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, and is filled with museums, art work, hiking opportunities, and delicious food and drink.
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. Let’s explore 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 then visit Hohokam Stadium, a baseball park capable of accommodating over 12,000 spectators at one time. The stadium is home to several local clubs and serves as a training ground and you can catch a game if you happen to be in town on game night. The ground is named after the Hohokam indigenous people who lived and worked on the land until the 15th Century.
2. Pick some fruit at Orange Patch
For a fun and different sightseeing activity 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 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. The Orange Patch has been in existence since the 1960s so you can enjoy the history of this location as well as the local produce available.
3. Bat up at Sloan Park
If you are a fan of the Chicago Cubs then swing by Sloan Park, 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. Visit to catch a game and know that this is where the famous Cubs practice!
4. See some art at Mesa Arts Center
Come 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.
5. Savor the Italian food and music at Organ Stop Pizza
If you are looking for a genuinely unique experience then you might consider 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. 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. 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.
6. Catch a concert at Mesa Amphitheatre
If you feel like catching a concert in Mesa then you will need to find your way to Mesa Amphitheatre. The amphitheatre has a capacity of around 5,000 spectators which locals say make it the perfect space to feel close enough to your favorite act whilst 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 in 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 that are staffed by volunteers within the church, and can enjoy the temple gardens as well.
8. Have fun at Golfland and Sunsplash
Whether you are traveling with your family or not, indulge your fun side and visit Golfland and Sunsplash, two adjacent amusement parks. Golfland is open all year around 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 themes rides and activities as well as several swimming and wave pools. For the braver visitors, main aquatic attractions include Thunder Bay, the Sidewinder, and the Cauldron.
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.
10. Pay your respects 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 and there is also a shop to purchase souvenirs of the experience.
11. Go back in time at Mesa Historical Museum
If you want to explore the history of the Arizona area in more detail then head on over to the Mesa Historical Museum. Owned by the Historical Society and 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 school house 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. Take to 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, so why not take a hot air balloon ride and glide through the sky as you observe the city from above? There are several companies located in Mesa who 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 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 spend the day at the Arizona Museum of History. The museum started as a small collection of artifacts and has now grown to an area of over 74,000 square feet that house over 10,000 historic photographs of the region. The museum aims to inform and engage visitors and has a number of large instillations such as a recreation of an Arizona prison, a goldmine, and an indoor waterfall that spans three floors.
14. Rock out at the Rockin’ R Ranch
Have you ever imagined yourself as a pioneer living on a ranch back in the days of old? Well now you can live out the fantasy with a trip to the Rockin’ R Ranch. This replica of a wild Western town from the 19th century is fun for the whole family and features live shows such as shootouts and actors in period costumes. Visitors can also try their hands at panning for gold and listen to live traditional music or browse for period merchandise in the town shops. Food features heavily, much of it made using traditional recipes, and highlights include BBQ for dinner, homemade lemonade, and biscuits made in a Dutch oven and served warm.
15. Learn about the culture at the Mesa Grande Ruins
Head out and absorb some of the local culture with a trip to the Mesa Grande Ruins, said to be the central point for 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.
16. Stroll through the Park of the Canals
So named because of the ruins of canals built by Hohokam Native Americans and Mormons, a walk through 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. Visitors can picnic in the park or simply marvel at the architecture of the canals which are said to have started being built in 300 BC as a way for local farmers to pump enough water from the arid desert to nourish their crops.
17. Go for a hike to Wind Cave Trail
If you find yourself in the mood for some exercise then head 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 and although it stretches over 1.6 miles it 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 choose to picnic at the cave for a spot of al fresco dining and enjoy the views that the trail provides over the mountain region.
18. 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 then stroll down to the Mesa Community College Rose Garden, 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 ultimate and prune the garden to perfection.
19. 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 and visitors can now take a walking tour to enjoy the period architecture. The buildings are in a variety of styles and from different periods, and 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.
20. 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. All you need to do is download a map and get walking.
21. Try some of the local food
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.
22. 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 amphitheatre, a stage that provides free concerts, a cinema, and a miniature golf course.
23. 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 then you can rent an inflatable tube and float 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.
24. Walk along the US 60
The famous highway, the US 60 used to run through Mesa, and many a weary traveler 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 and all that remains are their iconic neon signs that still light up Main Street at night. Follow in the footsteps of travelers from a forgotten time and go for a walk and make sure to catch the famous ‘Diving Woman’ and ‘Native American Head’.
25. Go back in time at the Landmark Restaurant
Do you fancy dining in a former Mormon church that was founded in 1908? Then look no further than the Landmark Restaurant, something of an icon in Mesa that functioned not only as a church, but also as a community college and an insurance company. Thanks to all this history, the restaurant resembles a museum with framed photos of the site over the years and the locals swear by the delicacies on offer such as crab cakes and beef stew. NOTE: It appears this restaurant has closed.