Mesa is the third largest city in Arizona and is located in the wider Phoenix metropolitan area. A core region for the Mormon religion, it is an interesting place to learn more about the religion and its spread across Arizona.
There are also plenty of interesting museums and art spaces across the city. It is a great place for tourists who want to be close to Phoenix but wish to stay in a quieter area.
This makes it a great base for day trips, with international cities, unique natural attractions and cowboy villages all easily reachable within a few hours.
Here are the 15 best day trips you can take from Mesa, Arizona.
Mesa is located just outside the capital city of Arizona, Phoenix. It is the largest metropolitan area in the American Southwest and as such, is a great example of Southwestern culture.
Located in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, Phoenix is packed with diverse restaurants, shops and beautiful gardens with unique flora and fauna. There are world-class museums scattered around the city, including the Arizona Science Centre and the Heard Museum, which displays interesting artifacts from Native American culture.
It’s also a great arts and culture hub, with many independent art galleries scattered across the city and the world famous magic show at Carnival of Illusion.
Located just north of Mesa and Phoenix, Scottsdale is Arizona’s premier shopping destination, with a huge variety of high-end shops, boutiques, and outlets. The Fashion Square Mall is the main destination in town; it is one of the largest malls in the US.
The Downtown area of Scottsdale is filled with trendy bars and unique restaurants. The Canals are also a cool area of the city, with a very relaxed vibe.
Joggers and dog walkers line this beautiful desert canal system and there are plenty of picnic spots along the way.
3. Grand Canyon
One of the most famous attractions in the country, the Grand Canyon brings tears to even the strongest of souls thanks to its immense natural beauty.
Formed thousands of years ago from a collision with a meteorite, this huge hole in the ground has a unique system of caves and caverns waiting to be explored. It is also a hiker’s paradise, with many trails circling the area.
In the canyon, itself you can take a river ride through the middle, as well as indulge in some canyoning, abseiling or other outdoor activities. The area is well served by tourist infrastructure, including restaurants and visitor centers.
Home of Arizona State University, Tempe is a very cool and modern city with a youthful vibe. This is a great place to experience some of the most diverse cultures present in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, and there is a series of great bars, restaurants, and cafés lining the main streets of the city.
There are a bunch of interesting museums around the city, including the Geology Museum, where you can learn all about the unique rock formations found within the American Southwest.
The Tempe Lake area is a great place to hang out and relax; you will easily be able to soak up the local culture while you are there.
Sedona is a very unique region within the United States. It is home to a Native American reserve and plenty of scenes of natural beauty. The Red Rocks of Sedona attract tourists from across the world who are keen to see the unique rock formations in the heart of the desert.
There are many Sinaguan Native American ruins lining the roadsides here that give an interesting insight into the ancient cultures that formed in North America long before the Europeans arrived.
There is also a tonne of galleries and shops, many of which sell Native American handicrafts and artworks.
Tombstone is a notorious Wild West village located in the American Southwest. Transport yourself back in time to the cowboy era with a visit to this quirky town.
Complete with saloons, cowboy actors and old courthouse, Tombstone is a great experience for fans of Western movies or anyone interested in that part of American history.
There are even shoot-em-up performances held within the town. Nearby attractions include the Tombstone graveyard, where you can check out the graves of real cowboys and wild west residents, and learn more about their stories and the history of the town.
7. San Xavier del Bac
San Xavier del Bac is an old mission church that has since been turned into a National Monument. It was founded as a Catholic mission in 1692. A visit to this church will give you a deep insight into this unique part of North American history.
The exterior of the church is a fantastic example of Spanish Colonial Architecture, and the interior is one of the grandest churches in the United States, with ornate carvings and paintings.
It is the longest lasting European building in Arizona, and tours will give you a great history into the Catholic missionaries of the region.
The Apache Trail is located on the way to Tucson and is a fantastic insight into Wild West culture, as well as the unique Native American heritage of the American Southwest.
Goldfield is a ghost town located along the way that used to be a center of cowboy culture. This is a great chance to experience more of the Wild West, without the fanfare and tourism draws of some of the renewed sites. All of the buildings are authentic and have been left as they were.
You can also visit Superstition Mountain to learn more about the Native American Apache people of the area, as well as explore the surrounding wilderness and unique geography of the region.
Tucson is the second largest city in Arizona and is known as a business hub in the American Southwest. It is also well known for the surrounding natural beauty and wildlife.
Located at a higher elevation, Tucson is cooler than Arizona and a great place to escape the searing heat of the rest of Arizona for a day. Canyons and national parks surround the city, making it a paradise for hikers and photographers.
You can also visit the Old Tucson Studios to learn about how some of the most iconic Western movies were made in the state of Arizona.
10. Tonto National Forest
Tonto National Forest is the fifth largest National Forest in the United States, with an incredibly diverse array of flora and fauna, spanning from desert to mountain climates, and with a dense, rich forest in between.
Lakes are dotted around the forest area, most of which are lined with beaches thanks to the neighboring desert. You can check out some of the native cactuses just outside the forest, or enjoy rare wildlife while in the forest – just watch out for bears!
There are plenty of hiking trails, as well as spots to launch canoes and kayaks into the water.
Located just across the border in Mexico, Mexicali is an interesting fusion of Mexican and American cultures, thanks to its neighboring city in the US, Calexico.
It is a very popular destination for day-trippers who are looking to take in a little bit of Mexican culture. The city is one of the wealthiest in Mexico and has a great array of activities.
From museums celebrating the Chinese communities in Mexico to hiking and fishing alongside the river, there is something to please everyone in Mexicali. It is also, of course, a fantastic place to sample Mexican cuisine.
The increasing tourism industry in the city means many of the best Mexican restaurants have been able to thrive.
12. Las Vegas
A city that barely needs an introduction, Las Vegas is famous the world over as a major destination in the American Southwest. Here, you can indulge in gambling in one of the world class casinos, as well as take in the party atmosphere it is famed for.
You can spot replicas of worldwide monuments – from the Great Pyramids and Eiffel Tower, to America’s own Statue of Liberty; they can all be found on a single strip in Las Vegas.
There are plenty of entertainment facilities, including live performances, international restaurants, and quirky museums to keep you entertained day or night.
To experience some of the true natural beauty that Northern Arizona has to offer, Flagstaff is your number one destination. It is much cooler than the southern portion of the state and sees a lot more rain, making the air seem more bearable.
There is a surrounding ponderosa pine forest that provides unique forest coverage to the state and is worth exploring if you are a keen hiker.
The nearby mountain range also makes for an interesting backdrop for photographers and nature lovers. In the winter, there are options for skiing and ice skating, making it a real rarity in the desert landscape of the Southwest.
Prescott is a very interesting town to not only learn about American history but to experience it as if you are right there in the moment.
There are plenty of saloons with extremely potent whiskey lining the streets of Prescott, and the thick accents will take you back to the Wild West.
Visit one of the many bookshops within the town to learn about the literary history of the city, and grab a local guidebook known as Historic Prescott to learn all about the history of the area whilst you wander its streets.
15. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is an extremely unique area of natural beauty and biological interest. Registered as a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve, the flora and fauna found within this national monument is unique only to this region.
The iconic cactus plants found here are very interesting for photographers and nature lovers alike, and the huge gorge creates dramatic scenery surrounding the region. There are hiking and ranger-guided options available throughout the area.