Arts & Culture - City of Independence Itinerary

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6 1827 Log Courthouse

4 Historic Independence Square


Victorian Charm & Black History Independence, MO, is a city with centuries of history. Discover its Victorian past at a meticulously preserved mansion and a unique museum with an unexpected specialty. There’s more to explore at historic sites that honor black history and Independence’s hometown president, Harry S. Truman. 1) Begin your Independence getaway by checking into a local hotel. Options include the Waldo Guest Cottage, a charming and private spot near the Harry S. Truman Home, and the historic and cozy Woodstock Inn Bed & Breakfast, built in the 1890s. 2) Make your way to the Vaile Mansion to take a tour of the magnificent 31-room Victorian estate.

Harvey and Sophia Vaile built their stunning residence in 1881, and ever since, it has been a pillar of the city’s architecture. On the tour, you will learn about Sophia’s untimely passing and stories from the time when the home served as a sanatorium in the early 20th century. Don’t miss the elaborate details throughout the mansion, from intricate ceiling artwork to the nine marble fireplaces and period furnishings. 3) Keep the Victorian vibes rolling at Leila’s Hair Museum. The only museum of its kind in the world, this local gem displays more than 400 wreaths and 2,000 jewelry pieces made from human hair, most of which date back to the 19th century. An Independence staple since 1986, Leila’s is a must-see museum for Victorian-era history buffs. 4) For lunch, grab a gooey grilled cheese and a sundae at Clinton’s Soda Fountain on the Historic Independence Square. Formerly Clinton’s Drug Store—where Truman held his first

1 Harry S. Truman Home job—this authentic soda fountain is a sweet spot to chill out after a morning of exploration. 5) Also on the Square, the Historic Truman Courthouse offers tours of the courtroom where Truman once presided. Find more Truman history at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, one of only 14 presidential libraries in the nation. As you peruse the exhibits, you will learn about Truman’s role in desegregating the US Armed Forces. 6) Continue learning about Independence’s history at the 1827 Log Courthouse, Jackson County’s first government building. Built by Sam Shepard, a slave, this structure operated as the only courthouse between Independence and the Pacific Ocean for 40-plus years. In the 1930s, Truman held court here. 7) Wrap up the day with dinner at Courthouse Exchange, a staple on the Square since 1899. Savor a hearty meal in the below-ground dining room, or get comfortable on the breezy patio during the warmer months. I NDEP ENDEN C E I T I NE R A R I E S | C U LT U R E




Family Trees & Pioneers Independence is the proud home of an impressive family history library and a plethora of pioneer history. As the kick-off point for iconic westward trails, our city will immerse you in its pioneering spirit and provide you with all the tools you will need to track your own ancestry. 1) Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so make it count at Main Street Coffee House with a handcrafted latte and quiche. Then, come prepared to learn more about your roots at the Midwest Genealogy Center, the country’s largest freestanding public family history library. With more than 750,000 on-site resources—from newspaper

archives and census data to address directories and history books—MGC will help you uncover your past and find interesting details about your ancestors.

than 2,600 first-person trail accounts, including intimate diary passages and letters. Other exhibits feature genuine covered wagons, trail artifacts, and an educational film.

2) Now that you have begun the journey to discovering your own lineage, learn more about Independence’s storied past aboard a mule-drawn wagon ride with Pioneer Trails Adventures. During the tour, your enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide will show off the city’s most important historic sites. You will also hear tales about the brave pioneers who began their westward journey in Independence— the starting point of the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon trails. If you are in town during Labor Day Weekend, celebrate our pioneer history at the annual SantaCaliGon Days Festival.

4) Before dinner, take a tour of the BinghamWaggoner Estate, an 1852 home that is often considered the jumping-off point for Santa Fe Trail. On the expansive grounds, you will even see the wagon swales left by the thousands of pioneers who started their expedition to the west. Before the City of Independence transformed this 19.5-acre estate into a museum and park, it housed Civil War artist and local politician George Caleb Bingham and later the Waggoner family, owners of a nearby flour mill.

3) Next, enjoy a fresh sandwich or soup at Dave’s Bakery & Deli. Then, visit the only museum in the country that is dedicated to sharing the stories of the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon trails. The National Frontier Trails Museum displays more

5) Round out your day with an outdoor chuckwagon dinner organized by Pioneer Trails Adventures. With live banjo music and a campfire to set the stage, you will be fully immersed in the pioneer history of Independence.


1 Midwest Genealogy Center

210 W. Truman Rd. Independence, MO 64050 816-325-6279, (800) 748-7323

2 SantaCaliGon Days Festival


2 Puppetry Arts Institute


Explore Englewood

Embark on an artistic adventure in Independence’s booming historic arts district. Along the way, you will experience hands-on activities, diverse galleries, and top-notch American cuisine in an unexpected setting. 1) Start your day exploring the Englewood Station Arts District with breakfast at Englewood Café. This old-school diner cooks up classic comfort meals such as a ham and egg platter and biscuits and gravy. Don’t forget to save room for a slice of homemade pie. 2) Tap into your creativity at the Puppetry Arts Institute, where you can see puppets from all over the world and even make your own. Then, head across the street to Pottery Art, offering a variety of ceramic pieces to paint and take home.

Fun Fact: A film production company that was once headquartered in the Englewood Station Arts District offered Walt Disney his first job in animation.

3) After getting in touch with your inner artist, indulge in a burger, crispy tater tots, and a cold glass of root beer at Mugs-Up Diner. Then, see the exciting updates in the works at the Englewood Arts Center. Once remodeled, the building will showcase homegrown art and host classes for glass blowing, painting, ceramics, woodworking, neon, cooking, and performing arts. 4) If you visit in May or June, spend the afternoon at the Third Friday Art Walk, when arts and crafts vendors line Winner Road. At any time of year, the boutiques and galleries in this revitalized district

display an impressive selection of art. Stroll through the shops to purchase one-of-a-kind gifts and decor pieces. 5) Finish off the trip with a drink at Wine Down 109, an intimate wine bar that also serves beer and cocktails. Then, walk over to Vivilore, an upscale American restaurant that doubles as a home decor boutique. Take a seat in the stunning courtyard garden if the weather permits, or settle into a cozy spot inside surrounded by a curated collection of art.

Please note: Independence historic sites including the Vaile Mansion and Bingham-Waggoner Estate are open for public tours between April 1 and October 31.