Ok, first things first: it’s pronounced “Preskett” (press-skit).
That’s how you say it in Arizona, and anyone who pronounces it the grammatically correct way (“Press-scott”) will be immediately outed as an obvious “you ain’t from around here”. You see, apparently, the town settlers wanted to sound as “western” as possible, so they purposely mispronounced the name starting back in 1881. The pronunciation stuck, even after more than a century. Arizonans are very particular about this pronunciation and almost seem to take offense to pronouncing it correctly, so, you’ve been warned! 🙃
As of the 2020 census, a bit less than 46,000 people call this city home. However, it’s one of Arizona’s most booming cities for population growth, as many move here for the weather and forest environment. It’s a nice, medium-sized city with plenty of stores, restaurants, and outdoor activities, making it extra attractive. It has a reputation for being a “retirement city”, as many seniors move here to enjoy their later years. It’s a city heavy on festivals, parades, and town events, so there’s likely something to do every single weekend.
It doesn’t surprise me that it’s a sought-after city for the retirement community, as the region where Prescott lies is completely unlike the typical desert environment that covers most of Arizona (i.e. hot, cacti, and dirt). Prescott sits squarely within the Bradshaw Mountains, at an elevation of 5,400 feet (1,600 m). There are numerous geological wonders, like the Granite Dells (The Dells) and Thumb Butte (Woot, woot, in the butte (Thumb Butte, Arizona).), as well as numerous (man-made) lakes (Lakes of Prescott, Arizona: Watson, Lynx, & Goldwater.) and countless hiking areas. It’s a slice of mountainous heaven in a sea of desert.
The city’s slogan is “Everybody’s Hometown” and at one time, it was even the capital of Arizona. Originally inhabited by the indigenous Yavapai people, for whom the county where Prescott resides is named (Yavapai County), it wasn’t until 1862 that the first Europeans, the “Walker Party”, stepped foot onto the land. As with much of The West, gold was found in and around them hillz, and it was destined to become one of Arizona’s most prominent and flourishing mining towns. A year later in 1863, Fort Whipple was established, which is when Prescott was named the territorial state capital. It held onto this title for only 3 measly years before the capital was moved to Tucson, where it remained for 10 years. Then in 1877, the capital was moved back to Prescott, where it had a longer run of 12 years. Finally, in 1889, the capital was moved to Phoenix, where it has remained to this day.
To further Prescott’s stronghold in the Wild West history books, the famous outlaws Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday (plus Doc’s wife, Big Nose Kate), all lived in Prescott before their legendary incident at the O.K. Corral down in Tombstone. Virgil moved here in 1878 to be a constable/watchman (ironic), while Holliday was here for a bit in the summer of 1880. Doc even appears in the towns 1880 census records. Also, Wyatt Earp would visit his brother in Prescott regularly. Big Nose Kate is the only one buried in Prescott (The Grave of Big Nose Kate: A Wild West Icon.).
Aside from the Wild West history and attending numerous festivals or outdoor areas, there are countless things to do here, including visiting historic downtown and walking Whiskey Row (please see above), eating at the famous Palace restaurant (The Palace Restaurant and Saloon: Step into a Wild West Time Machine.), spending an afternoon at the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary (blog coming up), checking out the iron dinosaurs on Iron Springs Road, going to the Highland Center for Natural History, or visiting the numerous museums like the Fort Whipple Museum (closed to visitors until further notice), Museum of Indigenous People, and Sharlot Hall Museum (also, blog coming up). This is truly just a drop in the bucket.
Also, Prescott is known as a “dark-sky city”, meaning that they have passed specific ordinances limiting the amount of light pollution. In fact, northern Arizona is known for being part of the largest “dark sky cluster” in the U.S. (Prescott included). According to the National Park Service, the best place in the United States to see the Milky Way and stars is the Colorado Plateau, which covers parts of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico (the 4 corners region and surrounding areas). The dark-sky laws allow the stars to shine as brightly as possible and you can see satellites, shooting stars, and even the famous Milky Way (sadly, it doesn’t look like the pictures online – those are all edited time-lapse photos).
Overall, I could go on and on about Prescott, but I’ll save most places for individual blogs, as they deserve their own recognition. Prescott sits about an hour and 20 minutes northwest of Phoenix and an hour and 40 minutes southwest of Flagstaff, making it a doable day trip if you’re ever visiting either area. Truthfully, it’s not a super accessible city if you’re taking a road trip via I-40 or I-10, but, if you don’t mind a detour, it’s worth the stop. The scenery is gorgeous, the history is fascinating, and the people are (usually) very friendly. After all, it is “Everybody’s Hometown”!