25 Best Things to Do in Prescott (AZ)

Source: Wikimedia / Scottb211 | CC BY 2.0

Prescott is a city in the Yavapai Country, in the state of Arizona, US. In the 19th century, the first settlers were brought in the area thanks to gold mining, as Prescott is rich in minerals. Until Phoenix became the capital of Arizona in 1889, Prescott was designed to be the capital city of the state.

Now it has a population of over 39.000 inhabitants, and it’s located adjacent to the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe reservation. Prescott is located in the Granite Creek watershed, among pine-dotted mountains, and picturesque lakes, that make the city popular for visitors interested in western history, and outdoor activities as well.

Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Prescott (AZ)

Source: Map data @2022 Google

1. Watson Lake

Watson Lake-1
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Watson Lake is about 4 miles away from downtown Prescott can be accessed from Highway 89. The Watson Lake is a highlight between the reservoirs of Arizona, as most of the shoreline is surrounded by immense granite boulders, where some are forming tiny islands on the lake.

The picturesque Watson Lake offers many outdoor activities for visitors, such as boating, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. There’s also kayak and canoe renting possibility at the lake! If you’re looking for other types of outdoor activities, you can also go hiking or rock climbing at Prescott Rocks & Rec. Besides these, you can also go camping at Watson Lake, where you can access the beautiful Granit Dells too.

2. Downtown Historic Area

Downtown Historic Area-1
Source: Flickr / Ken Lund | CC BY-SA 2.0

Downtown Prescott has many historical buildings, that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Many of the 19th-century buildings are still standing intact and in use, such as the Bank of Arizona, Levy Building, or St. Michael Hotel. As they were beautifully restored, the downtown gives you a definite feel of that old western life.

You can find downtown a list of hotels, salons, and restaurants that are featuring this western theme, and almost make you feel like in an old western movie. One of the most remarkable areas in downtown Prescott definitely is the Whisky Row, which is home to Arizona’s oldest saloon, the Palace.

3. Lynx Lake Recreation Area

Lynx Lake Recreation Area
Source: Flickr / Scottb211 | CC BY 2.0

Lynx Lake Recreation Area is situated in a beautiful pine forest outside of Prescott. The area offers a large range of recreational activities such as mountain biking, fishing, hiking, or camping. Boaters are allowed to take non-motorized and low-power boats onto the lake too!

In Lynx Lake Recreation Area are seasonal rentals of canoes and paddleboats available in the summer for those interested. You’ll also find a gold panning area on Lynx Creek where recreational gold panning is permitted. If you wish to stay overnight, you will find campground options with both tent and RV campsites.

4. Sharlot Hall Museum

Sharlot Hall Museum-1
Source: Wikimedia / Doncram | CC BY-SA 3.0

The Sharlot Hall Museum is an open-air museum dedicated to the history and local traditions of Yavapai County. Sharlot was an educated politician and pioneer woman. The Sharlot Hall Museum holds artifacts and documents from her large collection, which she donated in the year of 1927.

Sharlot Hall Museum has many permanent exhibits related to local history, including an aerial photo exhibit, and a Yavapai-Prescott Indian basket display. The museum offers daily tours for visitors, and also self-guided tours at any time. The museum store features rooms with themed gifts for visitors.

5. Whiskey Row

Whiskey Row-1
Source: Flickr / Scottb211 | CC BY 2.0

Whiskey Row is a part of Prescott’s downtown historic district that is especially concentrated with historic saloons, old buildings, and restaurants. The area of Whiskey Row was developed after a fire in 1900, that destroyed an entire city block in downtown Prescott. Many bars were built in the restoration period, so much so, that at a certain point, the area numbered forty saloons on just one block.

The concentration of western saloons is explained with the types of visitors Prescott attracted at that time. The gold rush drew cowboys, prospectors, gamblers, and a fair share of outlaws to the small town. Today, you’ll find on Whiskey Row many art galleries, candy shops as well as the many saloons that made it famous in the first place.

6. Courthouse Plaza

Courthouse Plaza
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The Courthouse Plaza is a historic district in downtown Prescott, that was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Thanks to that fire, that in 1900 engulfed the saloons on Whisky Row, owners took their goods and the immense 24-foot-long oak bar out of the Palace Saloon and set it in Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza to create a makeshift bar.

Prescott organizes almost every event at Courthouse Plaza, such as seasonal celebrations, art exhibits, craft fairs, concerts, and antique shows. The plaza, along with the 1916 granite courthouse at its center, brings alive Prescott’s history, while featuring also shops, cafes, bookstores, and art galleries to explore!

7. Goldwater Lake

Goldwater Lake
Source: Flickr / Scottb211 | CC BY 2.0

Goldwater Lake is located south from Prescott, and it’s a reservoir that was formed by a dam on Bannon Creek. The lake is about 15-acres, that’s great for kayaking and canoeing. The park offers many outdoor activities, such as hiking, volleyball, horseshoes, fishing, children’s playground, and a picnic area as well.

If you like fishing, at Goldwater Lake the species that you can catch include largemouth bass, sunfish, catfish, and crappies. You can also find an easy hiking trail that’s going around the lake and joins other trails that you can follow in the Prescott National Forest.

8. Heritage Park Zoo

Heritage Park Zoo-1
Source: Unsplash / Omar Ram

Heritage Park zoo is a non-profit animal sanctuary, which is dedicated to conserve and preserve native and exotic species. This being combined with recreation, hands-on activities, entertainment, and education for visitors. Heritage Park Zoo is overlooking the Willow Lake, on a 10-acres territory, that provides you an entertaining program for the day in a beautiful environment.

When you’re visiting the Heritage Park Zoo, you’ll find animals that were either rescued from the wild due to their safety, or from captivity, which are now living on large natural habitats. You can join guided tours along with the zoo, as well as you can join the facultative events held by the zoo all over the year.

9. Thumb Butte Trail 33

Thumb Butte Trail 33-1
Source: Flickr / Katie Tegtmeyer | CC BY 2.0

Thumb Butte Trail 33 is a 2.5 mile-long loop trail located within the Prescott National Forest. This trail is really popular, therefor it’s getting often really busy. Thumb Buttle is a moderately difficult trail, and most parts of it are paved and feature marked signs. If you desire a nice nature walk, do hiking, or road biking, this trail will be a great pick around Prescott!

The park is open all around the year, providing many opportunities for those wanting to see local wildlife, such as deer watching. Another reason that’s really worth hiking at Thumb Buttle Trail 33, as at the top of it you’ll have a great panoramic view over Prescott and its surroundings.

10. Highlands Center for Natural History

Highlands Center for Natural History
Source: Flickr / Kevin Dooley | CC BY 2.0

Highlands Center of Natural History is dedicated to facultative programs, to teach about the wonders of nature through demonstration gardens, and interactive experiences. The center offers activities for all ages, starting with nature camps for the young ones, field trips, art classes, and natural history classes for the adults.

They also offer the opportunity for expert nature study, for those interested! The Highlands Center is home to the James Family Discovery Gardens, which features a variety of beautiful plants that are native in Prescott and the Central Arizona Highlands region. You’ll also find in the center a 3-mile long trail that’s connecting to Lynx Creek, and gives access to Prescott National Forest trails as well!

11. Prescott Frontier Days, World’s Oldest Rodeo

Prescott Frontier Days Worlds Oldest Rodeo-1
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Prescott Frontier Days are also the place of the World’s Oldest Rodeo. This event is organized on the 4th of July weekend every year, since 1888. The rodeo features eight rodeo performances, along with other associated events during a week’s time. If you’re visiting Prescott during the Frontier Days, you’ll find at the rodeo performances bareback riding, team roping, tie-down roping, wild horse races, steer wrestling, and obviously bull riding as well!

Many known musicians are performing during this well-known event, for the greatest entertainment. You’ll also have the chance to see the annual rodeo dance in downtown Prescott, that’s also running for several days during the festival. If you’re visiting with family, the Thursdays are always the family nights, when entire families are joining the dance downtown!

12. Prescott Peavine National Recreation Trail

Prescott Peavine National Recreation Trail
Source: Flickr / Ken Lund | CC BY-SA 2.0

Peavine Trail is about 12 miles long, moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Prescott. The trail features a picturesque view of Watson Lake and the Granite Dells, as well as opportunities to observing wildlife. The Peavine is one of the few Rails to Trails projects in Arizona, that connects with the Iron King Trail for another four-mile trek along more railroad bed.

The 6-mile Peavine Trail was built by the Santa Fe Railway in 1893, and it begins just south of Watson Lake at the gravel parking lot by the lush Watson Woods Riparian Preserve. You can walk, bike, or horseback along this six-mile trail, while you’ll have an amazing opportunity to discover the lands of Arizona.

13. Prescott National Forest

Prescott National Forest
Source: Flickr / Alan Stark | CC BY-SA 2.0

Prescott National Forest consists of 1.25 million acres of forested land managed by the United States Forest Service. The forest is divided into eight designated wilderness areas that you can explore. There are many campgrounds to find, starting with developed ones for more comfortable camping, that’s great for families. Then, you can also find undeveloped campgrounds which are great for experienced outdoor enthusiasts!

In Prescott National Forest you’ll also have the opportunity for fishing, boating, or panning for gold on the lakes. As mentioned, there are numerous hiking trails through the forest, such as the Thumb Butte Trail 33. Some of these trails are also accessible on horseback, for those who love wandering on the four-legged animals. The scenes of Prescott National Forest are great for everyone who wants to retreat alone or with families in a relaxing space, while surrounded by nature.

14. Constellation Trails

Constellation Trails-1
Source: Flickr / Scottb211 | CC BY 2.0

Constellation Trails is a series of trail loops in the Granite Dells. The trails travel nearly three miles and pass through relatively flat terrain with little gain in elevation. You can find easy trails as well, that is great for families!

There are marked trails for hiking and mountain biking. The surface of the trail is mostly packed dirt; however, you’ll also find slick rock areas. Along the trail, you’ll discover sights of beautiful rock formations as well as scrub oak passageways and different species of wildflowers. You can also access these trails all year round for a great hike!

15. Phippen Museum

Phippen Museum
Source: Flickr / Scottb211 | CC BY 2.0

Phippen Museum is a small fine art museum that’s showcasing Native American and cowboy-themed works, and their history on the Old West. The museum has a great collection in their permanent exhibition, which includes studio replicas, a gallery that’s dedicated to the western heritage, and the Arizona Rancher and Cowboy Hall of Fame as well.

Phippen Museum presents their collection of artworks, documents, artifacts in a way to bring history to life, providing a unique experience to visitors. You can also attend the Phippen Museum Western Art Show, which’s organized every year, as well as other events throughout the year. When visiting the museum, you can join guided tours, as well as you can visit on your own, on a self-guided tour at any time.

16. Smoki Museum

Smoki Museum-1
Source: Pixabay / pixel1

Smoki Museum is also a museum dedicated to Native American artifacts. The museum was established by Smoki people, along with the Civilian Workers Administration, such as artist Kate Cory, and a professor from the University of Arizona. Smoki museum holds a photography album, and eight paintings donated by Kate Cory along with over 2000 artifacts that include baskets, art, pottery, beadworks, clothing, and many other items.

The museum is hosting many Native American cultural events all along the year, where popular native Storytellers tell folktales and stories while visitors are served with snacks. In Smoki Museum, you can also find a store, where among many others, you can buy items made by Native People.

17. Willow Lake Park

Willow Lake Park
Source: Flickr / Scottb211 | CC BY 2.0

Willow Lake Park is located just a few miles from downtown Prescott, right near Watson Lake. As on the Watson Lake, Willow Lake is great for kayaking, canoeing, bird-watching, or just enjoying the picturesque nature from Granite Dells. Willow Lake Park is somewhat less visited as the popular Watson Lake, so it’s great for everyone looking for a similar beautiful experience, but in a much peaceful environment.

If you’re visiting Willow Lake Park, you can plan for outdoor activities such as boating, fishing, hiking, and even just picnicking. The surface of Willow Lake is about 400-acres, that’s big enough for water activities. If you don’t have your own equipment, you can also rent kayaks and canoes at the lake. If you’re looking for hiking trails on-site, the trails around the lake connect on the western shore to Watson Lake, and Pioneer Park as well.

18. Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery

Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery
Source: Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery

Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery was founded in 1994 and still owned by local artists from the Prescott area. When you’re visiting Whiskey Row, make sure to pop in the gallery, that’s located right in the middle of it. The gallery offers a wide range of beautiful pieces of art created by local artists.

In Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery you can expect to see pieces such as paintings, photography, weaving, sculpture, pottery, baskets, ceramics, glassworks, and even jewelry. The art gallery hosts many special events along the year, as well as monthly guest artist reception and the 4th Friday Prescott Art Walk.

19. Elks Opera House Theatre

Elks Opera House Theatre
Source: Wikimedia / Marine 69-71 | CC BY-SA 4.0

Elk Opera House Theatre is a performing arts center and event venue located in an opera house that was built at the turn of the 20th century. The theater was built in 1905 as one of the many “Elks” opera houses that were built across the country, having more than 500 seats for visitors.

Today, this theater is the only one of these “Elks” opera houses that are still functioning. The original purpose was to host minstrel shows, balls, theatrical performances, and plays. After the recent restoration of the building, now you can also attend concerts and events at the theatre, as well as you can join guided tours around the building.

20. Prescott Brewing Company

Prescott Brewing Company
Source: Flickr / Scottb211 | CC BY 2.0

Prescott Brewing Company is one of the most popular brewing places in Prescott. It’s a classic tavern that features house-brewed beers, traditional pub food, and tasty appetizers. The brewpub has been serving food and drinks in Prescott for more than twenty years, and the owners are very involved in community life as well.

The restaurant’s kitchen makes most everything from scratch. Some highlights of the menu include Dippin’ Chicken bites served with buffalo beer cheese and hand-made pizzas on a spent-grain beer dough crust. The beer selection is top-notch as well and includes something for every taste. The hometown brewery offers apparel, gift cards, and beer merchandise in their store, that you’ll find in the brewery.

21. Van Gogh’s Ear Gallery

Van Gogh’s Ear Gallery
Source: Van Gogh’s Ear Gallery

Van Gogh’s Ear is a contemporary gallery of fine arts and crafts featuring the work of over 50 artists in an elegant environment. The gallery is located on Whiskey Row in downtown Prescott. In Van Gogh’s Ear Gallery, you can explore a variety of works from local and neighboring artists. The 3400 square feet gallery is filled with contemporary fine arts, crafts that you can see, and even buy.

Van Gogh’s Ear is a gallery dedicated to enchanting their visitors, proven that they’ve been awarded for renovating and setting up the large gallery themselves, respecting the historical bases. The gallery is also hosting a variety of different events throughout the year, that you can attend when visiting Prescott!

22. Thumb Butte Distillery

Thumb Butte Distillery-1
Source: Pexels / Laker

Thumb Buttle Distillery is famous for the fact that everything is done by them, by hand, from the ground up. While visiting Prescott, pay a visit at the distillery for a real western tradition made drink. You can find at Thumb Buttle Distillery spirits such as vodka, gin, rum, and whiskey. They have also a line of bitters produced in the Prescott area.

Since you’re at the distillery, you must know that they have their own crafter bourbon, that’s among the finest available corn-based whiskeys around the world. This is called the Bloody Basin Bourbon. In case you’re not a fan of strong drinks, you can also try wines and ciders produced at Thumb Buttle Distillery! The highlight of the distillery is always the live music event you can attend to, that’s organized every weekend in the evenings.

23. Granite Mountain Brewing

Granite Mountain Brewing
Source: Flickr / Scottb211 | CC BY 2.0

Granite Mountain Brewing operates a 3-barrel brewery and taproom in historic downtown Prescott, with a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere. 123 N. Cortez Street. Their three-barrel brewing system sits right behind the custom-built bar where they offer a number of flagships and rotating experimental brews along with locally made mead, cider, and wines.

Granite Mountain Brewing offers games for families, and they also have hidden treats behind the bar if you’re visiting with your 4 legged friends. The place offers a beautiful garden patio to enjoy great company and great brews.

24. Bucky O’Neill Monument

Bucky O’Neill Monument
Source: Flickr / Mike McBey | CC BY 2.0

Bucky O’Neil Monument is located on Courthouse Plaza, in the historic district on Prescott. As for the story behind what the monument is symbolizing, it’s also known as the Rough Rider Monument, which was created by Solon H. Borglum.

The Bucky O’Neill Monument is dedicated to the first US Volunteer Cavalry, otherwise known as Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, and Captain William O’Neill. The captain was the first volunteer in the Spanish-American War in 1898, and he was the one who organized the Rough Riders as well.

25. Mount Union Lookout

Mount Union Lookout
Source: Flickr / Scottb211 | CC BY 2.0

Mount Union is the highest point in the Bradshaw Mountains and Yavapai Country, being almost 8000 feet tall. If you’re ready for a great hike, you can use the Dandrea Trail, and then the Yankee Doodle Trails to get to the top, where a forest service fire lookout stands upon the peak. During the fire season, you are also allowed to climb up to the fire observation tower, just under supervision!

The 360-degree views from the Mount Union lookout are amazing, and you can also see over 100 miles on sunny days. The trails are ranked to be easy to moderate, which makes it great for families as well.  There are also roads to access the peak, and in dry conditions, most cars can get up there. In the winter the roads are more difficult to access.