Arizona’s third-largest city is where you can discover the true beauty of the American southwest. Nature abounds in this desert oasis, located in Metro Phoenix’s East Valley region. It’s home to desert cacti, hiking trails, parks and nearby lakes and rivers. There’s also plenty of historical and cultural attractions, delicious food, sports, shopping and great hotels where you can rest up for all your adventures.

1. Stay at the Sheraton Mesa Hotel at Wrigleyville West

Photo courtesy of Visit Mesa

This 180-room hotel in West Mesa is perfectly situated between Riverview Park and Sloan Park, the Chicago Cubs Spring Training Facility. Riverview is ideal for families with its 50-foot climbing tower, mesh rope structure, playground, fountain and picnic areas. Or, just spend the day at the Sheraton, because with multiple pools, cabanas, a luxurious spa, fitness centre, pool bar and multiple restaurants, you will never be bored.

2. Play a Round of Golf at Las Sendas Golf Club 

Play golf among the pros for a hole-in-one, world-class experience. Las Sendas Golf Club is  known as one of the best golf courses in Arizona where you can putt for fun or brush up on your competing skills with a lesson from a skilled instructor. After a day on the course, enjoy a leisurely meal at one of the club’s two restaurants with views of the setting sun and surrounding desert mountains.

3. Explore Usery Mountain Regional Park

Photo courtesy of Visit Mesa

Nature lovers rejoice with a visit to this sprawling 3,648-acre park that is home to a huge variety of plants and animals. There are more than 45 kilometres of hiking trails ranging in difficulty from easy to challenging. Explore the Wind Cave Trail near the volcanic tuff for breathtaking birds-eye views from above, or join one of the park’s ongoing events such as hiking in the moonlight or stargazing under a clear sky.

4. Get Pampered at Fuchsia Spa

Unwind from all your outdoor adventures at Fuchsia Spa’s Dana Park location. It’s the perfect place to sip refreshing cocktails with your best friend while getting relaxing pedicures that come with a sugar scrub and paraffin dip. Other rejuvenating treatments include manicures, facials, and massages with essential oil therapy. The spa offers ongoing monthly specials so you will have money leftover to shop in the nearby stores at Village Square at Dana Park.

5. Visit the Arizona Museum of Natural History

Photo courtesy of Visit Mesa

Go back in time at the Arizona Museum of Natural History’s permanent and rotating exhibitions. You’ll learn about the universe, ancient cretaceous seas, prehistoric cultures, rocks and minerals, caves, wetlands and galaxies. Kids and kids-at-heart will love Dinosaur Hall where you’ll be transported to a time when these giants roamed the earth for 150 million years. You can even hear their roars and watch them come to life at Dinosaur Mountain.

6. Experience Local History at the Mesa Historical Museum

Learn about the city’s past with a visit to the Mesa Historical Museum. The museum’s current exhibit is called Stitching Mesa Together: Community Through Making and it’s on until January 4. Check it out to read stories from local residents and learn about the city’s crafting community.

7. Sail the Seas with Desert Belle 

Photo by Russ Glindmeier

A scenic boat cruise is another great way to see Mesa’s stunning canyon walls and desert vistas. The Desert Belle has been entertaining guests sailing along Saguaro Lake for 50 years. During this 90-minute narrated cruise that holds 145 passengers, you will likely spot wildlife such as bobcats, mountain lions and coyotes. You may also see geological formations, and flora such as native prickly pear and a variety of cacti. Look up and you could spot eagles, falcons, or hawks flying above you.

8. Go Stand-up Paddleboarding at Granite Reef

Rent a board from Desert Paddleboards in Northeast Mesa. Then, drive your rental car to Granite Reef recreational site where you’ll start by paddling along the Salt River and slowly head upstream. Desert Paddleboards also offers private paddleboard lessons. Don’t forget a towel and change of clothes.

9. Go Kayaking on the Lower Salt River

Photo courtesy of Visit Mesa

Rent a kayak from Redline Rentals & Sales and have your waterproof camera ready to capture photos of wild horses as you gently paddle along the Lower Salt River. These majestic and gentle creatures wander freely in the surrounding Tonto National Forest and often stop for a drink at a nearby stream. You may also see river otters, deer and foxes. Redline rents single or tandem kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards.

10. Eat Like a Local at The Nile Coffee Shop

For a delicious and healthy Saturday morning brunch, head to The Nile Coffee Shop for an avocado bagel with tomato, cream cheese and sprouts. The shop serves tasty plant-based versions of your favourites including mac and cheese with black bean chilli and a Texas ranger sandwich with buffalo “chicken”, provolone, mixed greens and ranch dressing. Save room for a cappuccino and check out the historic onsite Nile Theater after your meal.