Mesa, Arizona: A Desert Destination Set on Overdrive

Activities, Site InSpections

Mesa is unique among cities in the Greater Phoenix area as it is embraced by the Sonoran Desert – a playground for incredible, sought-after outdoor recreation and one-of-a-kind attractions. Pair this with fabulous weather, exquisite dining and ample shopping opportunities and you have the makings for incredible discoveries in the American Southwest.

An Art & Cultural Oasis

Mesa Arizona Arts Center. photo credit Ruth Rappaport

With the opening of Mesa Arts Center, the arts and cultural scene in the state exploded. Recognized as the largest and most comprehensive arts center in the Southwest, Mesa Arts Center is an architectural masterpiece and central gathering place showcasing a world of arts and culture. The seven-acre campus features a complex of four theaters that host world-class performances, Broadway shows, and popular music acts year-round. In addition, visitors can view art exhibitions at Mesa Contemporary Arts, a five-gallery visual arts complex offering free admission on Thursdays. Making up the center is a 700-foot shaded outdoor plaza locals affectionately call the Shadow Walk and 14 visual and performing arts studios and classrooms offering art education and instruction. It’s here that groups can partake in the Corporate Discovery program, a specialized itinerary that combines art instruction and teambuilding activities that both challenge and inspire.

Just down the street in downtown Mesa is the Arizona Museum of Natural History, one of the state’s premier natural history museums dedicated to paleontology with a special emphasis on promoting the natural and cultural history of Arizona. The museum hosts the state’s largest collection of dinosaurs and has Federal status as a collections repository for fossils. One of the most popular exhibitions is Dinosaur Mountain and Hall with a spectacular three-story diorama showcasing the types of dinosaurs that inhabited the state over geologic time.

A little further down the road is the next jewel in Downtown Mesa’s crown, the Arizona Museum for Youth. When founded, the museum was the nation’s only children’s museum with a focus on fine art. Here young crawlers and curious toddlers can get creative in ArtVille, an art-inspired town. And, adults too, can take in the many galleries that host visually stimulating exhibitions on various themes that engage, entertain and educate.

Outdoor Adventure in the Sonoran Desert

Mesa Jeep Tour

Even though Mesa is growing at break-neck speed, visitors can take advantage of the city’s close proximity to a recreation paradise – the Tonto National Forest. Tonto is the fifth largest forest in the country and one of the most-visited “urban” forests in the U.S. There are three lakes and two rivers within 30 minutes of Mesa that allow for desert boating, rafting, kayaking and water skiing. Or, partake in the ever-popular activity of “tubing”, a leisurely float along the cool waters of the Salt River via inner-tube. Groups especially love Arizona’s lakes which are scaled down versions of the state’s iconic canyon landscapes. Just east of Mesa is Canyon Lake. Here, take a “Mark Twain” voyage aboard the Dolly Steamboat, a replica of a sternwheeler paddleboat. Cruise the lake’s secluded inner waterways and photograph desert bighorn sheep and other wildlife. The 90-minute nature cruise or twilight dinner cruise is the perfect complement to the Apache Trail experience.

Downtown – Everything’s Waiting for You

Downtown Mesa is a thriving hub of business, government, culture, arts and entertainment with historic districts providing an appealing charm and character exclusive to Mesa. Boutiques are the big draw here where bargains are aplenty for women’s and children’s fashion and unique, must-have décor items. Rounding out the mix are coffee houses, yoga studios, cafes and antique shops. And, this city corridor is the host to numerous events and boasts a bustling nightlife scene for the denizens of the desert.

Enjoy the Bounty: Farm to Fork Experiences

Schnepf Farms Orchard Dinner photo credit Foskett Photography

In Mesa, our bountiful harvest is one that we proudly share with our visitors. Here, fresh experiences and a treasured heritage of family farms and long-standing festivals make for lasting memories. Serving as a culinary gateway to the Valley of the Sun, Mesa and the surrounding southeast Valley offer a variety of unique agri-tourism attractions for guests. Tours at Superstition Farm are aimed at demonstrating daily life on a working “agri-tourist” family farm. Visit the on-site petting zoo, Milk Bar featuring Udder Delights Ice Cream, and Mooster’s Moo-tique, a fully stocked boutique featuring toys, novelty items, games, candy, fresh eggs, cheeses, and local jams and honey. Just down the road in Queen Creek, guests can make reservations for an exquisite dining experience at Schnepf Farms. Dinners Down the Orchard is a unique series of chef-driven events in the “middle of our peach orchard”. Offered a handful of times a year, each one is hosted by a notable Valley chef and features the culinary bounty of the season. And, not to be missed is a visit and a tour at the Queen Creek Olive Mill – Arizona’s only family-owned and -operated working olive mill and farm. Take an informative tour, taste more than a dozen exclusive olive oil blends and flavors, and dine at del Piero – the Mill’s Tuscan-inspired eatery.

A City of Good Sports

The wealth of sports and leisure pursuits in Mesa are plenty. As an affordable alternative among cities in the Phoenix area, the city has cultivated a tradition of hosting successful student and youth group sporting events including hosting several collegiate tournaments with the NCAA, NJCAA, and WAC. The city invested in swimming facilities that are getting noticed and holding nationally-recognized competitions including the US Masters Swimming short course championships. For field sports enthusiasts, a trip isn’t complete without a visit to nearby Big League Dreams. This 30-acre venue featuring scale replicas of baseball’s most famous fields hosts tournament play year-round. And, baseball buffs will also want to catch the sports heavy-hitters training each March at Hohokam Stadium. Sunseekers can enjoy Mesa’s 50+ parks, championship golf courses and the miles of hiking and biking trails strewn throughout the city. Mix in premier accommodations with award-winning sports facilities and you have the best choice for value-added, quality sporting events year-round.

Entertainment at Every Turn

Rounding out Mesa’s top to-do’s for groups are the numerous entertainment choices in all corners of our city. From world-renowed performers like The Duttons and the Barleen’s Arizona Opry to the showstoppers on stage at our many theaters, Mesa shines as a premier Southwest stop on any tour. The city now boasts three of the largest country music nightclubs in the Phoenix area including the 18,000-square-foot Denim & Diamonds and continues to add attractions each season for tourists and residents.

It’s a Stunner! Mesa’s Starry Skies

If you thought catching an Arizona sunset was on the must-do list, try seeing our stars! Mesa’s night sky programming is one of the most popular outings for any Valley visitors and you can get far enough from the Phoenix city lights and open up your eyes to a star-studded masterpiece. Grab your flashlight and head out to Usery Mountain Regional Park to experience the sights of the desert at night while learning about our solar system. As part of their “Stargazing for Everyone” series, experts will tell stories and teach park visitors about the moon, stars, planets and galaxies while viewing the sky through several telescopes. Little ones can even go on flashlight tours seeking desert animals or a scorpion hunt with blacklights! Lost Dutchman State Park offers ranger-guided full moon hikes during the cycle of the full moon. No flashlights here as the moonlight is all you need to guide your path. The park also hosts monthly astronomy nights in season to teach visitors about the night sky. Tucked away from the city’s light pollution guests are guaranteed crisp views of the night sky in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. And, for groups of 10 or more, the Mesa Planetarium offers a variety of programs for private events or public viewings on the first Friday of each month.

With near perfect weather and a multitude of activities and attractions, Mesa has much to offer any group seeking a desert escape to the American Southwest. Be sure to contact our destination experts who can help plan one of the most exciting, action-packed adventures that can be had in Arizona.

For information on Mesa, Arizona, contact the Mesa Convention & Visitors Bureau at 480-827-4700 or online, Tour planners, be sure to ask for your complimentary Mesa Planner Guide & Kit.


Donna Cluckey, Tourism Development Manager
Mesa Convention & Visitors Bureau
120 N. Center, Mesa, AZ

For more information on booking Mesa or to request a complimentary 2012 Official Mesa Visitors Guide, go online to or call 800-283-6372.

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