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15 Best Things to do in Prescott, Arizona

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by Gail Clifford MD (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer and photographer traveling the world, often following my daughter. Visit our site at and follow us on Instagram @ABLETravelPhoto
Published November 28th 2021
Prescott, Arizona's first Territorial Capitol, has a bustling town square around the Yavapai County Court House. With more than 200 places to visit within three blocks of Yavapai County Courthouse Square, you can always find something great to do. Take your time. With daily plane service (currently with a United partner) to Los Angeles and Denver, you can arrive from either city in less time than it takes to drive from Prescott to Phoenix. Spend a weekend exploring Prescott, especially during the holidays or the second Friday of December for Acker Night, and you may decide to never leave.

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The Yavapai County Courthouse

1. Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza

The Historic Yavapai County Courthouse building houses courtrooms and the passport office (Rm 207). To enter, you must go through security on the first floor. While there is no tour of the building, there is a historic display on the ground floor worth the visit. The library is next to a small museum. There's a small lending library 'take one, leave one" and historic photos on every level. During the holidays, go up to the top floor to look out through the giant wreaths at the top of the Palace and Jersey Lil's Saloon balcony.

The Plaza Is home to over 30 celebrations a year. From car shows to cowboy's live, timed painting contests to Christmas daytime and nighttime parades, it is truly the heart of the town.

2. Hike Thumb Butte

This iconic landmark just west of Prescott, provides great hiking and some of the most spectacular views in Arizona. It's an easy drive from downtown. Take Gurley westbound and it becomes Thumb Butte Rd. You'll even spot The Falcon's Nest, the tallest single-family home in the world. Looming 124 feet at its highest point on its Thumb Butte perch, it's a destination in itself.

Eventually, you'll reach the parking lot on the right. There is a restroom there. Pay for parking at the ranger stand if you don't have a state park pass.

Go up the steps and you'll see the option to choose between two trails, but no description. The one to the left is more difficult and steeper. It's all up hill but no big boulders to climb over. For the easiest route, start from the right side and go counterclockwise. It's definitely worth the forest scenery and the view. Expect it to take 2 hours to complete the 1.75-mile trail.

For the truly adventurous, when the area isn't roped off for wildlife, you can take another trail up to the top of the butte.

Be prepared with plenty of water and a few protein bars. Do not wear flip flops. Rattlesnakes and other small animals can be hazardous for your health. Do take your dogs but keep them on a short leash.

Visit The Hike Shack (104 N Montezuma Street) for all your outdoor needs and maps of the best trails in the region.

3. Hassayampa Inn Historic Hotel
Just a block off the Square, the Hassayampa enjoys a great central location with an excellent restaurant and bar with live nightly entertainment. With 67 rooms including singles, 2 beds and suites, the favorite room is 326, a King Suite in the front corner which may or may not be haunted. One facility fits so many needs. Eat. Sleep. Play. They host a monthly mother–daughter tea and have event space for weddings and other special occasions.

The Peacock Dining Room has a quiet, elegant ambience. The Lunch menu includes Salads, Reubens and Burgers (try the Peacock Salad) while one of the best steaks in town highlights the dinner menu.

1(928) 778-9434
122 E Gurley Street

4. The Palace
Historic Whiskey Row has many great places to visit. The Palace is the oldest. Rebuilt after the 1900 fire, this saloon and restaurant is a favorite for visitors to find authentic cowboys, great food, and memorials to the Granite Mountain Hot Shots as well as Junior Bonner, one of the movies filmed in Prescott. Go in for a drink at the front, saloon portion, take a gander at the cowboys and dance girls in period costume or push through to the restaurant with museum-quality displays. Be sure to check out the side walls and around the corners, as well as the false fronts up the two stairs to the chambers of the ladies of the night.

For more great places to eat in Prescott, see

5. Matt's Saloon
Also on Historic Whiskey Row, Matt's is a weekend favorite among locals, students, and visitors alike. Get your favorite adult beverage or check out what they have on tap. Come after 10pm for the best crowds, two step and line dancing from Copperhead Road to Flashdance.

6. Holistic Healing
Medical care in Prescott is ridiculously good for a town this size. While world-class cardiovascular surgeons work at the hospital, Feldenkrais practitioners work to reduce pain without narcotics through small body movements. This is especially important in Prescott, with the largest out-patient drug rehab foci in the country. Penny Neu is one of the best Feldenkrais practitioners. She and her colleague hold group classes at the Elks Theater 2nd floor dance studio. They also accept private clients. (928) 778-3634

7. Horseback Riding
With several trails around town, lease a horse, or join a trail ride, to get back to nature on four legs. With a little advance preparation, you can choose a stable that offers guides knowledgeable about the flora, fauna and history of the area. Whether the mining or fire history, the local characters, or the military stories from the 1800s, it's an educational opportunity from a different vantage point, above your sturdy steed.

8. Acker Night
My favorite of all the Christmas celebrations, Acker Night finds people taking to the streets around the Courthouse Plaza to dance and sing and meet Santa. The businesses around the Square open to the public with live entertainment for a donation of $1 (or more). Funds raised on this single night support the arts program for all citizens of Prescott and Prescott Valley. This year, it's the second Friday night in December.

9. Granite Mountain
Another landmark, Granite Mountain reaching 7628 feet allows for more rigorous hiking at altitude than Thumb Butte (so test your stamina at Thumb Butte first). Wear appropriate hiking boots and watch for rattlesnakes. Allow at least 3 hours for a round trip hike.

The Hot Shots Memorial to the 19 firefighters who died in the Yarnell fire (30 June 2013) is off the highway on the way to Yarnell with a smaller one on Whiskey Row and the smallest public one within the Palace (back corner on the right).

Granite Mountain, visible from the distance, remains reassuring for locals. Whether it's your den view or your weekend glory, there's something regal and perhaps mystical about her. Rock climbers note, the southwest face has a 500-foot sheer granite cliff considered one of the best rock-climbing locations in all of Arizona.

10. The Resort
Owned by the Yavapai Tribe with attached Casino, the Resort offers lodging, dining and activities. Site of the best, perhaps largest, gingerbread house Christmas display in the country, it's a festive place to stay and dance with live music available several nights a week.

11. Prescott Public Library
With all the typical great resources a library can offer, this active community includes regular lectures and programs. Weekly computer assistance hosted primarily by patient older gentlemen in the community (ask for John!) helps many complete their projects or clean up their computers. New to town? Join in the board game sessions or follow the progress of water conservation as Prescott maintains her status of having sustainable water sources for the next 100 years.

Check out the timeline outside and the sculptures. It's a great place for a scavenger hunt.

12. Local artists
Several mediums but the same mission, to spread meaning and enjoyment through art. The annual Artists' Studio Tour exposes anyone who attends to brilliant products of inspiring imaginations.

13. Sharlot Hall Museum
This museum documents the region's pioneer-era history. Sharlot Hall (1870 –1943) was an American journalist and poet. Her poem, Arizona, made a case for Arizona's independent statehood. She was ultimately appointed Territorial Historian. Her collection was the beginning of the current museum's contents. Both a heritage campus and historic site, this educational and cultural center holds multiple rotating and permanent exhibits that keep you going back for more.

14. Watson Lake
A great place to get away from it all, spend a couple of hours, or the day at Watson Lake. This glorious open lake allows you to glide through boulders similar to the nearby Dells.

March thru October represents the season. For rentals, stop at Prescott Outdoors for kayaks, canoes, or stand up paddleboards.

If you prefer a lake with pine trees, visit nearby Goldwater Lake.

15. Visit the Farmer's Market
With two to choose from, the hospital's auxiliary parking lot or Yavapai Community College's Parking Lot, obtaining great produce sourced locally is easy to do for more than half the year. In addition, to produce, local vendors sell their honey, samosas and other delicacies. You may even find the same girls who sell frozen lemonade or funnel cakes with the cheeky tip jars, one labeled for men, one for women and the bait "Answer the question for us, who tips better?"

There's so much more to do in Prescott, including a zoo full of animals rescued when other zoos closed, shopping from near to real antiques, fine jewelry, clothes and souvenirs. It's a rare weekend when there isn't a festival, car show, or art show. Spend a night, a week, or a lifetime. There's going to be more to see.
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