Dreamers, visionaries, and explorers flock to Arizona each year seeking adventure, inspiration, and unique experiences. Home to numerous culturally rich cities with museums, high-end restaurants, and nature, Arizona oozes appeal.
Maybe you’ve stayed in Phoenix before but just drive a short half hour away and you can experience another unique Arizona city, Mesa.
Home to over half a million happy residents. Mesa’s Saguaro cacti-speckled landscape attracts travelers from all over the world. It boasts a buzzing downtown area with lip-smacking Mexican eateries, countless tourist attractions, and rugged terrain for the outdoor enthusiast.
A stay in a Mesa vacation home rental allows you to be central to everything. Fancy a jeep ride in the Sonoran Desert? You’re only a short drive away. Let the sun soak your skin as you relish the periodic, soft hums of the southwest cicadas.
A trip to Mesa is like uncovering an almost hidden city, a welcome destination when you want to go off the beaten track. Take a kayaking or paddle board trip through Saguaro Lake’s shimmering waters, or ogle the blooming flowers at Rose Garden.
There is plenty to see and do in Mesa. Here are some of our favorite things to do in this plateau city.
1. Feast on Delicious Mexican Cuisine
Mesa has countless lively restaurants serving delectable Mexican food at every corner. Flavors abound; they taste so authentic they could rival some restaurants south of the border.
Rich, creamy corn tamales, peppy-hot jalapenos, and satisfyingly fresh shrimp tacos are only the tip of the iceberg. Given Arizona’s proximity to Mexico, it’s no surprise Arizonians relish Mexican food more than any other state in the USA.
During your time in Mesa, Arizona, drop in for a meal at one or more of these restaurants for drool-worthy Mexican food.
Rosita’s Fine Mexican Food
- Notable menu items: Rosita’s Enchiladas, Tacos Platter, and Chile Relleno.
- Address: 2023 W Guadalupe Road, Mesa
Looking for huge portions of tacos and enchiladas bursting with flavor? Try Rosita’s Fine Mexican Food, a legendary establishment in Mesa.
Don’t expect a high-end ambiance or fancy-schmancy food styling here. Instead, relish the homey atmosphere and honest, humble items reminiscent of Abuelita’s kitchen. Rosita is popular with crowds of both local families and tourists looking to dine on Sonoran-style Mexican meals.
Los Dos Molinos
- Notable menu items: Chicken Adovada, Victoria’s Chicken Chili, Shredded Beef Chimichanga
- Address: 260 S Alma School Road #137, Mesa
Craving spicy New Mexican food? Add Los Dos Molinos to your list immediately! Mild isn’t in their dictionary, and their spice levels are through the roof. Order a pitcher of margarita ready to soothe your taste buds after the explosion of heat on your first bite.
If you can’t handle the heat, opt for softer selections like bean and guacamole tostadas and queso fundido. End your meal with a flan or a shot of tequila from their well-stocked bar.
Rancho de Tia Rosa
- Notable menu items: Tamales, Carne Asada Platter, Ribeye Steak, Tortilla Soup
- Address: 3129 E McKellips Road, Mesa
Lunch at Rancho de Tia Rosa teleports you to a sunny Mexican day. It’s a hacienda restaurant offering an extensive menu with Baja-Style Mexican options like chicken enchiladas in green sauce, shrimp tacos, and ribeye steak. Even their simple corn tortillas and spicy salsas with chips are exquisite!
Inspired by the Mexican towns of San Miguel de Allende and Cuernavaca, the restaurant interiors are warm and inviting. Its airy ambiance, colorful walls, wooden chairs, and natural light make it a perfectly “instagrammable” spot.
A nice bonus? Chefs at Rancho de Tia Rosa accommodate vegetarian palettes, whipping up a delicious meat-free meal just how you want it.
2. Visit the Mesa Historical Museum
- Notable features: Replica schoolhouse, baseball exhibit, fascinating art pieces
- Address: 2345 N. Horne, Mesa
The Mesa Historical Museum is a springboard to plunge into the area’s rich history. Through comprehensive and interactive exhibits, artifacts, and vintage photographs, learn about the Native American Hohokam tribe, the first settlers in the area who arrived in Mesa 2,000 years ago.
What’s more, this small museum facility is an iconic landmark as it’s housed in an Old Lehi school building and stands as the museum’s central exhibit. A visit to the museum is an absolute must for not only history buffs but also sports fans, as they have a fascinating baseball display.
If you’re planning to visit the Mesa Historical Museum, you can expect to find a freshly updated museum after several months of hefty renovations.
Whether you’re a history enthusiast or looking for an enlightening way to spend an afternoon, the Mesa Historical Museum will not disappoint.
3. Go on a Salt River Tubing Adventure
- Notable features: Wholesome family fun of riding down the river and breathtaking views
- Address: 9200 N Bush Highway, Mesa
Forget waterparks. People come from far and wide to Mesa, Arizona, to experience the heart-pumping, natural activity of Salt River Tubing.
After all, what can be more fun than spending half a day floating down the river, surrounded by idyllic views? Add warm weather, blue skies, wild horses, and clear water to the mix, and you have a recipe for an exciting, dreamy summer day.
To enjoy this activity, you can purchase a guided tour. It includes a shuttle ride to the river, rental tubes, and safety gear. Once you get to the starting point, all you have to do is hop in your tube and flow with the river.
Make sure you put your belongings, like your cell phone and camera, in a waterproof case. Also, drink tons of water and slather yourself with sunscreen. Mesa is blessed with over 300 sunny days yearly, and the heat gets brutal!
Salt River Tubing is seasonal and is closed until April 2023. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can do a DIY river tour with your own gear any time of the year.
4. Check out the Goldfield Ghost Town
- Notable features: Reconstructed buildings from the 1800s, gunfight reenactments, ice cream, and coffee shops.
- Address: 4650 N Mammoth Mine Road, Apache Junction
Travel back to the 1800s gold rush by visiting the Goldfield Ghost Town. Less than 8 miles beyond the eastern border of Mesa, in Apache Junction, is the Goldfield Ghost Town and Mine.
The town flourished after the 1892 discovery of gold. More than 4000 people were living in its 28 buildings at one point. But this boom was short-lived, and the town’s economy dwindled as soon as the gold was mined and depleted.
Gold miners left the town seeking other places to make a living, leaving the town empty and abandoned. Today, it stands as a replica of the olden town and is a wildly popular tourist attraction.
Visitors can stroll along the dusty historic row with several reconstructed buildings, tour the mines, or go zip-lining with views of the Superstition Mountains. Every weekend, there’s a free hourly gunfight reenactment in the principal street from 12pm to 4pm.
If the Wild Wild West appeals to you, you can time your visit to catch the performance.
Lastly, ghostbusters should visit Goldfield Ghost Town after dark and join one of the fascinating ghost tours offered in the area.
After exploring the town, grab a bite at the Mammoth Steakhouse & Saloon, a Western theme restaurant. End your time in Goldfield by buying a unique souvenir at the gift shop before driving back to Mesa.
5. Wander through Downtown Mesa Arizona Shops
Picking up a snazzy new outfit or jewelry during your travels is always exciting! Shopaholics can spend an entire day walking through the many shops in Downtown Mesa. Wander through Main Street to find multiple retail centers, boutique shops, and antique stores.
Shop for intricate handmade jewelry, long skirts, suits, and vintage goodies. Take a coffee break at one of the many cafes nestled between the stores. Or, look for murals in the area and snap photos of the cool art all over downtown Mesa before continuing your shopping spree.
Here are two stand-out stops for shipping in Mesa.
- Notable features: Kitschy mid-century knickknacks, pre-loved jewelry, and clothes.
- Address: 911 E Main Street, Mesa
This massive antique mall sells vintage furniture, sculptures, and retro knick-knacks. Antique Plaza’s chaotic energy adds to its charm, and shopping here feels like a delightful treasure hunt for hidden gems.
History by George
- Notable features: War memorabilia, vintage stamps, antique goods
- Address: 129 W Main Street, Mesa
History by George is a one-of-a-kind store where history lovers can purchase war-related collectibles such as helmets, knives, photographs, and badges from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Avid coin collectors will love visiting History by George since you’ll always find a couple of rare coins on sale.
6. Find Inspiration at the Mesa Arts Center
- Notable features: Popular events surrounding the Mexican festival of Day of the Dead take place annually in October, with live performances.
- Address: 1 E Main Street, Mesa
Housed in a striking building, the Mesa Arts Center in Downtown Mesa is Arizona’s biggest arts and performing arts complex.
A hub of creative art and culture, it hosts entertaining live music and theater performances, educational art classes, and visual art exhibits. Explore its 14 art studios, four theaters, and five galleries.
The Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum within the Mesa Arts Center is also worth visiting. You will be surprised just how many carefully curated modern art pieces are hosted inside this mid-sized free museum.
7. Be One with Nature at Usery Mountain Regional Park
- Notable features: 30 Hiking trails; especially the 2.6-mile Wind Cave Trail; archery range
- Address: 3939 N. Usery Pass Road, Mesa
No matter the season, Arizona’s crimson-hued terrain and boundless landscapes beckon those looking for outdoor activities like hiking and biking.
One such inviting park in the eastern part of Mesa is Usery Mountain Regional Park. Stretching across more than 3600 acres, exploring this outdoor recreation hub can take a full day. Visitors from nearby cities like Scottsdale and Gilbert rush to the park to unwind on the weekends.
Shutterbugs are drawn like magnets to this park because of its beautiful golden-hour light. As the sun sets over the mountain range, a postcard-worthy sight inspires the thousands who visit.
8. Enjoy A Scenic Drive Along the Apache Trail
- Notable features of Apache Trail: Lost Dutchman State Park, Fish Creek Hill, Tortilla Flat, and Canyon Lake
The Apache Trail is one of the many unmissable sites of Arizona. Just outside East of Mesa, next to the city of Apache Junction, stands the breathtaking Superstition Mountain range, a part of the Superstition Wilderness Area. On a breezy morning, you can drive along the Apache Trail with your whole family while admiring the views.
Back in the day, the Apache Indians traversed through the Superstition Mountains using this trail, hence the moniker. Known officially as AZ-88, the Apache Trail starts outside of Mesa at Apache Junction.
Your journey begins at Apache Junction and goes through picturesque landscapes, meandering past the Superstition Mountains and traversing through Tonto National Forest. Start your drive early in the morning and leave ample time to stop and explore the many lakes, cliff-dwellings, and panoramas along the 47-mile route.
After completing your joyride, stop by Organ Stop Pizza for dinner. The restaurant features a large Wurlitzer organ, played during dinner performances. Enjoy the immersive experience of the live music while feasting on cheesy, crunchy pizzas.
Book Your Arizona Getaway Today
Whether you’re after adventurous desert antics or indulgent, relaxing evenings under the stars, Mesa brims with the promise of excitement.
Need a place to hang your hat? Finding more flawless accommodations in Mesa than Bella Palazzo’s luxury rentals would be impossible.
Our homes are elegant, with tastefully appointed rooms equipped with modern amenities. In addition, you’ll be conveniently located in prime parts of the city, making it easy to cross off all the things to do while you visit Mesa.
Book your stay with Bella Palazzo and experience the magic of Mesa.