Seeing a part of the U.S. for the first time is always fun for me, but having a chance to see a place for the first time with a grandchild who had also never seen it was especially fun. Thirteen-year-old Megan and I now have shared stories, impressions, and memories that will be with us for years. I wrote this post before we left.
The Reality of Flying in the Summer of 2022
Megan had flown previously but had never checked a bag, made connecting flights, or spent time in the Birmingham, Dallas (Love Field), Phoenix, and Chicago (Midway) airports. Our very LAST flight of the trip, when we were a short 1 1/2 hour flight from Birmingham, was canceled, and we had to spend the night in the airport. NOW we can truthfully say, she is a seasoned traveler. I wrote this post right after we got home.
(The 2nd photo was taken at 3:00 a.m. Megan was sleeping. I was "keeping watch over my flock by night." :) )
A Heat Wave in Arizona Means Serious Heat
As soon as we stepped out of the airport terminal in Phoenix and headed to catch a shuttle to our rental car, it hit us. Megan described the heat as having "a space heater blowing on you from all sides," and she wasn't wrong. It was intense. And, as we'd expected, there was little to no humidity, so we didn't sweat. But those temps were definitely sweltering.
The terrain was also immediately different from what we had just left. Cactus, tall grasses, a surprising number of flowers, light brown soil, scattered red rocks, and mountains in the distance. We soon understood why so many places, street signs, and menu items had the words "Saguaro" and "Prickly Pear" in them.
Dinosaurs, Arizona History, Public Art, Concert/Theater Venue, and An Art Museu
The movers and shakers in Mesa are in the midst of a big push to lure people to downtown Mesa with a revitalization, a host of new eateries, loads of public art (a la murals and sculptures) a fantastic fine arts center, and a wonderful natural history museum. The added touch is the presence of hundreds of free parking spaces. This is a great place to spend a few hours -- admittedly more pleasant when the sun goes down or in months other than June, July, and August.
A Glimpse of the Land of Cowboys and Indians
On our second full day in Mesa, we drove out of town a few miles and hit the Apache Trail. We stopped at the Superstition Museum and the Goldfield Ghost Town before boarding the Dolly Steamboat for a cruise around Canyon Lake. I highly recommend all three attractions. At the first two, you can easily see why they have been used as movie sets for old Westerns, and on the steamboat, you have a cool, relaxing chance to take in the amazing terrain and wildlife.
Music and a Cowboy Hat at Our Two Favorite Eateries
Megan and I enjoyed some really great food in Arizona, mostly Mexican cuisine, but two places stood out for us.
1) Organ Stop Pizza is incredibly entertaining. A huge Wurlitzer organ is played masterfully (and without a single note of written music -- How In the World??) while you enjoy pizza or pasta. This is appealing for ALL ages. In other words, Megan loved it as much as I did -- maybe because the organist played all of her "Star Wars" favorites. :)
2) Tortilla Flat Saloon, about 7 miles from the marina where the steamboat is launched, is a great place for lunch. I loved the prickly pear lemonade and Killer Chili, while Megan chose her favorite chicken fingers and fries from the kids' menu. The best part in her mind was the cowboy hat included in the meal. I loved seeing her smile.
A likely choice for 3rd place would be the cafe inside FatCats Mesa, an entertainment complex with theaters, glow golf, bowling, video and arcade games. It's especially nice that you can order your food, and they will deliver it directly to your movie seat. And the seats?? The epitome of movie-watching comfort!
There was so much more we could have explored with more days in the area, and we certainly have PLENTY of reasons to return. Think about the Phoenix/Mesa area when you're considering a destination. Maybe in the cooler months. I hear winter is wonderful in Mesa.