Mesa's got stories....do you? Arizona's third-largest city is teeming with new story ideas when covering the Southwest for readers. Take a look at the various angles you can explore when reporting on this modern-day desert retreat.
In Mesa, our bountiful harvest is one that we proudly share with our visitors. Here, fresh experiences and a treasured heritage of family farms and long-standing festivals make for lasting memories. Serving as a culinary gateway to the Valley of the Sun, the neighboring farms in and around Mesa are providing a continuous bounty of seasonal goods for visitors to enjoy – along with tailored experiences that will keep visitors coming back for more. From dinners down a 300-acre organic peach orchard to elaborate showcases of the Phoenix area’s culinary talent in the middle of a dairy farm, there is no shortage of countryside experiences when visiting our flourishing desert.
This year National Geographic Traveler recognized Mesa, Arizona as offering one of the best “Food Drives” in the nation for all the citrus groves we boast within our city limits. Arizona was founded on the citrus industry and you can still experience the joys of the harvest at Orange Patch, one of Mesa’s original citrus growers. Here, they have stood the test of time as other orchards across the Metropolitan Phoenix area have closed and been forgotten. Located north of the city, the Orange Patch is 110 acres of citrus and 30 acres of sweet corn and passersby can enjoy the fragrant orange blossoms each spring when temperatures begin to rise. Peak season for orange production is January and February. Guests visiting are welcome to watch the picking and production process with special tours offered for groups. Blossoms are blooming every March and April and you can see folks drive by with windows wide open to take in the pleasant fumes. Each spring, visitors to Cubs spring training games flock here out of tradition and desire to shop the produce stand and take their pick of fresh oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit. The store also has fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh honey, ice cream and other gift- items for sale.
Mesa and its surrounding communities having been earning praise from viewers across the country with some of our more unique and hidden gems enjoying their time in the national spotlight. Locals have already been flocking to The Coffee Shop at Agritopia (Gilbert) long before owners Jenna Flowers and Jessica Cuff won their battle on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars”. This dynamic duo sport one of the most mouth-watering bakery displays in the east Valley showcasing their cupcake selection. Craving cookies? Make your way to downtown Mesa and stop in at Sweet Cakes Café. This treasured family-run business has been serving up plate-sized cookies from scratch that are getting noticed. This year, their baked treats were featured on TLC’s “Best Food Ever” in their Bodacious Bakeries episode. For Joe's Farm Grill (Gilbert) hosting Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” made it even more special to visit this original homestead-turned-burger stand. Here, they do common food uncommonly well with the neighboring family farm, Agritopia, supplying quality ingredients throughout the year. Guy Fieri featured the farm and showcased how the restaurant can harvest produce the same day they cook it. And Discovery Channel’s popular show “Dirty Jobs” got a real treat when they featured Queen Creek Olive Mill on the program. Foodies may have also seen Arizona’s own Iron Chef Beau MacMillan feature the del Piero signature panini on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate!”.
Nothing goes together like a good hot dog and potato chips. Now imagine topping those two flavors onto an ice cream cone! Known for their outrageous flavor creations, Udder Delights Ice Cream, is getting noticed and not just by the locals. When your owner is a dairy farmer, you know the ice cream is going to be good. Owned by Casey Stechnij, Udder Delights develops all their unique offerings in their local flavor laboratory and favorites range from avocado and egg nog to key lime pie, they use fresh, local ingredients whenever possible in order to preserve quality. As an example, when the flavor of the month is Peach, they partner with Schnepf Farms for the freshest peaches in town. Flavors change every other day so it’s best to call ahead and see what Udder Delights can think of next. Our faves are Cotton Candy, Nuts About Flavor, Apple Pie, Monkey Moo, Birthday Cake, Peachy Keen, Pistachio, Cherry Chocolate Chip… the list goes on and on! Farmer Casey also hosts locavore dinners regularly at the farm where guests can enjoy a gourmet meal featuring Arizona-grown product from less than 50 miles away from the farm.
If you ever colored outside the lines, enjoyed playing with mud or spent hours looking through a kaleidoscope then the Mesa Arts Center is the place for you! As part of the center’s new Corporate Discovery program, groups can sign up for whirlwind discovery courses and take team building to new artistic heights. Serving as the largest arts and culture complex in the Southwest, groups can participate in 2 to 4 hour classes taught by the center’s top instructors on a variety of art forms. Classes can be on mosaics, jewelry making, ceramics, printmaking, and painting. Attendees love that they can discover an unknown talent, refine their craft and escape through the visual arts leaving with a new perspective or approach to business. The campus is truly an art piece in itself. Groups can also sign up for an in-depth 90 minute tour that covers the inner workings of 4 theaters, 14 artist studios, a 5-gallery visual arts museum and numerous public spaces throughout the property. “Planners love when they can pull off an experience that is completely tailored to their group,” said Pam Williams, convention sales manager of the Mesa CVB. “The discovery programs at the arts center are crafted to meet the needs of the attendees. Timing is flexible, the activity can be easy or complex, the mediums can vary from painting and drawing to glass blowing and print-making. Options are endless and the planner can take the reins and avoid the typical pick a package type of programming that is wrought with limitations.”
Downtown Mesa was registered in 1878 and sectioned out as the square mile from Mesa Drive to Country Club and University to Broadway. Both upscale and urban, today, the same square mile is a thriving hub of business, government, culture, arts, recreation and entertainment with the retail shops providing an appealing charm and character exclusive to Mesa. Those enamored by architecture will appreciate a stroll through the areas quaint districts reminiscent of decades past featuring original brick buildings and renovated storefronts. From restored lofts to remnants of rumored tunnels in many a store basement, downtown Mesa is laden with history ranging from the city’s revered Mormon pioneers to tall tales of moonshine and wine. Boutiques are the big draw here now where bargains are aplenty for women’s and children’s fashions and unique, must-have décor items. Rounding out the mix are coffee houses, yoga studios, and antique shops. Some of the city’s best dining options are here from pizzerias, wine bars and mouth-watering taco plates, to hearty steak dinners and fresh seafood dishes.