Prescott, Arizona, is a historic western town just 100 miles north of Downtown Phoenix. Even though cities like Flagstaff and Sedona might be better known, Prescott offers a unique charm and hospitality that other cities in Arizona simply can’t match!  

Prescott offers the perfect blend of small-town exploration and outdoor adventure. With tons of shopping, restaurants, events, and museums in Downtown Prescott and lakes, forests, and hiking trails nearby, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Prescott, AZ. 

Follow this list for some inspiration on the best things to do in Prescott, AZ, for the perfect jam-packed day trip or a charming weekend trip from Phoenix! 

Best Things to Do in Prescott, AZ

1. Downtown Prescott & Courthouse Square 

Downtown Prescott is the hub of Prescott—it’s where the majority of the shopping, dining, and attractions are located! 

When you get to Downtown Prescott, immediately head to Courthouse Square—bound by Gurley Street, Montezuma Street, Goodwin Street, and Cortez Street. If you arrive early, you should be able to find a free parking space easily! 

Some of my favorite things to do in Downtown Prescott include shopping at Bashford Courts, a small three-story mall, and Spice Traveler, a kitchen store that sells jams, appliances, spices, and more. If you go upstairs at the Spice Traveler, you’ll find The County Seat, a great spot for coffee and breakfast, and if you go downstairs, you’ll discover Superstition Meadery, where you can sample mead, ciders, and other handcrafted drinks. 

If you want to bring home a western-themed souvenir, check out Drawn West, and if you want a sweet treat, like ice cream or fudge, visit the Treat Center on Courthouse Square

Best Things to do in Prescott, AZ - The County Seat - Travel by Brit

2. Whiskey Row 

Montezuma Street is more popularly known as “Whiskey Row.” This famous street dates to more than a hundred years ago and was where famous cowboys and outlaws, like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, spent their time at saloons and other entertainment venues.

Today, Whiskey Row is known for art galleries and shops, but it’s still home to famous saloons, like The Palace Restaurant & Saloon, that date back to the 1800s. You can also visit Hotel St. Michael on Whiskey Row—a hotel that has stood on this street for over one hundred years. Walking down Whiskey Row is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Prescott, AZ!

3. Yavapai County Courthouse 

The Yavapai County Courthouse is in the center of Courthouse Square, and visiting is one of the best things to do in Prescott, AZ. It’s a super famous landmark in Prescott, and you cannot miss the chance to take a photo in front of this historic building during your trip to Prescott! 

Best Things to do in Prescott, AZ - Yavapai County Courthouse - Travel by Brit

4. Courthouse Plaza 

Courthouse Plaza is a large, green, grassy area surrounding the Yavapai County Courthouse. This spot is popular for community events, like craft fairs, holiday festivals, and summer concerts. You can see all the events happening in Downtown Prescott during your visit on the City of Prescott events calendar

Even if there aren’t any events happening on the day of your visit, you can stroll around the park and even bring a picnic blanket to relax in the park. 

5. The Palace Restaurant & Saloon 

The Palace Restaurant and Saloon is the one place you must eat during your trip to Prescott, Arizona. The famous historic restaurant opened on Whiskey Row in 1877, and it was ranked one of the top ten historic bars in the United States by USA Today. 

Over one hundred years ago, famous gunfighters like Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp, and Doc Holliday were regulars at this establishment. Today, you can soak in the history of this renowned saloon while enjoying a meal in the restaurant—the burgers are great! 

Best Things to do in Prescott, AZ - The Palace Restaurant and Saloon - Travel by Brit
Best Things to do in Prescott, AZ - The Palace Restaurant and Saloon - Travel by Brit

6. Watson Lake 

Watson Lake is located just five miles from Downtown Prescott and is one of the best things to do in Prescott, Arizona, during a summer trip. 

Watson Lake is a popular location for fishing, paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, rock climbing, swimming, camping, and picnicking. Personally, kayaking is my favorite way to spend the day at Watson Lake. You can bring your own kayak or rent a kayak from Prescott Outdoors. Their rates are super reasonable—tandem kayaks cost $20 for the first hour and $15 for each additional hour, and solo kayaks cost $15 for the first hour and $10 for each extra hour.   

What makes Watson Lake unique are the giant granite boulders surrounding the lake’s deep, blue waters. They are truly magnificent and are so fun to explore!   

Tip: There is a three-dollar parking fee to enter the parking area near Watson Lake, but once you pay, you’re good for the day! 

Best Things to do in Prescott, AZ - Watson Lake - Travel by Brit
Best Things to do in Prescott, AZ - Watson Lake - Travel by Brit

7. Goldwater Lake 

Goldwater Lake is another popular lake located just a four-mile drive from Downtown Prescott. Unlike Watson Lake, famous for its giant granite boulders, Goldwater Lake is situated in the forest, surrounded by tall ponderosa pine trees. 

You can go kayaking, canoeing, boating, fishing, and picnicking at Goldwater Lake. Swimming is not permitted, but the lake is pretty shallow, so swimming wouldn’t be a great idea anyway. There’s also a hiking trail that snakes around the lake if you’d like to enjoy looking at the lake without getting into the lake. 

8. Prescott National Forest 

The Prescott National Forest is home to 100,000 acres of forest and nearly 1,000 hiking trails. It’s one of the eleven national forests in Arizona and New Mexico, and it’s located nearest to Prescott but also near other popular cities in Arizona, like Cottonwood and Jerome.  

If you like to hike, there are tons of hiking trails in the Prescott National Forest for you to explore. One of the most popular hikes is Thumb Butte Trail—a 2.5-mile loop that takes just over an hour to complete and offers beautiful views of the forest. 

There are also a couple of trails around some of the popular lakes in the Prescott National Forest, like the Goldwater Lakes Trail and the Lynx Lake Loop Trail

Best Things to do in Prescott, AZ - Prescott National Forest - Travel by Brit

9. Prescott Frontier Days – The World’s Oldest Rodeo 

Prescott is home to the “World’s Oldest Rodeo”—a traditional event that’s been hosted by Prescott Frontier Days during the Fourth of July weekend since 1888! 

One of the best things to do in Prescott, AZ, is attending this extremely popular event in the summer. You can watch events like steer wrestling, tie-down roping, team roping, bareback riding, women’s barrel racing, bull riding, and more! 

Buy your tickets online for this popular event plenty of time in advance to reserve your seat. If you can’t make it to the rodeo, grab a seat at the Rodeo Parade around Courthouse Plaza to kick off the festivities. 

10. Christmas Parade & Courthouse Lighting 

If you’re traveling Prescott during the holiday season, plan to visit during the first Saturday of December for the annual Christmas Parade and Courthouse Lighting. This popular event is one of the best holiday extravaganzas in the entire state! 

First, the City of Prescott hosts a parade in Downtown Prescott featuring creative floats by local businesses and organizations, festive lights, and of course, Santa Clause! Then, when it gets dark, everyone gathers around the Yavapai County Courthouse to anticipate the moment when the magical holiday lights turn on to kick off the holiday season! 

These events are both free, and they’re definitely one of the best things to do in Prescott, AZ, during the holiday season! 

Best Things to do in Prescott, AZ - Arizona's Christmas City - Travel by Brit
Best Things to do in Prescott, AZ - Prescott Courthouse Lighting - Travel by Brit

Prescott FAQs 

How Far is Prescott from Phoenix? 

Prescott, Arizona, is 100 miles from Phoenix. Depending on traffic, it usually takes just under two hours to get to Prescott from Downtown Phoenix. 

When Is the Best Time to Visit Prescott? 

Prescott is truly a spectacular destination to visit at all times of the year. It provides an excellent escape from the heat during the summer, with lots of fun water activities to enjoy, like kayaking, paddleboarding, and more. 

However, Prescott also shines during winter, especially during the holiday season. Prescott is nicknamed “Arizona’s Christmas City” because they host lots of fun holiday events and love to decorate with lights and festive décor! 

Where Are the Best Places to Eat in Prescott? 

Prescott has tons of awesome places to eat, especially in Downtown Prescott. Aside from The Palace Restaurant & Saloon, don’t miss FARM Provisions, Prescott Brewing Company, Superstition Meadery, and The County Seat

You can read my blog post about the best places to eat in Prescott, AZ, for all the best coffee, breakfast, dinner, and bars to visit during your time in Prescott! 

Where Should I Stay in Prescott? 

Prescott doesn’t have tons of hotels, so if you want to stay overnight, it’s best to book your stay plenty of time in advance. 

Here are some highly-rated hotels near all the best things to do in Prescott, AZ: 

  • Prescott Resort and Conference Center—This hotel is located just a short drive from Downtown Prescot on a hill overlooking the town and offers a spa, sauna, saltwater swimming pool, and an on-site casino.
  • Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Prescott—This hotel is located a five-minute walk from Whiskey Row, Courthouse Square, and all the attractions in Downtown Prescott.
  • Hotel St. Michael—This historic hotel is located on Whiskey Row, offering quick access to all the city’s main attractions, and has a bistro in the lobby.

If You Have More Time… 

Although this list is super to keep you busy for several days, here are a few other best things to do in Prescott, AZ, if you have more time! 

  • Sharlot Hall Museum—The Sharlot Hall Museum displays a collection of artifacts and historical documents owned by Sharlot Hall, the first woman to hold territorial office. 
  • Smoki Museum—Also known as the “Museum of Indigenous People,” this museum shares the culture and art of Indigenous people in the southwest. 
  • Phippen Museum—This museum promotes and preserves art from the American West, including sculptures, paintings, and more. 
  • Heritage Park Zoo—The Heritage Park Zoo is a non-profit wildlife sanctuary that provides an educational experience about rescued animals. 

Enjoy the Best Things to Do in Prescott During Your Arizona Vacation 

There’s no doubt that Prescott, Arizona, makes a perfect day trip or weekend getaway from Phoenix! The perfect blend of spectacular nature and lovely small-town atmosphere make this charming town one of the best in the state. 

Which of these best things to do in Prescott, AZ, would you enjoy the most? Let me know in the comments below! 

Travel by Brit

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Brit! I'm a writer from Phoenix, AZ who loves coffee, golden retriever puppies, and obviously, travel! I help ordinary women (like me!) dream, plan, and do extraordinary travel experiences.

  • I didn’t realize Prescott was so cool! Next time I make my way to Arizona, I definitely would love to go and check it out. Kayaking on Watson Lake looks like so much fun and a refreshing way to cool off in the Arizona heat. Great guide! 🙂

  • This definitely looks like the perfect day in Prescott. I haven’t been but I want to now. The kayaking looks fun and I really like the sound of mead tasting. Something a little different for sure

  • I’d love to go kayaking on Watson Lake, and would definitely want to follow it up with some coffee at either of those amazing-looking cafes! I’m hoping to get to AZ later this year so will def refer back to this.

  • A chicken and chile quiche sounds delicious 😍 I haven’t been to Arizona yet (ironically I’m from CA so we’re neighbors!) but Prescott is now definitely on my list!

  • Goodness you really managed to cram a lot in to a single day! It does sound like a fab way to explore Prescott! Especially Kayaking at Watson Lake and then tasting mead! (Lol has to be in that order!!) I have to admit, I didn’t even know mead was made in the States! I think of it as such a “ye olde England” type thing!

    • Thank you, Josy! There’s so much to do there; it’s definitely hard to squeeze it all into a day. And haha, I thought the same thing about mead! I’m glad I wasn’t alone in that assumption. Thanks for reading!

  • Okay, this is exactly my kind of blog post! You covered everything I would want to see in an area, starting with an adorable coffee shop! The Porch Prescott looks like it would be my jam!

  • I want to do ALL OF THESE THINGS!! The coffee shops sound delicious and I’d love to go kayaking on the lake! The Christmas parade sounds magical and the ice cream sounds delicious! This would make such an incredible weekend trip! I hope I get an opportunity to visit Prescott one day! Thanks for the great guide!

  • I’ve been to Prescott a few times to teach. I love Watson Lake–the formations are incredible. I like how you have separated activities hour by hour. It’s definitely an itinerary I’d follow.

  • Parker & I choose a walk in the forest as our fav thing to do. It is a great place for Doggo to find sticks!

  • You have now introduced me to so many wonderful AZ gems and my wishlist keeps growing! I’d love to check out Watson Lake and go for a few nature hikes!

  • I already wanted to visit Arizona again to do Sedona, but now it sounds like I’ll need to add Prescott to my list too; I had no idea there was so much to do here! Whiskey Row sounds fascinating; I loved all of the history you shared and would enjoy learning more during my visit. I’d also want to spend some time on Goldwater Lake, and you know I love a good hike, so Prescott National Forest would be on my list too. Great post! Xx Sara

    • Thank you, Sara! I almost like Prescott even better than Sedona (Sedona has better hikes but Prescott has more dining & places to explore) so you’ll definitely have to visit both! 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  • Looks like a lovely place to visit with a lot of fun things to do! Prescott is on my radar now thanks to you… and your beautiful photos!

  • We loved our visit to Arizona but know there are many other spots we need to visit. It was good to learn a little more about Prescott. And all the things there are to see and do. The cowboy history would be fun to learn about. So many outdoor things to try that we would need to stay for a few days.

    • I would actually recommend staying in Scottsdale or Phoenix for half of your trip, then staying in Sedona or Cottonwood for the rest! Prescott is a must-visit but it’s a little isolated (like an hour or so) from the rest of the popular spots to visit. I hope this helps! I’d highly recommend The Tavern Hotel in Cottonwood 🙂

  • I never knew about Prescott before stumbling on your blog 🙂 So many adventure activities to enjoy and the cafes look great too! thanks for sharing!
    Jaz

    • No way! Prescott is one of my favorites! Then again, I’ve never been to Page and Horseshoe Bend and I’ve lived in Arizona my entire life, so I totally get your point, haha. Thanks for reading, Lisa! Let me know if you visit soon 🙂

  • I love AZ but haven’t had the chance to explore Prescott yet! Driven by it plenty of times on the interstate though. It sounds so cool though! I’d love to see the world’s oldest rodeo

  • Love the Palace Restaurant & Saloon! I never considered Prescott for a winter get away. We always think about Flagstaff because of the possibility of snow. But it might be fun to visit Arizona’s Christmas City!!

    • Yes! I agree – Flagstaff is definitely more fun for the weather but Prescott is so charming during the Christmas season. You should visit for the Courthouse Lighting this year! 🙂

  • I have not been to Prescott but it looks really charming! I am def checking it out next time I am in Arizona 🙂

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