Franconia Sculpture Park, Shafer, MN

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If you’re looking for quirky, this one is a pretty good destination. The Franconia Sculpture Park’s 43-acre spread just west of Taylor’s Falls, MN, has plenty of things to see.  Plan to spend a good hour or two there, maybe more if art is your thing.  There is a lot to take in and it’s constantly changing, so grab your camera and open your imagination.IMG_5880Franconia started in 1996 on a small piece of land on the busy intersection of State Highways 8 and 95 north of Stillwater. It was founded by a small group of local artists and sculptors and was originally located a couple miles east. In 2006 it was moved to its current location and has grown substantially since.  It is commonly regarded as one of the largest and most innovative sculpture parks in the nation.    IMG_5937 IMG_5938 IMG_5939In addition to a dizzying array of 70+ sculptures, there are many other things to see and do at Franconia.  The day we visited was a Saturday in July and there were tents set up where youngsters could learn to sculpt and create under the guide of local volunteers.  Franconia also features inhouse residencies for visiting artists, internships, and workshops.  There are many artistic play areas for kids, spaces can be rented out for events, live music, weddings, and birthday parties. IMG_5940  IMG_5942 IMG_5943

Franconia draws over 60,000 visitors annually and there are usually new sculptures being added during the warmer months. It is open from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year, and it is free but donations are encouraged.  Guided tours are available on Sundays or can be arranged privately for a fee. IMG_5879 IMG_5935

The sculptures feature small storyboards with information on the artists, their mediums, thier inspirations, and how they created the projects.  Many of them encourage interaction, some of them are completely otherwordly and marvelous, and they all evoke thought and emotion.  The grounds are well-kept, with mowed-grass paths that meander to and from the works of art. IMG_5936

Franconia Sculpture Park is a fascinating place.  There are things here for all ages and all who appreciate art of almost any fashion.  It’s funky and puzzling and impressive and fun and a great entry in the ever-expanding canon of Minnesota’s quirky roadside attractions landscape.

While in the area: Franconia is best visited in conjuction with a day trip to Taylors Falls, just a couple miles down the road.  Or stop in the Scandinavian-themed town of Lindstrom, just a few miles the other direction, and check out the coffee pot-shaped water tower.

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