A walk around Courthouse Plaza should be your first introduction to Prescott. The stately old courthouse in the middle of the tree-shaded plaza sets the tone for the whole town. If it seems far too large for a small regional town, it is—it was built in the days when Prescott was capital of the Arizona territory. Under the big shade trees, you’ll see several bronze statues, including a striking one dedicated to Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders, a group of Spanish-American War volunteers who headed off from the plaza in 1898. I really like the historical timeline painted into one of the walks.
Surrounding the courthouse and extending north for a block or so is Prescott’s historic business district. Stroll around admiring the brick buildings, and you’ll realize that Prescott was once a very important place. On Montezuma Street facing the plaza is The Palace, an old-time saloon where parts of the Steve McQueen film Junior Bonner were filmed, as a giant poster for the movie on the wall attests. Looking for antiques? Cortez Street is lined with almost a dozen big antique stores. Duck into an old saloon or the lobby of one of the historic hotels, and you’ll understand that the town was also part of the Wild West.
A Big Little Collection
Prescott is home to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and in the university library, you can marvel at the world’s largest collection of miniature airplanes. The Kalusa Miniature Airplane Collection includes more than 5,500 hand-carved and hand-painted miniature airplanes, created by John W. Kalusa over a period of more than 50 years. The planes are built to a consistent scale of 1/18th inch to 1 foot, so you can see how their sizes compare with each other—some are barely an inch across, while others, like Howard Hughes’s famed Spruce Goose, are much larger. The collection is displayed on the first and second floors of the Christine and Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Library and Learning Center, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, 3700 Willow Creek Rd. (hazylibrary.erau.edu/kalusa-collection; tel. 928/777-3811). Hours vary with the university's schedule.
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