3 Destinations for Families that Take a Look at Nature and the Past near Mesa
When you’re in Mesa, Arizona, there are plenty of places for your family to learn about the history of the area and look at nature. Here are some of the best places to check out.
1. Usery Mountain Regional Park
Usery Mountain Regional Park is on the east side of the Valley and takes up over 3,600 acres. The park was established in 1967, and its geological focal point is Pass Mountain, or Scarface as the locals call it. The area was named for King Usery, who was a cattleman who lived in the area in the late 1800s. Usery Pass used to be the main sheep trail that led from Mt. Baldy to the Salt River Valley. Shepherds and their dogs would move the cattle in the spring and fall in or out of the Coconino region.
Today, the park is located next to Tonto National Forest to the west of the Goldfield Mountains. There is a wide assortment of animals and plants that live in the lower Sonoran Desert that you’ll be able to see when you visit. The most popular part of the park is the Wind Cave Trail on Pass Mountain, which was formed from granite and volcanic tuff. If you make it to the top of this 2,840-foot elevation mountain, you’ll have stunning views of the Valley.
2. Arizona Museum of Natural History
The Arizona Museum of Natural History is the top natural history museum in the state. The Museum was founded in 1977 and has seen over one million visitors since 2000. Inside, there are over 70,000 relics, pieces of art, live animals, and historic photographs on display. The Mesa Grande, one of the last standing Hohokam platform mounds located in Arizona, is preserved as part of the museum’s grounds.
The museum is a great place to be inspired and to learn about the cultural and natural history of the Southwest. This place is great for families to visit, as there’s plenty to explore. You’ll see a flash flood coming down a mountain right inside the museum, a live Gila monster, and the soft-shelled turtle, Tom. Kids can also pan for gold when they go in the History Courtyard and find their way through the Lost Dutchman’s Mine.
3. Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum
The Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum, the only combat aviation museum in the area, provides a unique and educational experience for the whole family. When you visit, you’ll learn about how the aircraft has played a part in both sea and ground operations from World War I to the present day. You can walk through the working hangar and watch mechanics work on airplanes right in front of you.
You’ll be able to climb on cargo planes and bombers and can even book a ride in an authentic Warbird. You can also take a look at seven World War II aircrafts, including an open biplane and one of the rarest bombers in the world.