From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Mesa is a city in Arizona, located just a short drive east of Phoenix. It’s the largest suburban city by population in the United States, the third-largest city in Arizona after Phoenix and Tucson, and the 35th-largest city overall in the country.
Located in the Sonoran Desert, Mesa has a hot desert climate, experiencing mild winters and very hot summers. Therefore, if you – like us – are the outdoor adventure type, you’ll want to take advantage of the milder months and always ensure you’re prepared with sunscreen, a hat, and of course, plenty of water!
With its fascinating attractions, including state and national parks, museums, galleries, fun parks, and more, Mesa is a wonderful place for families to live in or visit. So, ready to discover the best of Mesa, Arizona? Let’s get started!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Mesa and its surrounding area are home to multiple desert state parks, helping you to get back to nature and leave behind the hustle and bustle of the city – even if only for a couple of hours. Here are our top picks within the region.
Lost Dutchman State Park is located on the Apache Trail and offers views and access to the most scenic portions of the legendary Superstition Mountains. The famous tales of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine are known throughout the world, with travelers from all over coming to seek the legend and experience the mystery. Recreational activities on offer here include hiking, wildlife viewing, camping, and biking.
Famous for its prominent 1,500-foot peak, Picacho Peak State Park is also celebrated for its unique geological significance, outstanding and varied desert growth, and historical importance. It’s just a i-hour-and-25-minute drive from Mesa and is a hiker’s paradise, offering a number of challenging, yet extremely rewarding, hikes throughout.
As its name suggests, the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is home to the famous Tonto Natural Bridge, a natural rock arch believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. There’s a Visitor Center located inside historic Goodfellow Lodge, which also features a museum and exhibits. Outdoor activities here include picnicking, wildlife viewing, swimming in Pine Creek, or hiking the park’s four unique trails.
Covering nearly 30,000 acres, White Tank Mountain Regional Park is the largest regional park in Maricopa County. Eleven archaeological sites, occupied during the time period A.D. 500-1100, have been located within the boundaries of White Tank Mountain Regional Park, all of which can be attributed to the Hohokam Indians. While here, you can also enjoy activities such as camping, biking, hiking, horseback riding, stargazing, and more.
One of the best ways to truly experience Mesa is by foot, so luckily, there are plenty of hiking trails in or near the city. These are some of our favorites!
Located in the Usery Mountain Park, the Pass Mountain Loop Trail also runs through Tonto National Forest but starts from the Wind Cave trailhead inside the park. It’s a 7.4-mile loop trail that takes around 3-5 hours for a round-trip, depending on your hiking expertise. It’s rated a medium in terms of difficulty and offers nice elevation gains and scenic views.
Blevins Trail is a 5 km lightly-trafficked loop trail, also located in the Usery Mountain Park, that is good for all skill levels. It has a few small rises and declines, but is mostly flat and well groomed, making it good for both intermediate and advanced hikers. In fact, it’s well-suited for a variety of activities, including hiking, jogging, mountain biking, walking your dog, or horseback riding.
Whether you’re craving comfort food, fast food, or a fine dining experience, this area has it all. Ready to satisfy those post-hike cravings?
Bobby Q has been serving the valley since 2005 and offers award-winning barbeque fare. They use only Almond and Mesquite wood during their cooking process to provide a mouth-watering flavor in their fresh smoked meats and ribs like no other. Once you try it, you’ll become addicted!
Looking for Arizona’s largest selection of South American-style savory empanadas? Don’t worry, we’ve done the digging for you! Republica Empanada Restaurant is your go-to for Latin American comfort food and even offer dessert-style empanadas filled with delights such as Nutella, banana, fig, and more!
Red, White & Brew is “a true restaurant that was designed from the ground up to offer the community a place to eat, drink and relax”. They offer daily, rotating specials, as well as a drinks menu offering an unrivalled selection. The atmosphere is family-friendly, the portions are hearty, and the customer service is top-notch.
Al Pierogi Kitchen is named after Perogi, a classical Ukrainian dish made world-famous by the Polish, which can be found on most dinner tables of Eastern-European families. As a very simple dish, they consist of only dough and the stuffing on one’s choice, however they require skilled hands to produce. See what all of the hype is about by trying this restaurant’s wide selection for yourself!
The Original Blue Adobe Grill is a New Mexican style restaurant offering menu favorites such as chorizo stuffed chicken, enchiladas, shrimp quesadilla, and so much more. They also offer daily specials, a lengthy drinks menu, and a family-friendly atmosphere. Trust us – you’ll want to come back here again and again!
With locations in Gilbert and at the airport, this is one of the local eats you can grab on your way into or out of town. You’ll order at the counter cafeteria-style and then snag a table to enjoy your meal. All the barbecue usuals are good here, but what comes out of left field is the ham, which is surprisingly delicious. Make sure to grab a side of mac and cheese, topped with a crunchy topping that I hear may or may not be made out of your favorite goldfish-shaped crackers.
This East Valley brewery is a shining bright spot in the area, with a long list of beers on tap and some cool collaboration beers, too; my go-to is the Refuge IPA. Arizona Wilderness also has a full food menu and rotating weekly specials, including a dish they specifically pair with one of their beers on Thursdays!
If you like sipping on a cup of Four Barrel coffee while admiring a beautiful 356 Porsche, this is the shop for you. The car where Fourtillfour (FTF) gets its namesake can often be seen parked outside of the garage-style shop, making FTF a popular destination for car enthusiasts as well as coffee aficionados. Make sure to stop by on the first Saturday of every month for the Porsches + Coffee meetup to see an astounding lineup of 356s and other adventure cars while sipping on a delicious cappuccino.
After feasting and enjoying all that nature has to offer, you may be wondering: “what next?” Well, when it comes to Mesa’s attractions and activities, you’re only just getting started. Here are some of the most fun things on offer in and around the city!
Looking for some fun activities to do with children? Look no further! The following attractions are sure to satisfy even the smallest humans for hours on end.
Golfland Sunsplash is Arizona’s premier family fun destination, featuring over 30 exciting rides and attractions. Whether you and your family are looking to enjoy the lazy river, wave pool, waterslides, or other water activities, or even arcade games, mini golf, laser tag, bumper boats, and more – there’s certainly something for every age.
In addition to art, creativity and imagination, the I.d.e.a Museum focuses on supporting early learning, nurturing creative thinking, and engaging families in quality experiences. The museum inspires children to experience their world differently and has been a popular attraction for families for many years now.
Whether it’s date-night or you simply find yourself wandering around the city long after the sun has gone down – here are our top activities to enjoy in Mesa during the darker hours.
Fancy trying your luck at one of Arizona’s premier casinos? Along with casino favorites such as slot machines, bingo, blackjack, and more, you’ll also find entertainment, dining options, events, and more. It’s sure to be a night out you won’t forget!
This majestic, 38-acre facility, located in the Phoenix metropolitan area, provides ample opportunity for events of both the English and Western equestrian persuasion, as well as home shows, RV and car shows, concerts and weddings. Be sure to check out the Horseshoe Park & Equestrian Center events calendar to catch a post-dinner show that’ll delight.
Want to hit the town without it costing you a small fortune? Mesa is full of fun and interesting attractions, including those that cost just a few dollars for you to enjoy. Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy the city “on the cheap”.
For no more than $12 per person, you can visit the popular Arizona Museum of Natural History, which features numerous exhibitions and collections across fascinating topics such as dinosaurs, native peoples of the past, geology, sculptures, public art, and so much more. There’s something for everyone!
The Superstition Mountain Museum lies in the foothills at the southwest end of the awe-inspiring Superstition Mountains in central Arizona. Local residents and visitors alike enjoy revisiting history in the shadow of the mighty Superstition Mountains, which also hosts regular events, such as lectures, classes, concerts, and living history re-enactments. Best of all? It costs just $4 - $5 to attend!
Looking to get the most out of your time spent within the city of Mesa? Whether you want a fun way to waste away a Sunday afternoon or a date idea that won’t break the budget – here are our most recommended things to do in Mesa that won’t cost you a cent.
Papago Park had to go on our recommended list, as it’s just minutes from downtown Mesa and features exceptional hiking opportunities and a wide array of recreational facilities. The area is known for its massive sandstone buttes that rise and fall throughout the park. It’s also home to two of the region’s most visited attractions: the world-class Phoenix Zoo and the stunning Desert Botanical Garden.
The Mesa Art Center is Arizona's largest arts center and is home to four theaters, five art galleries, and 14 art studios. Guests, patrons, and students come to Mesa Arts Center to enjoy the finest live entertainment and performances, world-class visual art exhibitions, and outstanding arts education classes. It’s free to attend, but some events or shows may require paid tickets.
Alright, by now you’ve probably been on your feet all day exploring the sights and delights that Mesa has to offer. If you’re craving some rest and relaxation, or even a bit of pampering, these are two of the best spas in the region.
Best Estie Spa aims to clear your daily stresses away, whether it be through an aromatherapy facial, massage, chemical peel, or a treatment from their skin-perfecting services. With a relaxing atmosphere and great customer service, it’s the one locals often look to when thinking about treating themselves.
The Healing Arts Day Spa is a family owned company, which has been operating in Mesa for decades now. Since 1998, The Healing Arts Day Spa has been known as "Arizona's Most Affordable Day Spa", offering 60-minute, 90-minute, and 120-minute therapeutic massage, organic spa facials, and organic body treatments.
If rejuvenation for you is less about deep relaxation and more about sweating it out, then you’re in luck. Mesa is home to some of the highest-rated gyms and yoga studios within the region.
Mountainside Fitness Mesa is one of the leading gyms within the region and they pride themselves on providing a wide range of amenities to cater for every patron. Whether you’re interested in a complimentary fitness consultation, the indoor basketball court, the sauna and steam rooms, or the 80 group fitness classes on offer every week, you’ll find it all here – and so much more!
As the Valley’s very first Bikram yoga studio, The Foundry Yoga seems to be everyone’s go-to place for relaxing and restorative exercise through the practice of yoga. Their unique blend of classes offers something for everyone, including Bikram hot yoga, hot Pilates, hot HIIT, hot barre, and more.
Looking to fulfill your wanderlust by heading outside of the region for a day? You could spend decades within Mesa without barely scratching the surface of all there is to do in this large city, but consider these day trips next time you fancy a new adventure.
If you find yourself living in, or visiting Mesa, then the Grand Canyon National Park needs to be on your to-do list. At just under a 4-hour-drive from the city, this world-famous national park would make a great, full day trip or weekend escape. Popular activities at Grand Canyon National Park include hiking, backpacking, bicycling, and taking raft trips along the Colorado River. The park also hosts a wide array of ranger-led activities, including guided hikes, wildlife talks, and geological lectures.
At just over a 1.5-hour drive from Mesa, Tucson is the perfect city to escape to when you’re looking to experience even more of what Arizona has to offer. Here, you can visit the popular Saguaro National Park, which is known for its plentiful Saguaro cacti and ancient petroglyphs, as well as the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, San Xavier del Bac Mission, Reid Park Zoo, and a number of other intriguing museums, galleries, and landmarks.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Mesa that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Mesa? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.