Independence Travel Guide
Independence, Missouri, is a city of some 115,000 and the seat of Jackson County. It is located on the western edge of the state and along the Missouri River. Independence is one of the major tourist stops in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area, largely because of its historical importance.
The area where Independence now sits was once trod by the Osage and Missouri Indians. With the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, it became part of the United States, and Lewis and Clark stopped to pick fruit at the future city’s location in 1804 on their way to the Pacific. The city was founded in 1827 and called “Independence” in honor of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. It grew quickly due to its location at the furthest point up the Missouri River that commercial vessels could safely travel. Independence soon became a center of the fur trade and the starting point for migrating west on three of the Old West’s most famous trails: the Oregon, the California, and the Santa Fe.
Things to see and do in Independence
Learn about Independence’s key role in the settlement of the American West at the National Frontier Trails Center. This unique educational center introduces you to life on the California, Oregon, and Sante Fe Trails via artifacts and written accounts from the time.
At 217 North Main Street, visit four Old West buildings at once: a jail dating from 1859, where Frank James was once incarcerated, the home of a local Marshall, a single-room schoolhouse, and a local history museum.
Tour the Bingham-Waggoner Estate. It was built in 1855, owned at one time by an artist named Caleb Bingham, and then acquired, in 1879, by the proprietor of the Waggoner-Gates Milling Company. The house has an impressive twenty-six rooms.
Stop by at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. You will quickly notice the gigantic badminton birdies, called “Shuttlecocks,” on the museum lawn. Inside, you will find a rare collection of imperial Chinese and other Asian artwork, besides European, American, and Native American works. In the Kansas City Sculpture Park outside, you will find numerous bronze statues.
Tour the Truman Presidential Library and Museum, where you can see Harry Truman’s desk, learn about his life and presidency, and see the very spot he and his wife Bess are buried. Also consider stopping by the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site, where Truman once lived, and taking a “Truman tour” of sites throughout town he frequented while living in Independence.
Summers are hot in Independence, with July highs averaging 90 degrees Fahrenheit, while winters are moderately cold, with January highs averaging 41 degrees. The are receives 50 inches or rain and seven inches of snow per year.