There are so many hidden gems in the Phoenix area for those east coasters not familiar with the area, one of them being Mesa, Arizona. There are many unique things to do in Mesa, Arizona that I would have never thought of adding to my Arizona itinerary, but I am so glad I found the hidden gems in Mesa, Arizona that make me want to come back. Here is a 3-day itinerary to experience Mesa, Arizona. Mesa, Arizona is great for a romantic getaway, soft adventure, and wellness trip where you can find many adventures from hot air ballooning to off-road adventures through the Sonora Desert. Read on to see how to enjoy 72 hours in Mesa, Arizona.
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Day 1 Relaxing and Settling In Ranch Life
After you grab your car rental from the airport head towards Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch and on the way grab lunch at Jalapeno Bucks Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch.
Jalapeno Bucks is located in an orange grove and has some of the best bbq in Arizona and the valley. They are known for their bbq PB and J brisket sandwich. The trees here were planted in 1915 and the farm and bbq joint is in the hands of locals that create some of the best bbq that people on Loop 202 east have grown to love. So be sure to keep this on your Mesa Arizona Itinerary.
Check-In at Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch
When you are looking for a place to stay in Mesa, Arizona you should factor in the itinerary you want to have if you are looking for a tranquil getaway with soft adventure then a stay at the family-owned Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch will be the perfect getaway from America’s third busiest city of Phoenix.
Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch is the perfect escape because each guest has their bungalow ranch style that allows you to have privacy as well as your porch to watch the sunrise or set over the Bulldog cliffs. Not only that but there is a heated pool year-round as well as a bbq they host. It is also a lovely place to end a day of exploring the many things to do in Mesa, Arizona.
Yoga Party Live!
After settling into your cabin after a long day of travel, the perfect way to stretch your muscles is yoga. Yoga Party Live is a perfect way to start your time in Mesa, Arizona. One of the best things to do in Mesa, Arizona enjoys the outdoors and Yoga Party Live set up right on the Saguaro Lake for an outdoor yoga session.
Take A Ride to see Mesa Arizona’s Wild Horses
Tonto National Forest is close to Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch and is perfect at sunset to see Mesa’s wild horses. One of the most unique things to do in Mesa, Arizona is to check out the area of Tonto National Forest by pebble beach before sunrise or after sunset. Here you can see wild horses, there are about 500 in the Mesa area.
After a long day grab some food to go from Kneader’s Bakery and Cafe for a picnic back at your bungalow at Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch. Have a picnic on your porch to relax under the stars as you set up a bonfire for s’mores. Sometimes the best thing to do in Mesa, Arizona enjoys the simple pleasures of a campfire with good company.
Day 2 Of Unique Things To Do In Mesa, Arizona and beyond
Horseback Riding and Superstition Mountain
Wake up bright and early to see the different hues along the Bulldog cliffs and have a home-cooked breakfast at Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch. Luckily adventure is right on the doorstep at this ranch since you can go horseback riding at Saguaro Lake Ranch Stable.
As we hugged the Salt River as we rode our horses past the Bulldog cliffs I felt pure joy. It is one of the most unique things to do in Mesa, Arizona. It was relaxing and great for beginner riders.
Apache Trail Scenic Drive
The Apache Scenic trail starts around the entrance to the Four Peaks Wilderness, to Canyon Lake, through to the Superstition Mountains, Lost Dutchman State Park, and finally to Theodore Roosevelt Lake. There are many unique things to do in Mesa, Arizona as well as the surrounding area. So be sure to save a day to explore the Apache Trail Scenic Drive. While you could rent a car and do this on your own if you want a tour that leaves from Phoenix or Scottsdale there is also one by GetYourGuide for a day trip of the Apache Trail Scenic Drive.
How long is the Apache Trail Scenic Drive?
In 1988 the Apache Trail drive was designated as a scenic byway, however, the once 39-mile loop road was affected by weather and now cannot be driven in a loop. Can you drive the Apache Trail in a car? Yes, the drive is very scenic and as far as the drive to Dolly Steamboat, and Tortilla Flat. While the loop is not fully open it is indeed worth a trip during your time when you visit Mesa.
Unique Things to do in Mesa, Arizona Area (along the Apache Trail Scenic Drive)
Superstition Mountain Museum
There is something so mysterious about the American West, including the time around the gold rush in areas such as Superstition Mountain and the Apache Trail. The tumbleweeds and ghost towns have turned into tourist attractions, but the sometimes dark and mysterious past that characterized the American West and the gold rush still seems to haunt the region.
Here you can learn all about the Lost Dutchman mine (that has never been found) as well as the mystery and lore of Superstition Mountain. Read more about the mystery of the Lost Dutchman gold and mine here.
Another stop along the Apache trail is the Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake. If you want to explore the wildlife, flora, and fauna of canyon lake without having to walk or paddle this is the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
The Dolly Steamboat has a fun narration of the geography, history, and area of Canyon Lake as you embark on a steamboat adventure. There is a snack bar on the boat, and seating inside as well as outside.
However, for the views on a beautiful sunny day make sure you get a spot outside. We saw mountain goats, bald eagles, and more on the Dolly Steamboat. This is a perfect activity to do with a family as well as a group of girls.
Lunch at Tortilla Flat
Tortilla Flat is a town with a population of 6 and it is located just 10 minutes from the Dolly Steamboat launch point. It is the last surviving stagecoach stop along the Apache Junction. It is located in the Tonto National Forest along the once-Apache Trail Loop. Due to storms part of the road has become impassible.
While eating here you may notice dollar bills along the walls, it is said to be worth more than half a million dollars. From the saddle bar stools to the unique bathroom design, this place is a hidden gem worth a stop not far from Mesa, Arizona.
While here try the chile, and try prickly pear everything from gelato to lemonade!
Goldfield Ghost Town
While there are many unique things to do in Mesa, Arizona, there is something I have never done before located at the Goldfield Ghost Town. Goldfield Ghost town is a ghost town of town that was established in 1893 for the gold rush. There is an old gold mine you can go underground to see what it was like and learn about mining in this town. Also, it is interesting to learn how the town had to pack up and leave when the mine got flooded.
Now guests can shop, and enjoy the old west ghost town that has many activities, photo ops, a restaurant, a cafe, and amazing views of the Superstition Mountains. There is also an opportunity to pan for gold, and dress up like you are back in the period for a photo shoot.
Finally end the day with a dinner and night out around Gilbert, Arizona. Eat dinner at the trendy Postino East Wine Cafe.
Postino East Wine Cafe is located in Downtown Gilbert and this place was a great spot for a night out with the girls. It is tapas style with more types of bruschetta than I could count. They also have an awesome desert as well as a huge wine selection.
While I was tired, if you are looking for a fun night out you should stick around and check out Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row Gilbert for some dancing later on in the night.
While enjoying the respite, and natural beauty of Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch is amazing, and being close to Tonto National Forest was a treat, I found many unique things to do in Mesa, Arizona as well as places to eat.
We woke up early for breakfast, checked out, and went straight into our first activity of the day with REI tours to explore the Salt River.
REI Salt River Rafting Tour
Did you know REI offers tours? They have adventure centers and one exists near the Salt River and is a perfect way to experience the natural beauty of the area. We met our REI tour guides at the Canal/Hawes Trail Head Park and got ready for a 2.5-hour paddle down the Salt River. The Salt River is amazing because you can see wild horses, and bald eagles, and see amazing views of Camelback mountain.
What’s Crackn Cafe Lunch/BRUNCH
After working up an appetite, head for one of Mesa, Arizona’s hottest brunch spots What’s Crackn Cafe. I loved the outdoor seating area all year round. You can enjoy it with heated lamps in the winter. The burgers, breakfast burritos, and sliders are great. I got the sliders with mac and cheese, which were superb. This will fill you up for the next adventure UTVing in the Sonoran Desert.
UTV Adventure Stellar Adventures
This was a trip of firsts. I had never driven a UTV, but with UTV Stellar Adventures you can drive yourself off-roading through the desert. I suggest going for sunset to see one of the best sunsets of the trip. The sky lit up with cotton candy hues as our tour finished. Depending on how fast you are you may be able to cover 25 miles on your two-hour tour.
Where to stay closer to Downtown Mesa and Gilbert, Arizona?
Home2 Suites by Hilton Mesa Longbow is located perfectly between Downtown Mesa and Gilbert, Arizona. This was perfect for exploring the city of Mesa and Gilbert during the day and at night to see more of the unique things to do in Mesa from a city perspective.
The room here was very spacious with a little kitchenette, a couch, a huge king-size bed, a TV, and a very clean modern design. Plus, the free breakfast as well as coffee available all day was winning for me!
Unique Things To Do In Mesa, Arizona at Night (Brewery Crawl/Dinner in Downtown Mesa)
First Stop: Cider Corps
The Cider Corps is a great stop for drinks and dinner. The building has a coffee shop, pizza shop, and craft cider. While I don’t drink the girls I went with tried the cider flights and enjoyed them.
Cider Corp is one of the top 3 cider producers in the United States. Myke’s Pizza is located inside the same building and has some of the most interesting pizzas. If you want craft cider and pizza this is the spot.
Afterward, we went to Espiritu, a cocktail bar that had such a unique design and is one of the best places to grab a drink or mocktail!
Diamond and Denims
Finally end the night dancing the night away line dancing at a country bar, Diamonds, and Denims. Diamond and Denim is an unassuming bar in a strip mall, but it was one of the most fun experiences I had. I love line dancing and this was an authentic experience to see what a country bar is like in Mesa, Arizona.
On the last day, we were supposed to wake up early to enjoy a hot air ballooning experience, but the weather did not allow it. I will for sure come back one day to enjoy this. However, we decided to go for a hike.
Hiking Usery Mountain Nature Center to Wind Cave
Wind Cave trail is a 2.9-mile round trip trail where you can enjoy the views of Phoenix and the valley below as you climb 807 feet in elevation. It costs USD 7 for each vehicle that allows you to visit the Usery Mountain Nature Center where there are other hikes as well. I love to use Alltrails to find the best hiking in the area I am in.
The hike was steep, but the views were rewarding as we climbed up and up through the rocks and saguaro cacti.
Finally, it was time to have lunch and enjoy our last meal together. I had been visiting with Visit Mesa and the tourism board helped me enjoy the most unique things to do in Mesa, Arizona. If you are visiting for the Super Bowl in Phoenix, I would add a stop to Mesa, Arizona there are so many things to do here and it was a pleasant surprise and a hidden gem of Arizona.
Agritopia is a unique place and is located in Gilbert, Arizona. It is a planned community focused around an organic farm, with local shops, and restaurants, and has a utopian feel. It was started in 1927 and has grown into a flourishing community.
They offer farm tours from September- May held on the second Wednesday of the month at 10 am. There is also a farm box membership locals can be a part of to get food from the farm for their kitchen.
I enjoyed our lunch at Joe’s Farm Grill and the outdoor eating. The restaurant is located in a 60s-style era home. They use local ingredients from Agritopia to make some delicious meals. Joe’s Farm Grill also makes an amazing milkshake.
Go Shopping in Downtown Gilbert
While I waited for my flight out of Phoenix, I decided to wander the main street in Gilbert, Arizona and it was buzzing. There is the Gilbert farmer’s market that happens every Saturday 8 am – 12 pm
It is located by the iconic water tower in Gilbert which is almost impossible to resist a photo with. Then I took a stroll to see the shops on the main street in the Heritage District. Grab a cup of coffee at Bergies Coffee Roast House before checking out eclectic shops like Rocket Fizz, Candle Chemistry, and other boutiques.
Head to the friendliest airport in the USA.
How to get to Mesa, Arizona? The major airport people fly into to experience Mesa, Arizona as well as surrounding towns such as Gilbert is the Sky Harbor Airport. Phoenix is very close as well as other tourist destinations such as Gilbert, Scottsdale, and other Arizona adventures like Lake Powell, Page, Arizona and the Grand Canyon. Mesa, Arizona was only a half hour away from the major airport in the area and it is also one of the most friendly.
What is Mesa, Arizona Known For?
One thing I found particularly amazing about Mesa, Arizona is it is the first autism-certified city in the world! Mesa has already been recognized for being one of the most family-friendly communities in America and to no surprise it is also welcoming to people with all types of needs.
There are autism-certified hotels, businesses, and more to make sure your loved ones will be understood as they travel. There are also sensory-certified guides! Learn more about what this means to be certified and maybe it can help spread awareness for other cities to do the same.
Recap of my Soft Adventure 4 day Itinerary To Mesa Arizona
After exploring Mesa, Arizona for four days and I can honestly say there are many unique things to do in Mesa, Arizona from adventure travel to wellness and a little self-care shopping. I found the people in Mesa, Arizona to be particularly friendly from dancing at country bars, to enjoy the wonderful nature with awesome tour guides. If you are looking to add something to your Arizona itinerary I would say you are not going to want to miss staying closer to the Tonto National Forest and the Sonoran Desert in Mesa.