Last Updated on May 13, 2020 by Janet Frost
Mesa, Arizona is one of many suburbs of Greater Phoenix. When planning a visit to Phoenix, it is difficult to choose where to stay and what to do. The community of Mesa offers reasonable lodging, more manageable traffic and easy access to all of the fun adventures of this desert playground.
Let’s Go Learn Things for 3 Days in Mesa, AZ…
Mesa and Neighboring Communities
Downtown Mesa is 30 minutes straight east of the Phoenix Sky Harbor Int Airport. Mesa also shares city borders with Scottsdale, Tempe, Salt River, Gilbert and Apache Junction. These suburban communities blend together and offer a plethora of entertainment options within a short drive.
Visit Mesa tourism board uses the tagline “Mesa City Limitless”. They embrace this concept because there are literally “limitless” opportunities around. The staff at Visit Mesa believe that their community is perfectly positioned as a base camp to enjoy all of Arizona. They encourage visitors to explore beyond the Mesa city boundaries.
Mesa Food and Lodging
As I mentioned before, Mesa has many reasonably priced and reliable lodging choices. From Marriott’s Courtyard to Best Western Plus and Baymont Wyndham. Nearby Salt River offers the glitzy Talking Stick Resort and Casino or you can hop over to Scottsdale for some luxurious spas.
For dining, the Mesa/Gilbert corridor is packed with popular Phoenix satellite eateries such as Culinary Dropout, Postino East and Arizona Wilderness Brewery. The area is also renowned for its local farm-to-table venues. Visit the Fresh Foodie Trail sponsored by Visit Mesa.
Learn More: Experience Scottsdale
Let’s look into the highlights you should include in your 3 days in Mesa, AZ…
Day 1 Urban Exploration from Mesa
We will devote our first day to exploring the urban offerings of the region. The great thing about Phoenix is that the cityscape and wild desert landscape co-exist. So let’s start with some early morning fresh air.
The Phoenix area boasts over 300 days of sun, so it is logical to expect outdoor adventures. Phoenix residents and visitors appreciate the mountains and parks nearby. Hiking, fat tire biking, and of course, golf draw enthusiasts from around the world. Mesa puts you within reach of everything. A 30 minute drive in any direction from Main Street Mesa will find you in a mountain park or incredible golf course.
I am not a golfer so I will start the first day with a hike in Usury Mountain Regional Park (east) or Camelback Mountain (west) or South Mountain Park (south) or McDowell Mountain Regional Park ( north).
Next stop, Main Street Mesa, is an eclectic work in progress. A 4-block radius around Center and Main mixes reclaimed retro storefronts with a collection of contemporary museums. The uber-modern lightrail zips in and out of downtown Phoenix.
Mid-day in Arizona is a perfect time to duck into a cool museum. Downtown Mesa offers the Arizona Natural History Museum, the interactive I.d.e.a Museum and the Mesa Arts Center plaza. My grandsons loved the Natural History Museum and I really enjoyed the local artists at the Arts Center.
Special Holiday Event: Winter Wonderland Ice Rink on the Mesa City Plaza
One of the most popular seasons in Arizona is the five weeks of the Cactus League Spring Training. From late February to late March baseball fans from around the country flock to the Phoenix area for the spectacular weather and an up close peek at their favorite teams.
Mesa and the neighboring communities are home to four Spring Training facilities for five Major League teams. Salt River Fields for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona DiamondBacks, Hohokam Stadium for the Oakland A’s, Scottsdale Stadium for the San Francisco Giants, and one of the most popular, Sloan Park for the Chicago Cubs. All of these are less than 30 minutes from downtown Mesa.
Day 2 Wild West Exploration
Wow! Our first day was packed full of options. On Day 2, we are going to head east and explore the Superstition Mountains. These mountains are a rugged playground for hikers, bikers, and rock climbers. They reach to an elevation of 6266 feet.
Superstitions and the Apache Trail
Historically, the Superstitions were home to Apache tribes and adventurous prospectors. Apaches believed deeply in the power of these mountains and were responsible for their name. The Apache trail was created by the Apache to travel through the mountain range. In the late 19th century, gold-fevered prospectors used the trail to access the hidden geological treasures. Teddy Roosevelt, Arizona’s favorite advocate, at the turn of the century designated the Apache Trail to become the roadway to his namesake Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River.
Today the Apache Trail is one of Arizona’s favorite Scenic Drives. Just a couple miles from the eastern edge of Mesa you pick up the Trail at the entrance to Lost Dutchman State Park. This scenic drive is 42 thrilling miles through the mountains and along the Salt River valley, from Lost Dutchman to Roosevelt Dam. The first 20 miles are paved, at Tortilla Flats it becomes a hard-packed dirt road.
Sites along the Apache Trail
Beyond the thrilling drive, there are several popular stops along the route. These stops give a pretty good peek into the regions history. They do range from breath-taking natural beauty to over-the-top schmaltz, so take your pick.
- Goldfield Ghost Town. Schmaltzy Wild West fun on the site of the 1890 town of Goldfield
- Lost Dutchman State Park. Hiking, camping and great vistas. Named after the legendary “Dutchman” who lost his gold in the mountains.
- Canyon Lake. Dolly Steamboat takes you around this gorgeous man-made lake. I hope to return with my own kayak.
- Tortilla Flats. Totally too schmaltzy for me. It was originally a stagecoach stop along the Trail
- Apache Lake. Another amazing kayaking opportunity
- Theodore Roosevelt Dam and Lake. Marina, campsites and amazing views.
- Tonto National Monument My favorite spot!
Day 3 Arizona Exploration
As we mentioned before, Mesa considers itself “Limitless”. It is truly a wonderful jumping off point to explore some of central Arizona’s gems. Yesterday we ventured east towards the Superstitions. Today we will head north to breath-taking Sedona.
Detours American West
If you are visiting Mesa without a car, the tour company Detours American West will deftly drive and guide you in any direction. I enjoyed their services both on the Apache Trail and to beautiful Sedona. Our driver was great fun and I loved not having to do the driving. The group promises to put any trip together you might desire.
The magical red rocks of Sedona are a hugely popular destination for Arizona visitors and residents alike. It was voted the #1 Most Beautiful Destination in America. Sedona is surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest. Its otherworldly formations, rocky red cliffs and burbling streams, make it an outdoor adventureland. I have visited several times myself and find my infatuation grows each time.
Start Planning your 3 Days in Mesa, AZ Now!
It is obvious that these three days could easily be stretched into a week. There are plenty more Phoenix Area Museums and Native American Heritage sites to discover. Not to mention “limitless’ outdoor adventure in the mountains and desert. Check in with Visit Mesa to help plan your visit. They are proud to have been recognized as one of the first Autism Certified Tourism Boards.
**Disclosure: I am happy to say I was hosted by Visit Mesa. All the opinions and suggestions are my own.**