With its adrenaline-pumping outdoor adventures and treasure trove of local shops and festivities, Mesa has to rank as one of the best hidden gems in Arizona. After learning what it’s like to live in Mesa, It’s hard not to be captivated by the rich culture of this town and start to explore renting an apartment in Mesa or even buying a home in the city.

From taking a stroll through the expanded Downtown Mesa to visiting the Arizona Museum of Natural History, here’s Redfin’s ultimate Mesa bucket list for uncovering all that this city has to offer. 

1. Take a walk through Downtown Mesa

The best start to any Mesa bucket list is a stroll through the new and expanded downtown area. “We love downtown Mesa. This past year, our city has worked hard to bring in unique eateries and several new hand-crafted breweries. Our Main Street is lined with specialty shops and every week we have pop-up outdoor markets featuring local vendors and producers,” says Tiffiny Lilley of Inspire Farms. At the weekly local pop-up outdoor markets, locals can purchase fresh produce, meats, bread, milk, and raw honey. 

Downtown Mesa isn’t done with their expansion just yet, but the growth is definitely noticeable. “There are nationally recognized restaurants, local breweries and cider houses, and more on the horizon,” says Luke Irvin of A Taste of AZ, a blog focused on supporting local food in Arizona. 

2. Support one of the many local businesses 

With all the growth and expansion, Mesa residents continue to come together to support local while also welcoming in familiar and beloved chain restaurants–just ask Marissa Selby and Josh Starnes, owners of gourmet cinnamon roll maker Cinnaholic Mesa. “One thing we’ve found to really love and appreciate about this town is the community’s efforts to support small, local, family-owned businesses. We appreciate the support of our community more than we can ever put into words, and we think our wonderful community’s ability to support each other is what makes Mesa super special.” 

Other locals continue to tout Mesa’s strong culture and support of local businesses. Jarrod Martinez of Jarrod’s Coffee, Tea, & Gallery says, “I love that Mesa recognizes small businesses. The support we get from our amazing community and the surrounding beauty are a win-win.” James Lewis of JL Smokehouse sums it up by saying “Mesa allows you to be you. For this reason, I chose Mesa for my second restaurant.”

3. Enjoy a pint or a glass

As downtown Mesa continues to grow, plenty of unique local and national breweries and wineries continue to pop up. Local favorite breweries like 12 West Brewing, Oro Brewing Company, and Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. give a taste of the beers sourced in Mesa, while Mr. Brews Taphouse brings a national appeal. “Our delectable menu featuring delicious pub-style food complements the beer choices perfectly,” shares John Milleson of Mr. Brews Taphouse Mesa.

A bartender pours a pint of beer

4. Visit Saguaro Lake Marina

Any Mesa bucket list needs to include a visit to the Saguaro Lake Marina for a day of kayaking, fishing, jet skiing, and of course, an unforgettable scenic drive. Henri Gurgenyan of Creative Color Art Studios says, “With a cozy family-run restaurant, the Desert Belle tour boat, pontoon boat rentals, the Saguaro Lake Marina has everything to guarantee an unforgettable day and a great time for you and your loved ones.”

5. Learn something new at the Arizona Museum of Natural History

A must on any Mesa bucket list is a stop at the Arizona Museum of Natural History. With extensive exhibits showcasing the state’s rich geological past, you can spend hours getting lost and learning about the world around you. Extensive hands-on activities and engaging programs make for a fun time regardless of age, inspiring in anyone wonder and appreciation for the marvels of the natural world.

6. Stroll around the gardens at Mesa Temple

The Mesa Temple has been a landmark in Mesa for nearly 100 years. Opened in 1927, the temple has quickly become a beloved centerpiece of the community and an outdoor gathering place for all residents. “The 20-acre lot is filled with beautiful gardens and reflecting pools, making it a perfect place to take photos, stroll with family and friends, or enjoy a moment of quiet reflection in a very peaceful setting,” shares Jill Adair of the Mesa Temple Events Committee. 

The Mesa Temple also hosts many events throughout the year, including the annual Easter musical presentation on the North Lawn and breathtaking Christmas lights displayed during the holidays.

Mesa Temple seen reflecting in a pool of water. A perfect stop for a Mesa bucket list.
Photo courtesy of Mesa Temple

7. Get acquainted with the Mesa Art Scene

Not only rich in outdoor activities and cuisine, Mesa also boasts a flourishing arts community. From theatrical performances to concerts to museums, there’s plenty to explore in your new town. 

“The city’s charming downtown area invites exploration with its historic architecture, eclectic shops, and a thriving arts scene. With a rich cultural heritage, Mesa also hosts festivals, museums, and events that celebrate the diversity and creativity that define this desert oasis!” says MacKenzie Pudenz of MacKenzie Pudenz Photography.

Mesa didn’t always have a strong art community–it was cultivated for years by the artists that call this city home. “As Arizona’s longest running nonprofit community theatre since 1937, we’ve both witnessed firsthand and had the honor of contributing to the vibrant arts community that now exists in Mesa,” shares Mesa Encore Theatre. “The wide range of exciting arts-driven initiatives in Downtown Mesa and at Mesa Arts Center brings this community to life through colorful collaborations, experiences, and show-stopping occasions. At their core, these beautiful and varied displays of art—from musicals to plays to concerts and exhibitions—are only possible because of the immense talent that lives in our growing city.”   

8. Take a day trip to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum

As a new resident of the desert, you should get to know the flora that you’ll now find yourself surrounded by. “The best place to do that is the Boyce Thompson Arboretum,” says Zach Fowle of Arizona Wilderness Brewing. Just 45 minutes east of Mesa, this attraction will give you a better picture of life in the desert. “Duck inside historic buildings, stumble upon hidden gardens, check out spectacular views of Picketpost Mountain, and get up close and personal with cacti and other flora from the world’s deserts. The 4,000 plant varieties grown here have all learned to adapt, survive, and even flourish in a harsh environment. You can, too.”

9. Explore Mesa’s outdoor playground 

Arizona’s natural beauty continues to captivate residents and visitors alike. Enveloped by the breathtaking landscapes of the Sonoran Desert, Mesa offers unparalleled hiking opportunities, with scenic trails winding through the rugged beauty of the Sonoran Desert, providing both novice and experienced hikers with captivating views of majestic landscapes. 

“My personal favorite are the Arizona sunsets, when the horizon transforms into a breathtaking vibrant canvas of oranges, pinks, and purples, against the iconic silhouette of saguaro cacti,” says MacKenzie Pudenz.

“It’s truly a tranquil masterpiece,” continues MacKenzie. “I love the unique blend of outdoor and cultural experiences in Mesa. One of my favorite things is the beautiful rock formations and hiking trails at the Usery Mountain Regional Park, offering a perfect mix of desert beauty and outdoor adventure.”

Traveling by horseback is one of the best things to do in Arizona and a must for any Mesa bucket list

10. Treasure hunt at the Mesa Market Place Swap Meet 

This bustling marketplace brims with endless treasures waiting to be discovered. The Mesa Market Place Swap Meet features handcrafted items by artisans as well as vintage finds. Between hunts for the perfect gifts and treasures, indulge in delectable street food to fuel you through the rest of your hunt.

11. Savor the local delicacies

The best thing for any Mesa bucket list is to dive into the local food scene. With strong influences from the Mexican state of Sonora and the Native Americans that live on the land, the food in Mesa is an experience all on its own. With so much choice, it can be hard to decide where to go. Aside from visiting our friends at Cinnaholic Mesa, Jarrod’s Coffee, Tea & Gallery, and JL Smokehouse, locals came through with their strong recommendations when prompted. Luke Irvin says, “We recommend Cider Corps, BRI Arcade, Phantom Fox Beer Co., and Espiritu.”

If you want an experience to never forget, take the advice of the owners of Puzzling Escape, a local escape room, and visit Organ Stop Pizza. This eclectic pizza restaurant features the largest theater pipe organ ever created, serenading guests with tunes while you eat. 

A stellar stop for Mediterranean food in Mesa is Princess Pita. Featuring an extensive list of Mediterranean dishes, Princess Pita also stocks a full line of Mediterranean groceries. “Our restaurant’s commitment to quality and genuine Mediterranean hospitality makes it a standout destination in Mesa, where visitors can savor the essence of this vibrant culinary tradition,” says Noor Alsadi of Princess Pita.

Still hungry? Check out our article on Must-Try Restaurants in Mesa, AZ for more.

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