My daughter, Emily, (also known as The Travel Mom) was taking time out of her busy schedule to visit me for two days while my wife was out of town. We planned to drive to our second home in Prescott, AZ that we bought 21 years ago as I prepared for my retirement. On our ride there she asked me what I liked about Prescott and why I purchased a home there. I gave her a short, but honest answer…you’ll see.
It is obvious that one of the main attractions to Prescott is the cooler temperatures that come from the higher elevation. This is particularly attractive in the summer when Phoenix comes to a boil. Here you will also find a change of seasons that can bring snow at some point in the winter. We have watched a soft snow fall on the branches of pine trees and peaks of mountains. The environs include the Prescott National Forest, several lakes, granite boulders, and wildlife that can appear during a hike or as they pass through your property.
My home is on the outskirts of town and backs up to a setting of gigantic boulders. Chipmunks leap onto the bird feeder that hangs from an adjacent pine tree. A path runs between the boulders and the front of my deck that was formed from families of javelinas that march through, along with deer that make their way down a hill to nibble on my bushes.
There are many activities in Prescott that I enjoy, including hiking, golfing, kayaking, and my newest activity, pickle ball. There are art galleries, museums, a zoo, casino, and a Community College. Prescott is the home of the world’s oldest rodeo. Located nearly equidistant from Phoenix, Sedona, and Flagstaff, the town’s pioneer history runs deep with many old saloons and other remnants of the gold rush. But to experience Prescott you must start with the center of town in the Town Square.
This is the heart and soul of Prescott. The County Courthouse sits impressively in the center. On all 4 sides are sidewalks of pavers. A large grassy area sits in the middle where families can picnic or throw a frisbee among towering elm trees. Residents and tourists walk their dogs, push baby strollers, or sit on benches to relax and people watch. An historic Prescott timeline of historical events is painted over the pavement as you approach the Courthouse. An open cement area is at the base of the Courthouse.
On most summer nights musicians will be playing country, blue grass, jazz, or rock music from a bandstand. People sit on the steps of the courthouse, or on portable chairs, or blankets, while dancers fill the cement floor. Businesses line the streets on all sides. One of the main streets is Montezuma, otherwise known as Whiskey Row, where tourists will find shops, art galleries, restaurants, and saloons. You can step back in history by stopping at the Palace Bar for a drink or dinner, where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday once drank at the wooden bar. A few more steps take you to the St. Michaels Hotel, an historic hotel with an iron gated elevator. A hotel restaurant overlooks the square.
A walk across Gurley Street takes you to another side of the square where you will find a landmark restaurant, The Prescott Brewing Company, with a wide-ranging menu, situated in a 3 story building with shops. Continuing up the street you arrive at The Lone Spur Café which serves a delicious breakfast, lunch, or dinner at modest prices.
Looking one block east on Gurley you will see the Hassayampa Inn, another historic hotel with fine dining. A walk north on Cortez Street will lead you to antique shops, clothing stores, and more restaurants. Papa’s Italian will satisfy your taste buds as a long time Prescott favorite for Italian food. Going south on Cortez you will see Bill’s Pizza, a casual dine in or take out restaurant that will tempt you to return once you eat their pizza. A few paces past Bill’s is Tara Fine Thai Cuisine.
The Town Square hosts a variety of arts and crafts shows and food booths in tents during the summer months. Many talented artists sell their art work and creative crafts of jewelry, woodcraft, clothes, and more.
In the winter, a special Christmas lighting display ceremony is held in the Town Square to signal the beginning of the season. Families gather to see the trees and roof of the Courthouse light up with strings of light bulbs. Streets are closed off for children to play games and music carries across the Square. No wonder Prescott is called, “Everybody’s Home Town.
Emily and I decided to take a hike into the forest as our first activity. A choice of trails can be found at Thumb Butte Park. This can be found by driving West on Gurley Street which runs through the center of town until it turns into Thumb Butte Road. You will pass a locally owned Mexican food restaurant that I have frequented since I came here, called Casa Sanchez, as a marker. Continue up the hill until you see a parking lot on your right (N) which has an honor system of paying for parking. For those wanting a challenge, they can choose the trail up to the peak of Thumb Butte on the south side, or a more moderate hike through the forest just north of the parking lot. We chose moderate.
I highly recommend kayaking on Watson Lake. Just take route 89 north from downtown Prescott. You first come to Watson Lake and follow the turn into the lot where you pay a $3 fee to hike or kayak around the lake. It is best to reserve a kayak through Prescottoutdoors.com. They provide life jackets and the staff is very helpful. The lake is surrounded by magnificent granite dells that look like you are on another planet. We paddled our way through coves and around rocks, as we glided past the towering dells, feeling a sense of peace as we connected to nature.
We will hit golf balls at Antelope Hills Golf Course, a public course, which is seen from the highway. The course is appropriately named for antelope that roam the nearby hills and plains. We took our place on the range after purchasing a bucket of golf balls. The setting was perfect, with clear blue skies, and a view of the dells that rise above the lake. After hitting our bucket of balls, we headed to the restaurant in the club house. The menu offered an excellent selection of sandwiches, burgers, and salads, served by a friendly staff.
The next morning we sat on the deck at my home enjoying a cup of coffee before we had to leave. I placed a row of shelled peanuts on top of the railing. We watched birds swoop down and pick them up one at a time and fly off to bury them.
As we were packing up, Emily paused and looked up at me. “Dad, I see why you like Prescott. You have a small town feel that gives you all you need, in a natural setting, and comfortable weather to go with it.”
“That pretty much sums it up,” I said. “I’m happy we got share some of my life here, even for just 48 hours.”