Tucked in the shadow of Arizona's capitol, Phoenix sits the small town of Prescott. Locals ruefully joke that this southwestern city has everything- except the ocean. Indeed, the collection of sandy desert, rugged mountains, lush farms, wild forests, and refreshing lakes is just a sample of Prescott’s picturesque topography. Brilliant orange and fuchsia sunsets and diverse wildlife, including deer, cottontails, javelinas, and coyotes are just a few of the beautiful sites to be seen.

With countless sunny days, this charming spot is a great snowbird destination and vacation spot for anyone seeking some warm weather and sunshine.

What to do in Prescott: Top 10 Activities to Enjoy

1. Explore Prescott's Outdoor Trails

Hiking, biking, repelling, and horse-back-riding trails abound in the Prescott National Forest, Granite Mountain, Thumb Butte, and around the lakes. Prescott is home to trails for all levels of hiking. A beginner’s favorite is the scenic trail that wraps around Lynx Lake. The Granite Dells are an excellent place for hiking and repelling. Another scenic favorite (which is available to hikers, bicyclists, and horse-back riders) is Trail #48, which starts at a trailhead off Copper Basin Road. Runners may appreciate the Whiskey Row Marathon, a 10k race held every May on Whiskey Row Street in Prescott.

2. Camp in Prescott National Forest

Popular places to camp in Prescott include Lynx Lake, Wolf Creek, and Mingus Mountain. The views are especially magnificent on Mingus Mountain, which is located thirty minutes east of Prescott. Make sure you check the Yavapai County fire restrictions before you start a campfire. Sometimes, especially during the dry summer months, camp fires are restricted.

3. Attend the World’s Oldest Rodeo

Prescott is host to the world’s oldest rodeo, held annually since 1888. It traditionally occurs in July during the weekend of Independence Day. Come enjoy riding tricks, barrel racers, bull riders, and more!

4. Fish, Kayak, and Canoe on Prescott's Lakes

Several beautiful lakes adorn Prescott, including Lynx Lake, Watson Lake, and Goldwater Lake. Each of them are wonderful places to go kayaking, canoeing, or fishing.

5. Experience Acker Night

A special tradition for music lovers, Acker Night is a unique event that is held annually in December to celebrate the holiday season. Shops in downtown Prescott host local musicians, who perform traditional Christmas music as well as a variety of other music styles. Locals and tourists alike enjoy walking from one shop to another, sipping hot chocolate as they listen to the cheerful music.

6. Witness the Christmas Courthouse Lighting

Another Prescott Christmas tradition is the courthouse lighting. During this annual event, local schools gather at the front of the courthouse and sing Christmas carols, a pastor reads the Christmas story, and the courthouse's surrounding trees are lit with Christmas lights.

7. Chalk-up the Streets

This free annual event is meant to encourage creativity. Artists of all levels create a weekend exhibit of pavement chalk art in the National Bank of Arizona’s parking lot on Montezuma Street in Prescott. Gather friends and family, bring your imagination, and pick up a piece of chalk!

8. Tour the Sharlott Hall Museum

A visit to the Sharlott Hall Museum is an enriching, educational experience. The museum holds festivals each year, including the Folk Arts Fair in June, Prescott Indian Art Market in July, Folk Music Festival in October, and Frontier Christmas in December. The Folk Arts Fair is an especially fun family event, as children are taught how to make candles and cornhusk dolls, experts share history on subjects like blacksmithing and fashion, and homemade food is served. For more information, visit their website.

9. Wine Taste at Granite Creek Vineyards

Experience wine tasting, live music, and beautiful views at Prescott's Granite Creek Vineyards. This picturesque Prescott gem is also a wonderful location for special events and weddings.

10. Catch an Event at Tim’s Toyota Center

Prescott Valley’s Tim’s Toyota Center holds events, including seasonal fairs, ice skating, live concerts, circuses, and sports.

Prescott Dining

1. Papa’s Italian Restaurant

Location: 129 1/2 North Cortez Street, Prescott, AZ 86301

The best authentic Italian food in town is accompanied by excellent service at Papa’s. In fact, although the food is scrumptious, some have commented that the best thing about this restaurant is Mama Donna, who treats patrons as if they were guests in her own home.

2. Alfonso’s

Location: 8600 AZ-69, Prescott Valley, AZ 86314

Authentic and delicious Mexican food is served at this local favorite.

3. El Gato Azul

Location: 316 W Goodwin St, Prescott, AZ 86303

This tiny café serves a savory Spanish cuisine and features a delightful atmosphere.

4. Lynx Lake Café

Location: Lynx Lake Store Rd, Prescott, AZ 86301

Savor a delicious German cuisine at this hidden and quaint restaurant. In addition, enjoy a fantastic view of Lynx Lake and a show of hummingbirds.

5. Pangea Bakery

Location: 220 W Goodwin St # 1, Prescott, AZ 86303

Not only is the best bread in town baked here, but Pangea also serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a variety of delicious desserts.

6. Wild Iris

Location: 124 S Granite St, Prescott, AZ 86303

Locally owned, Wild Iris serves some of the best coffee in town. They also make homemade quiche and other yummy goodies!

7. Shannon’s Gourmet Cheesecakes and Deli

Location: 208 W Gurley St, Prescott, AZ 86301

A cute little restaurant in down town, Prescott, Shannon’s is a great place to stop for lunch to have a wrap and thick slice of cheesecake (and perhaps a few free samples of cheesecake!)

8. Whole Foods

Location: 1112 Iron Springs Rd, Prescott, AZ 86305

A great location for those with specific dietary restrictions, Whole Foods serves a delicious and healthy variety of meals, including a large salad bar.

When to Visit

The best times to visit Prescott are late April, July, October, and December. These are the times when most of the local celebrations are happening and when the weather is generally enjoyable.

Visitor Tips from a Prescott Local

  • Take notice of the historical timeline that runs along the south side of Goodwin Street (from the courthouse to the Prescott Public library). It lists significant events in Yavapai County from 1581 to 1985.
  • Walk by Prescotts several beautiful murals which appear on a number of buildings including the Prescott Public Library, the Prescott Parking Garage (on S. Granite St.), and Miller Valley Elementary School. These paintings are not only interesting to look at, but they also make fun photo opportunities. Most of the murals were designed and painted by R. E. Wall and Margaret Dewar, who are affectionately known as the Mural Mice, as well as other Prescott artists.
  • Many parks and lakes have a $5 dollar parking fee. Wednesdays, however, are free!

This article was written by Shalom Eis.

Image Credit: Dyaa Eldin