Must-do's in Prescott AZ

Prescott is a small community in North Central Arizona, often overlooked due to more popular regional destinations like Flagstaff, Williams, and Sedona. Although Prescott neither offers the spectacular red rock scenery of Sedona, nor Flagstaff’s close proximity to the Grand Canyon and other natural wonders, Prescott does offer a number of its’ own great amenities.

A charming downtown, a laid-back old west ambiance, great local restaurants & shops, and one of the state’s most spectacular holiday light displays are a few of the aspects which set Prescott apart from other Northern Arizona towns. Here are 19 fun things to do if you find yourself visiting “Everybody’s Hometown.” Interestingly, this nickname was given to Prescott because supposedly every tourist can find something that reminds them of home here.

1. Hike Thumb Butte

Gorgeous overlook along the Thumb Butte trail in Prescott, Arizona

Thumb Butte is the most scenic & rewarding hike amongst the dozens of trails within the beautiful Prescott National Forest. Prescott draws a number of fitness enthusiasts come summertime due to the plentiful hiking & mountain biking opportunities available within this high altitude forest. Diverse scenery including ponderosa pines & desert plants, the opportunity to see various wildlife (black bears frequent the area), and fantastic overviews of the city and surrounding forests, make Thumb Butte the perfect choice for visitors seeking both an interesting & picturesque trail. Round trip the trail comes in at about 2 miles. Although short, the hike includes a steep 0.7 mile climb and an elevation gain of about 1000ft.

2. Stroll around historic downtown

Historic courthouse in downtown Prescott, Arizona

Prescott’s old-fashioned, wild west downtown is a favorite amongst Arizona locals. On any given weekend, you are bound to run into Phoenix & Tucson residents visiting for the day. Featuring the beautiful Yavapai County courthouse as the centerpiece, a row of old time saloons (Whiskey Row), unique western and cowboy themed shops, and western themed museums and art galleries, the vibe is quite eclectic. Many of Prescott’s buildings date back to the 1800’s, with a handful earning a place on the National Register of Historic Places. The Palace saloon opened back in 1877, making it the oldest in Arizona.

Plenty of local restaurants and shops will keep you busy for several hours. In addition, weekends throughout the year you will find all sorts of events going on near the courthouse grounds. Must try restaurants include Papa’s Italian and Rosa’s Pizzeria. Whiskers Barkery is one of the top pet shops in the area. If you are looking to treat your furry friends, definitely take a browse (the peacock feathers are a hit with the cats!). If you like history museums, check out the Sharlot Hall Museum.

3. Leisurely stroll around beautiful Willow Lake

Beautiful Willow Lake in Prescott AZ

Willow Lake is one of 3 lakes in the Prescott region. This one is a particularly nice option for any day trippers due to the easy accessibility. It is located adjacent to the zoo, so you can combine both activities for a nice day out in nature. The trail around the lake is about 6 miles and completely flat – thereby, a nice choice for a non-strenuous stroll. Because of the flat terrain, biking is another fun option, especially for those of us who prefer flat trails as opposed to mountain biking. Birdwatching is a popular past time here, as well as boating and kayaking. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the pretty desert scenery!

4. Visit the Heritage Park Zoo

Beautiful cat at the Heritage Park Zoo in Prescott AZ

Although quite small, this non profit zoo is worthy of a visit for the nice walkability, pretty views of the surrounding lake and desert (bonus – on a clear day you can see the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff), and convenient proximity to Willow Lake. A relaxing stroll around Heritage Park Zoo is a great way to spend a spring or summer afternoon. And be sure to check out the annual Zoo Lights festival if you are planning a holiday visit!

5. Treat yourself to dinner at a fantastic local Italian restaurant

Delicious homemade marinara at Papa's Italian restuarant in Prescott AZ

Prescott is home to the best selection of Italian restaurants in the northern portion of the state. Sadly, more touristy areas like Sedona, Williams, and Flagstaff offer very few choices in terms of Italian dining (although they offer their own fantastic assortment of restaurants). Prescott’s Italian restaurant scene in comparison feels more authentic. Here, you get that local vibe that you do not find in these more touristy Arizona towns. Rosa’s Pizzeria and Papa’s Italian both feature delicious food and a lively ambiance. Both of these restaurants are popular downtown hotspots so make a reservation to avoid a lengthy wait!

6. Bike the Peavine National Recreational Trail

The beautiful Peavine National Recreational Trail in Prescott, Arizona

The Peavine is one of the few remaining rail trails in Arizona. While these former railroads-converted-into-bike paths are very popular in the Eastern US, unfortunately they are few and far between in the Western states. For anyone who enjoys a nice leisurely bike ride along a paved path as opposed to a rough mountain biking adventure (although there are plenty of mountain biking opportunities within the Prescott National Forest for those interested!), the Peavine is for you! Prescott’s gorgeous 5.5 mile out-and-back trail is not limited solely to bikers as joggers and walkers will also find the path peaceful and picturesque. For scenic long runs, there is no better choice -and the trail is perfect for marathon training!

7. Shop for unique Southwestern style decor

Country western shop along Whiskey Row in Prescott AZ

Downtown Prescott is loaded with all sorts of touristy shops, with endless Southwest themed knick knacks and Native American art and pottery pieces to feast your eyes upon. Lots of cute Southwestern/cacti themed ornaments and decor to stock up on for later use as birthday and Christmas gifts! Prescott offers the most diverse shopping scene in N. Arizona and you will find many unusual shops such as those selling western wear and random Wild West cowboy style trinkets. You can easily stroll around for an hour or 2 enjoying all these unique shops.

8. Savor a homemade quiche & cup of Joe at Cuppers

Americano and quiche at Cupper's Coffeehouse in Prescott, Arizona

Cuppers is one of just a handful of local non-chain coffee shops in the Prescott area. Unfortunately, Prescott does not offer a sizable local coffee scene, but luckily the few available are pretty decent. Cuppers offers 2 locations – one near the mall in the Trader Joe’s plaza and another nicer location downtown which features a cozy outdoor patio and indoor seating inside a charming historic house. Offering fresh pastries and homemade quiche daily, Cuppers doubles as a great place to grab a quality espresso and delicious light breakfast before exploring downtown or hitting nearby trails.

Update: Cuppers closed in 2022. However, there are numerous other local choices to consider. Wild Iris serves great coffee and offers a nice patio seating area.

9. Kayak Lynx Lake

Gorgeous views kayaking Lynx Lake in Prescott AZ

Lynx Lake is another gorgeous lake in the Prescott region. Surrounded by tall ponderosas within the Prescott National Forest, Lynx is one of the most beautiful places in town for summer recreation. And due to the attractive cooler summer temps at this elevation (5500 feet), Lynx is very popular with Phoenix locals looking to escape the hot desert heat. This means you must get here early to ensure your desired boat rental! Kayaks, canoes, paddleboats, and row boats are all available, although nothing beats kayaking as you will get in a great upper body workout. After your boating adventures, take a stroll around the beautiful Lakeshore path or refuel with a German inspired lunch at the Lynx Lake Cafe.

10. Brunch at Bistro St. Michael

Bistro St. Michael on Whiskey Row in downtown Prescott, Arizona

Bistro St. Michael inside the historic Hotel St. Michael is one of the better downtown dining choices due to the attractive location adjacent to the courthouse in the heart of downtown. If you are lucky enough to score a window seat, you will be able to enjoy some prime people watching opportunities. While you savor a great breakfast entree (try the Quiche of the Day), you can kick back and enjoy the local flavor. Or better yet, plan for a dinner during the city’s beautiful annual Christmas event. During this time, the courthouse grounds are adorned with over a million lights.

11. Pop into an old-fashioned saloon on historic Whiskey Row

Whiskey Row in downtown Prescott AZ

Whiskey Row is a name given to a block of late 1800’s saloons in downtown Prescott. Although the block was once home to more than 40 saloons, only a few still remain including The Palace which is Arizona’s oldest saloon (opened back in 1877). Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday all frequented The Palace. If you are interested in the history of the Wild West, check out one of these old time saloons.

Whiskey Row history & events lineup

12. Take a stroll along the Granite Creek trail

Granite Creek - Creekside stroll in Prescott AZ

From several points in town, you can access a picturesque trail which runs along Granite Creek. This multi use trail is short and easy (about 1.5 miles total) and nothing too spectacular – just a great place to work off some calories after a meal. And, if your prefer to stay off your feet, several restaurants offer nice views of the creek including El Gato Azul and Dinner Bell Cafe.

13. Treat yourself to an espresso at Black Dog Coffee

A delicious Americano at Black Dog Coffee in Prescott

Black Dog Coffee is your best bet for high quality espresso drinks in Prescott. This cozy local shop offers a great selection of espresso drinks, along with a large menu of specialty loose leaf teas (60+ to choose from). A small selection of homemade treats is there to tempt you if you need a little pick me up snack after hiking. Love the gorgeous handmade cards! Update: Black Dog is closed.

14. Check out the annual holiday festivities in “Arizona’s Christmas City”

Prescott, Arizona courthouse Christmas Lights

In addition to being known as “Everybody Hometown”, Prescott also bills itself as “Arizona’s Christmas City.” Although the lineup of events is nowhere near as extensive as those offered in the major cities, it’s a pretty decent lineup when compared to other small Arizona towns. A small zoo lights display, a festive electrical parade, over a million lights adorning the grounds of the courthouse, holiday plays, a fantastic drive-thru light show, and a synthetic ice rink at the Prescott Resort are some of the events you can look forward to if you plan your vacation during the month of December.

This festive lineup, along with the chance of snow and old-fashioned Victorian architecture, make Prescott a holiday oasis for Phoenix and Tucson residents looking for a more traditional holiday ambiance. Not surprisingly, Prescott draws in thousands of in-state tourists throughout the holiday season.

15. Hike the Constellation Trail System

Pretty rock formations along the Constellation Trail in Prescott Arizona

Prescott locals love to hike the Constellation Trail System, a 3.5 mile loop of interconnected moderate trails. Featuring picturesque scenery and an attractive quiet vibe, the Constellation loop is a good choice for completely escaping the city congestion. Take a short drive out of town (the trail is located near the Phippen Museum) and completely immerse yourself in the beauty of the barren desert.

16. Relax with an afternoon coffee break at Wild Iris

Delicious French Press coffee at Wild Iris in Prescott, Arizona

With a beautiful shady garden patio, a great menu of espresso & tea drinks, and a delicious display of pastry treats, Wild Iris is the perfect place to sit down and enjoy a leisurely coffee & snack break in between exploring Prescott’s downtown. All treats are homemade so you can enjoy a sweet treat guilt free (or at least a slightly healthier version of processed junk)! Coffee sourced from Seattle area Rococo Coffee Roasting – they specialize in fantastic single origin coffees.

17. Take a casual stroll along the Lakeshore Trail

Woodsy path along the Lakeshore Trail in Prescott, Arizona

A beautiful stroll around Lynx Lake is the perfect way to spend a summer day in Prescott. With lush surroundings including tall ponderosas and gorgeous views of the water, there really is no better summer weekend activity. Plenty of shade means that you can still enjoy a little stroll even on those hot 90 degree days. Birdwatching is particularly great here with the opportunity to see Bald Eagles nesting during the winter and osprey in the summer. Other potential wildlife sightings include javelina, deer, and black bear. The trail is just 2 miles or so, however, you can connect to other trails for a longer workout.

18. Check out The Prescott Resort

Christmas decor at the Prescott Resort and Conference Center

The Prescott Resort offers a number of attractive amenities including a full service spa, a heated indoor pool, and a coffee bar. Even if you are not staying here, you can enjoy a scenic meal at Eagle’s Nest restaurant. Attached to the casino is Bucky’s, one of just a handful of casinos in the northern portion of the state. Also, be sure to visit over the holidays as the Prescott Resort is home to “the world’s largest gingerbread display” and a temporary ice rink.

19. Go antique shopping

Prescott is one of Arizona’s best towns for antique shopping. All sorts of interesting antique shops populate the downtown. If browsing around lots of little vintage stores selling random trinkets sounds like your idea of fun, then downtown Prescott is sure to keep you busy for hours!

What are some of your favorite things to do in Prescott?