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100 miles N of Phoenix; 66 miles SW of Sedona; 87 miles SW of Flagstaff

Prescott is an Arizona anomaly, a unique mixture of mountain town and western town. It doesn’t seem like the Southwest at all. With its stately courthouse on a tree-shaded square, two-story 19th-century buildings fronting most of it, and wooded mountains surrounding the town, Prescott still has the air of the rugged territorial capital it once was. The obligatory stroll around Courthouse Plaza is a delight, passing restored saloons, hotels and souvenir and antique shops—and, these days, decent cafes and restaurants, too. Add to this several small museums, a couple of historic hotels, the strange and beautiful landscape of the Granite Dells, and nearby Prescott National Forest, and you have a town that appeals to a wide range of visitors.

Prescott’s pioneer history dates from 1863, when the Walker party discovered gold in the mountains of central Arizona. Soon miners were flocking to the area to seek their own fortunes. A year later, Arizona became a U.S. territory, and the new town of Prescott, located right in the center of Arizona, was made the territorial capital. It would eventually lose that title to Tucson and then to Phoenix, but for part of the late 19th century, Prescott was the most important city in Arizona. Wealthy merchants and legislators transformed this pioneer outpost into a beautiful town filled with stately Victorian homes.

Today Prescott has become an upscale retirement community, with the housing prices to prove it. In summer, Prescott is a popular weekend getaway for Phoenicians; it is usually 20 degrees cooler here than in Phoenix (and most winters even see some snow).