Independence, Missouri is a beautiful city located within the Kansas City metropolitan region, best known as the former hometown of United States President Harry S. Truman, who served as a judge for Jackson County prior to his presidential election. Visitors can explore a number of historic attractions connected to the former president, including his longtime home and the courthouse he worked at prior to his election. The region's connection to the pioneer-era California, Oregon, and Santa Fe Trails is explored at the Frontier Trails Museum, while its history as a significant site for the Latter Day Saints church is on display at the Community of Christ International Headquarters Temple and Auditorium and the Temple Lot site.
1.The Bingham Waggoner Estate
© Bingham-Waggoner Historical Society
The Bingham Waggoner Estate is a beautiful 19-acre estate located within Independence Square near area attractions such as the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. The well-preserved estate retains more than 90 percent of its original furnishings and is recognized as one of Western Missouri's most significant historical sites. It was originally plotted along the Santa Fe Trail in 1827 and served as the home of politician and artist George Caleb Bingham. In 1979, the home was purchased by the City of Independence and operates today as a living history museum facility, open to the public for guided tours and special events.
313 W Pacific Ave, Independence, MO 64050, Phone: 816-461-3491
2.The Harvey M. Vaile Mansion
© Vaile Victorian Society of the Vaile Mansion
The Harvey M. Vaile Mansion is a gorgeous estate that was originally constructed in 1881 for businessman and Colonel Harvey Merrick Vaile. The mansion is known as a prime example of Second Empire architecture, showcasing lavish design elements that made it known as the "showplace of Jackson County" in the 19th century. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969 and purchased by the City of Independence in 1983. Today, the 5.6-acre estate is operated as a living history museum facility and is open to the public for guided tours, showcasing the estate's stunning 48,000-gallon wine cellar and spectacular design elements such as nine marble fireplaces.
1500 N Liberty St, Independence, MO 64050, Phone: 816-325-7430
3.The Harry S. Truman National Historic Site
© NPS Photo
The Harry S. Truman National Historic Site preserves the former home of United States President Harry S. Truman along with several other properties throughout the Kansas City area connected to his life and legacy. The site, which was designated as a National Historic Site in 1983, is overseen by the National Park Service and is located on North Delaware Street in Independence. It served as Truman's home from the time of his marriage in 1919 to his death in 1972. Visitors can glimpse into the former president's life and work through preserved living history exhibits within the home, which recreate period-appropriate furnishings and display significant artifacts. Two adjacent homes belonging to Bess Truman's brothers are also preserved, along with the Noland Home, which formerly belonged to the president's aunt and cousins.
219 N Delaware St, Independence, MO 64050, Phone: 816-254-2720
4.The National Frontier Trails Museum
© The National Frontier Trails Museum
The National Frontier Trails Museum is dedicated to showcasing the history of America's three great historic western routes of the 19th century: the California, Oregon, and Santa Fe Trails. The museum, which is located adjacent to the preserved 1879 Chicago and Alton Railroad Depot in Independence's downtown district, recounts the tale of all three routes' development and impact on pioneer and modern American history. Authentic pioneer-era covered wagons are showcased at the museum, along with trail artifacts, pioneer letters and diaries, and other 19th-century artifacts related to those who made the long, arduous journey westward on the trails in search of a better life. An award-winning documentary film is also showcased, along with a children's activity room offering interactive experiences for young visitors.
318 W Pacific Ave, Independence, MO 64050, Phone: 816-325-7575
5.The Midwest Genealogy Center
© The Midwest Genealogy Center
The Midwest Genealogy Center is one of the premiere resources for researching family history and genealogy in the United States, originally opened in 1971 as a room at the Independence Branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library system. In 2008, the center moved to its current independent location in the city's downtown district. Today, it is home to more than 52,000 square feet of resources connected to genealogy and family history and provides access to over three-quarters of a million onsite materials. Databases, oral history recording kits, microfilm readers, and digitization stations are offered for visitors to research their own family histories or learn about the lives and families of prominent historical figures in the region, including President Harry S. Truman.
3440 S Lee's Summit Rd, Independence, MO 64055, Phone: 816-252-7228
6.Community of Christ International Headquarters Temple and Auditorium
© Community of Christ
Community of Christ International Headquarters Temple and Auditorium is a house of worship located within Independence's Temple Lot facility, originally opened to the public in 1958 after more than three decades of planning and construction. The lovely auditorium, which was constructed under the vision and supervision of Community of Christ President Frederick M. Smith, showcases a 5,800-seat chamber that is home to one of the United States' largest freestanding pipe organs, which contains 6,334 pipes. The Aeolian-Skinner organ is best known as the instrument used by famed organist John Obetz for his weekly radio program Auditorium Organ in the 20th century. Temple visitors can embark on self-guided tours and explore the Worshiper's Path, which showcases symbolic religious artwork, or take a moment for reflection within its Meditation Chapel, which is home to an award-winning stained-glass window and a museum showcasing artifacts related to church history.
1001 W Walnut St, Independence, MO 64050, Phone: 816-833-1000
7.The 1879 Chicago and Alton Railroad Depot
© Andrea Izzotti/stock.adobe.com
The 1879 Chicago and Alton Railroad Depot is believed to be Missouri's only restored two-story train depot, completely reconstructed and relocated from its original location in 1996 by the Friends of the Chicago and Alton Depot nonprofit organization, which was formed in response to the facility's potential demolition by the Gateway Western Railroad. Between 1996 and 2002, the depot was completely moved to its current location on the city's West Pacific Avenue. Today, it has been painstakingly restored to its historic condition and is open to the public as a living history museum facility. Visitors can explore the depot's three public first-floor rooms, which include a stationmaster's room, a waiting room, and a baggage room. Upstairs, a stationmaster's residence showcases 19th-century furnishings and artifacts. Guided tours are available throughout the year, along with open times during special events.
318 W Pacific Ave, Independence, MO 64050, Phone: 816-325-7955
8.Leila's Hair Museum
© Leila's Hair Museum
Leila's Hair Museum is a unique museum in Independence that explores the history of hair art and cosmetology from the 17th century through the present day. The historic practice of hair art began in the 16th century and came to prominence during the Victorian era in Europe, offering a way to keep mementos of loved ones on one's person by weaving them into the hair directly. The museum was opened in 1986 by cosmetology teacher Leila Cohoon and showcases more than 2,000 pieces of hair jewelry, including more than 600 wreaths dating back as far as the Renaissance era. Exhibits also showcase locks of hair from international luminaries such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson.
1333 S Noland Rd, Independence, MO 64055, Phone: 816-833-2955
9.1859 Jail, Marshal's Home and Museum
© 1859 Jail, Marshal's Home and Museum
1859 Jail, Marshal's Home and Museum preserves Independence's historic Jackson County Jail and Marshal's House building, which served the community between its construction in 1859 and its decommissioning in 1933. Since then, the facility has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been opened to the public as a living history museum. Visitors can explore the museum's historic limestone jail cells, county marshal residence, and chain gang facility and learn about the facility's history of use as a jail for military and civilian prisoners during the American Civil War. Exhibits and information also detail the facility's connection to notorious outlaws such as Frank James, the older brother of infamous outlaw Jesse James. The museum is open to the public seasonally between April and October, along with select seasonal times during December for holiday celebrations.
217 N Main St, Independence, MO 64050, Phone: 816-252-1892
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10.The Truman Courthouse
The Truman Courthouse preserves the unique courthouse that once served as the sitting judicial facility for Harry S. Truman during his legal career, prior to his election as the President of the United States. The 1836 Colonial Revival-style building showcases beautiful architectural renovations designed by George Frederick Waller during the building's last restorational overhaul in 1933. Today, the building serves as a living history facility, showcasing the history of Truman's judicial career in Jackson County prior to his election. It also houses offices for Jackson County's Assessment, Collections, and Recorder of Deeds Department, along with facilities for the Jackson County Historical Society and the Independence Tourism Department. On the second floor, the facility's Jackson County Museum of Art is home to a substantial collection of works by regional artist and politician George Caleb Bingham.
112 W Lexington Ave, Independence, MO 64050, Phone: 816-881-3000
11.The Church of Christ Temple Lot
The Church of Christ Temple Lot was the first temple dedicated for construction as a facility for the Latter Day Saint movement, purchased in 1831 and dedicated two years later by the movement's founder, Joseph Smith, Jr. The facility is an important site related to Independence's connection to the Latter Day Saint movement, once believed to be the Center Place of Zion by Smith following religious revelations that connected the site to the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden. Though no official temple was ever built on the site, it is home today to the headquarters of the Church of Christ, along with community facilities such as the Truman Railroad Depot, the LDS Visitor Center, and the United National Peace Plaza. A small museum is operated on the temple's land, showcasing original foundational markers laid by Smith.
200 S River Blvd, Independence, MO 64050, Phone: 816-257-0275
© Independence Center
Independence Center is a 1,032,000-square-foot shopping mall in Independence, originally opened to the public in 1974. The mall is Kansas City's second-largest mall behind the Oak Park Mall, attracting 12 million visitors each year. It is anchored by stores such as Dillard's, Macy's, and Sears. More than 100 retail stores are showcased throughout the mall, including women's, men's, and children's stores such as Forever 21, H&M, American Eagle Outfitters, and Victoria's Secret. Young visitors can enjoy time at the region's largest indoor children's play area, which is home to a full-size two-story carousel. Restaurant options at the mall range from full-service restaurants such as the Barrel and Vine Tavern to popular quick-service chains such as Auntie Anne's, Noodles and Company, and Gloria Jean's Coffees.
18801 East 39th St S, Independence, MO 64057, Phone: 816-795-8602
13.The Ginger House
© The Ginger House
The Ginger House is a unique museum that is dedicated to the life and career of famed dancer and actress Ginger Rogers and her mother, screenwriter and producer Lela Rogers. The museum preserves the family's Independence home, which has been designated as an Historic Landmark by the City of Independence and converted into a living history museum. Visitors can explore the craftsman-style bungalow, which served as the family's residence for four years surrounding Ginger's birth in 1911. Exhibits on display include a gown worn by Rogers to the 1967 Academy Awards, along with a sewing machine that Lela used to create vaudeville dresses for her daughter. The museum is open to the public April through September for self-guided and guided tours.
100 W Moore St, Independence, MO 64050, Phone: 816-833-1602
14.V's Italiano Ristorante
© V's Italiano Ristorante
V's Italiano Ristorante was originally opened in 1963 as V's Cafe by Vita and Jay Totta, showcasing delicious Italian family recipes. In 1972, the restaurant was expanded to its present location and configuration, showcasing a gorgeous 150-seat dining room and a beautiful wood arbor featuring grape vines planted by Totta's father Tony Barber. Diners can enjoy excellent Italian specialties such as veal parmesan, chicken lemonata, veal shank osso bucco, and local seafood cioppino. Pasta specialties like fettuccine alfredo and cannelloni florentine are also served up, along with Kansas City strip steaks, prime rib au jus, and classic filet mignon. Thin-crust and gluten-free pizza selections include low-calorie health-conscious versions.
10819 E US Hwy 40, Independence, MO 64055, Phone: 816-353-1241
Vivilore is a delicious upscale restaurant in Independence's Englewood Art District, owned and operated by sibling duo Cindy Foster and Whit Ross. The restaurant is named for the Latin words for "life" and "story," emphasizing the community atmosphere of dining and cuisine. Excellent modern American cuisine options are served up throughout the week, including elegant entrees like New Zealand rack of lamb with honey mint jelly, Tennessee whiskey-glazed beef tenderloins, fish and avocado tostadas, and French-cut ribeye steaks with sweet bourbon glaze. At lunch, diners can choose from hearty sandwich selections like pastrami reubens, New England-style lobster rolls, catfish po'boys, and grilled vegetable sandwiches.
10815 E Winner Rd, Independence, MO 64052, Phone: 816-836-2222
16.Dixon's Chili Parlor
© Dixon's Chili Parlor
Dixon's Chili Parlor is an historic restaurant in Independence that dates all the way back to a chili street cart opened in 1919 by Vergne Dixon in the city's downtown district. The chili cart gained national publicity following a 1952 visit by President Harry S. Truman, which was featured in Life Magazine and earned the chili a designation as Dixon's "Famous" Chili. A permanent full-service location for the restaurant was opened in the 1960s. Today, the restaurant is owned and operated by Terri Totta Smith, serving up its famed customizable chili platters, which can be prepared over spaghetti or beans or as part of tamale spreads. Toppings range from ketchup and sour cream to grated cheddar cheese or jalapeno relish.
9105 E US Hwy 40, Independence, MO 64055, Phone: 816-861-7308
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16 Best Things to Do in Independence, MO
- The Bingham Waggoner Estate, Photo: Bingham-Waggoner Historical Society
- The Harvey M. Vaile Mansion, Photo: Vaile Victorian Society of the Vaile Mansion
- The Harry S. Truman National Historic Site, Photo: NPS Photo
- The National Frontier Trails Museum, Photo: The National Frontier Trails Museum
- The Midwest Genealogy Center, Photo: The Midwest Genealogy Center
- Community of Christ International Headquarters Temple and Auditorium, Photo: Community of Christ
- The 1879 Chicago and Alton Railroad Depot, Photo: Andrea Izzotti/stock.adobe.com
- Leila's Hair Museum, Photo: Leila's Hair Museum
- 1859 Jail, Marshal's Home and Museum, Photo: 1859 Jail, Marshal's Home and Museum
- The Truman Courthouse, Photo: gnagel/stock.adobe.com
- The Church of Christ Temple Lot, Photo: biker3/stock.adobe.com
- Independence Center, Photo: Independence Center
- The Ginger House, Photo: The Ginger House
- V's Italiano Ristorante, Photo: V's Italiano Ristorante
- Vivilore, Photo: Vivilore
- Dixon's Chili Parlor, Photo: Dixon's Chili Parlor
- Cover Photo: spiritofamerica/stock.adobe.com