Frontenac Sculpture Park, grab one of the self-guided maps from the information booth. It will highlight some of the best things to check out. If you have a few dollars, drop some in to help support the park and encourage the park to keep going.