17 Best things to do in Independence, MO

Last updated on March 12th, 2024 at 12:49 pm.

The City of Independence is known for its incredible history and attractions, including the Truman Library and Museum, a hair museum, and one of the most haunted mansions in Missouri. There are many things to do in Independence and we’ve picked our favorites to share with you.

Most famously, Harry S. Truman, 33rd president of the United States, proudly called Independence, MO, his home.

Truman mural in Independence, MO

Long before President Harry S. Truman, the pioneers made Independence the most popular starting point for three important trails in U.S. History, the Oregon Trail, California Trail, and Santa Fe trail. Here, you can feel the roots of history while also feeling the hospitality of a hometown — even if it’s not your own.

The city is also home to a number of historic museums that document its regional importance in the mid-19th century.

Fantastic Things to do in Independence MO

About ten miles from Kansas City, this is an easy day trip for locals or anyone visiting. Todd and I have found the history fascinating and really enjoyed the many museums and historic homes in Independence a great resource in learning about Missouri history. Independence is also one of the places we bring most of our out of town guests.

There are many things to do in Independence MO. Highlights include the Truman Presidential Library,  Harry and Bess Truman’s home, the 1859 Jail & Marshall’s home, the National Frontier Museum, the Chicago & Alton Depot, and the Vaile Mansion. But there is so much more!

You can easily spend a full day or two exploring everything that Independence has to offer! Here are just 17 to get you started on a fun-filled day in Independence.

Vaile Victorian Mansion

vaile mansion in independence mo

One of the top things to do in Independence MO, is to visit the Vaile Mansion. The Vaile Mansion in Independence was built by Colonel and Mrs. Harvey Vaile in 1881. The Kansas City Times reported in 1882 that it was “the most princely house and the most comfortable home in the entire west,”..

The 31 room mansion includes 9 marble fireplaces, spectacular painted ceilings, flushing toilets, a built-in 6,000-gallon water tank, and a 48,000-gallon wine cellar. This mansion is one of the best examples of Second Empire-style architecture in the United States.

Vaile Mansion
Address: 1500 North Liberty Stree, Independence, Missouri 64050

Phone Number: (816) 325-7430

Truman Presidential Library & Museum

truman library

The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum was established to preserve the papers, books, and other historical materials relating to former President Harry S. Truman and to make them available to the people in a place suitable for exhibit and research. Consistently ranked among the top tourism destinations in the Kansas City region, no visit to America’s heartland is complete without a trip to the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum.

Truman Library Address: 500 W US Highway 24, Independence, MO 64050
Phone Number: (816) 268-8200

If you are interested in Truman, please check out our favorite 37 Harry Truman Quotes and the 7 Greatest Movies and Documentaries about Harry Truman.

Harry Truman Home

President Harry S Truman took America from its traditional isolationism into the age of international involvement. Despite his power, he never forgot where he came from. Today, visitors can experience the surroundings Truman knew as a young man of modest ambition through his political career and final years as a former president.

Harry S. Truman Home

The Harry S. Truman National Historic Site preserves the longtime home of Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president of the United States, as well as other properties associated with him in the Kansas City, Missouri, metropolitan area.

Tickets are offered on a first-come, first-served basis and must be purchased at the Truman Visitor Center (223 N. Main St. in Independence) on the day of the tour. Tickets may sell out by early afternoon on weekends, around holidays, and daily during the summer season. Tour time availability is dependent on staffing levels.

Visitor Guides & Tours

Address: 219 N Delaware St.
Independence MO 64050
(816) 254-2720

Midwest Genealogy Center

midwest geneology center

The Midwest Genealogy Center (MGC) is one of the United States’ preeminent resources for family history, providing access to almost three-quarters of a million on-site materials.

MGC features 52,000 square feet of space that houses all of the free resources needed to research your family history. This is among the most fascinating of the things to do in Independence MO if you are interested in learning about your heritage or Missouri history.

Midwest Genealogy Center Address: 3440 S Lees Summit Rd, Independence, MO 64055
Phone Number: (816) 252-7228

National Frontier Trails Museum

frontier museum

The National Frontier Trails Museum is a history museum, interpretive center, and research library dedicated to telling the rich history of America’s principle, pioneering trails, including the Oregon, Santa Fe and California trails.

They three trails are located in Independence, Missouri, a key starting point for hundreds of thousands of pioneers who risked their livelihoods for a new life in the American West. The museum’s exhibit gallery recreates the story of those who traveled the trails with excerpts from original journals and diaries, illustrations and artifacts.

National Frontier Trails Museum Address:  318 W. Pacific Independence, MO 64050
Phone Number: (816) 325-7575

Bingham-Waggoner Mansion and Estate

Bingham-Waggoner Mansion & Estate

The Bingham-Waggoner Mansion & Estate, sitting on over 19 acres near Independence Square, is truly a one-of-a-kind gem in Independence, Missouri. The Bingham-Waggoner Mansion & Estate offers its own special look into an earlier era. 

This well-preserved museum home, with more than 90% original furnishings, carpets, and paintings, provides insights into the lifestyle of its wealthy 19th-century residents.

The Bingham-Waggoner Mansion & Estate Address: 313 W Pacific Ave., Independence, MO 64050
Phone Number: 816-461-3491

1859 Jail & Marshal’s Home

jail 1859 independence

To truly unlock the history of both criminals and everyday folk, a visit to the home and cells at this jail is a must.

We recommend a walk through of the old lockdown and a stroll through the 1859 Jail & Marshal’s Home. You can see the cell where Frank James lived for six months, the home where the Marshal’s family lived and touch the mighty limestone and tremendous iron doors guarding each cell.

This jail was very interesting because the family who maintained it lived in the house next to the cells. There are artifacts from the 1850’s like original balls and chains and they told stories of how the family would have friends and people over, while there were 10 people crammed into one cell at the Marshal’s home.

1859 Jail & Marshal’s Home Address: 217 N Main St Independence, MO 64050
Phone Number:  816-252-1892

Independence Square

From the pioneers to President Harry S. Truman, American history has a major foothold on the Historic Independence Square. Today, downtown Independence, MO, is the place for our visitors to shop, dine and be entertained.

Independence Square Address: Downtown Independence, MO

Community of Christ Temple

crist temple indepence

In the Community of Christ Temple, visitors can follow the Worshiper’s Path, filled with symbolic artwork, or the 1,600-seat Temple Sanctuary, featuring a spiral ceiling rising 195 feet and the 102-rank, 5,685-pipe organ.

The Temple also houses a Meditation Chapel which overlooks a garden designed by master gardeners from Japan, an award-winning stained-glass window, and a museum.

Community of Christ Temple Address: 1706 S Northern Blvd, Independence, MO 
Phone: (816) 521-4066

1879 Chicago & Alton RR Depot

chicago alton house independence

The two-story railroad depot was built in 1879; restored in 2002. It is believed to be the only completely restored two story train depot in Missouri. It contains three rooms on the first floor: the waiting room, station master’s room and baggage room.

Chicago Alton RR Depot Address: 318 West Pacific Avenue Independence, Missouri 64050
Phone: (816) 325-7955

Civil War Sites of Independence

Despite the problems between Missouri and Kansas, Missourians remained divided over the war. This was demonstrated after the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, in Missouri, when the state created a provisional government in Jefferson City under the direction of Hamilton Gamble, a Unionist, that was recognized by Abraham Lincoln.

Pro-secessionist Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson fled Jefferson City and decided to support the Confederate States of America. The state saw some of the most violent clashes between family members and neighbors than any other state in the Union during the Civil War. Two of those clashes occurred in and around Independence, Missouri.

Address: Throughout Independence

Liela’s Hair Museum

What is so unusual about Leila’s Hair museum isn’t that it displays antique jewelry and pictures. But, that all items are made of human hair and are authentic antiques at least one hundred years old.  The Museum has one of the most extenstive antique hair art collections anywhere.

A weird & amazing collection of antique hair art. This was attributed to Leila’s commitment to hair and growing passion in the art collection. Later in 2005 the museum moved to a new, bigger location.

Hung salon-style, the wreaths are placed one on top of another with little space left between them. With a personal, private, sacred, and mausoleum-like appearance, the museum is no ordinary place.

Liela’s Hair Museum Address: 1333 S Noland Rd, Independence, MO 64055
Phone: (816) 833-2955

Waterfall Park

Kids and parents love this park. It’s a beautiful area with an extra surprise that is located near the Bass Pro shop area of Independence. The waterfall is really not so amazing, but is a waterfall! But, the park is quite beautiful.

You can drive past the waterfall, but there but no stopping point or parking area. This area is a small park on Bass Pro Lake with access to the Independence greenways. Despite the name, there isn’t a waterfall in the park itself, though the waterfall is not far.

To see the waterfall, head south from the park to East Bluff Drive and follow the road east a short way to the waterfall. The westbound lane, closest to the lake, is closed to vehicular traffic, so safe to walk in the road in this lane.

You could also see the waterfall by driving eastbound on East Bluff Drive. Reviews: A couple of waterfalls here! A beautiful park with a playground picnic area fishing area and long paved walks around a water reclamation pond. I like that the ponds attracted a bunch of turtles birds and jumping fishes.

Waterfall Park Address: 4501 S Bass Pro Dr. Independence, MO 64055

George Owens Nature Park

George Owens Nature Park has given families the opportunity to reconnect with their natural environment since 1977. The park is open year-round and provides 86 acres of beautiful forest, lakes, hiking trails, and wildlife. Explore the DeWitt Center and experience rotating exhibits, a pond display, and 4 large aquariums.

The current traveling exhibit shows Independence through the rock record – fossils, photographs, and art will guide you along a comprehensive path of discovery.

George Owens Nature Park Address: 1601 S Speck Rd, Independence, MO 64057-2065

Soda Fountains and Restaurants in Independence

Independence has a good number of Mexican restaurants, some good BBQ and one of the longest running restaurants in the Kansas City Metro area. Whether you visit the historic center of Independence or venture out, we’ve got you covered with our favorite options.

Dixon’s Famous Chili Parlor

dixons chili independence

At first, Vergne Dixon set up shop downtown selling his unique style chili from a street cart. In 1919 Vergne opened his first restaurant on 15th and Olive.

His dream was to produce a quality product with fast service. Dixon’s Chili Parlor, as it was originally named, was staffed solely by men, most of whom were down on their luck and looking for a chance to better themselves.

The ground beef is good, but what makes the food great is the chili sauces. The small menu offers a bowl of chili, chili hot dog, chili hamburger and chili tacos. Add the local feel and it’s a go-to spot for a quick and delicious meal.

Dixon’s Address: 9105 E US Highway 40, Independence, MO 64055
Phone Number: 816-861-7308

Clinton’s Soda Fountain

Clinton’s is located in an 1800’s era building in historic Independence Square. It was once a drug store and soda fountain, and at 14 years old, Harry Truman worked his first job at the original store.

Today it’s a diner and soda fountain that is a popular stop for locals and visitors. They serve ice cream, sundaes, shakes & phosphates. They also serve grilled cheese, PB&J and tomato soup.

Address: 100 W Maple Ave, Independence, MO 64050

Tequileros Mexican Restaurant

If are you in the mood for Mexican food, our favorite place is Tequileros Mexican Restaurant on Highway 24.

It’s not fancy and it’s not in the quaint historic square of Independence. But, it is a family run, authentic Mexican Restaurant we find ourselves heading back more often than naught when we visit Independence.

Everything we have ordered has been delicious. Starting with their Chips that are thin and crisp served with homemade salsa to tamales, cheese enchiladas and el pastor tacos we have enjoyed every bite.

Address: 1208 W US Hwy 24, Independence, MO 64050

If you have yet to add Independence to your list of places to explore, we hope this list inspired a visit to Independence, Missouri.

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  • My Favorite Hotel Review Website: TripAdvisor
  • Best Tours: Viator and Get Your Guide

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