Prescott, Arizona. A picturesque and historic desert mountain town approximately 90 minutes north of Phoenix. Old West. Charming. Friendly. Relaxing. More than 800 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. A quaint and highly walkable downtown referred to as “Whiskey Row,” filled with shoppes, galleries, trading posts, restaurants, and historic hotels and saloons. How could I possibly explore all that this area has to offer in less than two days? I was as determined as ever to give it my best shot.
Spent a remarkable morning in the old mining town of Jerome. On the way back to Prescott, I made a point to stop off at the modern yet rustic hillside Phippen Museum of Western Art that I spotted on the way up the road earlier in the day. So glad I did! Check out the view from the parking lot. I was immediately and warmly greeted by volunteer Roger Gaddis at the registration desk, and I asked if it might be possible to get a highlights tour. Well, it just so happened that docent and local artist Joe Webster said he would be glad to do so. Seriously? Fantastic! People are so nice here.
Below is a bit of what I learned about this understated repository of Western art. Years after his passing, the George Phippen Memorial Foundation received a generous 3-acre land grant from the Deep Well Ranch and opened the doors of the museum in 1984 with the objective of honoring the memory and art of George Phippen and other great American West artists. Phippen, incredibly talented and self-taught, was one of the four founding members and the first president of Cowboy Artists of America, a members-only organization of traditional cowboy and Western artists. Current exhibits include the third annual “Hold Your Horses” art exhibit and sale of unique and expressive works and a phenomenal “Golden Age of Cowgirls” exhibit with a spirited collection of cowgirl-themed art, photography, memorabilia and artifacts. I was graciously allowed to snap a few photos to show as examples of the extraordinary art that lives within these walls. Permanent exhibits include works by Solon Borglum, Ray Swanson, George Phippen and the Western Heritage Gallery. Enjoy a few snippets of what this museum has to offer.
The glorious clouds. Humility. Gratitude.The cowgirl exhibit was so fun! Yee haw! Rebels before their time.And this guy … ever heard of him? Tom Mix, an early Western movie megastar. You will see him everywhere in Prescott. He starred in nearly 300 pictures, some of which were filmed in Prescott, where he owned the Bar Circle A Ranch back in 1913. Absolutely precious. So lifelike. I want to give her a hug. I agree with Ray Swanson, the artist of the painting below. There is something so captivating and magical about the Native American culture.
Thank you kindly for the tour and hospitality, Joe and Roger. What a magnificent museum! Much appreciated.
Moving on down the road, I parked right downtown and made my way in and out of the shoppes, galleries, saloons and eateries along Whiskey Row. Come along with me as I take you on a walking tour of historic downtown Prescott.
The Rancher’s Wife Van Gogh’s EarThe Ice Cream Parlour Ortega’s 6th Generation (trading post)Prescott Trading CompanyOne of my favorites, the Ian Russell Gallery of Fine Art, where I had the pleasure of chatting with the fashionable and sophisticated Christine. Very friendly and in the know about the local and regional art scene. Thanks for all the tips, Christine! I so love this! Bizarre and meaningful at the same time.I absolutely love meeting new, interesting and delightful people on my travels. So fulfilling!
The Palace Saloon. Opened in 1877 (some historians claim 1868). Boy, if these walls could talk! Well, they kind of did, actually, with all the amazing vintage photographs. It was sheer entertainment just standing there looking at all the history of this place. A hangout for the likes of “Doc” Holliday, and Virgil and Wyatt Earp. The oldest and best-known frontier saloon in the state of Arizona. Can’t you just see them busting through these swinging doors like in all the old Westerns? Sensational! Look! It’s our cowboy friend, Tom Mix! Devastating Whiskey Row fire of 1900 destroyed most all of the buildings along Montezuma Street. Patrons actually moved the intricately carved bar across the street and saved it from being burned, so it is still intact to this day. New and improved Palace Hotel and Saloon, reopened in 1901. Just a few gambling essentials from back in the day. You never know when you might have to use a little force to change the outcome of the game. A George Phippen postcard. How coincidental! Not only can you sit down for a beer and something tasty to eat, but the Palace Saloon also is a pure treasure trove of historical photos and memorabilia. Much of it is on loan from the Sharlot Hall Museum. Food smelled delicious and the staff were a nice bunch.
Let us continue on now, shall we?
Take in a cold beverage and some live music at one of the many saloons along Whiskey Row. At the very least, belly up to the bar and treat yourself to a sarsaparilla while getting to know a few of the locals.
Jersey Lilly’sMatt’sAnd the Bird Cage Saloon Savor the unique art and craft goods at the Newman Gallery. And down the street at the “Cornerstone of Prescott” stands the historic Hotel St. Michael. Opened in 1901, after the devastating fire of 1900 burned down the Hotel Burke that originally stood in its place, the Hotel St. Michael has hosted many dignitaries and VIPs over the years. I am intrigued and entertained by the way each hotel boasts the unique and historic qualities of its elevator! I love the displays of vintage photos everywhere you go. It gives the feeling of strong sense of historic pride within Prescott. Whiskey Row then …And now …Stunning Courthouse Square! It seems as though people treat this like a central plaza. A genuine gathering place within the community. So pleasant and beautifully kept up. Like a postcard! The location for many local events and concerts. So down home. I love it! Find your inner mystic among the books, crystals and such at Lifeways Books and Gifts. Another fantastical stop along my tour, ‘Tis Art Center and Gallery. An awesome space with good energy! I told the woman there that this would be ideal for private events.An old microwave door repurposed into art. Now that’s cool. I love this piece. So playful.The Elks Theatre and Opera House, built in 1904 as a clubhouse and lovingly restored by the city of Prescott. Sure would like to see a show at this vintage beauty.
Crossed the street to take a peek inside yet another remarkable historic hotel. The crown jewel of Prescott, the 1927 Hassayampa Inn. Hand-painted, wood-beam ceiling. Remarkable!
The elegant 78-room hotel, designed with Spanish and Italian influences, was completed for a total of $275,000 in only 10 months. With early guests such as Tom Mix, Will Rogers and Clark Gable to name a few, and more recently Sam Elliott, the Beach Boys and my favorite, Mr. Tom Selleck! The Hassayampa, too, prides itself on its vintage elevator. Oh, and they are dog-friendly too! The original Peacock dining room then. and now … The Bar. Love the colors in contrast with the dark wood. Wandered into this unbelievably cool coffeeshop/bakery/seasoning haven. The Spice Traveler is a wonderland for those who love to cook or want to learn how. Recipes, ideas, samples. They’ve got it all. Unadulterated discovery and exploration for your taste buds. As I made my way to the back of the shoppe, I stumbled upon the stairway to Superstition Meadery (aka Heaven), which just HAPPENED to be on my Prescott to-do list. Imagine the good fortune! Mead, the oldest form of alcohol known to man, made with fermented honey. This was a first for me. Quite tasty, I will say! If you have never tried it, do yourself a favor and find some. Better yet, come here to Superstition, and Matthew will serve you a flight that will sweep you off your feet. Lagrimas de Oro. Divine. Blueberry Spaceship. Tart and sassy. Relaxing in this cozy, dimly lit cavern with their mead flights, here are two very satisfied customers and new residents of Prescott, Elizabeth and Morgan. Enjoy your new town, ladies! It was great chatting with you. It really is the nectar of the gods. I highly recommend a visit here. Drinking all that mead, I worked up an appetite, so I slid on down to the Prescott Brewing Company for a tall glass of ice water and a Buffalo chicken wrap. Hit. The. Spot. Feeling like a million bucks as I headed back to my adorable nest at the Motor Lodge. I scooped up my furry, well-rested friend Elliott and make our way to the Granite Dells for sunset! No. This is not fake. This is not a stock photo. These are the 1.4 billion-year-old Granite Dells at Watson Lake. Characterized by the smooth and rounded rock formations caused by weathering. Photo taken with my iPhone and untouched. I was completely overwhelmed by this scenery. Awestruck.
Even Elliott had to pause for a moment to take it all in. Outstanding.Do be sure to cover yourself with bug spray, as I was viciously attacked by hordes of mosquitoes. Perhaps they come out at dusk, or perhaps my blood is just incredibly tasty? Ok, gross. Regardless … unforgettable views. So peaceful. Truly lovely.And as the sun sets on the Arizona horizon, I am grateful for all the adventure and beauty I experienced in just one day. One for the books. Making a beeline straight for my bed, I got distracted by all the neon and … wait a minute … is that jazz coming from Courthouse Square? Uh-oh. One last stop. Then it’s bedtime. I promise.
My good parking karma still in full effect, I scored a spot directly across the street and we were serenaded for another hour or so by mellow jazz harmonies, smooth grooves and classics like Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train.” I was completely exhausted but so incredibly content. Elliott and I even made some new human and doggy friends. Returned to the Motor Lodge just in time to drift off into a deep slumber in that white fluffy cloud of a bed. Night-night, my friends. Prescott makes me happy.