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Prescott is a genteel frontier town with grit. This city is proud of its Western heritage: Lawmen Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday, both lived here prior to their famous shoot-out at the OK Corral, and Prescott has lovingly preserved a number of saloons, hotels, and other historic buildings that lend the city a distinct cowboy vibe. But Prescott isn’t a Western movie set — you’ll also find elegant Victorian homes, two colleges, and a robust punk music scene. The town is cradled by the 1.25 million acres of Prescott National Forest, where hiking, rock climbing, and hang gliding thrive. Like Prescott, the forest is multifaceted, offering both classic desert landscapes and pine-forested mountains.
The closest major airport to Prescott is Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), around 100 miles to the south. Once you’ve landed, a rental car is the most convenient way to get around Prescott and surrounding attractions. However, Ride Prescott provides free, seasonal shuttle service that circles downtown and stops at local businesses.
At an elevation of 5,400 feet, Prescott enjoys a cooler climate than much of Arizona. June through August are still hot, with temperatures in the mid to high 80s Fahrenheit. September and October, as well as April and May, offer more moderate temperatures ranging from the high 60s to low 80s. From November through March you can expect temperatures in the 50s. During the summer, Prescott experiences a monsoon season, with the most rain falling in July and August, and flash floods can occur. Pay close attention to the weather and plan accordingly — you will probably need layers and possibly rain gear.
The desert meets the mountains in Prescott National Forest, where a Sonoran landscape of cactus, yucca, and juniper gives way to mountains enrobed in ponderosa pine. Equestrians, mountain bikers, and off-roaders flock to the park for its 450 miles of trails, but perhaps the biggest draw is Lynx Lake. The 55-acre, pine-ringed shoreline attracts fishermen, boaters, and birdwatchers looking for a mountain getaway. Rental boats are available at the Lynx Lake Store and Marina, which also runs a cute, cabin-esque cafe where you can snag avocado toast and Micheladas made with Arizona brews.
In 1900 a devastating fire destroyed downtown Prescott’s notorious Whiskey Row, so dubbed for the plethora of saloons lining the street. Legend holds that cowboys yanked a 24-foot-long oak bar from the Palace Saloon and finished their drinks across the street as they watched the wooden buildings burn. This unflappable spirit (and thirst) is undoubtedly what inspired the town to rebuild, and a new Palace Saloon — made of brick — opened in 1901, alongside a number of other resurrected establishments. You can still enjoy a whiskey at the Palace, which is the state’s oldest continuously operating business. Whiskey Row retains its name and Western style, but many of the former watering holes have since been remade into art galleries.
This museum’s namesake is a woman who was fiercely independent for her times. Sharlot Hall, born in 1870, criss-crossed the region soliciting signatures to admit Arizona to the Union as its own state rather than combine it with New Mexico. Determined to preserve Arizona history, she founded her museum in 1928. Her unique vision included acquiring significant buildings and moving them onto the museum grounds. Here you can visit 11 historical structures, including a 1864 log cabin that was once the Governor’s Mansion and the evocatively named Fort Misery, the oldest surviving cabin in Arizona.