Top 25 Things to do in Mesa, AZ

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December 25, 2015

Top 25 Things to do in Mesa, AZ

The following is a contribution from Jan, who blogs at The Crazy Tourist. Follow his journey on Facebook.

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Top 25 Things to do in Mesa, AZ


Mesa may just be a suburb of Phoenix but it has certainly held its own in terms of interesting and fun attractions as well as its number of inhabitants. The town is looked on as Arizona’s center of population, being home to nearly half a million folk, as of 2010. Its history spans at least 2,000 years, with the advent of the Hohokam People, one of the chief cultural divisions of prehistoric Southwestern America. The name Hohokam means “The Departed Ones” or “All Used Up”, strangely enough, and they were famed for building the most advanced canal system in the prehistoric new world. Let’s explore what’s been put in place since then!

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  1. Let your imagination run free

The Mesa Arts Center is a performing and visual arts complex in downtown Mesa, Arizona. At more than 210,000 square feet square feet, the $95 million facility, completed in 2005, is the largest comprehensive arts campus in the state. Enjoy up to date niche productions like the Evil Dead, the Musical. Complete with splash zone (if you want) you will certainly feel part of the action. For those photographers among you, there are some interesting fixtures that create interesting and amazing photographic lines. Drop into the Gift Shop and pick up some unique items.



2) Take a step back in time

At the Arizona Museum of National History. This is one of Arizona’s leading museums, and one in which the whole family can learn all about the natural and cultural history of American’s Southwestern region. The kids are sure to enjoy the museum’s Dinosaur Mountain exhibit, the largest display west of the Mississippi River, which contains a continuously flowing 50 foot high waterfall complete with the spine-tingling howls and roars of a life-size animated saber tooth cat and Columbian Mammoth! Other fascinating exhibits include a recreation of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and a mini-recreation of the Petrified Forest which showcases a Cretaceous aquarium, filled with descendents such as sturgeon and turtles that actually haven’t changed in 65 million years!


3) Wheels Up!

1985 saw the inception of the aptly named Sentimental Journey, when a disused aircraft hangar became home to WW11 memorabilia and artifacts. Renamed the Commemorative Air Force Museum it also flies and maintains a joyous amount of aircraft, from Dakotas to the famous B-25J Maid in the Shade. The Museum participates in restoration projects too, including a MiG-15, with the Arizona Wing displaying an A-26 Invader, Mig 21, F4 Phantom and more, plus various other visiting aircraft. Best of all, there is the chance to ride in some of the vintage planes! Whichever way, you can certainly get up close and personal with the aircraft. There is also the PX/Gift shop to bring home some great aviation gifts.


4) Mesa Arizona Temple

Whatever your spiritual beliefs, the Temple, operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, is a quiet and serene area simply to visit, reflect on life, and more. As an extra bonus, remember that if you are visiting Mesa at Christmas – and especially with kids or grandkids – the display of Christmas lights is a sight to behold!

The Temple also hosts a colorful Easter Pageant through music, drama and dance, where the audience can sit on the manicured grounds and enjoy. The Visitor Center itself is also worth dropping into with interesting exhibits and displays for both adults and kids.


5) Splashing around

Come and get wet at Golfland Sunsplash! The venue consists of a series of water parks together with amusement centers. The park is divided into two separate areas, one park featuring over 30 attractions which include thrilling water slides that the kids can descend as many times as they want, with the other park offering award winning miniature golf. There is really something for everyone to enjoy! On a hot day the family can cool off with yummy milkshakes found in the ice cream parlor. A fun day out that will keep the kids busy and laughing all day.


6) The sweet smell of … roses

When you feel like a contrast to the magnificent desert scenery that surrounds Mesa, drop into the Rose Garden at Mesa Community College, the largest of its kind in the desert South West, and host to approximately 9000 sweet smelling rose bushes since its opening in 1974. The gardens also act as a focus for education and economic initiatives in the East Valley, with students of all ages making use of the gardens as study areas and botanical laboratories. The kids can enjoy reading the names of the many rose varieties as you relax in the peaceful setting.


7) Desert Belle Cruise

A lake in the desert? Yes, really! Cruise along the Saguaro Lake and watch the interesting scenery; with a bit of luck you might spot some big horn sheep and eagles, with the beautiful and plentiful saguaro cactus growing all around you. The cruise is also narrated and tells the history of the area. It covers about 6 of the 10 mile lake and lasts 2 hours, so no time for the kids to get restless! And if you get the munchies, there are tables inside to enjoy a snack and something to drink.


8) Mesa Historical Museum

The Mesa Historical Museum (not to be confused with the Museum of Natural History) was opened in 1987 by the Mesa Historical Society. The idea was to preserve Mesa’s history, and within the museum you can find fascinating displays of everything from Native American artifacts and displays by the local Hohokum tribe, to lots of hands on activities for the kids, including dinosaur jigsaw puzzles suitable for all ages. There are also plenty of areas where the children can touch items like dinosaur bones. A great place of learning.


9) Salt River Tubing

For an inexpensive and enjoyable day out, head on down to Salt River Tubing and grab a tube, have some fun and enjoy the wonderful scenery along the way. And, if it’s summer, appreciate the refreshing water! Make a day of it if you want, and bring a cooler filled with refreshments. You’ll have fun bobbing down the river, particularly when you ride through some of the river’s small rapids. You will be guaranteed many hours of fun, especially if the current is slow. As always, if you’re planning on doing this in the summer, don’t forget sunscreen and/or water!


10) Young at heart

The Arizona Museum for Youth offers both children and adults lots of hands-on activities, exhibits, special events and art classes. There is never a chance to get bored as the museum also offers themed art museums that change throughout the year with the opportunity to actually meet the showcased artists! There is even a toddler area with age-appropriate arts and crafts. Coupled with play kitchen and a slide in ArtVille, the toddler area, as well as a separate Family Zone, there’s something here of interest for all ages. Bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it!


11) Take me out to the ball game

Since its renovation and take over, Cubs Park (now known as Sloan Park since the ballpark’s naming rights deal with Sloan Valve Company) is now thought of as one of the country’s best spring training type stadiums. Operated by the Chicago Clubs, it is also home to the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League. The stadium has a capacity of 15,000 which surpasses Camelback Ranch in Glendale.

The new baseball field and environs are very well thought of, with easy and convenient parking, great sightlines, wide concourse and, high up there on the list of things you really, really want, roof structures that provide shade from the fierce Arizona sun.


12)Amazing Jake’s

A great place to fill up and restore energy! This kid friendly restaurant has a fabulous buffet offering pizza, pasta, salads – and all you can eat of it! You can pick and choose as one price will pay for both your entrance fee and buffet. And there is plenty to occupy the kids too while you relax and take it easy in the fully air conditioned restaurant and surrounds, from bumper cars, carousel to roller coaster. Amazing Jakes is amazing value for money too!


13) Up Up and Away

Fighter Combat International offers its aerobatic Super Ride as “The Flight of Your Life” so all of you with strong stomachs and an interest in (make believe) combat flying, why not try it for yourself? Here is the chance to fly a plane, with a very experienced pilot sitting in the back seat, showing you how to maneuver and take control yourself. Your plane is outfitted with lasers and a sight so when you hit your target in a dog fight, you’ll see smoke coming out of the plane you’ve just ‘hit’!

Extremely capable acrobatic planes are used, with the pilots always making sure you don’t expose yourself to any danger. At the end you are presented with a video, so you can relive your day of victory in the skies!


14) The I.D.E.A. Museum. It’s full of them

The I.D.E.A. museum (Imagination. Design. Experience. Art) is rebranded from the Arizona Museum for Youth (AMY) and the perfect activity for small children wanting a creative outlet. The museum offers changing exhibitions ranging from insects, weather, trains and travel and the displays are not only fun, but also educational, with awesome classes for both kids and families. If you’re planning on returning to the area, it’s worth becoming a member too, and become party to sneak previews of the latest theme, as well as participating in their “We love our members” day when they have a special breakfast along with a collection of activities. Be inspired by science, and learn to create and color.


15) Messing about on the river

For some quiet family time, think about renting a fishing boat for the day, at Precision Marine. Enjoy fishing on Saguaro Lake where you can all try your luck with the local catch. There will be plenty of time to admire the scenery, and to appreciate the majestic mountains and cliffs that surround the area. It is also a fabulous spot for star gazing at night. Remember to take plenty of sun protection if you’re planning on making a day of it.


16) Mesa Market Place Swap Meet

If you’ve got the eye for a good deal, the Mesa Market Place is a fun area to sort through the bargains. Though classed as a market, the area is actually covered, which offers a bit of respite against the summer heat. There’s a bit of everything for everybody on sale here, from bright casual clothing to inexpensive Chinese imports. There is also a large central food court which caters for all different tastes, as well as some spots of entertainment. A great area, with plenty of time to enjoy the lively atmosphere of buyers and sellers.


17) Thank you for the music

Mesa Amphitheatre is an outdoor concert venue, and best known for keeping its original design, complete with tiered lawn. Built in 1979 its maximum capacity is 4,950, big enough for popular acts while at the same time retaining its intimate atmosphere. You won’t be short of a good view, either. The concert arena draws music lovers of more than 3 million people, and it is also used for community events and daylong festivals. There are venues to pick up refreshments there too.


18) Krazy Air Trampoline Park

When you think your kids might need to expend some energy, this 28,000 square foot family center is sure to do the trick! With fun activities suitable for all ages and fitness levels, this is the ideal destination. The park has an absolute abundance of exciting activities, including dodge ball, basketball, active foam pits, and even advanced Ninja courses. There is also a purpose built “kid play” area. Anyone celebrating a birthday? You can even organize a party here! Make this a day of family fun as you all sit down to a delicious snack.


19) Mesa Grande Cultural Park

Mesa Grande Cultural Park is home to the preserved ruins built by the Hohokam tribe, originally constructed during the classical period sometime between AD 1100 and AD 1400. The Hohokam had built a vast system of water canals, of which only two now remain, the other mound being the Pueblo Grande Museum Archaeological Park. You will be able to see the majestic ruin with its adobe walls and platforms where arrow heads, axe heads and pottery sherds were regularly discovered in the 1960s.


20) Superstition Farm

Your kids will have great fun hand feeding and petting the local animals down on Superstition Farm. They will firstly learn all about the resident animals in Moo University, then the farm assistants will explain how to correctly hand feed yummy treats to the sheep, goats and their sweet miniature donkey, together with many of the rescue animals. As an extra delight, they will also be taught how to hold one of the chickens properly, meet Roxie the resident pot bellied pig and stroke the fluffy bunny rabbits. The farm tour will finish with a stop at the Milk Bar, where the children can choose a cup of flavored milk.


21)Eat, drink, listen and be merry!

Visit the famous Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa, and enjoy a delicious pizza, pasta, salad, pie, or another yummy delight while being entertained by the awesome sound and sight of their famous Wurlitzer pipe organ. It really is an evening of entertainment and food rolled into one. This is a perfect location for adults and kids alike, and is also popular for birthday parties and other celebrations. Request your favorite song and enjoy hearing it from a different musical source for a change. The Organ Stop Pizza is a well known landmark here in Mesa and it would be a shame to miss out on it; who knows when and where you will be serenaded again by organ music while at the same time enjoying tasty food?


22) Saddle up!

If you and your family enjoy horseback riding, treat everyone to a day out at the Saguaro Lane Ranch Stable. Rides of various duration are organized by the experienced and caring folk of High Mountain Trails, and the trail riding in the area as you ride along the Saguaro Lake will prove to be an amazing experience you will never forget. The spectacular rugged beauty of the mountain and lake will be appreciated by everyone. Enjoy learning horse care tips from the guides as you horse back ride on one of the gentle and well cared for horses.


23) Get Sewing

For the more creative among you, drop into Etc. Scrapbooks, Fabric & More to pick up some odds and ends to add to your quilt and other sewing creations! Even if you don’t need anything at present, you’re sure to have fun looking through the store’s impressive card stock collection. The fabric selection is also extremely well stocked with great designs. Perhaps you will find yourself inspired to thread a needle again after all!


24) The Dutton Theater Mesa

This is real family fun entertainment! The Dutton folk are a talented group who take great pride in amusing their audience with their vast and various talents. Each and every one of them plays a different instrument, and from the harmonies to comedy to their own brand of lively showmanship, the whole family will have a great time. The Dutton’s consist of mom, dad, children and grandchildren. The show changes each season so there’s always something new to keep the audience amused. You won’t be forgetting this talented bunch for a very long time!


25) Rockin R Ranch

The Rockin R Ranch was formerly a working horse and cattle ranch, and has played an important part in its contribution to Arizona’s Wild West history. Nowadays it has been converted into all in entertainment with its world famous western stage show, consisting of mock gunfights, horse drawn wagon rides and the mouth watering choice of a BBQ chicken and beef dinner. The whole family is sure to have a good time as they enjoy the feel of genuine chuck wagon atmosphere

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