They say that the best things in life are free. And we think some of those fine things can be found in Mesa, Arizona. From museums like Mesa Arts Center to parks such as the Mesa Riverview Park, this city is one of the best places to be, especially when you’re on a budget.

Traveling doesn’t always mean you need to splurge. While it does require you to spend some money, you don’t need to break the bank as there are a lot of places in the world that you can still get to enjoy even when you’re on a limited budget. One of which is the city of Mesa in Arizona.

Arizona is blessed with a lot of beautiful land formations and unparalleled picturesque views. And because of that, many travelers, especially those who love nature, often visit the said state whenever possible. Even so, many people are still mostly daunted by the idea of traveling to it. This is because of the fact that it ranks as one of the most expensive destinations for a family of four to visit in summer. And, of course, if you’re on a budget, you’ll likely pass on adding this to your list of destinations until you’ve saved enough budget. But did you know that you can still get to enjoy it even when you’re on a limited budget?

True enough, you’d need to allot some budget for your accommodation and food or maybe even transportation when you’re traveling. But apart from that, you can already enjoy some parts of the state without spending a lot. This is because the state has attractions to offer that you can enjoy for free, making your limited budget travel more fun. In Mesa alone, you already have a good deal of things to do for free. The best part of it is that most of them are family-friendly too. That said, it’s easier to bring your whole family with you and make memories without having to break the bank. In case you want to travel but on a limited budget, take a look at some of the free things to do in Mesa, Arizona that we discovered.

Mesa Arizona Activities for Free

Traveling when you’re on a budget can sometimes be a hassle. This is because you’d have to carefully plan your every move so you won’t waste your money. As you explore your chosen destination, you’d also have to stress about your money, checking if you had already reached your budget limit or whatnot. This also means you’d need to pass on some attractions that you wanted to see. But fret not, Mesa, Arizona has a number of attractions and activities for you to enjoy without requiring you to burn a hole in your wallet. Check them out.

1See the National Flower

Mesa Community Garden’s marking to welcome you as you enter (Source)

For starters, rose is the US’ national flower. And what better way to start your Mesa trip than stopping and smelling these beautiful fragrant flowers?

Sure, there are other places in the world where you can admire roses. But it’s probably way more different when you’re in Mesa. This is because the city has a popular garden located at the heart of Mesa Community College that hosts nearly 9,000 rose bushes. And because of that, it is regarded as the Desert Southwest’s largest.

Aside from the extensive colorful varieties of roses, you can also get to learn more about the roses and the gardens as here are descriptions available that you can access through your phone. It’s a beautiful and educational place to be that everyone in the family will enjoy. And while it is located inside a college, you can still get to enjoy it. This is because the garden’s doors are open to the public too. And the best part of it is that you can get to enjoy the whole place without spending anything.

If you plan to see this beautiful garden, we highly suggest that you plan your visit between the months of April and May. In this way, you can get to see the flowers in full bloom. Don’t forget to bring your camera as well. It’s one of the most Instagrammable places in the city; you don’t want to miss any frame.

2Inspire Your Inner Artist

Inside one of Mesa Arts Center’s exhibit (Source)

Mesa is also a place that you can enjoy if you’re into arts. One of the most popular destinations in the city that will inspire your inner artist is the Mesa Arts Center. Its architecture alone is worth seeing. It has a post-modern design with sharp jagged angles, canted walls, glass walls, sloping roofs, and it reflects the local vernacular in both colors and materials.

Mesa Arts Center also offers areas that will amaze you for its design. One of the most stunning is its Shadow Walk, a major pathway through the campus lined with outdoor gardens, water features, sunken courtyards, as well as huge canopies. However, its landscape and exteriors aren’t the only things to see and enjoy at this site but what’s inside it too.

Here, you have five galleries to explore housing a good deal of comprehensive arts made by both emerging local and internationally recognized artists. And they are always changing. This means you can get to see a lot of new exhibits every time you visit.

Apart from appreciating the artworks in its galleries, you can also get to enjoy performances. This is because the Mesa Arts Center also has four performance venues. Mesa Arts Center has a unique visual and performing art classroom studios as well.

3See More Stunning Works of Art and Support Artists

Some of the vendors at MACFest (Source)

Seeing festivals also makes any trip memorable. By doing so, you can get to know the city well and even its locals. One of the most awaited festival is the Downtown Mesa Festival of Arts. Formerly known as MACFest, this event lets you witness how the locals celebrate art. So if Mesa Arts Center’s exhibits aren’t enough for you, you need to see this one too. During this event, you can also get to see the works of various artists. On top of that, you can get to enjoy live entertainment too. The best part of it is that the admission is free, making it yet another one of the good things to enjoy in Mesa for free, especially if you’re traveling on a budget.

You can also buy art works and other handmade pieces by local artisans. This, of course, require some money, though. But don’t worry if your budget is limited, you can still get to enjoy the event as you’re free to just stroll around the venue and see the artists’ works. You can already get to support them by doing it.

And if you feel the need to fuel up after exploring the area, there are also food trucks available offering delicious snacks with a reasonable price tag. Whether you’re artsy or not, this place is worth visiting.

4Go on a Scenic Drive

One of the views from the Apache Trail (Source)

Arizona is best known for its landscape. If you’re in Mesa, you can also enjoy parts of the state’s natural beauty. One of the places to go to, when you’re in Mesa, is Apache Trail. Aside from being one of the oldest highways in the country, this place also boasts of the scenic views that it has to offer.

For starters, this trail starts in Apache Junction, on the outskirts of Greater Phoenix. This trail winds for more than 41 miles offering you scenic vistas of deserts, mountains, and lakes to the Theodore Roosevelt Dam.

Aside from the beautiful views that you can get to see from the trail, the trail also features a number of roadside attractions where you can stop along the trail. Some are even free.

Goldfield Ghost Town is one of the stops worth seeing along the Apache Trail. This site actually has numerous activities to offer, including zip line, reptile exhibit, and more. While some of its attractions come at a price, strolling around the area is free and is already fun. Here, you can get to immerse yourself in its Wild West theme that will take you back in time.

Apart from that, you can even get to witness gunfights. They’re not real, though. But these performances will also take you on a trip on the site’s past as they relive some significant events in the past.

Superstition Mountain Museum is also one of the stops that you can get to enjoy as you go on a scenic drive at the Apache Trail. Here, you can get to see artists exhibits and artifacts. You can also get to witness arts and cultural events, lectures, as well as historical reenactments that are a must-see, especially if you’re traveling with your family. The admission at the museum comes with a price tag, though. But it’s still affordable as the admission fee only costs $5 per adult. If you’re on a tight budget, there’s no need to worry as when you time your visit, you can get free access to the museum. This is because the Superstition Mountain Museum opens its doors to the public for free in celebration of certain events such as the Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum day Live.

5Get Active

Mesa Riverview Park’s famous climbing tower

If you’re traveling with kids and you’re looking for a place to take them for fun, one of the sites you should see is the Mesa Riverview Park. Most parks that we used to know are often merely green space with benches. While it provides you a fresh space to relax and rest, kids don’t usually get to enjoy the place. But in Mesa, they can have a lot of fun. Even adults can join in the fun too. This is because the park actually provides a huge play structure for everyone to enjoy. Here, kids, as well as kids at heart, can get to have a lot of fun in the park’s swings. The park is also known for its 60 feet long caterpillar mesh rope climbing structure that’s perfect even for outdoorsy active adults. There is also a climbing tower that stands 50 feet tall. And the best part of it is that you can enjoy all of that for free. Even the parking free.

In addition to that, the park offers shaded picnic areas. Hence, if you’re on a budget, why not take the whole family here and pack some lunch? And don’t worry, there are bathrooms available in the area too in case you want to seize the day at the park.

6Enjoy Fridays

Some of the motorcycles you can get to see during Motorcycle on Main (Source)

Friday is probably everyone’s favorite day of the week. This is because it’s the end of working day for most people on the working class. For the young adults, it is the last day of the class for the week. And as the sun sets, your free time starts. And when you travel to Mesa, you’ll probably love Fridays even more. This is because the city holds a number of events during first, second, and third Fridays.

Every first Friday between September and June, the city holds Motorcycles on Main, a bike night event that starts at 6 PM. During this event, as its name suggests, you can get to admire motorcycles or even show off your own. Apart from that, live music is also available that makes the night even livelier. Beer gardens are also available. And, of course, food and other vendors are available. But bear in mind that not everything is free during the event. The admission is free and the rest comes with a price tag. Still, it is worth seeing, especially if you’re into bikes.

If you’re not into bikes, don’t worry, you might get to enjoy Mesa’s second Friday events. 2nd Fridays are “Friday Night Out.” During this event, you can get to enjoy a bazaar where businesses join together creating a fun, exciting, and friendly way to spend your Friday evening. Here, you can get to see live ands performing, as well as art booths. There are also activities available for kids. You can even bring your fur baby with you and stroll the sites dog-friendly streets.

What we love about this event is that there is always something new to see. This is because the event has different themes to offer every month. In 2018 for instance, locals and tourists enjoyed Film frenzy event theme in January. February saw Swingin’ Sweethearts, March had Dog Daze theme, April was Cosplay event month, and May was for the Sci-Fi fans.

Meanwhile, locals, as well as tourists enjoyed Games People Play theme in June. July had Summer Block Party, August had How Hot Is It theme, and September was for Pirates Block Party. Of course, October was themed with Nightmare on Main to celebrate Halloween. Word on the Street was the theme in November and Art Attack was for December.

If you’re a movie lover, we suggest that you visit Mesa on the third Friday of the month. This is because i.d.e.a. Museum hosts Movie on Main, an even where you can enjoy movie viewing for free.

7Follow the Sculptures

One of the sculptures you can find in downtown Mesa (Source)

If you’ve ever been downtown, you’ve probably spotted sculptures scattered in the area. But they aren’t just some random sculptures. Apparently, these larger than-than-life pieces of art illustrates the journey of the city. Most of them share the same theme and that is Old Roots and New Growth. Each installation is actually symbolic of the city’s culture, as well as history, particularly the new ones lining the Metro Light Rail extension through Downtown Mesa. Of course, exploring them is free. You can even go on a self-guided walking tour of the sculptures. In case you want to try it out, you can find a free guide here.

We also suggest that you take a closer look at some sculptures as they have details that will make your tour interesting. It’s going to be quite a long walk as the sculptures are scattered in a few streets downtown and we suggest that you bring enough water with you so you’ll stay hydrated.

Cheap Eats at Mesa

With all of the attractions and activities that the city has to offer, you’ll probably need to fuel up a bit so you’ll have energy to go to your next destination. Aside from that, you can also get to explore a place’s culture through food. But if you’re on a budget, where should you go? You don’t want to feast and then get shocked at your bill after, right?

In Mesa, there are restaurants that don’t always go by the saying, “you get what you paid for.” Here are some of the good restaurants that will not make you burn a hole in your wallet.

Millie’s Café

Millie’s Cafe’s to-go mofongo (Source)

Millies Café is actually a place that specializes on Puerto Rican Cuisine. And whether you’re craving for such cuisine or you’re just trying to explore, this café is one of the best places that we highly recommend. The dishes here are actually less than $10. Our favorite is the Mofongo, a dish with mashed plantains as its main ingredient with a truckload of garlic. You can have it with chicken or pair it with pork. No matter what you choose, this café’s version of the dish is the best among the many restaurants in the area that offers the same dish.

Hue Gourmet

A closer look at Hue Gourmet’s bowl of pho (Source)

There’s no need to go to Vietnam to try out pho. Because in Mesa, you can just go to Hue Gourmet to give your Vietnamese food craving a fix. Located in the Mekong Plaza, this place offers the best Vietnamese dishes at an affordable price. Their specialty is Bun Bo Hue, a spicy Vietnamese beef noddle soup. At less than $8, you can already get to enjoy a good bowl of this dish.

Salvadoreno Restaurant

Salvadoreno Restaurant’s affordable yet delicious tamale dish (Source)

If you’re into Mexican food, there is Salvadoreno Restaurant that offers dishes as low as $4. There are actually a handful of restaurants in the city that offers Mexican food. But Salvadoreno Restaurant is one of our favorites for its delicious and affordable dishes. Here, our favorite is the green corn tamale, a traditional dish made of masa or dough that is steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. What we love about this Salvatore Restaurant dish is that it is silky smooth and explodes with sweet corn flavor and is perfectly paired with cheese. This restaurant doesn’t only has locations in Mesa but in Phoenix too so keep an eye on it in case you’re craving for some Mexican cuisine.

Asian Café Express

Some of the mouth-watering dishes that you can also get to taste at Asian Cafe Express (Source)

Another place to be when you’re craving for some Asian cuisine is Asian Café Express. This one, on the other hand, specializes in Chinese dishes. It’s famous for its unique “bring your own seafood” policy and the chefs will cook it for you. It has an affordable price point. In fact, most of the dishes will set you back for less than $10. You should try out their clams in black bean sauce, as well as the pickle and pork noodle soup.

Many of us haven’t explored what’s out there because it’s so easy to get daunted by how much you need to spend to enjoy your life and explore other places than your home. But thanks to cities like Mesa which offers attractions that you an enjoy for free, the fun of traveling and making memories together with your squad or family is within reach. It even has affordable restaurants and accommodations that will help you save more.


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