7 Fun Things to Do Near Mesa, Arizona

It was a long time ago now that I traveled to Mesa, Arizona with my sister and my dad to visit our grandparents, but I still remember it as a great trip in which we did a lot of fun stuff and got to really explore the area! Below are seven ideas for fun things you can do on your trip to Mesa!

mesa az 1 tonto
Overlook in Tonto National Forest

1. Tonto National Forest

Just outside of Mesa lies the large hilly desert-like area of Tonto National Forest. There were some amazing views at different points along the way. The drive is really beautiful, though some of the drop offs along the side weren’t for the faint of heart! We didn’t do much hiking but I imagine there are a lot of great places throughout the forest getting out and exploring on foot! If you want to get out into some scenic, wild places near Mesa, Tonto National Forest is a great stop for you!

mesa az 2 tonto
Salado cliff dwellings at Tonto National Monument

2. Tonto National Monument

My favorite place that we visited near Mesa was Tonto National Monument, which is a little less than a two hour (beautiful) drive from Mesa. The Salado Native Americans lived in the area between about 1150 A.D. and 1450 A.D., and they left some really fascinating cliff dwellings behind them. We visited the lower cliff dwellings, and the hike up to them (and view from them) were absolutely beautiful. We met a very nice park ranger, and she went with us to the top and gave us a little more information about the place. Combining beautiful views of the desert, hiking in excellent weather, history, and culture, this was definitely a great stop in Arizona!

mesa az 3 ghost town
Panning for gold at Goldfield Ghost Town

3. Goldfield Ghost Town

Goldfield Ghost Town is an Old West mining town converted into the best tourist trap on the Apache Trail. There we met an entertaining fiddling prospector named ‘Garbanzo’ with a wife named ‘Chickpea,’ panned for gold (and found a bunch of garnets too!), visited Arizona’s largest live display of venomous reptiles and invertebrates, and purchased some handmade pottery as souvenirs for our loved ones back home.

mesa az 4 natural history museum
Conquistador armor at the Arizona Museum of Natural History

4. Arizona Museum of Natural History / Mesa Southwest Museum

The Mesa Southwest Museum (now the Arizona Museum of Natural History) was a very nice natural history museum, filled with Native American pottery, dinosaur bones, Old West artifacts like a replica jail, a stagecoach, and a place for panning for gold, and other unique artifacts like a suit of conquistador armor. The dinosaurs are one of the most impressive parts–there’s a hall of dinosaur bones and even a Dinosaur Mountain, where you can see and hear dinosaurs!

mesa az 5 organ stop pizza
Organ and marionettes at Organ Stop Pizza

5. Organ Stop Pizza

A unique place in Mesa is Organ Stop Pizza. My sister and I were hesitant to go, as it was a favorite of the retirees who winter in Mesa, but it was actually very entertaining. The pizza was excellent and the pipe organ more impressive than expected. The organ player knew dozens of songs, and took requests. My personal favorite was when he played Under the Sea and bubbles as well as music filled the room!

mesa az 6 tortilla flats
View near Tortilla Flat

6. Tortilla Flat

Tortilla Flat is an “authentic old stagecoach stop,” where we tried prickly pear ice cream, explored the gift shop with typically Southwestern souvenirs–scorpions in crystal,  pottery, turquoise jewelry, etc., and decorated a dollar bill to add to the hundreds from other tourists lining the walls of the restaurant there. It’s touristy, but it’s in a location with some really great views of the desert, and what I think is called Canyon Lake (see above).

mesa az 7 roosevelt dam
Theodore Roosevelt Dam

7. Theodore Roosevelt Dam & Roosevelt Lake Bridge

If you’re at all interested in engineering, this stop could be of special interest to you! There’s the Roosevelt Dam (above) which is huge, and then there’s also a really modern bridge on the “high side” of the dam (I couldn’t find a good picture, but it’s pretty cool). At the time of completion in 1911, the Theodore Roosevelt Dam was the world’s largest masonry dam. This location is also really close to Tonto National Monument, and the drive to it from Mesa is really pretty!

If you’re in the Mesa (or even Phoenix) area, you should consider a few of these seven destinations to check out some fun areas for your trip! Tortilla Flats and Goldfield Ghost Town are more touristy, but we had a lot of the other attractions almost completely to ourselves, which was really a treat!

3 thoughts on “7 Fun Things to Do Near Mesa, Arizona

  1. You are correct, Tortilla Flat is indeed located by Canyon Lake, one of the 4 man made lake/reservoirs on the Salt River. If you continue past Tortilla Flat ( a town of about a dozen people with their own postal code), you will reach Apache Lake and then Roosevelt Lake, the first 2 lakes in the chain.
    Gold Field Ghost Town as it stands today, is not the actual ghost town, for decades, all that remained of the ‘flash in a pan’ town was some concrete pilings, In 1984, Lou Ann and Bob Schoose purchased the 5 acre site from Hub McErachan and began to build the tourist attraction town.
    It was in 1985 that the first attraction was built, a mining tunnel. The mine and entire tunnel were, because of insurance purposes, built above ground. The elevator ‘mine cage’ ride to the ‘mine tunnel’ below is made, along with and the mine cage and stope to be very realistic.

    1. Thanks for the information! I didn’t know when Gold Field Ghost Town was started… it certainly is an attraction made for tourists, but I found it a pretty fun one! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *