/ The Phoenix Traveler
Phoenix — By Heather Wright Schlichting on June 14, 2010 at 6:10 am
Filed under: museum, neighborhood, restaurant, Shopping, top-feature

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to East Mesa

historic neighborhood, public artOn a recent excursion to the far East Valley I was caught off-guard by a freeway closure that initially seemed like a major hassle but ended up being an adventure in a historic neighborhood.

Forced to exit the freeway due to construction, I remembered that I always wanted to walk around downtown Mesa, a historic area that has undergone an amazing transformation.

Downtown Mesa, a perfect square mile features a remarkable amount of restaurants, shops, museums, public art displays and local businesses, some that have been around for decades.  To name just a few, Mystic Paper (map) is a paper paradise for the dedicated scrapbooker, Milano Music Center (map)  is almost a block long with every type of musical instrument, Lissa’s (map), is a haven for unique gifts and home décor and ZuZu’s Petals (map), a florist with unique creations and don’t you just love the name.

If you enjoy antiquing, then I suggest you peruse through the Antique plaza on Main Street and if you’re planning a wedding or event, consider a cake from Sugar Buzz (map), photography studios, Michael Neugent and Brandt and BJJ Events and Entertainment.

museum, arts, music, theatre

Mesa Arts Center

The neighborhood also boasts three major museums that have exhibits and activities for both children and adults.

  1. The Arizona Museum for Youth (map) is a wonderland filled with interactive art displays and other exhibits like Play Ball:  The Cactus League Experience.
  2. Let out a good roar at the Arizona Museum of Natural History (map) you’ll find the best dinosaurs in town, a history courtyard where visitors pan for gold, a native replica village and a cool indoor waterfall. If you’ve always dreamed of experiencing an archaeological dig, they conduct archaeological research, historic preservation initiatives and scheduled digs throughout the Southwest.  Here’s how you can get involved.
  3. Mesa Arts Center (map),  the third cultural jewel in the area, is situated on a seven-acre campus that encompasses four theaters, five art galleries, 14 art studios and classrooms and a 700-foot long outdoor Shadow Walk that bisects the campus and serves as a community gather place for festivals, concerts, and events.  I’ve seen everyone from singer Diana Krall to trumpeter Chris Botti and musicians George Benson and Al Jareau.  Stop by the museum to hear local bands play in their outdoor courtyard.  Sign up for their newsletter to learn more about the many performances they host.
public art, historic neighborhood

"God Bless America," a 25-foot-tall scupture by J. Seward Johnson Jr.

No business district is complete without great dining options.  A trio of restaurants owned by the de la Cruz family, locals that for many generations have owned several Mexican restaurants throughout the Southwest.  The De la Cruz Bistro (map) is an ideal place for dinner before or after a show at the Mesa Arts Center or lunch if you’re visiting any of the charming shops or museum exhibits.  More of a bistro inspired menu than typical Mexican cuisine, they have an extensive wine list and tapas.  Mango’s, located right down the street is a more casual spot serving Mexican favorites like burritos, nachos and tacos.  For sweet tooth’s try out The Sugar Shack (map) for espressos, latte’s, ice cream and Mexican pastries.  It’s a great little coffee spot that has free Wi-Fi.

You basically have your choice of other restaurants varying in price and cuisine.  For a great slice of pizza, try the pepperoni at rock music inspired Queens Pizzeria (map)or a gourmet sandwich and cup of soup at Sweet Cakes Café (map).  These restaurants all take advantage of sidewalks in front of their locations for outdoor seating and some are covered to shield you from the sun.

So, I guess detours aren’t always a bad thing.  In fact, it’s actually a great opportunity to explore other parts of Phoenix that aren’t right in our own backyard.

Photos are from a personal collection.

Related places:
  1. A
    Mystic Paper
    123 W Main St, Mesa, AZ
    View Details and Book
  2. B
    Milano Music
    38 West Main Street, Mesa, AZ
    View Details and Book
  3. C
    Lissa's Shop
    140 West Main Street, Mesa, AZ
    View Details and Book
  4. D
    Zuzu's Petals
    40 North MacDonald, Mesa, AZ
    View Details and Book
  5. E
    Sugar Buzz Cakes
    125 W Main St, Mesa, AZ
    View Details and Book
  6. F
    Arizona Museum for Youth
    35 N. Robson, Mesa, Arizona 85201
    View Details and Book
  7. G
    Arizona Museum of Natural History
    53 North MacDonald, Mesa, AZ
    View Details and Book
  8. H
    1 E Main St
    1 E Main St, Mesa, , US
    View Details and Book
  9. I
    De La Cruz Bistro
    10 West Main Street, Mesa, AZ
    View Details and Book
  10. J
    Sugar Shack DLC
    12 North Center Street, Mesa, AZ
    View Details and Book
  11. K
    Queens Pizzeria
    125 East Main Street, Mesa, AZ
    View Details and Book
  12. L
    Sweet Cakes
    21 W Main St, Mesa, AZ, United States
    View Details and Book
Tags: museum, neighborhood, restaurant, Shopping, top-feature

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