Photo credit: Dana Gibbons Photo credit: Dana Gibbons

We went to the experts to learn about the best places to go in Downtown Mesa for food, fun, and culture.

The Phoenix Metro Area is home to several vibrant, thriving downtown districts. At The Copper Courier, we’ll be showcasing all the different city centers that Valley residents can visit for a night on the town, a special event, or a close-to-home weekend getaway. 

Mesa is so much more than Spring Training and Jimmy Eat World.

This Phoenix suburb is not only the third most populated municipality in the state, but the largest suburban city in the country—and has a bustling downtown to match.

Breweries Galore

Downtown Mesa boasts five breweries within a ten-minute walk of one another—that’s more than in any other downtown area in the Valley, according to Kaitlin Thresher of the Downtown Mesa Association. 

“Traditionally when you think of going to downtown Mesa, you think of going to a Mesa Arts Center Show, or finding a place to sit and eat,” said Thresher. “But it’s changed a lot in the past few years. We actually have the most breweries of any downtown in Maricopa County, so this is really a great place to drink now, too.”

The first brewery to grace Mesa’s downtown with its hearty hops was Desert Eagle Brewing Company in 2012. Since then, Oro Brewing Company, Chupacabra Taproom, and 12 West Brewing have brought their locally-crafted beverages to Main Street. 

Cider-lovers will also be pleased to learn that just off the main strip is Cider Corps, where they can fill their glass with drinks made from prickly pear, passionfruit, and every fruit that’s fit to ferment. If that’s not enough, Thresher says the Beer Research Institute and Pedal Haus will also be coming to downtown Mesa in the near future.

Grabbing a Bite

Downtown Mesa is home to a tantalizing combination of longtime staples and up-and-coming dining options. And as far as staples, El Charro’s might be as old as they come: the original shop opened its doors in 1922, and its current location has been operating since 1957. 

Other local favorites include Mango’s Cafe and Bakery, Myke’s Pizza, Republica Empanada, and Lost Dutchman’s Coffee Roasters. The Downtown Mesa Association keeps a running list on their website

Getting Around

Only a handful of cities have the Valley Metro Light Rail running through their borders, and fewer still have it going directly to their city center. Mesa is one such city, with the train running right down Main Street. Once travelers arrive, they’ll be greeted with the Downtown Buzz, a free—that’s right, free—shuttle system that takes passengers all around downtown. 

In the mood to drive? Another free amenity that’s found in spades around downtown Mesa is parking. Parking spots, parking lots, and parking garages are free to use for any driver looking for a place to park their ride.

Arts and Entertainment

The Mesa Arts Center, a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the arts, has a wide variety of performances, workshops, and events being held all week, every week. While the venue doesn’t require masks, they do encourage it.

An array of museums also light up downtown with their cultural offerings: the i.d.e.a. Museum and the Arizona Museum of Natural History are both full of immersive experiences for curious minds.

After over a year of COVID-related closures, The Nile Theater has reopened its doors. The basement venue is filling up their calendar for 2021 and beyond and is bringing acts such as  Days and Daze, Vampires Everywhere, and New Royals to back to the stage. 

The Nile Theater is also doing what many other venues throughout the Valley are taking part in to make sure there will be no COVID-related closures in their future: beginning Sept. 20, all visitors will either need to present their COVID-19 immunization records or a negative COVID test from the past 24 hours.

For those looking for a laugh, the Neighborhood Comedy Theatre is conveniently located on Main Street. Improve is the name of the game on Fridays and Saturdays—with an adult-only, uncensored performance on the last Saturday of the month. Those interested in honing their comedy act are also welcome to sign up for improv classes held throughout the week.

I Love Mesa Day

If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “wow, I love Mesa!” You’re not alone!

The city has dedicated an entire day to celebrate all that is Mesa. I Love Mesa Day is a collaboration between the city government, business owners, and residents, to celebrate the essential workers that the Mesa relies on.

“Hospital workers, first responders, grocery store workers have been working so hard over the last year-and-a-half, two years, so this is to celebrate all of their hard work,” said Thresher. “They can celebrate, and take the day off, and enjoy downtown Mesa.”

I Love Mesa Day is Sept. 25, and from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m., all are invited to enjoy the farmer’s market, a carnival for kids, explore museums, and enjoy live music—all for free. 

The festivities culminate with a performance by the rock band Young The Giant at the Mesa Ampitheatre. Attendance is free, but space is limited, so registration to attend the concert is required.

*This article is part of our Downtown Dish series covering different downtown areas in the Valley, and will be updated periodically. Did we miss something? Let us know at copper@couriernewsroom.com.