On my recent road trip across the USA, I stopped off for a few days in both Sedona and Prescott.
I know a lot of people have a hard time choosing between these two which is why I thought I’d put together this guide which compares them.
This post will look at the key differences to help you decide where to visit on your next trip! It covers hotels, activities, atmosphere, nightlife and more!
Table of Contents
Summary – Sedona vs Prescott
|More touristy||Less touristy|
|Stunning scenery||Nice scenery|
|More expensive||Less expensive|
|Very commercial town||More authentic, historic town|
|Wider range of activities||Less activities available|
|Red rock formations||National forest & lakes|
|Little nightlife||Lively nightlife|
If I had to choose between them, I’d personally pick Sedona as the scenery was just unreal and like nothing I’d ever seen before.
I loved that Prescott was way more authentic and didn’t feel anywhere near as touristy as Sedona though.
Top Picks For Sedona
Best Hotel In Sedona: Enchantment Resort
Top Activities In Sedona:
Top Picks For Prescott
Best Hotel In Prescott: Hilton Garden Inn Prescott Downtown
Top Activities In Prescott:
- Off-roading in Prescott National Forest
- Watson Lake
Sedona is a desert town in Arizona that is surrounded by impressive red-rock buttes, steep canyons and pine forests. Uptown Sedona has a fantastic range of shops, cafes and art galleries.
Prescott, on the other hand, is a town known for its historic saloon street, Whiskey Row. It is also located close to a lush pine forest and Watson Lake, a stunning lake with lots of trails and boulders dotting the shore.
Sedona and Prescott are very different towns. Whilst Sedona is all about the magnificent red rock scenery, Prescott has pine forests, lakes and a charming historic town.
I found that Sedona was very touristy (almost annoyingly so) and it often got really busy especially in the main uptown area. Prescott, on the other hand, was nowhere near as busy and didn’t feel very touristy at all.
I also noticed that most of the shops in Sedona were tacky souvenir shops with typical tourist junk that didn’t feel very authentic so I generally avoided them.
Prescott, however, had a really charming town that felt much more ‘real’ and not overly commercial.
Most people told me that Sedona had much better scenery than Prescott and after seeing them both for myself, I definitely agree.
In fact, Sedona actually has some of the most beautiful scenery in the whole country. The red-rock buttes are unparalleled and Prescott just doesn’t have anything like it.
Prescott definitely didn’t have as much choice but there was still plenty of things to do including hiking, kayaking and canoeing.
Which Is Bigger?
Prescott is much bigger than Sedona in terms of area. Prescott covers 117.1km2 whereas Sedona covers just 47.4km2.
Prescott also has a much higher population of 42,700 compared with Sedona which has just 10,300 residents.
As Sedona is much more popular with tourists and much smaller, I noticed that it got very crowded especially in the main uptown area of town. This area of Sedona is very commercial.
Despite being bigger, I thought that Prescott had more of a small-town vibe and felt much more relaxed and laid-back compared with Sedona.
Which Has Better Activities?
There’s lots to do in both Sedona and Prescott however Sedona has a much wider range of activities to choose from.
I also think that Sedona’s scenery is much more interesting and beautiful compared with Prescott’s.
Activities In Sedona
Most people come to Sedona to see the epic red rock scenery and stunning landscapes which is initially what also attracted me to the town.
There are so many different ways to enjoy Sedona’s magnificent scenery both from the air or from the land.
I found that Sedona had a huge focus on outdoor activities and there were a wide range of magnificent nature trails. Hiking in Sedona is super fun as there are over 400 miles of hiking trails to choose from.
I actually booked onto this day tour of Sedona as I was only there for a few days and so I really didn’t want to miss anything. The tour was epic so I’d definitely recommend it.
Sedona has some of the most magnificent scenery in the whole of the US. Some of my personal favorite sights were Bell Rock, Devil’s Bridge and Cathedral Rock.
These incredible giant red rocks & natural bridges looked out of this world!!
There’s no better way to see Arizona’s incredible desert beauty than from the above. Get a birds eye view by joining a helicopter tour and see some of Sedona’s most famous red rock formations, including the ancient Anasazi cliff dwellings.
Alternatively you can also join a Sedona jeep tour and explore the epic red rocks from the road.
I also headed up to the viewpoint at Airport Mesa as I’d heard it had the best views in town. I got to experience panoramic views over Sedona including some of the most famous rock formations like Chimney Rock and Capitol Butte.
Other popular activities in Sedona are fishing, mountain biking and even ATV off-roading. The best place to go fishing is at Oak Creek Canyon.
You can also spend the day on a wine tour where you’ll visit local wineries and try out some of their beverages. This activity is super relaxing and gives you a chance to try some of Sedona’s best wines.
Sedona is only a 2 hour drive from the Grand Canyon and you can easily join a day tour to the Grand Canyon from Sedona! Everyone should visit the Grand Canyon at least once in their lifetime!
I found that the best place for shopping was at the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. This stunning collection of Mexican-style buildings is home to over 50 boutique arts & crafts shops and a great range of restaurants.
This Sedona stargazing tour was another highlight for me. We got to see so many stars and our guide was super knowledgeable, I left feeling like some kind of astronomer (Galileo watch out!).
Activities In Prescott
Whilst Prescott didn’t have quite as many activities available as Sedona, there was still plenty to keep me busy. If you like nature and getting outdoors then you’ll love Prescott.
Best Activities In Prescott:
- Watson Lake
- Prescott National Forest
- Whiskey Row
- Sharlot Hall Museum
- Thumb Butte Hike
Prescott has a charming town center full of history, great restaurants and lots of activities. The town has a beautiful courthouse and a pleasant town square.
You could easily spend a day wandering around this delightful town and exploring all it has to offer.
My favorite part of visiting Prescott was making a stop at one of the many lively saloons on Whiskey Row. The town is kinda famous for it.
The Prescott National Forest is a 1.25 million acre national forest that has nearly 450 miles of scenic trails perfect for hiking, backpacking, horseback riding or mountain biking.
You can book onto an off-road adventure tour through the forest and see its untouched wilderness in all of its glory. The lush forests and tall mountains are filled with pretty lakes and streams.
If you’re looking for another picture-perfect nature spot then head over to Watson Lake which is lined with enormous rocks. There’s tons of fun outdoor activities available at the lake from fishing to kayaking.
On the west side of town is the prominent Thumb Butte which boasts the best and most breathtaking views around. I was genuinely in awe at the views from here!
You can hike all the way to the top following the scenic trail that winds its way upwards towards the 1,985 meter-high summit.
Which Has Better Accommodation?
There are plenty of comfortable places to stay in both Sedona and Prescott. Sedona has a wider and better range of hotels including an impressive range of luxury 5-star hotels.
I did find that the quality of accommodation was way higher in Sedona compared with Prescott. Prescott did have plenty of nice hotels but they were nowhere near as nice as Sedona’s.
I ended up staying at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona which was just like a dream to be honest. It was super luxurious, comfortable and had great amenities.
In Prescott, I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn which was pretty nice and was located right in the center of town which was handy.
Accommodation In Sedona
In Sedona most people stay in the uptown area as this is where all the shops, restaurants and amenities are.
I found that pretty much all accommodation options in Sedona were very pricey as most of the hotels and resorts are luxury.
Best Hotels In Sedona:
Accommodation In Prescott
Accommodation in Prescott is much cheaper than Sedona.
You won’t find any luxury hotels here but there is still a good range of comfortable and clean hotels.
Best Hotels In Prescott:
- Hilton Garden Inn Prescott Downtown
- SpringHill Suites Prescott
- The Grand Highland Hotel
- Prescott Pines Inn B&B
Which Is Better for Nightlife?
I found that Prescott had a much more lively nightlife scene compared with Sedona. Sedona isn’t known for nightlife but it does still have a range of nice bars where you can spend the evening.
Nightlife In Sedona
Sedona isn’t really known for being a party city. There are no nightclubs in Sedona at all and I noticed that almost all of the bars and restaurants closed by 11pm even on weekends.
This really threw me off on my first night as I headed out at 10pm for some drinks only to find everything was closing within an hour.
Despite closing early, Sedona does have a very sophisticated nightlife scene.
Most of Sedona’s bars are within resorts, hotels or upscale restaurants. Here you’ll find hand-crafted cocktails and luxurious lounges.
Some of the best bars in Sedona are The Hudson, SaltRock Southwest Kitchen and 89Agave.
There’s also a great range of wine bars in Sedona such as The Secret Garden Café and Oak Creek Brewery & Grill.
Nightlife In Prescott
Prescott has a really lively nightlife scene and I’d return just to experience it one more time!
For the most part, all the nightlife happens on Whiskey Row which is one of the oldest parts of town. This street is named Whiskey Row because of the large number of saloons there.
It did feel really cool to be sitting in one of these old style saloons, enjoying a drink or two. It was a novelty for sure!
The saloons were originally built for the gold rush culture and the street drew all kinds of crowds including cowboys, gamblers and even outlaws.
There are many lively saloons on this street you can head to with my favorite one being Matt’s Saloon. The Bird Cage Saloon was also pretty good too.
Which Is More Affordable?
Overall I spent way more money in Sedona compared to Prescott. I found that pretty much everything cost more from the hotel to food to activities.
Things tend to be more pricey in Sedona as it’s more of a commercial, touristy town.
In particular, getting a hotel in Sedona will cost significantly more than in nearby Prescott. I ended up spending around double per night in Sedona.
If budget is an issue for you then Prescott will be much cheaper than Sedona.
And that’s it!
Hopefully you now know exactly where to go but if not, you might find these helpful: