The third-largest city in the state of Arizona, Mesa is a must-visit destination for all you adventurous travelers out there. From scenic parks that offer plenty of hiking opportunities to unique museums and fabulous theaters, there are many attractions worth exploring in this desert city. Whether you wish to enjoy fun activities like aerobatic airplane flying and horseback riding, go on a hike through the lovely Usery Mountain Regional Park, or admire varieties of roses in full bloom at the Rose Garden at Mesa Community College, our list of the best things to do in Mesa, AZ has got you covered.
1. Papago Park
Vacationers looking for outdoor recreation can pay a visit to the Papago Park that offers exceptional hiking around its red butte formations. The trails here are relatively easy and suitable for all fitness levels, while activities like mountain biking and jogging are also popular. See the iconic Hunt’s Tomb, and visit the Hole in the Rock which can be found on the top of one of the trails. To sum it all up, Papago Park is a great place to enjoy nature and capture some great photos.
2. Arizona Museum of Natural History
There are many nice places to hang out in Mesa, AZ and the Arizona Museum of Natural History is one of them. Home to exhibit displays that focus on anthropology, art, and natural history of the area, this fabulous museum is one of the best cultural attractions in Mesa. In addition to the museum’s permanent collection which also includes more than 10,000 historic photographs, the Arizona Museum of Natural History boasts many temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Don’t forget to snap some cool pics of the museum’s unique installations like the indoor waterfall and the amazing recreation of Arizona prison.
3. Usery Mountain Regional Park
A 1,500-acre park with multiple camping spots, Usery Mountain Regional Park is an ideal place for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Inside this spectacular regional park, expect to find everything from hiking trails and scenic landscapes to activities such as horseback riding and mountain biking. If you wish to spend the night at the park, there are around 70 campsites on-site equipped with picnic tables, grills, and electrical hookups. It is also worth mentioning that the park hosts many annual events like the Full Moon Hike and Movie Night in the Park.
4. Mesa Arts Center
Located in the downtown area, the Mesa Arts Center is a large visual and performing arts complex that boasts four amazing performance venues. Made of concrete, steel, and some water features, the building itself can be best described as a work of art. So, what can I do here? Visitors can catch a Broadway show, see a wide range of drama, dance, and music concerts, and join classes available for both adults and children. Make sure to stop by the center’s picturesque sculpture garden.
5. Golfland Sunsplash
Families with children searching for unique things to do in Mesa, AZ are in for a real treat. Welcome to two of the best amusement parks in the city, Golfland, and Sunsplash. Open year-round, Golfland offers an abundance of activities for the entire family ranging from miniature golf and go-carting to bumper boats and arcade games. On the other hand, Sunsplash which is a water park is open during the summer season and boasts around 30 different water theme rides.
6. Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch
A 110-acre wetland and wildlife preserve located just a short ride from the city, Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch was open about 20 years ago as a place where visitors can enjoy recreational activities, admire the wildlife habitat, and attend educational programs. The main attraction here is the urban fishing lake which is full of bass, sunfish, catfish, and trout. In order to fish at the lake, you will need an urban fishing license. There is also the Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory worth checking out. Bird-watchers will be happy to hear that the ranch is home to 20 species of birds.
7. Casino Arizona
Casino Arizona is a 100,000 square feet venue located just a short drive from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Devoted to entertainment and gambling, this casino features more than 20 blackjack tables, 900 slots, and dozens of fancy dining establishments where travelers can enjoy both local and international cuisine. Apart from gambling and enjoying the most delicious BBQ specialties at the Cholla Prime Steakhouse & Lounge, visitors can also check out a large collection of contemporary Native American art at Casino Arizona.
8. Rose Garden at Mesa Community College
Home to 9,000 bushes and 300 varieties of roses, the Rose Garden at Mesa Community College is one of the must-visit attractions while staying in Mesa. It is the largest rose garden in the Southwestern desert and the best time to visit it is in spring and fall when the roses are in bloom. In April, free tours of the gardens can be arranged on Sunday. Make sure to stop by the garden’s botanical laboratory on your way out.
9. Pioneer Park
If you are looking for free things to do in Mesa AZ, we recommend spending the day at the picturesque Pioneer Park. One of the city’s oldest parks, this 18-acre open public space has been reopened in 2017 and boasts a variety of attractions ranging from basketball and volleyball courts to covered picnic areas and a nice playground for the little ones. Pioneer Park also hosts a number of community events throughout the year.
10. Commemorative Air Force Museum
An aircraft museum, the Commemorative Air Force Museum features over 30,000 square feet of exhibition space where you will find everything from aviation memorabilia from WW2 to several working aircrafts. Whether you wish to see a flight show, check out hundreds of exhibits, or learn about the people and their sacrifices at the air force, there is no shortage of attractions at this extraordinary museum. Apart from guided tours, the museum also hosts many events and can be even rented for private events and special occasions. On your way out, make sure to check out the gift shop that offers unique souvenirs.
11. Desert Belle Cruises
How about hopping on a 90-minute cruise on the lovely Saguaro Lake? Desert Belle Cruises and their charter coordinators offer narrated cruises on a large air-conditioned ship. During the trip, visitors will have an opportunity to see everything from towering canyon walls to a variety of Arizona wildlife including birds and mammals.
You can also admire the dramatic desert vistas and the Tonto National Forest. There is a nice snack bar on board and charters are available for various events including team-building gatherings, weddings, and other celebrations.
12. Organ Stop Pizza
After all the sightseeing, it’s time to eat some delicious food. Book a table at Organ Stop Pizza, an Italian restaurant that serves a classic Mediterranean fare. However, the main focus here is on the working Wurlitzer organ from the 1970s. People come here to eat tasty Italian specialties and to listen to wonderful music played on this historical organ. Since nothing on the menu is set in stone, you can customize your pizza or enjoy salads, pasta, and much more.
13. Mesa Market Place Swap Meet
A large outdoor market with a food court, local vendors, and live music, Mesa Market Place Swap Meet is a great place to visit with children. Home to nearly 1,700 shops and around 1,000 merchants, it is one of the largest markets in the state of Arizona. Sample the local foods, attend events like the Car Show, or listen to live music performances at the food court. Mesa Market Place Swap Meet is definitely a great place to mingle with the locals if you’re looking for an interesting free thing to do in Mesa AZ.
14. Escape Rooms Mesa
Looking for the best escape room experience in all of Arizona? Pay a visit to Escape Rooms Mesa, the nation’s largest escape room venue with more than 10 different escape room options. The good news is that these rooms range in difficulty level, which means it’s a great place for both beginners and escape room experts. This family-friendly team building experience allows you to work together as a tea and solve riddles and puzzles in order to escape the room in one hour. It’s a great spot for date nights, birthday parties, and team-building and corporate events in Mesa. This is one of our favorite unique things to do in Mesa AZ, so be sure to check it out!