Prescott, Arizona: Explore the Wild West

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Prescott is a smallish city located in Arizona about two hours north of Phoenix. We drove there from San Diego—a really unique experience crossing I don’t know how many different climates in six and a half hours. We climbed from sea level to the Tecate divide, an elevation of 3,890, then were actually below sea level in the desert, then gradually increased to an elevation of 5,367 feet in Prescott. We went from palm trees, to cacti, to different cacti, then finally to pine and fir trees.

Prescott is the former capitol of the Arizona Territory, back in the Wild West days (Doc Holliday and all that). It was established in the late 1800s and is still very proud of its mining and cowboy heritage. There is a rodeo in town every year (the World’s Oldest Rodeo, they will have you know) and if you stop in to a whiskey-slingin’ establishment like The Palace, chances are you’ll even see an old geezer dressed up in old style clothes.

Prescott Square

The occasion for our visit was simply a family getaway with Doug, my parents, my sister, and her husband. We hadn’t had a family vacation like this since we went to Europe in 2012 because aligning the schedules of six working adults is so difficult. We managed to carve out a little four-day stay in the Arizona mesas.

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My parents used the website homeaway to find a tasteful and comfortable three-bedroom rental house. It took five of us to figure out how to turn on the TV and connect it to Netflix, and we had to call the property manager to get the “normal” coffeemaker out of the garage, but other than that we managed very well. The home was close to Whiskey Row, the “downtown” part of Prescott. By the way (this is important), they pronounce the town name like “press kit” not “prez Scott,” which took me a while to re-learn since everyone I know with the last name Prescott pronounces it the second way.

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Getting there

  • Driving from Southern California will take 5-6 hours depending if you swing through Phoenix or not (we did, to catch a Spring Training baseball game).
  • If you want to fly in to Phoenix, you can rent a car and drive a couple hours, or there is actually a Prescott Shuttle Service that will pick you up from Sky Harbor airport!

Things to do

We had lunch at The Palace, the oldest saloon in town, and heard an story about the local cowboys saving the old bar from a fire—they simply hoisted it up together, took it out into the square ,and continued drinking as the building burned down. (Actually, we heard this anecdote no less than three times). At this restaurant the food was good (get the corn chowder) and the walls were covered in historical artifacts.

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Prescott Antique Mall

We spent most of the afternoon shopping in the many antique malls clustered on Cortez Street. This is something my whole family can do together for an extended period of time! It is really interesting to me how antique malls across the US have many similar items in them, and then there are more regional items, like this cactus glass set that I covet, so far only seen in Arizona antique shops.

A few hometown friends had actually moved out here months before, and we didn’t even know it until about two weeks leading up to the trip. We met up with them at Prescott Brewing Company (amazing veggie pizza) and caught up after many years.

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One of the highlights of our visit was hiking Thumb Butte. The short 2.5-mile loop was pretty steep. The elevation made it challenging for me (still new to hiking) despite the shorter distance. Reaching the top was worth it! We found a little snow up there, and we could see more snow in the distance on higher mountains. The views were incredible. The butte is popular with rock climbers, however we were there during peregrine falcon mating season (Feb-June) so the highest areas were closed off. Gotta give those birds their privacy!

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Bonus Trip:

We didn’t have nearly enough time to visit popular Jerome, Arizona. Built into a steep hill this town appears to rely heavily on tourism, given its small size and large number of artsy, quirky, and cute shops and restaurants.

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We briefly stopped through Jerome on our way to Sedona, which was not a far drive but so very different from Prescott. I will post about Sedona later this week!

Have you been to Prescott? What comes to mind when you think of the “Wild West?”
Let’s talk in the comments! 

All pictures by Staci and Doug Jackson for The Voyageer.

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5 thoughts on “Prescott, Arizona: Explore the Wild West

  1. I’ve never been to Prescott or a place like it, but these “wild west” towns are definitely on my list! The cowboy story at the saloon is the kind of stuff I picture in my head 😂

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    1. The state has SO many different scenery options than Route 66 (which I’ve also driven many times). It is crazy how during one long drive you can see so many different types of desert landscape!

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