With a population of about half a million, Mesa is Arizona’s third largest city. It’s also a Mecca for those looking to stay active year-round: The warm weather, rivers, lakes and scenic natural landscapes, along with top-rated golf courses, bike trails and sports venues make Mesa the perfect place for renters who love sports and the great outdoors.
If you are considering relocating here, the city is safe and quiet, with a dominant suburban feel. Its affordable living standards are particularly attractive, especially since the city is just a short drive away from vibrant Phoenix.
Mesa offers plenty of things to do for families with kids, including a number of museums and art centers as part of its cultural attractions. Whether you already started looking for apartments for rent in Mesa or are still planning the move, here is our list of the top things to do in Mesa. Our selection will surely come in handy for those with an active lifestyle, art afficionados and foodies alike. Here we go:
There are three lakes and two rivers in and around Mesa. This opens up an (almost) endless list of activities that can be performed here: kayaking, boating, rafting, fishing, paddle boarding or wakeboarding. Tubing is another fun way to enjoy the water. You basically float slowly down the river while enjoying a drink or a snack with your friends or family. Here’s a tip: Bring your own floating tube and a paddle — this will help you steer away from areas with shallow water or logs.
Desert Belle cruises on Saguaro Lake
This is a very fun experience you should try if you are in Mesa or nearby. Saguaro Lake is a reservoir on the Salt River and is a 40-minute drive from Mesa. The Desert Belle has been cruising the lake’s waters for more than half a century. During the 90-minute narrated cruise you can explore the area’s wildlife and scenic natural landscapes such as canyon walls or desert views. There are several types of cruises you can choose from, including a wine and music boat tour. Bookings can be made online and those who have enjoyed the ride were happy with the seamless digital experience.
Hiking through Usery Mountain Regional Park
For those who love hiking, Usery Mountain Regional Park is like a dream come true. The 3.6-acre park has 29 miles of trails on various terrains and of different difficulty levels, including a paved path for easy and inclusive access. Here, you can enjoy magnificent views of Goldfield Mountains and the surrounding areas. Usery Park is 30 minutes away from Mesa and is adjacent to Tonto National Forest. Biking or horseback riding are other ways to enjoy this incredible park. Look up for more details on the trails on the Maricopa County Parks website.
The Apache Trail
Whether you’re up for more hiking or you’re ready for an epic drive, the Apache Trail (State Route 88) is a famous stagecoach route that will take you on the footsteps of the Apache Native Americans from the 1800s, along the beautiful scenery surrounding Superstition Mountains. Only about one-third of the trail’s 40-mile stretch is paved but the rest of it is in good shape, so almost all types of cars can make the trip — except for RVs, which are not recommended beyond the Tortilla Flat point. There are several attractions along the way, beyond the breathtaking views, and one of them is Goldfield, a reconstructed 1890s ghost town. You can also take in the views at Canyon Lake and Theodore Roosevelt Dam. Camping is another way to enjoy nature on the Apache Trail.
Arizona is one of the best states in the U.S. for golfers. This comes as no surprise considering there are more than 370 golf courses in the state and the weather is warm or mild throughout the year. Mesa is home to more than 25 golf courses, some of which are public. There are even championship courses designed by world-renowned course experts such as Robert Trent Jones, Jr., but even if you’re just starting out in golfing, you’ll surely find a course for you in the city (and you can even rent the equipment at most golf courses). For those who want to work on their technique, there are quite a few top-rated golf instructors and golf schools in Mesa that you’ll find through a simple Google search. But perhaps what makes golf courses in Mesa stand out is the incredible views from these locations. Whether unobstructed views of the mountains, the sunset or the desert, you are likely to get this bonus added to your strokes.
Mesa was once named a top city for biking by Forbes and the reasons for that are still valid today. The city has 234 official cycle routes and more than 3,200 miles of mapped bike routes, according to Bikemap (an app offering the world’s biggest bike route collection) and its users. There’s something for every biker type here: Mountain biking trails, city routes, hilly rides, as well as options for long tours or quick rides. The City of Mesa has an ongoing Bicycle and Pedestrian Program and also offers useful guides for bikers such as a printable bike map of bike lanes and paths around the city of Mesa and drone flyovers of shared use pathways.
Mesa is also a great place to step into a few cool museums. Almost all of them are located in and around the downtown area, so you can easily walk or bike from one to the next. And there are enough museums to keep you busy for an entire day or more! Take the 80,000-square-foot Arizona Museum of Natural History for example: It’s the only natural history museum in metro Phoenix and offers a great insight into the world of dinosaurs and of ancient civilizations. Then there’s i.d.e.a. Museum, which is great for kids and families who want to spend a day filled with fun and educational activities. Other notable museums in the city are the Mesa Historical Museum, the Commemorative Air Force Museum (displaying some WWII-era aircrafts) and the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum.
There are a couple of places we wanted to mention that don’t fit any of the categories above: the Mesa Market Place Swap Meet and Organ Stop Pizza. The first one is an outdoor marketplace with more than 1,600 boutique vendors, which also includes a food court, live music and parking. Admission is free, so this can a great way to spend the day. Some of the cool things you can shop here are tools, jerky, clothing, jewelry, golf equipment, cosmetics and cacti, as well as Native American collectibles and art.
Organ Stop Pizza is a must while in Mesa. This destination restaurant has been around for nearly half a century. It houses a Wurlitzer theatre organ, initially built and used by the Denver Theatre. The organ was first installed in 1927 and used regularly until the early 1930s. In 1975, the Mesa restaurant opened and housed the original organ, which has been rebuilt and enlarged since then. So, why not enjoy a pizza here while listening to musicians play what is considered the largest Wurlitzer theatre organ in the world?