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16 Things to Do in Prescott with Kids (AZ Family Fun)

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Visiting Prescott with kids is an adventure into Arizona’s past. Designated the capital by President Abraham Lincoln back when Arizona was still just a territory, the city embraces its Wild West history. If you’re picturing a desert landscape with lots of prickly saguaro cactus, dusty tumbleweeds, and record-breaking heat, however, think again. Families from today’s capital, Phoenix, flock to Prescott for a dose of greenery and to escape the summer swelter, or to play in the snow in winter. Here’s a look at 16 fun things to do in Prescott, AZ with kids.

Courthouse Square in Prescott with kids
My kids enjoying ice cream in Courthouse Square (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

1. Courthouse Square

The town’s sweet center square is reminiscent of Mayberry à la The Andy Griffith Show or Hill Valley of the Back to the Future movies. With its grassy lawn and mature elm trees, the square provides a lovely meeting place for locals and visitors alike.

The square is dominated by the impressive Yavapai County Courthouse. This justice building celebrated its 100th birthday in 2016 and still hears cases today.

Bring a Frisbee or ball for some playtime with the kids, or just walk the grounds. Be sure to read through Prescott’s colorful timeline, imprinted in cement in front of the courthouse. 

Most of the shops surrounding Courthouse Square sell southwestern art and clothing, as well as more traditional souvenirs. Many of these buildings have been restored. In fact, the city of Prescott is home to over 800 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.

Courthouse timeline in Prescott, Arizona
Courthouse Square Prescott Timeline (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Whiskey Row

Prescott was once a rough and tumble town on the western frontier. The town’s red light district and saloons stretched along what’s called Whiskey Row.

This historic downtown district runs north and south on Montezuma St. between Gurley and Goodwin St. across from the courthouse. Today you can still order whiskey drinks here, but the atmosphere is family friendly.

Whisky Row in Prescott, AZ
Prescott’s Whisky Row (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. The Palace Restaurant and Saloon

Step back in time at the Palace Restaurant and Saloon in city center. The Palace first opened in 1877. Kids will especially like walking through the old-fashioned swinging saloon doors at the entrance.

This establishment burned down in Prescott’s big fire of 1900 along with the rest of Whiskey Row. Legend has it the townspeople grabbed their drinks and the ornately carved Brunswick Bar so they could continue drinking across the street as they watched the flames consume the buildings.

Expect delicious and hearty cowboy fare like steaks, ribs, and burgers. There’s a children’s menu for little buckeroos, too.

The Palace Restaurant & Saloon in Prescott
The Brunswick Bar at the Palace Restaurant and Saloon (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Treat Center on Courthouse Square

Located on Whiskey Row in Prescott city, the Treat Center appeals to all ages. Pop in to peruse candies and buy ice cream treats. Ask for free samplings of their flavored popcorns. You can even buy a scorpion-filled lollipop as a strange souvenir of your time in Prescott with kids.

Flavored popcorn at Treat Center on Courthouse Square in Prescott
Flavored popcorns at Treat Center on Courthouse Square (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. Sharlot Hall Museum

Named for Prescott pioneer woman Sharlot M. Hall, this open-air museum is a compound of several buildings in the town’s center. It’s located just a couple of blocks from Courthouse Square.

At Sharlot Hall Museum you can walk through the old Governor’s Mansion. This log cabin was built on the site in 1864. It was home to Arizona’s first territorial governor before Arizona was part of the United States.

It’s really only a “mansion” compared to the tents and shanty houses of most Prescott residents at the time. Hall moved into the house in 1927 and opened it as a museum the following year.

Also onsite is Fremont House, home of the fifth territorial governor of Arizona. It was built just 13 years after the first governor’s house but is a serious upgrade to the original. Be on the lookout for the horsehair-covered chairs and art made from human hair, which was a thing apparently.

A rose garden, Native American artifacts, an old-time schoolhouse replica, and other historic buildings may also be of interest to your family. My husband’s favorite was the Transportation Building, which displays buggies, wagons, and cars of a bygone era.

Scavenger hunts are offered to children with a prize in the Museum Store upon completion. This definitely kept my kids content and occupied during our visit.

Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott
One of many buildings that make up the Sharlot Hall Museum (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

6. Highlands Center for Natural History

Take time to appreciate the area’s natural habitats during your family vacation. Prescott Valley boasts over 450 hiking trails, two of which start at the Highlands Center for Natural History

Stretch-Pebble Loop is a short walk that’s a lot of fun with young children. Meanwhile, the 1.5-mile Highlands Trail offers 360-degree views of the Valley and is a big hit with older kids.

My 9-year-old son isn’t usually much of a hiker but during our nature walk, he kept declaring things like, “I love it here. I feel really happy.” That really warmed this hike-loving mama’s heart.

Highlands Center for Natural History with kids
Hiking Highlands Center’s trails with my son (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Enjoy free admission to the center’s trails or pay a few dollars per person to explore the James Family Discovery Gardens. (No charge for children under age 5.)

Highlands Center also offers demonstration gardens, interactive learning stations, a forest play area, and guided walks.

James Family Discovery Gardens at the Highlands Center in Prescott
James Family Discovery Gardens at the Highlands Center (Photo credit: Nancy Maurer)

7. Watson Lake

I highly recommend planning a day trip to Watson Lake Park during your visit to Prescott with children. The massive granite dells boulders in and around the lake give it an otherworldly feel.

Rent kayaks or canoes from Prescott Outdoors and paddle your way around this beautiful body of water. If hiking is more your thing, then you’ll find some easy trails here as well. Pack your own lunch to eat in one of the picnic areas beside this small lake.

Birders should keep their eyes peeled for waterfowl and shorebirds at Watson Lake. You might even spot bald eagles and great herons.

Watson Lake is a no-wake lake, which makes it an excellent place to drop a fishing pole in the water and try to catch a fish. The lake is stocked with bluegill, largemouth bass, channel catfish, and rainbow trout. Arizona fishing licenses are required.

Watson Lake in Prescott, Arizona
Watson Lake’s granite dells (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

8. Lynx Lake

If you’d rather paddle on a lake surrounded by tall pine trees and green galore, then head to Lynx Lake Recreation Center. You can rent canoes, pedal boats, and kayaks there.

For a casual lunch with a fabulous view, grab one of the picnic tables at Lynx Lake Cafe, Store and Marina. The menu features typical American burgers, salads, and sandwiches. You can also order German fare like bratwurst or pork schnitzel with traditional German potato salad. Get a slice of apple strudel or German chocolate cake for dessert.

Learn more about prime Prescott fishing lakes including Willow Lake, Goldwater Lake, and others from Go Outdoors Prescott.

Lynx Lake
Lynx Lake (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

9. Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary

Expect to see a lot of desert animals at the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary. Look for coyotes, javelinas, mountain lions, and bobcats.

There are a few exotic animals who hail from further away, too, like a Bengal tiger and wallabies. My family even got a chance to pet some constrictor snakes during our visit to the Reptile House. 

The entire family will love the bear feeding presentation. Zookeepers place food like apples, avocados, fish, and pineapples throughout the enclosure. The black bears love finding and devouring the hidden snacks.

Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary’s small size makes this non-profit zoo easy to explore within about two to three hours.

Black bear at Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary in Prescott, AZ
Black bear at Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

10. In The Game Prescott Valley

After exploring nature and learning about Prescott’s history, treat children to a trip to In the Game Prescott Valley play center.

In The Game Prescott Valley features:

  • Wild West-themed miniature golf course
  • Arcade games with prizes
  • Laser tag
  • A play maze
  • Frog Hopper theme park ride
  • A rock-climbing wall
  • Mini bowling
  • Axe throwing

There’s also a cafe that serves wings, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, and more. Mom and dad might also appreciate wine, beer, and cocktails served onsite.

In The Game Prescott Valley mini golf course
In The Game Prescott Valley mini golf course (Photo from In The Game Facebook page)

11. Prescott Frontier Days

Prescott is the proud home of the world’s oldest rodeo. This Wild West competition and festivities take place over Independence Day each year during the popular Prescott Frontier Days.

Since 1888, cowboys and cowgirls have been entertaining crowds with steer wrestling, bareback riding, tie-down roping, women’s breakaway roping, saddle bronc riding, team roping, women’s barrel racing, and bull riding.

World's oldest rodeo in Prescott
Prescott Pioneer Days (Photo credit: Visit Prescott)

12. Arizona’s Christmas City

Prescott has proclaimed itself “Arizona’s Christmas City.” The city is a holly jolly place to celebrate the winter holidays.

The Holiday Light Parade kicks off the Christmas season on the Saturday following Thanksgiving each year. Marching people and pets plus glowing floats wind their way through Prescott. The parade concludes when Santa’s float arrives at the Courthouse for the annual tree lighting.

Sharlot Hall Museum also hosts a Frontier Christmas Open House with hot cider and homemade cookies served beside a roaring fire.

And then there’s the World’s Largest Gingerbread Village, where you can view 100+ gingerbread houses.

Children singing Christmas carols in Courthouse Square in Arizona's Christmas City
Children singing Christmas carols in Courthouse Square (Photo credit: Visit Prescott)

13. Horseback Riding

Don your cowboy boots and hit the trails on horseback to soak up the natural beauty of the Prescott area. Mosey through Ponderosa pines while taking in views of the San Francisco Peaks in the distance. Trail rides are available for riders of all skill levels, ages 5+.

Book your 1.5-hour desert trail ride now with Yavapai Trail Adventures via our partner, Viator.

Horseback riding with Yavapai Trail Adventures near Prescott
Horseback trail ride with Yavapai Trail Adventures (Photo from Yavapai Trail Adventures Facebook page)

14. Museum of Indigenous People

Formerly known as the Smoki Museum, the Museum of Indigenous People gives visitors insight into the history and culture of Arizona’s Native Americans. View permanent exhibits of artwork, pottery, tools, baskets, and other Native American artifacts.

Educational lectures, art shows, and native dance presentations are also held onsite. A small shop sells artwork and jewelry made by native peoples.

Museum of Indigenous People, formerly Smoki Museum
Museum of Indigenous People (Photo from Museum of Indigenous People Facebook page)

15. Prescott Festivals

Prescott prides itself on plentiful festivals and special events held throughout the year. During the summer months, Courthouse Square bustles with live music concerts on weekends. Farmer’s markets feature fresh produce, handmade goods, and prepared foods on Saturdays in summer, too. Also, look for arts & craft shows held throughout the year.

See Prescott’s calendar of events for dates and to learn about additional happenings.

Yavapai County Courthouse
Yavapai County Courthouse (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

16. Mortimer Farms

Although technically not in Prescott, Mortimer Farms makes a fun pitstop on your way to or from Phoenix. It is located in Dewey, a little over 30 minutes from Prescott.

The farm features an impressive country store. Shop for your fill of fruit jams, pickled veggies, homemade sandwiches, baked goods, and colorful fresh produce.

Year-round, young children will get a kick out of Farm Park for a small entrance fee. This play area includes a petting zoo, tractor tire playground, and other unplugged play.

Look for seasonal happenings at the farm, too. Starting in July each summer, Mortimer’s offers you-pick strawberries. In October, their Pumpkin Festival features a huge pumpkin patch plus a 15-acre corn maze. There are also special offerings for Easter and Christmas.

Mortimer Farms in Dewey, AZ
Mortimer Farms (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Where to Stay in Prescott with Kids

Residence Inn by Marriott Prescott

Do you want extra space and included breakfast during your stay in Prescott with kids? Of course, you do! For these reasons, I recommend Residence Inn by Marriott Prescott.

If you can afford it, then do as my family did and stay in the two-bedroom suite. It includes a living room with a pull-out sofa. Each of the two bedrooms is outfitted with a queen-sized bed.

The best part is the hotel’s inviting outdoor space. There is a swimming pool and hot tub as well as barbecue and fire pits.

This hotel tends to attract business travelers during the workweek, leaving weekends available for families. It’s about an 8-minute drive to downtown Prescott from the Residence Inn.

My kids loved the fire pits at Residence Inn by Marriott Prescott
Residence Inn by Marriott Prescott (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Springhill Suites Prescott

For families who want to stay closer to the action, choose sister property, Springhill Suites Prescott. It’s conveniently located just a couple of blocks from Courthouse Square. It offers both studio suites and 1-bedroom suites.

Hassayampa Inn lobby
Hassayampa Inn lobby (Photo credit: Hassayampa Inn)

Hassayampa Inn

Ever since I visited Prescott with my family when I was a kid, I have wanted to stay at the Hassayampa Inn. Built in 1927, this restored boutique hotel offers small rooms that might be best for a romantic getaway without kids.

Be sure to step inside to check out their grand old-fashioned hotel lobby while exploring the city of Prescott. Make reservations for a meal in their Peacock Dining Room, too. There are no children’s menus, but kids are welcome.

A vacation rental home in Prescott National Forest
A vacation rental home in Prescott National Forest (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

VRBO

For even more space to spread out, take a look at VRBO properties in Prescott. My family has enjoyed a variety of vacation rental houses and condos in the Prescott Valley over the years. Whether you want to stay in the heart of downtown Prescott or in a cozy cabin surrounded by wilderness and outdoor recreation options, you’re sure to find a vacation home that meets your needs.

Although hundreds of people now live in Jerome, long-empty buildings remind visitors that this truly is a ghost town
Jerome, Arizona — America’s biggest ghost town (Photo credit: filedimage, Depositphotos.com)

Explore More of Arizona

Take a look at the fun activities in the town of Jerome, America’s largest ghost town.

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If you’re planning an Arizona family vacation, then you must check out my tips for exploring the Grand Canyon with kids.

I have lived in Scottsdale for more than 22 years of my life. Read about my picks for the 25 best things to do in Scottsdale with kids.

Plan the best road trip from Phoenix with beautiful scenery plus stops at American West National Parks and Las Vegas.

Fun Things to Do in Prescott with Kids

Save These Prescott Family Activities

For future reference, be sure to save this list of things to do in Prescott with kids. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Which of these family activities in Prescott appeals most to you? Share your comments or questions below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: Thank you to Residence Inn by Marriott Prescott and Visit Prescott for hosting a portion of one of my visits to Prescott with kids. I did not receive any monetary compensation related to this story. All opinions are mine, as always.

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin, MBA, is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular travel blog, TravelMamas.com. She is an expert in travel with kids and without. As the author of the book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents how to make the most of traveling with babies and children. Colleen loves sharing tips on hotels, cruises, spas, theme parks, and global lifestyle topics. When she is not traveling the world, she lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. May I suggest you add The Prescott Western Herítage Center. Free on Whiskey Row. Has exhibits about all kinds of people & things (rodeo, law enforcement in history, the Yavapai Tribe) with coloring pages & stickers. Volunteers are usually dressed in period costumes (Victorian, Civil War, old cowboys, etc.)

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Brenda – Thanks so much for the tip! The Prescott Western Heritage Center sounds like a great option for families!

  2. What is there to do in the winter like Christmas and New Years. Flying in to Phoenix staying in chandler

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Prescott is Arizona’s self-proclaimed Christmas City so you’ll find lots to do here during the winter holiday season! In addition to the Holiday Light Parade and Frontier Christmas Open House mentioned in the story, you can find all sorts of festive happenings at http://www.visit-prescott.com/christmas/ Enjoy!

  3. Where is the mural of Prescott located in downtown?

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Hi Annie – I believe it’s in the alleyway behind Whisky Row. I wish I’d paid closer attention so I could give you exact coordinates. But, we have stumbled across this mural during both of our Prescott visits, so hopefully you will too!

  4. I found this post prior to our visit to Prescott last week. We were fortunate enough to be staying at the Residence Inn and it is fabulous! Thanks to your post, we visited the Highlands Center and it did not disappoint. One place that we explored that was not on your list, but recommended by family in the area, is Constellation Trails. My 9 and 11 year old daughters really enjoyed it. The trails offered some different scenery than the Highlands Center – think Watson Lake vs Lynx Lake! http://www.prescott-az.gov/recreation-area/constellation-trails/

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      So glad you had a good time in Prescott! And thanks much for sharing the tip about Constellation Trails – we’ll have to keep this in mind for the next time we go for a visit.

  5. Thank you for your blog! It made me excited to see that there are family friendly activities in prescott. we are looking to move to the area but I was hesitant that it was only a retirement community and not much to do for a 4 year old. Can’t wait to see it in person! How are the snakes up there?

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Hi Mariah – We didn’t see any snakes in Prescott. Apparently, there are rattlesnakes as well as harmless snakes there, though. We’ve lived in Scottsdale for 3.5 years & I hike/jog a lot but have only seen 2 rattlesnakes – one alive (and mellow…I stayed far away) and one HUGE dead guy (apparently hit by a car). They want to see you about as much as you want to see them, so I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about it. Good luck with your move to Prescott!

  6. I have the absolute best memories of visiting Arizona as a kid! I have been telling my family that this is going to be our next vacation and I would love to see so much there with them.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Allison – Arizona really is a unique state with so much to explore. I hope you can convince your family to plan a visit!

  7. I have never been to Prescott, Arizona but it looks like a great place to visit. There is so much to do I wouldn’t know where to start.

  8. We’ve never been to Arizona but it sure does look like a great place to visit. We’ll have to put AZ on our travel bucket list.

  9. We love, love, love Prescott. The courthouse square is absolutely beautiful.

  10. What a great trip to do with the kids! I’ve been to Arizona without kids but would love for them to experience it too!

  11. Janis @MommyBlogExpert says

    I have family in Prescott, so I’ve visited this charming Western hamlet in the mountains north of Phoenix multiple times. Your pictures capture its essence well, and I can’t wait to go back again — I love this town!

  12. Prescott looks like such a family friendly place to visit! I think the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary looks like a great time. Whiskey Row sounds intriguing too!

  13. This looks like such a family friendly place to visit with plenty to do for everyone. I’d love to check it out.

  14. Now this looks just like my kind of place! I love to travel to places with plenty to see, a great history, and great food. This seems to fit the bill.

  15. Wow, Prescott seems like so much fun. I’d bring my family along and do some exploring in places like Whiskey Row!

  16. Amy Desrosiers says

    Because I am such a foodie, that popcorn really catches my eyes. I had no idea it could come in so many flavors! Yum!

  17. I have always wanted to go to Arizona. Prescott looks like a great place to go explore. Looks like they have something to do for everyone.

  18. My husband and I with our kiddos with up there a couple years ago and we just went out to eat. I had no idea they have so many other things going on. I definitely need to go back there.

  19. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says

    I would LOVE to visit Prescott with the kids! It’s such a cute little town. I have to be honest, I had no idea there was that much water in the entire state! LOL

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Ha! yes, we DO have lakes in Arizona. All of them are manmade besides two, Mormon Lake and Stoneman Lake.

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