One night, two lakes and three meals in Prescott, Arizona

A one-night weekend getaway to Prescott, Arizona included short trail hikes around two area lakes, shopping at Courthouse Square, and a fantastic Sunday brunch.

When we only have a one-night trip and arrive in Prescott Saturday morning, we start the day with the locals, at the Prescott Farmer’s Market. Since we left the Valley about 8 a.m., we arrived in time to stroll around the market. It’s been quite a long time since we visited the Prescott Farmer’s Market, so the winter/spring location at 930 Division Street seemed smaller and compact. The summertime market location is at the much roomier Yavapai College parking lot. Still, we were able to find many farmers and crafts people on hand selling a variety of produce, handmade goods and ready to eat foods. We opted for some whole cacao chocolates for nibbling on later.

After working up an appetite at the Farmer’s Market, it was time for lunch. One of our favorite Prescott lunch spots is Bill’s Grill. Excellent sandwiches, tacos, burgers plus a solid selection of craft brews await the hungry Prescott visitor. We arrived a bit early so we waited on the chairs in front of the restaurant.

While we sat, we realized how far apart the worlds are between Prescott and the Phoenix metro area. We’re so used to the suburban sprawl of the big city; people rely on cars, buses, light rail, etc., while people in Prescott tend to walk and ride bicycles. Maybe it’s the climate: being 10-15 degrees cooler makes a difference? Maybe the close proximity to shops, grocers, workspaces? People in Prescott seem friendlier, more hospitable and neighborly as well. At least it seems that way. Maybe it’s for tourism. Small town America? My daydreaming was interrupted when I heard the unlocking of the Bill’s Grill doors and we went in to enjoy our lunch.

After lunch we strolled around the square, window shopping mostly; there’s often a few newer shops we’ve never visited and we’d like to explore. We love to spend time in the Bashford Courts stores and the Firehouse Coffee Company.

Making our way around Courthouse Square, we’re usually aware of any weekend events taking place and this particular weekend in late April, the Whiskey Off-Road Bike Race was in full swing. But with each event, even a bike race or marathon, comes the vendors lining the streets with their canopies and tents, this time selling bike apparel, accessories, of course, food. Plus there’s live music, a beer garden and a petting zoo. Yes, a petting zoo, too.

 

Time to check in to our lodging. On this particular night we were able to uncover a great deal on an upgraded suite with fireplace and Jacuzzi tub at the Forest Villas Resort not too far from downtown. About 2 p.m., we find many hotels are able to check us in, so we can unload our baggage, freshen up, change clothes and head out again for an afternoon. They were able to do that this time too.

It’s been many years we’ve stopped by Watson Lake. Seeing a lot of great photographs on Instagram lately whetted our appetite for Watson Lake, so we made the decision to swing by the park. and Watson Lake didn’t disappoint. The late Saturday afternoon panorama provided a backdrop for senior prom goers and large family picnickers having their pictures taken. A short stroll around the lake trail provided us with a few good photo ops and after enjoying the views, it was time for dinner.

Our original plans for dining out fell through, so we ended up at a strip mall sushi place called Fujiyama Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar. We saw several people standing outside the door, and immediately assumed, “this place must be good.” The inside was packed as well. We ordered several fairly basic rolls and were well satisfied.

Back at the room, we noticed the moon coming up over the mountains. Time to spend some time on the balcony, and enjoy a glass of wine and a few pieces of the Communal Uprising Chocolate from the Farmer’s Market for dessert. Although our room loomed over the busy highway, the view of the moon over the Bradshaw Mountains more than compensated for any traffic distraction.

Early Sunday morning a walk around Lynx Lake was on the agenda. But we took advantage of our hotel room’s amenities and decided to sleep in and take our time. Coffee and continental breakfast is free in the hotel lobby so we made use of that as well. Then we loaded up and drove literally just across the highway to Lynx Lake Recreation Area for a wonderful stroll around the lake. This is a popular place with local runners and dog walkers too, completing their daily workout. Quite a few folks fishing were spotted, as well as some unusual water birds.

But the icing on the weekend was a great lunch at the Lynx Lake Cafe. Everything we’ve eaten in our past two visits here has been delicious, whether its breakfast, lunch or dinner. But the best things about the cafe have to be the sweeping views of the lake, watching hummingbirds eat their lunch outside your window and overhearing families excitedly discussing their camping, hiking and fishing experiences from their weekend. In order to prepare for the coming work week, sometimes one needs a little attitude adjustment and you can get that in Prescott.

 

 

Pack up the pooch for pet-friendly Prescott

Molly is ready to spend the day in Prescott!

Molly is ready to spend the day in Prescott!

If you’re looking for cool ways to spend a summer Arizona weekend, consider spending a day, weekend or — even an entire week in pet-friendly Prescott. Just like we do, our furry best friends also deserve an cool getaway during the coming ‘dog days’ of summer. Here are some suggestions for Prescott:

Dog policies are well publicized at the Prescott Farmers Market

Dog policies are well publicized at the Prescott Farmers Market

Vendors from Rabbit's Run Farm sell their produce at Prescott Farmers Market

Vendors from Rabbit’s Run Farm sell their produce at Prescott Farmers Market

Grab a snack and a cold drink at Prescott Farmers Market

Grab a snack and a cold drink at Prescott Farmers Market

Start a Saturday morning by visiting the Prescott Farmers Market at Yavapai College. The market is held weekly from 7:30 a.m. to noon in the college parking lot, at 1100 East Sheldon Street. Find local produce vendors, crafty-types, ready-to-eat brunch and lunch items, artists and live music. We strolled the booths shopping for mesquite honey, artisan breads, homemade soaps and farm-fresh veggies while listening to laidback tunes such as a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.” We snacked on authentic Kenyan samosas — a delicious baked pastry, puffed and stuffed with one of several meats — beef, pork, chicken or chorizo.

We shared our samosas with our border collie, Molly who politely walked along the aisles of this ample farmers market. Know that the Prescott Farmers Market has a policy for dogs — mostly just common sense — but we acknowledge some dog owners need to be reminded: Keep your dog leashed, close to your side, away from the market vendors’ wares.

Crooked Sky Farms' booth at Prescott Farmers Market

Crooked Sky Farms’ booth at Prescott Farmers Market

If there’s a show, exhibit, fair or some other type of activity at Courthouse Plaza (and there usually is on summer weekends), you’ll want to check that out, so venture over to downtown Prescott. Because our visit fell on Memorial Day weekend, we were fortunate the 39th Annual Phippen Museum Western Art Show and Sale was in full swing at Courthouse Plaza. It seems most western art buffs must be dog lovers as well — numerous vendors, shoppers, both visitors and locals had brought their canine pets to the square.

Phippen Museum benefits from the annual Memorial Day art show and sale

Phippen Museum benefits from the annual Memorial Day art show and sale

Oodles of poodles can be seen at summer Courthouse Plaza events

Oodles of poodles can be seen at summer Courthouse Plaza events

Some events at Courthouse Plaza in fact, are just for dogs. The first weekend of June was Woof Down Lunch, a fundraiser to benefit United Animal Friends. The annual event is a pet fair featuring training demonstrations, contests, handcrafted pet food, music and pet adoptions. It was held on June 1st, so we just missed this event but we’ll mark our calendars for next year. Coming up in the fall on October 6th is the 7th Annual Dogtoberfest and Adop-a-Thon, sponsored by The Prescott Dog and the City of Prescott.

After the show, you’ll undoubtedly want a bite to eat. And you won’t have to travel far to find a dog-friendly patio restaurant in downtown Prescott. We opted for the Firehouse Kitchen, just half a block and around the corner from Whiskey Row. We did not see any Dalmations at this two-level firehouse, but we did notice some well-behaved dogs with their owners. Know there are TWO dog patio (one on each level) to allow enough space for pooches to spread out. Our server brought us our lunch meals without hardly any wait, considering this very busy weekend. Chuck ordered a satisfying crab melt with tomato and avocado, covered with cheddar cheese and served on an English muffin. I selected a delicious barbecue brisket sandwich on Kaiser roll with sweet potato fries. Molly noshed on doggie treats from home. She was very impressed that our server brought out a dish of water. Being on second floor, Molly enjoyed watching the street traffic below while we dined. A perfect lunch!

Crab melt sandwich at Firehouse Kitchen

Crab melt sandwich at Firehouse Kitchen

After lunch, you and “Fido” may want to exercise off some calories at a local dog park. Willow Creek Park, located at 3181 Willow Creek Road, is a City of Prescott dog park. Take some time to let your dog run off steam without the leash before heading back to the Valley or checking into your hotel room.

If you need suggestions for pet-friendly overnight lodging, more dining options or things to do with your dog in Prescott, there are a number of websites with information. Here’s a partial list:

1. Prescott.com

2. Petswelcome.com

3. Bringfido.com

One we checked out before our trip is The Prescott Dog, a locally managed website. The information seems to be fairly comprehensive, current and accurate, but we make it practice to confirm pet policies of restaurants and hotels before we go. Two downtown pet-friendly Prescott hotels at which we previously have stayed are  Hassayampa Inn and SpringHill Suites Prescott.  If hotel lodging isn’t an option for you, consider of several nearby campgrounds in Prescott National Forest.

Take the opportunity to visit pet-friendly Prescott at least one weekend this summer. It’s the perfect way to escape the Valley’s hot ‘dog days.’ We already have planned our next weekend in Prescott.

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Van Dickson Ranch: Event venue and polo club

Skull Valley Polo Club action at Van Dickson Ranch (photo courtesy of Carolyn Harris)

To see horses in rural Arizona surely is no surprise. But polo ponies? I’d have never guessed this small ranching community located 20 miles southwest of Prescott would be the home of the Skull Valley Polo Club.

Indeed, the Van Dickson Ranch, owned by C. Paul and Carolyn Harris, is the site for polo lessons, scrimmages, matches and tournaments of the Skull Valley Polo Club. Carolyn explained they are not the first owners of this ranch to keep polo ponies. The ranch’s original owner, John “Van” Dickson, raised horses in the early 1900s. Not only was Van Dickson a rancher; he was also known as a world class rodeo champion and a friend of early film cowboy Tom Mix. According to Carolyn, Van Dickson raised and trained polo ponies which were leased to famous cowboy-humorist-polo lover Will Rogers.

Skull Valley Polo Club at Van Dickson Ranch offers lessons and hosts tournaments from spring until early fall. It also provides a casual polo environment for seniors who want to keep playing, amateurs who like to play for fun, and even professionals who want a field for a relaxing game or to train new ponies.  In addition, the high country polo field gives polo players from the Valley an option for summertime participation.  The club was featured in the January 2011 issue of Polo Players’ Edition, a national polo sports magazine, and more recently in the local media — on the Prescott Daily Courier’s website.

But Van Dickson Ranch is known for more than the site of Skull Valley Polo Club. It has also become a popular venue for weddings, retreats, large parties and family reunions. The 600 by 250-foot polo field transforms into a event site with large tents, white-cloth covered tables, and food service. The Harris’s back yard — a tree-lined, green-grass grove makes a close-to-nature setting for outdoor western-themed weddings. On some summer Saturdays a polo match may occupy the field at morning then it’s prepped for a wedding reception in the afternoon or evening. The Harrises are also able to offer full catering services. As former Texans, they probably know how to put on a pretty good barbecue.

We made a visit to Van Dickson Ranch earlier this month. On our visit, the ranch house was surrounded by cottonwood, oak and walnut trees, still decked in fall foliage. It was a perfect picture of Arizona in autumn. Van Dickson Ranch really is a versatile venue — for a western-style wedding or a polo tournament. To Paul and Carolyn Harris, it’s also “home.”

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Just to get a feel for what it’s like to play polo at Skull Valley, watch this fascinating “view from the saddle” video.

Recent wedding ceremony at Van Dickson Ranch (photo courtesy of Carolyn Harris)

Fall colors still on display in November at Van Dickson Ranch (AzGetawayTravel.com photo)

Horses take time out on a chilly Saturday at Skull Valley Polo Club (AZGetawayTravel.com photo)

Van Dickson Ranch's regular visitor (Tom the Turkey) inspects the wedding seating arrangement (photo courtesy of Carolyn Harris)

"Front yard" at Van Dickson Ranch is both polo field and wedding venue (photo courtesy of Carolyn Harris)