Mestre isn't an independent city, but a borough of Venice. It's built up against that city, but lies on the mainland. Mestre does, however, also have canals which cut through the city, making it a sort of 'little Venice'. Around the central square, Piazza Ferretto, you'll not only find sidewalk cafés, but also shops of top designers.
With the suburbs included, 170,000 people live in Mestre making it the largest place in Italy without the status of autonomous city (comune).
In the sixties and seventies the population of Mestre significantly increased because of the construction of a large industrial zone near Marghera. Many inhabitants of Mestre still work in those industries. Mestre also serves as the 'supplier' of Venice. Tourism is rather important: many people visiting Venice choose to stay in Mestre: less busy and cheaper hotels.
Venice Airport, Aeroporto di Venezia Marco Polo, is situated 8 kilometers east of Mestre's center. It's easily reachable from the city center: you first take the Via Amerigo Vespucci and then the Via Orlanda (SS14) to the airport. You can also take freeways A57 and A27 (a bit longer, but in general quicker). The way to the airport is clearly signposted along both routes.
Mestre's center has been tidied up significantly in recent years and turned into a pedestrian zone. The center is also small enough to explore by foot. There are some parking garages and lots around the center. There's only one bridge to Venice. If you go to that city by car, you'll have to leave it right after the bridge on an (expensive) parking lot.
Mestre has a good choice of hotels, but you won't find luxury hotels. Most accommodations are in the midrange and budget category. That's only logical, as most people staying in Mestre find hotels in Venice too expensive. Hotels book up quickly during the summer; we therefore advise booking your room well in advance.
For more information about Mestre, we recommend Google and the following sources: