[Source: Coty Dolores Miranda, Arizona Republic] — Prescott has so many fans that it has earned a variety of names and descriptions. “Everybody’s Hometown” is one, thanks to the small-town hospitality and Western flavor, particularly on display during Prescott Frontier Days and World’s Oldest Rodeo each July Fourth weekend. A “Top 10 True Western Town,” bestowed by True West magazine, is another, not to mention an “Emerging Art Town,” according to Southwest Art magazine, a “Distinctive Destination,” according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a “Preserve America Community,” so named by first lady Laura Bush, and a spot on Money magazine’s “Top 5 Places to Retire” list. But no matter how you refer to Prescott, be sure to pronounce it “Preskit,” as the locals do. Here are some of the city’s highlights.
Things to do
- HERITAGE PARK ZOOLOGICAL SANCTUARY. This park got its start 15 years ago as a home for creatures rescued from the wild or from inappropriate captive situations. Here they’re displayed in natural habitats, making a visit educational and fun. The best way to enjoy this 10-acre zoo is by taking a guided tour with a docent. It’s an up-close and personal look at tigers, jaguars, black bears, a mountain lion and creepy-crawlies such as those in the Tarantula Grotto and the soon-to-be completed Reptile House. Bring a picnic and let the kids unwind on the playground. Details: www.heritageparkzoo.org/ or 877-778-6008.
- THUMB BUTTE TRAIL. With more than 450 miles of multiuse trails winding past ponderosa pines, granite boulders, Native American petroglyphs and pristine lakes, there’s no end to outdoor activities around Prescott. One of the closest trails to downtown (and one of the most popular) is Thumb Butte Trail. This moderate, 1.75-mile hike on a paved path takes about an hour to complete. From the top, you can see the city, the Bradshaw Mountains, Sierra Prietas, Granite Mountain, Mingus Mountain and the San Francisco Peaks. Details: Prescott National Forest, www.fs.fed.us/r3/prescott or 928-443-8000.
- PEAVINE TRAIL. Another favorite hiking and biking route, this flat, easy trail, which follows the route of the old Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railway, leads through riparian areas to the Granite Dells, above Watson Lake. It’s about 10.4 miles round trip. Details: www.cityofprescott.net/services/parks/trails or 928-777-1588.
- DRIVING TOURS. The Prescott Chamber of Commerce has itineraries and driving directions for four self-guided driving tours: Williamson Valley, Walnut Grove, Limestone Canyon and Bradshaw Mountains. All start at Courthouse Plaza. Pack a lunch and plenty of water and enjoy nature while learning some history of central Arizona. Details: Prescott Chamber of Commerce, 800-266-7534.
Here are two of note in a city with numerous historic structures:
- YAVAPAI COUNTY COURTHOUSE. The courthouse (pictured), constructed of white granite and ringed by towering pine trees, is the centerpiece of Courthouse Plaza, a popular public gathering place that features two bronze statues by sculptor Solon Borglum. One is Memorial to the Rough Riders, which has been called one of the finest equestrian bronze sculptures in the world. Locals refer to it as the “Buckey O’Neill statue” in honor of a former mayor who died at the Battle of San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War. Cowboy at Rest is the other Borglum statue on the plaza. Borglum’s brother, Gutzon, sculpted the faces on Mount Rushmore, in South Dakota. Details: 120 S. Cortez St., 928-771-3312.
- ELKS OPERA HOUSE. The restoration of the 102-year-old structure is ongoing, funded by contributions. Local author Christopher E. Hoy has written a children’s book, The Elk in the Attic, to raise money for the work. The elk in the book is named Bill, as is the majestic elk statue that was restored to the top of the opera house after having been removed in 1971. Made of Arizona copper, Bill was restored to his former glory. The opera house’s dated, modern-era marquee is scheduled to be removed to further the restoration. Details: 117 E. Gurley St., 888-858-3557 or www.elksoperahouse.com/. The Elk in the Attic ($12) can be ordered at the opera house Web site or www.elkintheattic.com/
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