Mesa Travel Guide

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Mesa Travel Guide

Mesa Local History

The history of Mesa can be traced back two thousand years ago, to the Hohokam Indians who built the original canal system that spread over 125 miles. Missionaries and explorers came to Arizona during the 1500's and 1600's, but was driven away by the Apache Indians, during the 1700's. In the late 1800's, U.S. Army troops fought the Apaches, opening the way for white settlement in the area.

The First Mesa Company, consisting of 85 members, left Utah and Idaho in September 1877. The company leaders, some of whom were polygamous, took a different route from Jones, crossing the Colorado River at Lee's Ferry, with a steep cliff across the river. The leaders of the Mesa Company reached Utahville in January 1878. They marked off land and immediately began clearing the original Hohokam canals. On July 17th, 1878, Theodore Sirrine went to Florence to register Section 22, now called the Town Center. There was some confusion about the early names for Mesa, but in 1889, the Post Office Department finally allowed the name Mesa City.

Dr. A.J. Chandler, enlarged the Mesa Canal with heavy machinery in 1895, and built the first office complex in Mesa, using the first evaporative air cooling system in Arizona. He also started an electric power plant, which The City of Mesa purchased in 1917, becoming one of the few cities in Arizona to own utilities. Utility earnings enabled Mesa to pay for capital expenditures without bonds until the 1960s. It provided the shared funds that allowed construction and service projects to be implemented during the Works Progress Administration, during the Depression. Some of the improvements were paved streets, sidewalks and curbs in the Town Center, the first hospital (not converted from a residence), a recreation department and park facilities, and a modern city hall/library with extended library hours.

Falcon Field Airport and Williams Air Force Base were built in 1941, to provide training for World War II pilots. After the war, many military families decided to settle in Mesa. Air conditioning came into more common use, and tourism also began, as a major source of income, in the late 1940's. The 1950's brought more commerce and industry to Mesa, including early aerospace companies. Until 1960 more than 50 percent of the residents earned their living directly, or indirectly, from farming. The 1960's through 1990's saw more high-technology companies, and health facilities grew, especially during the 1980's and 1990's, to service the larger population.

Mesa Attractions

Top Attractions

Mesa Southwest Museum - This is one of the finest museums in the valley, offering a wide variety of exhibits to appeal to people with a range of interests. Younger visitors will enjoy the animated dinosaurs on an indoor "cliff" with a roaring waterfall, plus plenty of dinosaur skeletons. Other interesting must-see attractions include an exhibit on movies that have been filmed in the state, a display on Arizona mammoth kill sites, and a walk-through mine mock-up with exhibits on the Lost Dutchman Mine. Be sure not to miss the artificial cave filled with beautiful mineral specimens. Admission is $6 adults, $5 seniors and students, $3 children 3-12. The museum is located 53 N. MacDonald St, At First St., Mesa. Tel: 480/644-2230.

Rawhide Western Town - This fake cow town is so much fun and such a quintessentially Phoenician experience, that no family should miss out on the experience. The streets are lined with lots of tourist shops and plenty of places for refreshments, including a steakhouse that was the original reason for Rawhide's existence. Like with other amusement parks, visitors can buy a bunch of $1 tickets and then trade various numbers of those tickets for performances (stunt shows, gunfights, Native American dance performances), and activities (stagecoach rides, train rides, mechanical-bull rides). There are also cowboy cookouts ($30 adults, $18 children) with hayrides and live music. This fun destination is well worth the visit , and is located in the near town of Scottsdale. Situated on 23023 N. Scottsdale Rd, 4 miles north of Bell Rd. Tel: 480/502-5600.

The Spa at Gainey Village - Also located in the nearby town of Scottsdale, is a state-of-the-art spa and health club. The spa offers a wide range of specialized treatments, including massage in a hydrotherapy tub, couples massages (complete with champagne and chocolate truffles), and just about anything else you can think of. With any 1-hour treatment (average price $85-$95), you can use the extensive exercise facilities or take a class. Packages range from $95 to $360. Situated on 7477 E. Doubletree Ranch Rd. Tel: 480/609-6980.

Fighter Combat International - This destination is the perfect place for the more adventurous traveler. You need no previous flying experience. Visitors can experience aerobatics and air-to-air combat in real planes, with military trained fighter pilots. You can fly up to 75% of the flight, and it can be done in individuals, groups, team building and corporate events. There are also gift cards and gift certificates available. The flight center is situated at the Williams Gateway Airport, 5865 S. Sossaman Rd. Mesa. Tel: 1866FLYHARD. Fax: 480/279-1882.

Mesa Downtown District Dubbed as "One Square Mile of Unique Style", the historic downtown Main Street (just east of Country Club Dr), is filled with unique shops, eateries, boutiques, and an entertaining street-level display of larger than life commissioned bronze sculptures. Stroll this charming strip under shaded Peublo-styled pergolas, and visit the Mesa Contemporary Arts Center- Premier arts center in the west.
submitted by Dan Wohlslagel, 10/12/06

Mesa Shopping

Sheplers Western Wear - It is not the largest Western-wear store in the valley, but it offers most merchandise visitors are interested in buying. Sheplers is still sort of a department store of cowboy duds. If you can not find it here, it just is not available in these parts. The shop is located at 2643 E. Broadway Rd., Mesa. Tel: 480/827-8244.

Town of Guadalupe - Visitors will find a visit to the nearby town of Guadalupe worthwhile and exciting. When you arrive in Guadalupe you will feel like you have crossed the border without ever leaving the state. Guadalupe has brought all the unique goods of Mexico together in a place that is just next door. It offers endless shopping opportunities to suit every mood and need, and visitors are sure to find that special gift at a very special price. Noteworthy are the clothing and textile shops in the area. Located at 9241 S. Avenida del Yaqui. Tel: 480/505-5365.

IKEA Homefurnishing - Located in the neighbouring town of Tempe, this shop sells everything for the home under one roof including living room, bedroom, kitchens, bathroom, lighting, rugs, bedding, utensils, shower curtains and so much more. IKEA offers a day for the whole family, with a supervised play area and a 250-seat restaurant. Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10am to 9pm, and Sundays 10am to 7pm. Located at 2110 IKEA Way, Tempe. Tel: 480/496-5658.

Mesa Activities

Arizona Museum for Youth - Using both traditional displays and participatory activities, this museum allows children to explore the fine arts and their own creativity. It is housed in a refurbished grocery store, which for past exhibits has been transformed into a zoo, a ranch, and a foreign country. Exhibits are geared mainly to toddlers through 12-year-olds, but all ages can work together to experience the activities. The museum underwent a thorough remodeling and expansion in 2003 and is now nearly twice the size it once was. Admission $3.50, free for children under 2. Located at 35 N. Robson St, Between Main and First Sts., Mesa. Tel: 480/644-2467. .

CrackerJax Family Fun & Sports Park - Two miniature-golf courses are the main attraction here, but you will also find a driving range, a professional putting course for grown-up golfers, batting cages, go-cart tracks, a bumper-boat lagoon, and a video-game arcade. Open daily (hours change seasonally). Activity prices vary; multiple-activity passes $12-$17 adults, $11-$13 children. 16001 N. Scottsdale Rd, 1/4 mile south of Bell Rd., Scottsdale. Tel: 480/998-2800. .

Mesa Golfland-Sunsplash - The park has a wave pool and a tunnel called the Black Hole. All three of these parks charge about $19 for adults, $15 for children 4 to 11, $1 for children 3 and under. Water world Safari Water Park and Mesa Golfland-Sunsplash are open from around Memorial Day to Labour Day, Monday through Thursday from 10am to 8pm, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 9pm, and Sunday from 11am to 7pm. Big Surf is open from around Memorial Day to Labour Day, Monday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm and Sunday from 11am to 7pm. Located at 155 W. Hampton Ave., Mesa. Tel: 480/834-8318.

Mesa Parks & Gardens

Out of Africa Wildlife Park - At this small wildlife park northeast of Scottsdale, animals put on shows for you, rather than just lazing in the shade as they do at most zoos. The most popular performances are those in the park's swimming pool. Visitors have probably never seen tigers, wolves, and bears having so much fun in the water. The park is open October to May, Tuesday to Sunday 9:30am to 5pm; June to September, Wednesday to Friday 4 to 9:30pm, Sat 9:30am to 9:30pm, Sun 9:30am to 5pm. Admission is $15 adults, $14 seniors, $6.95 children 3-12. Located at 9736 N. Fort McDowell Rd, Scottsdale. Tel: 480/837-7779.

The Apache Trail - The Apache Trail is a narrow, winding, partially gravel road that snakes its way around the north side of the Superstition Mountains, offering some of the most scenic desert driving in central Arizona. Along the way are ghost towns and legends, saguaros and century plants, ancient ruins and artificial lakes. Visitors can easily spend a couple of days traveling this route, though most people make it a day trip. Pick and choose the stops that appeal to you, and be sure to get an early start. If you prefer to rather leave the driving to someone else, consider Apache Trail Jeep Tours (tel. 480/982-7661), which offers four-wheel-drive tours of different lengths ($70-$145). This company also offers hiking tours into the Superstition Mountains and the nearby Four Peaks Wilderness.

Park of the Canals/Brinton Desert Botanical Garden - The 30-acre park includes visual evidence of ancient Hohokam Indian canal systems dating back to 700 B.C., and an extensive desert botanical garden. Vegetation from the four desert regions is on display, including trees, shrubs and 25 different varieties of prickly pear cacti. A large playground area is available for children. Admission is free and the park is located 1710 N. Horne, Mesa. Tel: 480/827-4700.

Mesa Restaurants and Bars

Southern cuisine is a blend of the Old World (meaning Europe) and the New World (meaning North America). Necessity forced early settlers to find ways to integrate New World foods, like wild turkey and corn, into their bland diet of dumplings and boiled chicken. Many of the most important elements of the cuisine came from African slaves, who championed such exotica as okra and peanuts, and who turned the vitamin-rich black-eyed peas, used by plantation owners to fertilize fields, into a Southern classic.

These influences came together to create Southern cuisine, an amalgam that embraces such favourites as sweet-potato pie, pecan pie, buttermilk biscuits, sweetened iced tea, long-cooked greens, sweet creek shrimp, fried green tomatoes, pan gravy, and peanuts (preferably boiled). But eating in the South is not just about good food: It's about community. Southerners love their hopping John and grits, but most of all, Southerners love setting a table and breaking bread with friends and family.

Mesa Restaurants

Blue Adobe Grille - Wedged between a Taco Bell and an aging bowling alley, this New Mexican-style restaurant serves deliciously creative southwestern fare at very economical prices. The chipotle-infused salsa is simply the best in the city, and the chorizo-stuffed chicken is another winner. There are great margaritas, and a surprisingly good wine list. This place makes a good dinner stop on the way back from driving the Apache Trail. Prices for main courses are $8 to $15, and reservations are recommended for Fridays and Saturdays. The Grille is located at 144 N. Country Club Dr, Mesa. Tel: 480/962-1000.

Los Dos Molinos - Visitors who dine at this legendary hot spot in south Phoenix, might want to travel with a fire extinguisher. The food at this spot is New Mexican style, which means everything, with the exception of the margaritas, is incendiary. Actually there are a few dishes for the timid, but people, who do not like their food fiery, know enough to stay away from this place. The food here is so popular that there is even a Los Dos Molinos in New York. Main courses are available form $3.50 to $12, and reservations are not accepted. This hot spot is located on 260 S. Alma School Rd., Mesa. Tel: 480/835-5356.

Organ Stop Pizza - What makes this restaurant so unique is the mighty Wurlitzer theater organ, the largest in the world. The massive instrument, which contains more than 5,500 pipes, has four turbine blowers to provide the wind to create the sound, and with 40-foot ceilings in the restaurant, the acoustics are great. As you marvel at the skill of the organist, who performs songs ranging from the latest pop tunes to The Phantom of the Opera, you can enjoy simple pizzas, pastas, or snack foods such as nachos or onion rings. The pizza here may not be the best in town, but the experience sure is memorable. Pizzas and pastas available from $4.50 to $15, and credit cards are not accepted. The restaurant is located at 1149 E. Southern Ave, At Stapley Dr., Mesa. Tel: 480/813-5700.

Damon's Grill - This spot is a sports grill featuring the best homemade onion rings in the West, along with four giant-screen TVs. The menu also features seafood, chicken, steak, and sandwiches. Located on 155 S. Power Rd. Mesa. Tel: 480/830-7427.

Mesa children's activities

Arizona Museum for Youth - Using both traditional displays and participatory activities, this museum allows children to explore the fine arts and their own creativity. It is housed in a refurbished grocery store, which for past exhibits has been transformed into a zoo, a ranch, and a foreign country. Exhibits are geared mainly to toddlers through 12-year-olds, but all ages can work together to experience the activities. The museum underwent a thorough remodeling and expansion in 2003 and is now nearly twice the size it once was. Admission $3.50, free for children under 2. Located at 35 N. Robson St, Between Main and First Sts., Mesa. Tel: 480/644-2467. .

CrackerJax Family Fun & Sports Park - Two miniature-golf courses are the main attraction here, but you will also find a driving range, a professional putting course for grown-up golfers, batting cages, go-cart tracks, a bumper-boat lagoon, and a video-game arcade. Open daily (hours change seasonally). Activity prices vary; multiple-activity passes $12-$17 adults, $11-$13 children. 16001 N. Scottsdale Rd, 1/4 mile south of Bell Rd., Scottsdale. Tel: 480/998-2800. .

Mesa Golfland-Sunsplash - The park has a wave pool and a tunnel called the Black Hole. All three of these parks charge about $19 for adults, $15 for children 4 to 11, $1 for children 3 and under. Water world Safari Water Park and Mesa Golfland-Sunsplash are open from around Memorial Day to Labour Day, Monday through Thursday from 10am to 8pm, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 9pm, and Sunday from 11am to 7pm. Big Surf is open from around Memorial Day to Labour Day, Monday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm and Sunday from 11am to 7pm. Located at 155 W. Hampton Ave., Mesa. Tel: 480/834-8318.

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