1. You'll Need Your Swimsuit Out Here. Seriously
Even though Mesa is smack dab in the middle of the desert, there's plenty of water to be found here. With three lakes and two rivers within a half-an-hour drive of the city, natives and tourists alike can go tubing, boating, fishing and kayaking without a problem.
2. Scrooge Wouldn't Stand A Chance In Mesa At Christmas
Every year the Mesa Arizona Temple Gardens Christmas Lights brighten the city with a stunning display. Everyone’s welcome to the annual event, and boy do they take advantage of it—more than a million people show up to gawk and be converted (or not). Either way, it's pretty stunning.
3. You'll Love Your Air Conditioner More Than Your Family
That's barely an exaggeration. With the average high in July at 106 degrees and the record high at 119, your air conditioner will be clocking in a lot of hours. And don’t go cheap when you buy one, or you will be so, so sorry.
4. Brace Yourselves: The Snowbirds Are Coming
“Snowbirds” are the people who flock to Mesa from somewhere colder to escape the winter, from about October through May. Be prepared for longer lines at restaurants and way more traffic on the roads. But since these visitors tend to be more... mature, you can look forward to having your ego boosted by getting called a “nice young person”—even if you've got kids in college.
5. Wandering The Desert Is Fun, Trust Me...
If any of you think the desert is all brown and dull, Usery Mountain Regional Park will put that to rest real quick. With over 3,500 acres of pure natural wonder, the park is pure eye candy. Make sure to check out the Wind Cave Trail and the hanging gardens.
6. ... But Just Watch Where You Step
You can't live in the desert without seeing a few creepy crawlies. Be prepared to see tarantulas in the garage, scorpions in the house and some killer bees, occasionally. Ah, Mother Nature.
7. Mesa Is Home To The Cactus League...
The spring training in Arizona known as the “Cactus League” isn't just some sad little desert league trying to be taken seriously. Some of the greatest greats have played ball here over the years: Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, just to name a few you might recognize.
8. ... But The Cubs Can't Play
The Cactus League's Hohokam Stadium has been the spring training hangout for the Chicago Cubs since 1979, but it's coming to the end of an era. The Cubs are leaving this year and starting next year the stadium will host the Oakland A’s once again. So long, boys.
9. You'll Have To Find A Better Way To Spend Your Tax Money
Woot! Mesa homeowners will soon learn that their city has the second lowest property tax rates of any large metropolitan area. Put that savings into another air conditioner. Right now.
10. Mesa Should Really Be Called "Cycle City"...
Forbes ranked Mesa as one of the best cities for bicycle enthusiasts, which actually makes sense when you consider the more than 40 miles of bike lanes in the city proper and even more in the desert and mountains. But be smart—this is Arizona, so bring a backpack full of water. Seriously. A full backpack should cover it.
11. ... Because You Absolutely Need A Set Of Wheels
Mesa is undeniably a commuter town, and you’ll need a car or bicycle to get around. Sure, there are buses, but until 2008 they didn't even run on Sundays. If you want to thrive in Mesa, you need to drive (or ride) in Mesa.
12. Don't Mistake These People For Backwards Cowboys
The Mesa Arts Center (MAC) is home to four theaters with sublime acoustics and seats where you can actually stretch out. The MAC is also home to five art galleries and 14 art studios along with art classes to get your creative juices flowing.
13. You Can Re-Discover Some Prehistoric Pals
At least these guys can't actually kill you like the bees. At the Arizona Museum of Natural History, adults and children alike will walk in wonder (and maybe a little fear) among Tyrannosaurus Rex and Tyrannosaurus Bataar fossil casts. When you need a break from the "Jurassic Park" flashbacks, pan for gold in the History Courtyard.
14. And Look For The Country's Most Controversial Police Officer
Joe Arpaio is the rootinest, tootinest sheriff in all the land, and Mesa and other cities in Maricopa County have staked their claim on him. Some love him, many hate him and he's guaranteed to be a controversial subject at dinner parties. But Sheriff Joe seems to love the limelight—look no further than his reality television show “Smile... You're Under Arrest!”
15. Mesa Gave Us An "Excellent Adventure"
“Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure,” “Vegas Vacation” and “Wayne's World” were all filmed in Mesa. Fun fact: There’s still a Circle K store in town, so you can go in and pronounce that “strange things are afoot” and feel a little bit like Ted.
16. Mesa Is Haunted By The Past
Goldfield Ghost Town And Mine Tour takes visitors through the abandoned town just nearby, and even puts on an Old West gun fight. A little kitschy? Sure. Totally fun? Absolutely. Pan for gold and take a ride on a narrow gauge train to really feel the experience.
17. The British Conquered Mesa With Meat Pies
A food originally brought by English miners has taken Mesa by storm. The Cornish Pasty Company, owned by a real Cornwall native, has been such a success in the Tempe location that it expanded into Mesa. Try the “Oggie”—a steak, potato, onion and rutabaga-stuffed pasty with red wine gravy, and see if you aren’t converted.
18. Mesans Take Their Mexican With A Twist
At local favorite Blue Adobe Grille, you won't just get the standard Mexican fare. Think perfectly smoked meats and inspired soups like green chile corn chowder, and even low-carb lettuce wraps with delicious filling like carne adovada or corn crab cakes if you're a stronger soul than I am. Nom.
19. You'll Be Welcomed By Sculpture On The Streets
You might just see Humpty Dumpty or a mama bear waiting on a Mesa street corner. But don’t worry that you’re starting to hallucinate from the sweltering Arizona heat—they’re part of the 38 sculptures in the city’s Growing Permanent Sculpture Collection. Bring a map and find all of them to win a prize! The prize of art appreciation. Gotcha.
20. Come To Lou's For The Beer And Stay For The Regulars
Everyone knows Lucky Lou's is the best place in town to grab a cold beer and tell tall-tales with the staff and regulars. Order some deep fried pickles, enjoy the friendly service and chillax. They're also pet friendly, so you don't need to lug home a doggie bag. Unless it’s for you, of course.
21. Mesa Could Beat Coachella Any Day Of The Week
Even though Buck Owens was known for defining country music's Bakersfield sound in California, he actually grew up in Mesa. For all the young’uns, turns out Authority Zero and Jimmy Eat World got their start in Mesa too. So don't feel bad if you've only got a sweltering-hot garage to practice in—you never know where it might lead.