Have you ever been to Mesa, Arizona? I had a fantastic visit to the beautiful Grand Canyon state. Mesa is a city of half a million people, minutes from the Sky Harbor International Airport and baseball spring training, and amid many golf courses, incredible saguaro forests, and agritourism gems. Here are five things you can’t miss in Mesa, Arizona.
1. Mesa’s Food Scene
The fresh food is impressive in Mesa, Arizona. Here are a few places I tried that I’d recommend over and over again.
One restaurant you cannot miss sinking your teeth into is Jalapeño Bucks. This walk-up counter eatery has covered and outdoor seating and is surrounded by a 100-year-old citrus farm. Jalapeño Bucks is known for killer bbq and burritos; I recommend the green Chile ground pork quesadilla. You also might want to try a salsa flight since they are all so good: hot gringo green, hot Mexican red, sweet green, and mango (winner, winner, chicken dinner!). I even got to meet the cool cats who created and own this Mesa treasure!
Another great Mesa dining option is the private dinners offered by Cloth & Flame. I did one under the Gilbert Water Tower, along with about 100 people. It was a charming event, with special touches from start to finish.
The town of Gilbert itself is adorable. The Cloth & Flame dinner was a great way to enjoy socializing, cool cocktails and eat a five-course meal prepared by local chefs. A lovely table was set for 100 guests with perfect place settings while sitting areas were furnished and decorated for guests to enjoy conversation, appetizers, and creative cocktails.
After everyone was seated, the dishes were served family-style. The Chicken Spiedini main course was excellent, and Cloth + Flame did a fine job of handling the crowd.
2. Mesa’s Beverage Scene
While the food scene is tremendous in Mesa, Arizona, there are plenty of breweries, coffee shops, and wineries to complement that arena. From upscale coffee roasters to unique wine settings, here are a few of my favorites.
Sip a fantastic cup of Joe in Mesa, Arizona, with stellar coffee and espresso drinks from Superstition Coffee and The Nile Coffee Shop. The Nile Coffee Shop also serves a delicious veggie bagel. I recommend the cold brew at both locations.
Partake in a fun wine tasting at the Garage-East, a comfortable setting in Barnone (an Arizona craftsmen community). Choose from red, white, pink, or cocktail wines. Pair them with a meat & cheese board or a warm, spicy olive mix. I enjoyed taking pictures in this fun wine bar every bit as much as drinking the wine.
3. Cool Local Businesses
I loved the sheer number of agritourism gems found around Mesa. From premium olives to farm settings in urban scenes supplying markets and restaurants, Mesa is a happening place in the food and farming world.
Buying, eating, and shopping local are a big deal in Mesa, a huge agriculturally forward part of the state. At Queen Creek Olive Mill, take a tour and learn about the award-winning olives grown on the property, nutritional value, how oil olive is made, and enjoy a tasting at the end.
Save time for shopping in the huge complex, complete with a coffee bar, soap/lotion shop, and full-service restaurant. I recommend the Chardonnay Herb Mascarpone & Green Apple Bruschetta and the Lucca Sandwich (herb-roasted turkey breast, brie, sliced green apple, red onion, and fig tapenade). The Prickly Pear lemonade is a refreshing treat, too.
See a progressive community in action at True Garden Urban Farm, the premier vertical aeroponic food source in the Southwest. Food produced in True Garden’s high-tech greenhouse supplies local restaurants, schools, and universities.
The method makes healthy, tasty produce available year-round, regardless of climate. True Garden’s concept also uses 1/10th of the amount of water as a typical outdoor garden. They even sell tower farms, which can fit in any room of your house, that hold 28 plants and use LED grow lights.
Some seedlings that work in the aeroponic towers include cauliflower, arugula, celery, eggplant, lavender, Brussels sprouts, peppers, Stevia, tomatoes, and several varieties of kale, lettuce, and basil. Be sure to taste your way through the abundant vegetable heaven, while learning at the same time. I even tried Stevia for the first time!
Steadfast Farms at Eastmark is a two-acre community organic garden with 100 foot long rows of fruits, flowers, and vegetables. The farms’ produce and eggs supply local restaurants and farmers’ markets.
Eastmark is the #1 best-selling master-planned Arizona community, with award-winning schools, activities, and conveniences to attract families seeking a healthy and active lifestyle. Found in the Eastmark neighborhood is a church, parks, The Handlebar Diner (which looks straight out of Pixar’s Cars movie), swimming pool, grocery store, and Apple Global Operations Center.
4. Free Offerings in Mesa
It’s always a win when a city has free offerings, and Mesa has a few things to see that are worth the visit. While my trip was short, I found adorable street art and a unique attraction that is a do-not-miss for locals and tourists alike.
There are many unusual sculptures and picturesque murals to see and admire around Mesa, Arizona. I found the best examples to be right in the heart of downtown, where a 36-piece permanent sculpture collection are on display. This printable sculpture guide will show you where to find the pieces, plus a short bio about them and the artist. I’ve seen towns like this across the country, and the art in Mesa is noteworthy. My favorites were “Hot Bread,” “Humpty Dumpty,” and “The Wall Street Farmer.”
Driving toward Apache Junction, you’ll find Goldfield Ghost Town. This 1890s town includes gold-mine tours, a history museum, staged Old West gunfights, and shopping. The setting is so unique that you will be snapping pictures left and right. It is cheesy and touristy, but definitely a great and Instagram-worthy place.
Sightseeing is free, but there is a fee for the tours, zip-lining, train rides, horseback riding, and museums. Goldfield Ghost Town is the gateway to the legendary Superstition Mountains of Arizona (a popular recreation area east of Phoenix).
5. Spectacular Scenery
Prepare to be in awe as you explore Mesa, Arizona’s spectacular scenery and ever-changing landscapes. From saguaros as far as you can see to stunning mountains and rolling hills, it is picture-perfect. Here are some examples that caught my eye.
Lost Dutchman State Park (in the Sonoran Desert) is the perfect setting and home for those seeking an RV or camping location in the Mesa, Arizona area. With over 320 acres, the year-round park is named after the famous Lost Dutchman’s gold mine of Old West fame. There are many hiking and biking trails at Lost Dutchman, and the campsites are clean, offer full hook-ups, and unbelievable sunrises and sunsets. You may see a coyote, mule deer, or jackrabbit during your visit, but the gazillion saguaros are the highlight.
Perhaps the best-hidden gem in Arizona is Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch, a gorgeous property offering 20 rustic cabins, an event/wedding venue, outdoor activities, dining, and horseback riding. Built in 1927, the ranch boasts inviting rooms, spectacular Goldfield Mountains scenery, perfect star-gazing opportunities, and a place for rest & relaxation. While there are no TVs, clocks, or phones in the rooms, they do each have private baths, heat, and air-conditioning.
In the summer months, enjoy kayaking or tubing the Salt River at the Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch. Year-round, hop in the saddle for a fantastic horseback ride. The ranch uses a bed and breakfast plan for its guests, which includes a full gourmet breakfast each morning with eggs, bacon or sausage, potatoes, yogurt, fruit, and either pancakes, waffles, or French toast.
For those of you who love trivial facts, you may be interested to know that Norman Rockwell, Mary Martin, Rob Lowe, and Glen Campbell have stayed there over the years.
A Fun and Educational Side Trip
Since you are so close, you need to visit the MIM: Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. The museum features two levels of incredible exhibits and displays; all focused around music and the instruments that make it. Over 15,000 instruments are on display.
The ground level includes Cafe Allegro, Mechanical Music Gallery (live performances daily from “Apollonia,” a 25-foot wide player orchestra), Encore Gallery, Artist Gallery, Museum Store, and a Music Theater. Upstairs (my favorite) has rooms of musical influences and instruments from different countries around the world.
Geographic areas represented are:
- Middle East
- Central Asia
- South Asia
- Southeast Asia
- East Asia
- Latin America
- United States/Canada
Headphones are worn throughout the gallery and start playing when you get close to an exhibit. It is a fantastic way to listen to music from around the world.
Where to Stay in Mesa
The Holiday Inn & Suites Phoenix-Mesa, sitting tall at six-stories high, is an excellent choice due to its great location, affordable rate, and stylish decor. Hotel rooms include microwaves and refrigerators, free parking, and Wifi, while the Redstone Restaurant and Lounge are available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Kids under 18 stay and eat free at the Holiday Inn & Suites Phoenix-Mesa when sharing their parents’ room. The heated outdoor pool and whirlpool are something to see–very “Palms Springish.”
“And a good time was had by all” is most likely the ending sentence of any vacation to beautiful Mesa, Arizona. Mesa is a town you’ve got to see to appreciate and understand, all the while enjoying the spectacular scenery, favorable climate, and community-driven way of life. I hope you will enjoy these five things you can’t miss in Mesa, Arizona, as much as I did.
Thanks to the Mesa CVB for hosting my travels. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased. To learn more about Mesa, “the city limitless,” visit their tourism board site.
Mesa Photo Gallery
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