No doubt about it: Kansas City is passionate about its pro sports teams! The NFL Chiefs and MLB Royals regularly draw whole crowds to their stadiums, both located just 15 minutes from historic Independence, Missouri.
If you are attending an evening game in Arrowhead or Kaufman, a day trip to Independence is totally doable and a lot of fun. There is something for every taste ! Here are some of our favorite ways to spend the day, all of which can be done with enough time to get to the big game.
Trace the Truman Trail
Independence is nationally recognized as the place where the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, grew up and began his political career. And as you can imagine, there are plenty of places here to follow in his footsteps!
The first stop for many is the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. The resort is in the final stages of a multi-million dollar renovation and is expected to open later in 2021, just in time to mark the 75th anniversary of Truman’s assumption of the presidency. This large library houses Truman’s archives, artifacts and experiential exhibits related to his life and presidency. His yard is the final resting place of Truman, who preferred private library service over a formal burial in Washington, DC. Family members also buried here include Truman’s wife, Bess; their daughter, Marguerite; and Marguerite’s husband.
If you also want to get a better feel for Truman before he takes over the country’s highest office, a stop at Harry S Truman National Historic Site should be on your list. It actually includes a few buildings in Independence, like the Harry S. Truman House, where Harry and Bess lived before and after their time in Washington. Across the street and also part of the historic site is the Noland House, where Truman’s aunt and uncle lived. Entrance to both is free, but you must have a ticket, which you can get at the Visitor Center.
The historic courthouse where Truman was a judge is now the permanent seat of the Jackson County Historical Society; Guided tours of the office and courtroom where Truman once worked and presided are available.
Pro tip: Look out for large navy blue signs depicting a silhouette of former President Truman near downtown; these indicate areas of interest for those who wish to see additional places that were near and dear to him. There’s also a self-guided walking tour that includes other stops along a 2.7 mile route – perfect if you want to take your pre-game steps!
During the pioneer days of the 1800s, Independence was literally the crossroads of the West. The Oregon, Santa Fe, and California trails all originate in the city, and thousands of people have passed through there in search of land, fortune, and, at times, infamy. You can learn more about these indomitable people and Independence’s role in the westward expansion at the National Frontier Trails Museum, one mile south of downtown.
The museum is a gem, filled with original journals, diaries and exhibits, all of which give you a firsthand idea of what the road west really looked like over 150 years ago. It was tough, rough and difficult, with a number of hardships endured along the way. You will leave with a real sense of appreciation for the pioneering efforts, and perhaps a little gratitude for our way of life today.
Pro tip: Train enthusiasts won’t want to miss the 1879 Chicago & Alton Depot. The station, located on the museum grounds, has been rebuilt and moved from its original location by a group of volunteers who offer tours of the historic space.
Take a self-guided architecture tour
Independence’s historic residential neighborhoods are a must-see for architecture lovers. Of course, the city center has many beautiful historic buildings and houses, so much so that the area around Truman’s house has been designated a historic district. Take the time to stroll around the Bingham-Wagoner Estate. Traced in 1827, mural artist George Caleb Bingham once made his home there.
The three-story Victorian Vaile Mansion, north of downtown, is also worth a look, with its marble fireplaces, rich walnut woodwork, and onyx accents. Built in 1881 for a wealthy businessman and his wife, today it is open for tours and special events, including ghost hunting expeditions!
Independence has put together a full walking tour with many other architectural landmarks. From log cabins to handcrafted creations and everything in between, you are sure to be delighted by the different historical styles you will see in the city.
Stroll (and shop!) On historic Independence Square
Maybe you want to get a retail solution before you go to the stadium. There, no problem! The historic Independence Square was the center of action for the pioneers who moved west and is still the beating heart of the city. The historic Truman Courthouse is at the center of the neighborhood where you’ll find galleries, boutiques and shops, many of which are housed in multi-story buildings. Foodies will rejoice at Gilbert Whitney & Co., located on the site of a merchant of the same name which dated back to 1833. Here you will find everything to store your kitchen, from gadgets and tools to linens and dry goods, including coffees. , specialty teas and jams. There is also an excellent selection of cheeses and wines!
Tivona Naturals, with its full line of natural body products scented with essential oils, is the perfect place to stop and refuel if you’re looking to indulge yourself. We love their body butter and their soaps.
Bottom line: The Square is the best stop to really get a feel for what independence is like before you get into the ball game.
Hit the Farmers Market
If you’re going to a Royals game in the evening on a Saturday, another great place to visit is the Independence Uptown Market. Here, you can score farm-fresh snacks and browse artisanal items including jewelry, textiles, and even natural pet treats. The market, which takes place on Saturdays from May to October, is located right next to the square.
Have a craft beer
If you’re a microbrewery fan, your ideal pre-game routine might include samples from a local brewery. If so, head to 3 Trails Brewing. This fun place has a variety of beers on tap, including IPAs, stouts, and even sour in season. Flat breads are available for snacks, and there’s an adjacent art gallery in the neighboring space. 3 Trails (named, of course, for the three pioneer trails that originated in Independence) also offers flights in case you just can’t decide which beer you’re in the mood for – just take sips of each!
Are you the designated driver? No problem. Instead of a beer, indulge in a Polly’s Pop! This locally made soda comes in a variety of flavors, from root to black cherry, grape, and even pineapple. Since Polly’s is made in Independence, many places – including 3 Trails – proudly serve it as a tasty and nostalgic non-alcoholic alternative.
Have a great pre-game meal
Maybe the idea of making a “meal” out of loaded nachos, hot dogs, popcorn and peanuts isn’t your idea of an acceptable meal. We understood! That’s why a detour to Independence before attending a Royals or Chiefs game is a great idea, especially for foodies. Vivilore, which also houses an extensive collection of antiques and a home goods store, offers incredible steaks, seafood and other classics with flair and finesse. The food is gorgeous, as is the space, which is located in the historic Englewood Station Arts District – more on that below.
Ophelia’s restaurant in the square serves modern American cuisine with a Cajun accent, with favorites including shrimp and oatmeal, fried chicken, and gourmet mac and cheese.
Pro tip: Ophelia’s also has a charming inn with spacious rooms, great amenities and even a common area to meet over tea or coffee located above the restaurant. If you are looking for a place to spend the night after the game, the hostel is a great option!
Admire the art
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the culture before the baseball or football game, head straight to the historic Englewood Station Arts District in Independence. This stretch of 1940s buildings, anchored in the old Englewood Cinema, has a unique charm and funky feel all its own. Galleries, studios, boutiques and cafes dot the neighborhood, giving you the perfect opportunity to browse and maybe purchase the perfect new accent piece for your home! Englewood Station also hosts special events throughout the year, including art walks and open doors in the galleries.
Find out about all the great things to see, do and experience in Independence, Missouri – before the big game and beyond! – check out the city’s online visitor guide, a first-person pre-game experience, or visit our Independence content here.