Mesa, located in Arizona’s Valley of the Sun, enjoy over 325 days of sunshine each year. With a population of over 450,000, Mesa is Arizona’s third largest city lying 19 miles to the east of Phoenix. In this desert city, religious groups will enjoy a trip with endless opportunities.
Religious Attractions in Mesa
Mesa’s main religious attraction is Mesa Arizona Temple, a temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. First dedicated in 1927, the temple sits on 20 acres with a cactus garden and reflection pool. It hosts two nationally-recognized events each year- the world’s largest Easter pageant and a Christmas lights display. Tourists are welcomed at the temple’s Visitor Center.
Mesa is home to numerous religious ministries. TNT Ministries features a Learning Center with Bible studies and daily devotions. Leaders That Last Ministries is another centered on equipping leaders. Classes, seminars and retreats are available for groups seeking leadership assessment and development.
Mesa’s Main Attractions
Downtown Mesa’s museums reveal the city’s culture and arts emphasis. Scattered throughout downtown is Mesa’s permanent sculpture collection. A continually growing collection, it now contains 36 pieces. Two pieces include “Bearly Fishin,” a six-foot-tall bronze sculpture of a black bear mother and cub, and “Shadow Curtain: Open Windows,” a piece that reflects intricate shadows on surrounding floors and walls.
Mesa’s Arts Center (MAC) is a newly remodeled, architecturally stunning facility located on a seven-acre campus. It includes four theaters, five art galleries, conference rooms and a 700-foot outdoor shadow walk where concerts, festivals and events are held.
The Arizona Museum of Natural History is the only natural history museum in the Valley of the Sun. Highlights include an indoor waterfall, native people’s gallery, three changing expeditions and, its most popular feature, dinosaur bones.
Mesa Historical Museum is housed in an old school building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is dedicated to educating visitors about the history of Mesa, offering exhibitions and field trips.
Mesa Grande ruins allow visitors to step outside the museum to experience history. The Grande features Hohokam abode walls and platforms dating to 1300.
Such history is reflected in the name of Hohokam Stadium, the Chicago Cubs’ spring training home. Group tours are available.
Outside downtown, visitors can explore the desert. The Superstition Mountains are a popular destination, with Superstition Mountain itself rising to 3,000 feet. As the name suggests, the area has been subject to numerous stories, mysteries and tales of lost gold. Hiking trails abound, revealing desert flora and Indian artifacts.
The Apache Trail, originally used by the Apache Indians, runs through Mesa and the Superstition Mountains. Today, most of the trail is paved, providing a great way to see the surrounding area by car.
Festivals and Events in Mesa
Downtown also features a range of festivals. The MAC Fest is a cultural event that brings local artists together to showcase their work, including paintings, photography and jewelry. It is held on various Saturdays throughout the year.
Mesa Arts Festival in mid-December showcases original artworks from local and regional artists in 13 different mediums. Live entertainment and artist demonstrations are also included.
In October, Mesa has an Annual Great Pumpkin Race and Fest. It includes a 5K run, walk and children’s activities. Mesa Freedom Festival is held in July. Replacing July 4th fireworks, Main Street is closed off so that residents and visitors can enjoy games, concerts and activities.
Tours in and Around Mesa
Tours provide another way to see the area. Across Arizona Tours offers tours that depart from many hotels in the Mesa and Phoenix area. One-day trips can be designed specifically for each group.
Apache Trail Tours features Jeep tours on the Apache Trail and Superstition Mountains. Options include off-road tours, “steak-out” dinners, sunset tours and gold-panning adventures.
Groups can also experience the desert setting and Western culture at Rocking R Ranch. Rocking R has been a working cattle and horse ranch for over 125 years. Known for its food, cowboy shows and hospitality, Rocking R is capable of handling groups from 20 to 1,000 people. Groups can enjoy activities such as panning for gold, shooting a real Colt 45, Western gift shops and a Western stage show featuring the Rocking R Wranglers band.
Saguaro Lake Ranch, located on the banks of the Salt River in view of the Superstitious Mountains, offers horseback riding during fall, winter and spring and kayaking and tubing during the summer.
winter and spring and kayaking and tubing during the summer.
Mesa provides a wealth of activities for groups to enjoy. The history of the area is seen in the range of museums, while the surrounding desert allows visitors to see how that history was shaped. Whether seeking indoor, educational opportunities or outdoor adventures, Mesa has no lack of either. Boasting 325 days of sunlight, Mesa’s warm and welcoming community will serve as a prime destination for religious groups.
Mesa has always shined as a family-friendly destination. In a compact area like downtown Mesa, you have a string of three nationally-recognized museums, the largest arts and entertainment complex in the Southwest, and numerous boutiques and cafes. It really is a welcoming community with lots of charm and character.
– Pam Williams, Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau sales manager.