12 Things To Do With Family In Mesa, Arizona

Last Updated on February 6, 2024 by Robert Wilson

Mesa, Arizona is a vibrant city in the Phoenix metropolitan area known for its beautiful landscapes, rich history, and abundance of family-friendly attractions. From exploring ancient cliff dwellings to riding on a historic train, Mesa offers a wide variety of activities that will delight visitors of all ages.

The sunny weather provides ideal conditions for outdoor adventures year-round. Families can hike among giant saguaro cacti, splash in water parks, or take in a spring training baseball game. The city also houses several interactive museums covering topics ranging from aviation to natural history. Inside air-conditioned spaces, kids can dig for fossils or gaze up at the stars in a planetarium.

When it’s time for a break, Mesa supplies plenty of casual eateries, cafes, and ice cream shops to refuel the troops. The eclectic dining scene ranges from Hawaiian plate lunches to classic burger joints. Accommodation options cater to all budgets, with resorts and suites providing extra room for the whole group, plus amenities like pools, games rooms, and complimentary breakfasts.

With this guide covering 12 of the top things to do with family in Mesa, visitors can make the most out of their time in this southwestern city. From archeological sites to hands-on museums, trains, wildlife encounters, shopping sprees, and more, Mesa promises memorable adventures parents and children will treasure.

Explore the Ancient Cliff Dwellings at Tonto National Monument

The Tonto National Monument offers families the rare opportunity to glimpses into the lives of the ancient Salado people who once inhabited ovular cliff dwellings high above the desert landscape. Two self-guided hiking trails wind past well-preserved ruins colored with 700-year-old petroglyphs. Parents should monitor children closely around steep drops but will still discover plenty of safe places for kids to scramble and explore. The National Park Service visitor center also explains the history and culture of the Salado through multimedia displays and kids’ activities.

The Upper Cliff Dwelling trail involves a steep but short hike to view ruins tucked inside a cavern. The Lower Cliff Dwelling trail also climbs via a succession of stairs and ladders bolted into the cliffs. Families with toddlers or strollers can still enjoy the visitor center museum and stroll through the arid desert scenery surrounding the area.

Pack plenty of water, snacks, hiking shoes, sunscreen and hats for a full day absorbing the artefacts left by Mesa’s earliest inhabitants. Budget at least two to three hours to see both sets of dwellings.

Ride on the Arizona Railway Heritage Railroad

All aboard Arizona’s only heritage railroad for a scenic journey through the Sonoran Desert! Families can choose from several fun themed rides on this historic railroad dating from 1917. ThePublically Chartered C & SM Railway now carries passengers in comfortableretro-style coaches powered by classic diesel locomotives. Kids will love sticking heads out the windows to feel warm breezes as tunes from the caboose piano tinkle past.

Standard rides last between 45 minutes to just over an hour but the railway also provides special event excursions. The popular Pizza Train offers an all-you-can-eat buffet onboard. During the Polar Express, costumed characters recreate the classic Christmas tale. Halloween trains feature trick-or-treating and other silly spooks. Reserved seating in premium cars or the glass-domed observation car provide extra comforts plus the best views.

The railway traverses sections of undisturbed desert filled with towering saguaros, whimsical ocotillo, and pastel wildflowers in spring. Keep cameras ready for photos of wild burros, hawks, jack rabbits and other desert dwellers. The rides provide plenty of scenic distraction for antsy toddlers while parents relax.

Fly High at iFly Indoor Skydiving

Families can soar on air together at Mesa’s indoor skydiving center! iFly uses powerful vertical wind tunnels to simulate the experience of free-falling from incredible heights. After a short training session, even kids as young as 3 can safely float and flip through the glass enclosure. Instructors stay close at hand to facilitate first flights. Parents can purchase photo and video packages to document the exciting (if not slightly terrifying) adventures.

More intrepid family members may graduate to the Extreme package which includes skydiving in vertical formation. The facilities also host birthday parties, corporate team events and camps in addition to walk-in adventures. Visitors not quite ready to take flight themselves can still enjoy thrilling displays by professional skydivers in the wind tunnel. The modern center offers fun for all whether families want to stay grounded or hang ten in the air!

Visit Pioneer Living History Museum

Travel back in time to the late 1880s when Arizona remained rugged cowboy country on the edge of frontiers. This outdoor museum centered around a recreated pioneer town brings the Old West to life through guides dressed in period clothing. Families can tour authentically furnished homes once located throughout central Arizona, including the stately Zenos Mansion and humble Daggs House.

Knowledgeable docents explain how early settlers adapted these abodes to the harsh desert environment using local materials. Kids can compare the family lives and furnishings of Arizona miners, shopkeepers, farmers and even a circuit-riding pastor. Outdoors, the winding dirt lanes link heritage gardens, farm buildings, a schoolhouse museum and mercantile store. Special events include reenactments, dances, summer camps and an old-time baseball game played with 19th century rules!

The living history museum provides families a chance to disconnect from modern times for just a while. The homesteads remain unfurnished by electricity – lanterns and woodstoves set the mood. Visitors gain new respect for those daring pioneers who shaped Arizona’s future onesunbaked mile at a time.

Hike Usery Mountain Regional Park

This expansive regional park situated just northeast of Mesa supplies plenty of scenic trails perfect for family friendly hikes. Usery Mountain itself peaks at a modest 3,000 feet but still yields panoramic views across the surrounding ranges and valleys.

Families can choose from paths ranging from flat and wheelchair accessible to steeper switchbackclimbs up the slopes. Take note: Usery Mountain lacks any water fountains or restrooms past the main trailhead area. Hikers should prepare accordingly and watch for wildlife including snakes.

For an easier introduction, start with the Wind Cave Trail which gently curves just over a mile through typical Sonoran Desert terrain dotted with bulbous boojum trees, tall saguaros, and flowering prickly pears. After a short scramble, kids can duck inside the eponymous shallow cavern. Venture further into the park along the relatively flat but zig-zagging Merkle Trail to loop back 1.5 miles. Signage identifies common desert plants like sticky creosote along the path.

Fit families can pick up Pass Mountain Trail for a solid workout! The path ascends over 800 feet via multiple switchbacks and three miles altogether. Younger kids may need breaks but the amazing panoramas at the very top provide incentive to complete the climb! Remember again – no water or facilities available. Pack it in, pack it out!

Go Wild at Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park

This highly interactive zoo located near Mesa in Litchfield Park provides families the chance to safely meet over 600 exotic species from around the world! True to its name, Wildlife World specializes in creatures both strange and surprising. Visitors can hand-feed gentle giraffes, laugh at silly otters, admire mighty big cats on prowling safari buses, and follow paths winding through free-flight aviaries swarming with tropical species like macaws and toucans.

Families appreciate the zoo’s special exhibits providing up-close encounters with kangaroos, lemurs, stingrays and reptiles. Multiple daily shows at the Safari Theater feature trained birds and animals demonstrating natural abilities. Families staying late can also embark on twilight safaris for glimpses of nocturnal creatures like lions and wolves waking in the gloaming. Plan at least four hours to absorb this animal extravaganza.

An adjacent aquarium wing also impresses with one of America’s largest shark lagoons observable through underground tunnels. Ray pools, jellyfish tanks, and a living coral reef round out the aquatic displays.The zoo complex houses gift shops, dining venues and shaded rest areas to recharge families between explorations.

Dig up Fossils at the Arizona Museum of Natural History

Budding paleontologists can dig deeper into Arizona’s prehistoric past via the biggest dinosaur museum for hundreds of miles in all directions! This expansive complex houses realistic recreations of extinct beasts that once roamed the region placed in accurate recreated environments. Gigantic sculptures like the 18-foot Dilophosaurus dominating the entrance immediately capture kids’ imaginations even before entering the multi-level exhibit halls.

Inside, families walk among full fossil skeletons of ferocious species like Tyrannosaurus Rex plus gentler giants like Apatosaurus and Stegosaurus. Hundreds morearchaeological treasures fill display cases, from petrified wood to Ice Age mammals. Interactive stations allow visitors to try lifting different fossils, examine specimens under microscopes, and play matching games.

Kids itching to discover their own treasures can sift through observation trays outside or sign up to screen fossils unearthed on-site. Families also appreciate the outdoor Mesozoic Trail winding through living gardens past life-size dinosaur replicas. The educational opportunities spanning natural history keep visitors engaged for hours on end.

Shop & Dine at the Hip Eastmark Community

This brand-new suburban community rising in southeast Mesa centres around a trendy outdoor mall tailored for family fun. The Eastmark shopping complex brings together popular national retailers like H&M, Old Navy and DSW alongside local boutiques, cafes andgourmet restaurants. An IMAX cinema and children’s museum round out the attractions.

Fashionable moms browse through Anthropologie while teens flock to Unleashed by Petco. Even dad admires the gleaming Weber grills at the massive Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World anchor store. Existing residential neighborhoods in Eastmark already cater to families with amenities like pools, parks and trails linked to the mall. Visitors can grab overnight stays at the new Marriott Renaissance Hotel adjacent.

Future phases call for a second entertainment district, resort-style aquatic center and sports fields. Already the open-air shopping center provides plenty of family activities beyond simply spending money. Weekly events might feature live music, lawn games, ice cream socials or movie nights. Trendy yet wholesome, Eastmark supplies Mesa families with a fashionable new place to see and be seen.

Shoot into Space at the Challenger Space Center Arizona

The Challenger Center focuses on education and inspiration using space as its exciting theme. Through role-playing scenarios in realistic mockups, kids learn first-hand how NASA programmers, astronauts, mission controllers and engineers collaborate to conquer the challenges of working in space. Custom programs allow students to practice critical thinking, leadership, teamwork and decision-making skills in futuristic settings.

In the Spaceship Phoenix simulator, groups divide into crews to complete actual extra-vehicular missions or experiments on the International Space Station. Participants don headsets to communicate between stations during realistic crisis situations. Between programs, families can also view multimedia astronomy presentations inside the facility’s state-of-the-art planetarium. Exhibits on topics like space nutrition or zero-gravity toilets use humor to engage visitors.

This exceptional STEM facility stands as one of only two full-scale Challenger Learning Centers in the world. Their engaging programs excite kids’ passion for science and discovery – with just a touch of sci-fi!

Make a Splash at Golfland Sunsplash

This massive water park supplies liquid thrills for every member of the family! Golfland Sunsplash takes full advantage of Arizona’s 300+ days of sunshine to drench visitors with rides spanning gentle to heart-pounding. A perfect destination for birthday parties or summer camps, the park provides amenities like locker rooms, tube rentals, and dining pass options. Extended evening hours during summer also allow for night swimming.

Thrill seekers plunge down steep mega-slides like the Python Plummet with its dizzying drops and high-banked curves. The giant blue tube called Sidewinder resembles a crazy straw! Those seeking a calmer ride can float along the lazy river encircling the grounds. An activity pool offers young children a zero-depth entry plus interactive elements like tipping buckets and mini-slides. Golfland also incorporates more water play zones for toddlers including fountains and spraying hose pipes to spark giggles. Visitors wanting relaxation can hang out on the sandy “beaches” or reserve private cabanas.

With accommodations and dining all on-site, Golfland Sunsplash provides an all-in-one destination for non-stop family water fun under the Mesa sun!

Play Ball at Sloan Park, Chicago Cubs Spring Training Facility

Even families who don’t consider themselves hardcore baseball fans can enjoy a laidback afternoon at this state-of-the-art Cactus League ballpark and spring training home of the iconic Chicago Cubs. The family-friendly venue offers plenty of diversions beyond the diamond. Fans relish getting up close to current and legendary Cubs players taking warm-up hits over the outfield walls! Between innings, kids can run the bases or meet mascot Clark the Cub for photos and hugs. A kids play area occupies the left field corner for more pint-sized fun.

The park itself echoes classic 1930s and 40s ballpark architecture with brickwork and ivy-covered walls. Yet the complex also offers modern amenities like a wrap-around concourse revealing stunning mountain views beyond the bleachers. Sloan Park houses the second largest team shop in the entire league for collecting Cubs gear. Visitors can pose by the golden World Series trophy or acquire autographed memorabilia.

Food choices also hit a home run with Chicago classics like sausages, hot dogs and Garrett popcorn available along with AZ twists like Sonoran hot dogs wrapped in mesquite-smoked bacon.

Make Memories at Snapology STEAM Center

Parents love when kids engage their developing brains through creative play. At this classroom workshop teaching STEAM principles through Legos and other building toys, young “engineers” construct amazing projects focused on science, technology, engineering, architecture and math. Some current options have kids construct model rockets or code Lego robots. Parents participate too as themes require teamwork! The franchise now operates nationwide but Mesa/Gilbert offers the original Arizona location.

Beyond open build times where families apply imaginationto bins of bricks, Snapology’s monthly camps during school breaks provide both fun and enrichment. Curricula align with school objectives – teaching principles of gravity via rollercoasters or friction through car building. Camps also strengthen kids’ collaborative and problem solving aptitudes with plenty of goofy games and challenges sprinkled in. Immersive programs based on popular themes like Minecraft, Star Wars or Pokémon stimulate hardworking brains too.

From toddlers getting acquainted withcolors and shapes to teens designing complex machinery, Snapology’s drop-in workshops allow families to discover the foundations of STEAM education through creative play. Kids build knowledge while having a blast!

Conclusion

Families visiting sunny Mesa seeking to soak up adventure, culture and eye-popping sights need look no further! This Phoenix suburb delivers plenty of attractions guaranteed to build lasting memories for all generations. From exploring ancient Native American ruins to shouting through vertical wind tunnels, Mesa supplies out-of-the-ordinary experiences families won’t find gathered together anywhere else.

Beyond heart-racing thrills, the city also connects visitors to Arizona’s diverse heritage and awe-inspiring landscapes. Museums covering space, geology, and the Old West bring local history alive through vivid exhibits and living history displays. Young minds and bodies stay active climbing desert peaks or navigating tangled hedge mazes. Shopping sprees yield vacation souvenirs – or maybe a cuddly pet lemur!

When the desert sun sinks low, Mesa lights up with sparkling city sights. Guests replenish energies around communal campfires with hearty cowboy cooking or wood-fired pizzas. As travelers drift off beneath star-strewn Southwestern skies, dreams come easily of saguaros, steam engines and space voyages launched from this unique and captivating destination.

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