By Katherine Adomaitis | Photos courtesy of Visit Prescott
During the 1800s, Prescott served as the territorial capital of Arizona, bolstered by an economy that included mining and ranching. Phoenix, though, some 90 miles to the south, eventually became the state’s capital. And Prescott? It’s capitalized on its territorial past, mild mountain climate and a walkable downtown historic district to become a magnet for visitors, bustling with shops, galleries, restaurants and bars. In fact, Expedia’s viewfinder travel blog has named Prescott one of its “hottest travel destinations for 2018.” The town—with a population of about 42,000—is also a great place to host small-to-medium meetings and events.
Prescott has 1,300-plus hotel rooms, ranging from B&Bs set in charming Victorian houses to national hotel chains. Among hotels with meeting space, the Prescott Resort and Conference Center, a ridge top property, is the largest with 160 rooms. Sweeping views of the city, Southwest décor and a casino on property, (thanks to its location on Yavapai tribal land), are just some of the highlights. Near downtown’s central historic Courthouse Plaza—Prescott’s popular outdoor gathering spot—Hassayampa Inn boasts a restored 1920s ambiance, 67 rooms, a vintage elevator and a fireplace-warmed lobby. Also off the plaza, Hotel St. Michael dates to the early 1900s and offers 70 rooms plus a first floor filled with shops, galleries and a bistro.
Other uniquely Prescott venues include the Plaza View Ballroom, the second floor of a vintage department store that overlooks the Courthouse Plaza, and the Elks Theatre, a former opera house restored to its 1905 theatrical splendor and updated with state-of-the-art meeting space.
A great part of Prescott’s appeal is its setting at the edge of pine-filled Prescott National Forest and other open space, which means access to outdoor adventures. Dozens of miles of hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails spiral out from the city, including popular ones like the view-grabbing trek up and around landmark Thumb Butte and Peavine National Recreation Trail, which slides by Watson Lake and the much-photographed Granite Dells, a series of dramatic lakeside boulder outcroppings. During warmer months, kayak and canoe rentals are available at several of the small lakes that dot the Prescott landscape.
Prescott has been the site of an annual summer rodeo since 1888 (hence its official moniker, the World’s Oldest Rodeo), but there’s also culture beyond bucking broncos. Sharlot Hall Museum, named for its benefactor, preserves historic structures that tell the story of the region’s past, while the Phippen Museum honors the work of George Phippen and other Western artists. Near Lynx Lake, the 80-acre Highlands Center for Natural History focuses on the flora and fauna of central Arizona with gardens and special programming (and it doubles as an event venue).
What’s a meeting or event without being able to buy a little souvenir to slip in a carry-on? It’s easy to spend hours browsing Prescott’s shops and galleries for art, fashion, home accessories, antiques and collectibles. A few must-shops are Peregrine Book Company, a cavernous indie book store with author events throughout the month and a sizable section devoted to graphic novels; and the fragrant Spice Traveler, a great place to score Himalayan Pink salt, galangal root and annatto seed, not to mention basics like cinnamon and dill.
THE FOOD AND DRINK
Prescott’s historic downtown district is dotted with locally owned restaurants (many of which are happy to accommodate groups) offering everything from organic, vegan cuisine to Mexican dishes to steaks. The town also has a boozy past—Whiskey Row, a block of swinging-door saloons across from the Courthouse Plaza, dates to the 1800s and is a mustsee pilgrimage for selfies. Newer adult-beverage purveyors include breweries, Thumb Butte Distillery and even Superstition Meadery— all great places to toast the charms of Prescott.
Katherine Adomaitis is an Arizona-based freelance writer who covers travel, food, lifestyle and design for local, regional and national publications. Her favorite places in the state include the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Prescott and Saguaro National Park.