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Hometown Tourist: Get to Know Mesa – The Arizona Beehive
Hometown Tourist

Hometown Tourist: Get to Know Mesa

Dubbed by Politico as the most conservative large city in the nation, some might misinterpret right-leaning Mesa as uptight or dull—not so! There’s plenty of fun to be had in this East Valley town.

Learn about Mesa’s Latter-Day Heritage

Mesa’s Organ Stop Pizza has been a mainstay in area restaurants for decades. Photo by Angela Knutsen.

Mesa’s Organ Stop Pizza has been a mainstay in area restaurants for decades. Photo by Angela Knutsen.

The Church’s footprint in the Mesa area has always been strong. Brigham Young’s missionary efforts established what is today known as the Mormon Corridor, which by the 1870s extended into small Salt River Valley settlements that were eventually was annexed as part of metropolitan Mesa. Several landmarks in town note the community’s Mormon roots, the most prominent being the Mesa Temple, the only temple in Arizona for 75 years. Other nods to Mesa’s past include the Lehi School replica, the Sirrine and Antique Wedding Houses, and the Hohokam Park of the Canals, once adapted and used by early Church settlers to irrigate their farms. The Mesa Historical Museum preserves the city’s history and houses several collections relating to its pioneer legacy.

Enjoy Pipes & Pies at Organ Stop Pizza

A true Mesa landmark, Organ Stop Pizza’s Mesa location got its start in 1975 with the installation of a 1920s organ from Chicago. Now at almost 6000 pipes, the largest Wurlitzer theatre organ in the world pipes, sings, flutes, chirps and thumps to a delighted audience with the help of four turbine blowers. The restaurant, open daily for dinners, boasts an assortment of pies from basic cheese to specialty pizzas, along with appetizers, sandwiches, a salad bar, and dessert. Performances start 30 minutes after opening—and staff organists take requests! Organ Stop Pizza is located at Southern and Stapley.

Run the River with Salt River Tubing

Grab your swimsuit, your sunblock, some snacks, a sheet, and an ice chest—the Salt River redefines fun in the sun. Salt River Tubing, in partnership with the USDA Forest Service on the Tonto National Forest in Mesa, has been cooling the East Valley off for 35 years. With float options ranging from 1 to 5 hours and white water rapids, the river is always rocking. An all-day visit is made convenient by tube rentals (look for group discounts and Groupons) and frequent shuttles. Would-be river rats must be at least 8 years old and four feet tall. Visit saltrivertubing.com for details.

The Museum of Natural History’s dinosaur exhibits are hugely popular with visitors. Photo by Kathy Neenan.

The Museum of Natural History’s dinosaur exhibits are hugely popular with visitors. Photo by Kathy Neenan.

Captivate Kids at Mesa’s Museums

Two of Mesa’s museums are especially geared toward children: the i.d.e.a. Museum and the Arizona Museum of Natural History. The i.d.e.a. Museum (imagination, design, experience, art), originally conceived as the Arizona Museum for Youth, invites children to imagine through technology, science and art. The Museum of Natural History covers natural and cultural history and all of the “–ologies” ranging from geology to archaeology, but the paleontology exhibits are especially popular with kids—in fact, the museum is sometimes referred to as “the dinosaur museum” by locals. Each museum offers camps, drop-in workshops, group tours and birthday parties. Handily, both museums are within minutes of one another in downtown Mesa.

Once a sleepy “bedroom community,” Mesa is embracing its past with an eye to the future.

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