Located in the quaintly named Maricopa County, Mesa is a city in the state of Arizona and shares a border with the Salt River Pima- Maricopa Indian Community. With a population of over 400,000 inhabitants, Mesa is the third largest city in Arizona after Phoenix and Tucson. It is filled with museums, artwork, hiking opportunities, and delicious food and drinks.
As an Arizona local who has visited Mesa a couple of times, Mesa is a whole new world to add to your bucket list. You may be in the middle of the desert, but Mesa even has two rivers! So whether you enjoy the arid environment of the pioneers or the wetlands that led settlers here to pan for gold, there is something for everyone in this city. Here is my list of the 25 best things to do in Mesa!
1. Take in a game at Hohokam Stadium
If you are feeling in need of a little exercise but don’t want to go the whole hog I suggest visiting Hohokam Stadium, a baseball park capable of accommodating over 12,000 spectators. The ground is named after the Hohokam indigenous people who lived and worked on the land until the 15th Century.
The stadium is home to several local clubs and serves as a training ground. You can even catch a game if you happen to be in town on the game night.
But of course, I think you’re time in the stadium will be more unforgettable if you vibe with locals and fellow tourists. I am new to baseball, but my time in Hohokam Stadium was so amazing as I happened to meet baseball enthusiasts and fans who were kind enough to introduce me to the game and their favorite teams.
2. Pick some fruit at Orange Patch
For a fun and different sightseeing activity, it would be great if you head down to the Orange Patch, where you can pick your own oranges and marvel at the myriad varieties of local fruit on offer. The Orange Patch has been in existence since the 1960s, and you can enjoy the history of this location and the local produce available.
The location boasts an orchard where guests can pluck the sun-kissed citrus fruits, including grapefruits, oranges, and tangerines, as well as a farm store that is attached.
If you have harvested an abundance of fruit yourself, then browse the in-store creations that include pickles, sweets, and a range of preserves and jams. I highly attest to their delightful preserves and jams, as they taste out of this world. And you know what? Once I get back to Mesa, I’ll surely buy a couple of jars again for stocks and gifts!
3. Bat up at Sloan Park
If you are a fan of the Chicago Cubs you shouldn’t miss having a good swing at Sloan Park. It is the baseball stadium at which the club train in the spring season, as well as the home of several Arizona teams year-long.
The stadium has a capacity of 15,000 people and is, therefore, one of the largest stadiums in all of the United States in terms of capacity as a spring training ground. I recommend visiting this massive park to catch a game and witness the Chicago Cubs’ practice!
You don’t have to be an expert in baseball, as you’ll surely blend with the crowd. I came a little bit late for the game, but I’m telling you, everything was so memorable. From the crowd to the stadium’s atmosphere, it felt like a big party under the sun!
4. See some art at Mesa Arts Center
I recommend coming to Mesa Arts Center for a day or night of culture and performing arts. The center is also a campus for students studying performing arts, and there are four different arts venues for shows and exhibitions that are open to the public.
The building itself is a work of art and is made of steel, glass, concrete, water features, and vivid use of color. There are also features such as a sculpture garden and indoor and outdoor seating areas for performances.
You know, as a person who loves to travel, art places like this one are one of my favorite places to visit as I get to know more about the culture and identity of my destination. When you visit here, you’ll feel like gazing upon the soul of the people who are sharing their crafts and talents here.
5. Savor the Italian food and music at Organ Stop Pizza
If you are looking for a genuinely unique experience then I suggest considering a quick stop at Organ Stop Pizza. The name may not be immediately obvious, but this is actually an Italian restaurant serving pizzas and other Italian favorites.
This one was rescued and lovingly restored in the 1970s and is played nightly at the restaurant, so order some pasta and imagine yourself in the days before ‘talkies’ took over Hollywood.
What’s the twist? The restaurant also features a working Wurlitzer organ of the kind that was often played in cinemas to provide a musical soundtrack during silent films.
I’m telling you, Organ Stop Pizza is one of the places I’m sure will top your bucket list. From the setup of the space to the sumptuous food and good music, you’ll realize that your visit to Mesa is incomplete without this place!
6. Catch a concert at Mesa Amphitheatre
If you feel like catching a concert in Mesa, finding your way to Mesa Amphitheater will be a great idea. The amphitheater has a capacity of around 5,000 spectators, which locals say makes it the perfect space to feel close enough to your favorite act while also feeling like you are enjoying a world-class event.
To date, the space has attracted both famous and less well-known acts and is loved by Mesa residents for its location and special feature of a tiered lawn that provides excellent views for all spectators, even if you are at the back! Just check out the local listings to see who is playing while you are in town.
7. Enjoy the serenity at Mesa, Arizona Temple
The Mesa Arizona Temple is a temple belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints and is famous in Mesa for its holiday lights that provide the town with a light show all of its own.
The temple has a comprehensive visitor’s center that focuses on providing historical and educational information on the development of the church through videos, exhibitions, artwork, and a sculpture of Jesus Christ. Visitors are allowed and encouraged to visit the temple grounds, which are staffed by volunteers within the church and can enjoy the temple gardens as well.
You may have a different religion, but the serenity of this place will give you a sense of tranquility. The city can be overwhelming sometimes, so I took the opportunity to unwind, relax, pray, and send some wishes.
8. Have fun at Golfland and Sunsplash
Whether you are traveling with your family or not, I recommend indulging your fun side and visiting Golfland and Sunsplash, which are two adjacent amusement parks.
Golfland is open all year round, and visitors can enjoy go-carting, miniature golf, arcade games, and bumper boats on a purpose-built lake. In the summer months, visitors can also enter Sunsplash, a water park that has 29 different water theme rides and activities, as well as several swimming and wave pools. For braver visitors, the main aquatic attractions include Thunder Bay, the Sidewinder, and the Cauldron.
This is one of my favorite places in Mesa, as it’s perfect for a refreshing and exhilarating outdoor getaway. It was so hot during my last visit, so I decided to fight the heat here and have fun with my loved ones.
9. Visit Arizona Museum for Youth or the i.d.e.a Museum
Don’t get confused by the names. The Arizona Museum for Youth was renamed the i.d.e.a Museum, and they are one and the same space. The museum is directed towards children in an effort to encourage their creativity and hands-on experience of the art world, but there are plenty of opportunities for adults to enjoy the exhibitions, which provide lots of chances for visitor participation. The focus is on education and expression, and the museum hosts rotating temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
When I visited here, I was a bit emotional as it reminded me of my childhood. I believe that art is something that should be accessible for children as this is where they build their foundations as individuals. I realized that a place such as the i.d.e.a Museum is important to help children find their potential and build their self-esteem.
10. Be in awe at the Commemorative Air Force Airbase, Arizona
Brush up on your history and learn all about the bravery and sacrifices of servicemen and women at the Commemorative Air Force Airbase Arizona.
The airbase has a whole host of aviation memorabilia from the Second World War, many of which are actual donations from those who served. The airbase also has several working aircraft from the period and provides flight shows for visitors wishing to see a genuine WWII plane in action.
The exhibits are presented with a view of providing education for visitors to the airbase. If you want something to take back home, I think visiting its shop to purchase souvenirs as a reminder of your experience is crucial.
My visit here was still vivid as gratefulness filled my heart. I learned that I have a lot to thank because of our servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives and efforts to bring peace to our country.
11. Go back in time to Mesa Historical Museum
As a travel enthusiast, I always visit the local heritage museums of the places I visit. I believe that to understand a place well, one must know its history. I always want to take a glimpse of their past to understand their present.
So if you want to explore the history of the Arizona area in more detail, then I suggest visiting the Mesa Historical Museum. It is owned by the Historical Society and has been in operation since the 1980s.
The museum is dedicated to preserving historical artifacts and memorabilia and providing visitors with a potted history of the Mesa area. To that end, the museum even features a replica of a schoolhouse as well as period farming tools and an exhibit named the ‘Cactus League Experience’ that educates visitors all about the history of baseball training in Mesa.
12. Reach for the skies in a hot air balloon ride
As Mesa is located in the Sonoran Desert, you may feel that you are in the middle of nowhere and lacking perspective; taking a hot air balloon ride to marvel at the clear sky and admire the aerial view of the whole area will be worth deciding for.
My hot air balloon experience is something that I share with my friends. Going up in the sky made me realize that the world is so big, and I still have a lot of places to visit and learn from.
There are several companies located in Mesa that offer hot air balloon experiences, so now anyone can sweep over the desert in majestic style and get a bird’s eye view of the city and its location as you look over the state of Arizona.
13. Learn your geography at the Arizona Museum of Natural History
If you want to know even more about the history of the South West, but with a geographical and geological focus, then I think spending the day at the Arizona Museum of History will be perfect for you.
The museum started as a small collection of artifacts and has now grown to an area of over 74,000 square feet that houses over 10,000 historic photographs of the region. The museum aims to inform and engage visitors and has a number of large installations, such as a recreation of an Arizona prison, a goldmine, and an indoor waterfall that spans three floors.
I’m not kidding if I tell you that I had an existential reflection when I witnessed the massive artifacts of majestic dinosaurs and species that have long been gone from our planet.
14. Learn about the culture at the Mesa Grande Ruins
Head out and absorb some of the local cultures with a trip to the Mesa Grande Ruins, said to be the central point for the administration and religious affairs of an ancient Hohokam village.
The site is set up for the preservation of what remains of the village, and much of the area has only been partially excavated, and a large section still lies beneath the surface for visitors to ponder over and play at being a budding archaeologist. The ruins are thought to have been the site of a working village from AD 1100 to AD 1140.
If you decide to visit here, I advise bringing water, sunscreen, and extra clothes as you’ll sweat a lot. It was truly hot during my visit, but the exhaustion was worth it because I got to marvel at the historical site and learn a lot from our guide.
15. Stroll through the Park of the Canals
So named because of the ruins of canals built by Hohokam Native Americans and Mormons, my visit to this park is like a walking history tour. The park features not only the famous canals but also a botanical garden filled with local flora as well as notable cacti from all over the Arizona desert region.
You can have a picnic in the park or simply marvel at the architecture of the canals, which are said to have been built in 300 BC as a way for local farmers to pump enough water from the arid desert to nourish their crops.
16. Go for a hike to Wind Cave Trail
If you find yourself in the mood for some exercise I suggest heading for the Wind Cave Trail that forms part of the Usery Mountain Regional Park.
The trail is famous as it can be enjoyed by visitors with all levels of fitness and stamina, from old pros to new hikers. Although it stretches over 1.6 miles, it is known for being a less challenging hike than many others in the region.
The trail takes its name from the cave that is found at the end of the path that is located at the base of a cliff and was carved by the elements as opposed to created by human hands. Many visitors, like myself, chose to have a picnic at the cave for a spot of al fresco dining and enjoy the views that the trail provides over the mountain region.
17. Stop and smell the roses at Mesa Community College Rose Garden
If you want to slow your pace and take time to savor the simpler things in life I greatly assure you that taking a stroll down to the Mesa Community College Rose Garden will be a great experience, especially if you are visiting in the spring when the flowers are in full bloom.
The garden is run by an amazing band of approximately 400 dedicated volunteers who look after the 9,000 rose bushes all year around and help to ultimately prune the garden to perfection.
There’s something fascinating about flowers. I believe that we have a lot to learn from their wisdom, just like the fragrant roses that welcomed me to Mesa Community College.
18. Stroll through some history with a walking tour
Mesa is studded with historic buildings that have now been listed as areas of historical and cultural significance, where visitors can now take a walking tour to enjoy the period’s architecture.
The buildings are in a variety of styles and from different periods, while some are located in what used to be known as segregated neighborhoods. Many of the buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places and include the former homes of prominent doctors, architects, equal rights campaigners, and farmers.
19. Go for a wander on a public art walking tour
In Mesa, you don’t need to go to a museum to get your art fix, you can go on a walking tour to see all the street art dotted around the city. There are approximately 40 pieces scattered all over Mesa, and the installations range from the sublime to the ridiculous, including a massive bronze pig and a stiletto shoe with a flowering bloom inside.
My stroll here was so fun as I got to satiate my eyes with a great number of masterpieces and, of course, take selfies that will fill my photo album! If you want to visit this place, it would be great to download a map so you can spot these masterpieces and have a great view of them.
20. Try some of the local food
As an Arizonian, Mexican food occupies a large part of my heart (and stomach). Mexican food is obviously a firm favorite in Arizona, and Mesa is no exception. Take a stroll down Main Street and stop off at one of the many Mexican restaurants in the area for some tortillas, nachos, salsa, rice and beans, and many other local delicacies.
Many of the dining outlets have on-street seating so that you can sit outside and watch the foot traffic and enjoy the ambiance in the heart of Mesa.
21. Do a little retail therapy at Superstition Springs Centre
If you feel the need to splash some cash, then look no further than Superstition Springs Center, a shopping mall located in Mesa. The mall features all the latest brands and designers but, unlike other malls, is also famous for its outdoor amphitheater, a stage that provides free concerts, a cinema, and a miniature golf course.
22. Take to the water with Salt River Tubing
You may not immediately think of water in a desert region, but Mesa actually hosts both the Salt and Verde Rivers. If you are up for a little adventure I recommend renting an inflatable tube and floating down the river in style as you soak up some sun and marvel at the spectacular views and local flora and fauna.
Depending on the time of year, you may even be able to take advantage of one of the annual tubing events on offer at the river, such as Mardi Gras or Halloween-themed tubing sessions.
23. Walk along the US 60
The famous highway, the US 60, used to run through Mesa, and many weary travelers stopped at one of the kitsch all-American hotels along the way.
A nod to days gone by, the hotels sadly no longer attract travelers as they used to, and many are either closed or in disrepair; all that remains are their iconic neon signs that still light up Main Street at night.
Despite these, I suggest visiting this historical place to make the most out of your visit to Mesa! Follow in the footsteps of travelers from a forgotten time and go for a walk. But of course, make sure to catch the famous ‘Diving Woman’ and ‘Native American Head.’
US 60 might seem like it was left behind by time, but my visit there made me think that this is what makes it more beautiful. As a traveler, infrastructures, places, and things from the past are time machines that bring me back in time. I believe that to understand the present, it’s crucial to learn about the past and be grateful for its wisdom.