Last updated on February 6th, 2023 at 07:47 am.
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.
Harry S. Truman, 33rd president of the United States, proudly called Independence, MO, his home.
Long before President Harry S. Truman, the pioneers made Independence the most popular starting point for the Oregon Trail, California, and Santa Fe trails. 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 hosts a number of historic museums that document its regional importance in the mid-19th century. We know you will enjoy these top 15 landmarks to visit in Independence Missouri.
Things to do in Independence MO
There are many things to do in Independence MO. Here are just 15 to get you started on a fun-filled day.
Vaile Victorian Mansion
One of the top things to do in Independence MO is the Vaile Mansion. The Vaile Mansion in Independence was Built by Colonel and Mrs. Harvey Vaile in 1881, it was “the most princely house and the most comfortable home in the entire west,” the Kansas City Times reported in 1882.
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
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
Midwest Genealogy 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 time-consuming of the things to do in Independence MO. But well worth the visit.
Midwest Genealogy Center Address: 3440 S Lees Summit Rd, Independence, MO 64055
Phone Number: (816) 252-7228
National Frontier Trails 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 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
The Bingham-Waggoner Mansion & Estate, sitting on over 19 acres near Independence Square is truly a one-of-a-kind gem in Independence, Missouri. Near 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, 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
To truly unlock the history of criminals and everyday folk in the home and cells, we recommend a walk through 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
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
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
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
Dixon’s Famous Chili Parlor
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 and limited menu, add the local feel and it’s a go-to spot for a quick meal.
Dixon’s Address: 9105 E US Highway 40, Independence, MO 64055
Phone Number: 816-861-7308
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 that displays antique jewelry and pictures? All items are made of human hair and are authentic antiques at least one hundred years old. The Museum was quickly filled up with more antique hair art collection.
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
Kids loved the park which was perfect for both the 3- and 6-year-old. Beautiful area and a surprise that it sits behind the Bass Pro shop area of Independence. The waterfall is really not so amazing, but is a waterfall, the park is quite beautiful.
The waterfall is a bit away (1/4 mile?). You can drive there but no stopping point. 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
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. President 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.
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.
Address: 219 N Delaware St.
Independence MO 64050
Photography by Todd Meisler and Alexa Meisler