Best Weekend Ever: Prescott shines during the holidays

While it’s always a good time to visit mile-high Prescott, there’s something special about being there in December. If you’re having trouble getting into the holiday spirit, a couple of days in Arizona’s Official Christmas City will soon take care of that. Here’s how you can have the best, most festive weekend ever in Prescott.

Friday

Put yourself in the holiday spirit right from the start with a drive through the Valley of Lights. Set in Prescott Valley’s Fain Park, this 1-mile drive features a galaxy of twinkling lights and animated displays. It’s open from 6-10 p.m. nightly through Dec. 30. Free admission; donations are accepted.

Details: 409 W. Riordan Road. www.pvchamber.org.

At Papa’s Italian Restaurant, you’ll experience Old World hospitality when you’re taken into the fold by the staff and fussed over like family. Everything is made from scratch and most of the recipes have been handed down for generations. Rustic pizzas are baked in a traditional brick oven, with the dough and pomodoro sauce made fresh daily.

Details: 129½  N. Cortez St. 928-776-4880, www.papasitalianrestaurant.com.

Be sure to cruise past Courthouse Plaza in downtown Prescott before turning in, for a peek at the lighted trees.

Saturday

Start your day healthy and happy at the Local, where nearly every item is prepared using non-processed, organic and locally sourced ingredients. Breakfast is served all day, featuring traditional favorites with a twist such as biscuits with green-chile sausage gravy and a Southwestern spin on eggs Benedict with housemade ginger aioli.

Details: 520 W. Sheldon St. 928-237-4724.

After breakfast, visit Watson Lake nestled amid the Granite Dells. The dells are a beautiful collection of massive boulders. Rounded yet lumpy, wrinkled yet smooth, these sculpted rocks rise from the water and then ramble off across the shore. Watson Lake Park is a good starting point. A series of hiking trails make a 4.8-mile loop around the lake, curving through the big cottonwoods of the Watson Woods Riparian Preserve, following a recycled railway bed and then scrambling into the big boulders of the dells. Views are spectacular almost every step of the way. The park has picnic tables, horseshoe pits and playground equipment. $3 parking fee.

Details: 3101 Watson Lake Road. 928-777-1122, www.cityofprescott.net.

Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary is a small but intriguing non-profit wildlife sanctuary that takes in a lot of rescued animals. It houses an excellent variety of well-cared-for critters. You’ll appreciate the easy-to-navigate grounds, knowledgeable staff and up-close interaction with the animals. Enjoy plenty of creepy thrills in the Tarantula Grotto. The sanctuary is also a holding facility for Mexican gray wolves that will soon be released to the wild. $10, $6 for ages 3-12.

Details: 1403 Heritage Park Road. 928-778-4242, www.heritageparkzoo.org.

If you’re looking to finish up some holiday shopping, you’ll have no problem finding one-of-a-kind gifts in the eclectic shops of downtown Prescott. Art galleries and boutiques surround the courthouse. Highlights include Newman Gallery, Van Gogh’s Ear, Arts Prescott Gallery and Mountain Spirit Gallery. There are also plenty of antiques shops downtown area, many of them clustered along Cortez Street.

Grab dinner and enjoy a beautiful light display at Prescott Brewing Company. This microbrewery provides a front-row seat overlooking Courthouse Plaza with colorful lights strung among the trees. The same care used in creating the beers goes into food preparation, with nearly everything made from scratch. Bangers and mash are among the specialties.

Details: 130 W. Gurley St. 928-771-2795, www.prescottbrewingcompany.com.

El Gato Azul is a cozy restaurant with a covered patio overlooking Granite Creek. Its specialties are lunch and dinner tapas, more than 50 small plates that can be enjoyed as snacks or combined to make a full meal. The Sticky Chicken is marinated and grilled chicken skewers tossed in hoisin sesame sauce. There also are traditional entrees using locally sourced ingredients.

Details: 316 W. Goodwin St. 928-445-1070, www.elgatoazulprescott.com.

When you’re just footsteps away from Whiskey Row, it’s hard to resist a nightcap. Plenty of the joints will be jumping with live music. Try to make one of your stops the Palace Restaurant & Saloon. When you push your way through the swinging doors of the Palace, you’re walking back in time. This is Arizona’s oldest frontier watering hole. Bend a casual elbow at the 1880s Brunswick bar and know you’re drinking where the Earps and Doc Holliday once drank.

Sunday

Zeke’s Eatin’ Place in the Frontier Village Shopping Center has been an anchor of the Prescott dining scene for over 20 years. It’s known for huge portions of comfort foods with cowboy flair. There are nearly a dozen omelets, along with a hearty burrito and breakfast scrambles. The country breakfast consists of sausage patties and eggs atop a buttermilk biscuit, along with hash browns, slathered in gravy.

Details: 1781 SR 69. 928-776-4602, www.zekeseatinplace.com.  

Sharlot Hall Museum is built around the site of the first Territorial governor’s mansion, an elegant log cabin from 1864 that still stands in its original location. The mansion later served as home for Sharlot M. Hall, the historian and poet who created the museum. Additional historical buildings are spread across the grounds and filled with a wide range of exhibits. $9, $5 for ages 13-17.

Details: 415 W. Gurley St. 928-445-3122, www.sharlot.org.

Don’t miss the World’s Largest Gingerbread Village. More than 100 gingerbread buildings — a metropolis of sugary goodness — are set amid electric-train displays in the lobby of the Prescott Resort and Conference Center through Jan. 1. Free.

Details: 1500 SR 69. 928-776-1666, www.prescottresort.com.

Find out more: The Prescott Chamber of Commerce is at 117 W. Goodwin St. 928-445-2000, www.visit-prescott.com.

3 more things to do

Designed to resemble an Indian pueblo, the Smoki Museum explores Native American culture with an emphasis on Prescott tribes. Built in 1935, the museum houses prehistoric artifacts as well as contemporary pottery, jewelry, kachinas and an extensive art collection.

Details: 147 N. Arizona St. 928-445-1230, www.smokimuseum.org.

Named for Cowboy Artists of America co-founder George Phippen, the Phippen Museum showcases Western art with all its inherent drama. Bucking broncos, blazing sunsets and radiant landscapes are captured in paintings, photographs and sculptures.

Details: 4701 State Route 89. 928-778-1385, www.phippenartmuseum.org.

Right across the highway from the Phippen Museum, the Constellation Trails are a series of easy pathways that ramble among the stacked boulders of the Granite Dells. The trail segments together cover less than 3 miles and are a mix of packed dirt and bare rock — lots of good scrambling that kids will enjoy. Download a trail map on the city’s website. Trailhead parking area is adjacent to the Phippen Museum. Please don’t use the museum lot.

Details: 928-777-1121, www.prescott-az.gov.

Find the reporter at www.rogernaylor.com. Or follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RogerNaylorinAZ or Twitter @AZRogerNaylor.

 

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Douglas Harper