Prescott is located in Yavapai County in central Arizona, about 2 hours north of Phoenix. The entire tri-city area of Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley is ideally located in the center of the state, nestled between the Bradshaw Mountains at the south and the Mingus Mountain range to the northeast. Prescott is easily accessed by State Highways 169 and 89 off I-17 (north/south), and is within 90 miles of two transcontinental east/west highways, I-10 and I-40.
Arizona does not recognize Daylight Saving Time, so Prescott is essentially on Pacific Time in the spring and summer and on Mountain Time in the fall and winter. Zip codes range from 86301 to 86305 and 86313.
The city of Prescott, Arizona has a rich history. Did you know that 100,000 people inhabited the Prescott area more than 9,000 years ago? These people were likely early ancestors of the Yavapai tribe, meaning "people of the sun," whose reservation now borders the city. Pre-historic Yavapai and Sinagua Indian artifacts can be found in ancient Indian Pueblos and mounds throughout the Verde Valley, in the nearby dwellings at Tuzigoot and Montezuma's Castle.
Spanish explorers, the U.S. Cavalry, Indian tribes, gold rush "49ers," silver miners, and homesteaders also left their influence on Prescott. In the mid-19th century, Prescott developed rapidly.
Many historians have called Charles D. Poston "the Father of Arizona" for his efforts toward creating the Arizona territory. He was an explorer and prospector in the territory, and in 1864 he wrote the following in a letter to a friend:
The granite mountains, covered with great pine forests, give a grandeur and beauty to the country which I have not seen elsewhere. The atmosphere is the perfection of temperature, seldom varying from 75 during my visit. The water is pure, cool, and refreshing, and abounds in every direction.
Here, in what is considered a wilderness, a desert, or what you will, a thousand miles from anywhere...a number of people gather around...and commence the business of life with a vigor and confidence which inspires the most inert and timid with a desire to accomplish something.
Nearly 150 years later, the grandeur and beauty remain.
Prescott, Arizona was founded in 1864 at the behest of Congress and President Abraham Lincoln in an effort to secure the area's mineral riches for the Union forces during the Civil War, the town was named for historian William Hickling Prescott by the settlers.
In 1865, Prescott carved it's unique place among early communities in Arizona because it was reportedly built exclusively of wood and was inhabited almost entirely by Americans as a result of the nation's Westward expansion. As Arizona's Territorial Capital and county seat, the land use and general townscape character clearly evidenced the Midwestern and Eastern roots of the populace. The town plaza, with its courthouse surrounded by a park, reflects the influence of the larger American culture rather than that of the Southwest. Prescottonians may now refer to the center of town as the Plaza, but the design portrays a desire to keep Prescott American and unique among southwestern cities.
Prescott eventually lost it's place as the state's legislative seat to Tucson and finally to Phoenix in 1889. A year later, a devastating fire burned the wood-constructed buildings of Prescott to the ground.
Prescott had always had a fire problem. In May of 1879, the Arizona Miner recommended that at least four deep wells be made as a means of saving the town should a fire break out in the wooden buildings on Montezuma Street. Nothing was done, however, and on July 4, 1883, fire destroyed most of Montezuma, and wells were finally dug on the four corners of the plaza, solely for fire purposes.
On Saturday night, July 14th, 1900, fire swept through downtown Prescott with an uncontrollable fury, almost totally destroying the business district of the small mining town.
The fire began at the southwest corner of Goodwin and Montezuma, then quickly swept up Montezuma - a.k.a. "Whiskey Row." Building after building rapidly went down in flames that then moved across the street to burn and destroy all of Gurley before moving to Cortez. Most of North Cortez went down before the wind died down and the slowing flames were finally put out. Despite its four-hour and estimated $1.5 million rampage of destruction, everyone survived "The Great Fire of 1900" and Prescott was soon triumphantly rebuilt (all with brick or stone - no more wood!) and many of the buildings you see today are reminders of Prescott's past.
One hallmark of mid-20th Century Prescott is Fort Whipple. Originally a tactical base for the U.S. Cavalry and later the headquarters for the Arizona Volunteers (Rough Riders) in the previous century, Fort Whipple was converted to a tuberculosis sanatorium during WW I and was transferred to the Public Health Service in 1920 for continued use as a hospital for disabled Veterans. In the early 1930s, the facility was transferred to the newly created Veterans Administration as a general medical / surgical hospital. Today, the site retains it's early-to-mid Century style and architecture and is still locally referred to as Fort Whipple.
The "happy days" of the mid-20th Century still linger around Prescott. All one needs to do to "go back in time" is stroll around downtown, stop in at a converted soda fountain, attend a classic car show, or check out the resurrected 1950s-era Senator Drive-In sign out on Senator Highway and Summit Point Drive.
Today, the older residential streets are lined with tall trees and pitched-roof frame houses, including turreted Victorian homes. Prescott has many homes and businesses on the National Register of Historic Places and its trademark white granite Prescott courthouse, set among the green lawns and spreading trees of the town square, reflects the Midwestern and New England background of Prescott’s pioneers. In fact, in March 2006 the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Prescott one of its "Dozen Distinctive Destinations" appealing to tourists' taste for historic places.
With a small commercial airline service courtesy of Great Lakes Airlines, you can actually fly directly into Prescott's airport, Ernest Love Field (PRC) from Denver, Colorado; Farmington, New Mexico; or Los Angeles, California.
Most visitors fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, then take a short, scenic 2 hour drive to Prescott. Click here for driving directions to Prescott.
As the early Arizona Territory explorer and prospector, Charles D. Poston, noted in an 1864 letter to a friend, "The atmosphere is the perfection of temperature, seldom varying from 75 during my visit." He was right. Get more information about Prescott's weather, including average monthly temperatures, rainfall and snowfall totals. Click here to see current weather forecast and yearly averages.
We mean it when we say anytime is the best time to visit Prescott. Here are the virtues of visiting Prescott in every season:
Summertime in Prescott means beautiful, mildly warm temperatures and fun, fun, fun. Needless to say, the area's best outdoor recreation flourishes in the summer months. Fishing, kayaking, hiking and mountain biking are at their best during those long summer days. Nearly every weekend from June through September, there are festivals and events of all kinds. Courthouse Square and nearby venues are abuzz with art fairs, food and wine festivals, concerts, car shows, air shows and more. And of course, there is the signature event of the summer - nay, the year - Frontier Days, including the World's Oldest Rodeo, which takes place annually spanning the days around July 4th. Enjoy the big Frontier Days parade and myriad events centered around the rodeo.
Visitors can expect average high/low temperatures of 86/49 in June, 89/57 in July, 82/49 in August and 82/49 in September. Summer rains, like the rest of Arizona, is highest in July and August, with 2 - 4 inches of rain each month. In July and August, when the dew point rises, Arizona experiences what are called monsoon rains. Quick, intense thunderstorms contribute to the rapid-shift swings in weather in the summertime, but locals will tell you that the monsoon season is one of their favorite times of year because it brings relief to seasonally high temperatures and makes the landscape incredibly verdant and fragrant.
Autumn in Prescott is one of the locals' favorite times of year because of several family-friendly events and beautiful changing foliage. Don't miss any of the handful of good old-fashioned pumpkin festivals in Chino Valley and nearby Dewey. They have everything you could expect from a pumpkin patch: farm fresh pumpkins grown on-site; farm fresh produce; horse, animal and wildlife presentations; educational presentations; corn maze; hay rides; horseback riding lessons; petting zoo; entertainment and activities; attractions and concessions.
If you have children, take them trick o' treating on Mount Vernon Street in downtown Prescott. Mount Vernon Street is lined with stately and cute-as-a-button Victorian homes that get all decked out for Halloween. Each year, about 5,000 trick o’ treaters of all ages descend upon Mt. Vernon and line up at the spookily-transformed Painted Ladies to garner ghoulish goodies and marvel at the lawns-turned-graveyards and creepy decor.
There's grown-up fun in the fall in Prescott, too. After all, amber fall foliage is perfect when paired with a locally-crafted beer. Regional microbreweries headline the annual Old West Oktoberfest, complemented by festive events and areas for whole-family fun. The downtown section of Gurley Street gets closed off so participants can wander the booths, tasting and testing ales, ambers, stouts and lagers.
Average high/low temperatures are just right for all these autumnal activities. October boasts 72/37 degree temperatures, and November turns crisper, averaging 60/27 degrees. Leaves usually begin changing color in late October. The first snowfall of the year usually happens around late October, early November. Be sure to pack comfortable layers that can be added or removed as Mother Nature is likely to change her mind throughout the day.
Prescott is known as Arizona's Christmas City. While Prescott is always a slice of Americana, it becomes even more so in the winter. Think "Bedford Falls" from It's a Wonderful Life. Prescott's trademark white granite Courthouse Square sparkles when blanketed in crisp snow. With gentle snowfall averages of 5 - 6 inches per month in December, January and February, Prescott is an ideal winter playground.
Don't miss wintertime special events like the Acker Musical Showcase (aka Acker Night) in mid-December, when the downtown shops stay open late and visitors can stroll store to store listening to musicians playing inside and chestnuts roasting on the street corner. And you can't beat the annual Dickens of a Christmas, World's Largest Gingerbread Village and, of course, the Courthouse Tree Lighting ceremony or the Christmas Parade.
January and February are a great time to come to Prescott. The crowds are fewer and there are some great lodging deals to be had. Plus, there are plenty of days filled with sunshine and crisp temperatures, an ideal combination for hiking, mountain biking or riding your motorcycle up to Jerome and Sedona.
Visitors can anticipate average high/low temperatures of 55/22 in December, 51/21 in January and 54/24 in February.
Prescott rivals any Arizona city when it comes to spring beauty. Explore Granite Mountain, Thumb Butte or any of the five area lakes and take in the ponderosa pine forests, wildflowers and riparian undergrowth that distinguish the surrounding Prescott National Forest land. Birdwatchers and photographers will love the opportunities to witness extraordinary species of flora and fauna as spring blooms in the high desert. Golfers can hit the links at any one of five area public golf courses and three private golf courses.
Take the opportunity to explore northern Arizona in spring with Prescott as your hub. Take a road trip to the Grand Canyon, Sedona and Jerome, all within a 1 - 3 hour drive each way. Make your way up to Page Springs, nestled between Cottonwood and Sedona along a picturesque section of Oak Creek to visit any one of several wineries and vineyards. Take in the sights, smells and sounds of spring as you taste a locally-grown petite syrah on the shaded banks of Oak Creek.
Visitors will thrive in average spring temperatures of 59/28 in March, 67/34 in April and 75/40 in May. Spring rains are most likely in March (1.75 inches on average) but slow to a drizzle in April and May (less than 1 inch per month.)
We recommend that you rent a car when visiting Prescott. Though there are Phoenix-to-Prescott airport shuttles, taxi cabs and some hotels provide shuttles within a certain radius, you will likely enjoy having the freedom of your own rental car to explore the sprawling tri-city Prescott area. You may also want to day trip up to Jerome, Sedona or the Grand Canyon and you'll need a car for that.
That said, you don't have to be in the car for the majority of your visit. There is a ton to do walking around downtown Prescott or in Prescott Valley's Entertainment District. Take a walking tour of historic homes and landmarks, or enjoy shopping and dining within steps of several hotels in town. Choose your hotel thoughtfully if you choose not to rent a car, and be sure to ask if the hotel provides a short-distance shuttle at little to no cost. In short, your best bet is to rent a car right at the airport - be it Prescott or Phoenix - but be prepared to pay extra airport taxes and fees.
As an option, you could take an airport shuttle for approximately $56 round trip, then rent a car in Prescott or take taxi cabs or hotel shuttles once you arrive. Do your homework, ask questions and figure out what will be the most economical and give you the right amount of freedom you're looking for.
No. Prescott Valley is a town unto itself, located about 8 miles east of Prescott along Highway 69. Check out our article about the Prescott Tri-City area to learn what distinguishes Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley from one another.
Prescott's real estate market, though only somewhat affected by the nationwide real estate slowdown, has remained reasonably strong. Of course, you're far more likely to find the right Prescott home and community for you when you talk to a Prescott realtor; these real estate experts have seen the highs and lows of the Prescott real estate market and know best what the market conditions are today. Here are some 2015 Prescott real estate market statistics you can use as you begin your Prescott home buying process, whether you're looking to relocate, vacation now, retire or invest.
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For those who love the great outdoors, Prescott has so much to offer. Camping is just the start of a wonderland of adventure waiting for you.
Historic Downtown Prescott is always bustling art, entertainment and things to do. From picnics to art classes, there's something for everyone.
Our Prescott Event Calendar is full of festivals, workshops, art fairs, concerts and classes. Browse or add your event.
Camp Verde, Page Springs, and Cornville are the beating heart of Arizona's wine country. Come taste the emerging hotspot for wineries.
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