No doubt about it: Kansas City is passionate about its pro sports teams! The NFL’s Chiefs and the MLB’s Royals routinely draw full crowds at their stadiums, both of which are located only 15 minutes from the historic city of Independence, Missouri.
If you’re taking in an evening game at either Arrowhead or Kaufman, a day trip to Independence is completely doable and a whole lot of fun. There’s something there for everyone to enjoy! Here are a few of our favorite ways to spend the day, all of which can be done with plenty of time left over to get to the big game.
Trace Truman’s Trail
Independence is nationally recognized as the place where the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, grew up and began his career in politics. And as you might imagine, there are plenty of places here to follow along in his footsteps!
The first stop for many is the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. The complex is in the final stages of a multimillion-dollar renovation and is expected to open later in 2021, just in time to mark the 75th anniversary of when Truman became president. This large library houses Truman’s archives, artifacts, and experiential exhibits related to his life and presidency. Its courtyard is the final resting place of Truman, who preferred a private service at the library rather than an official funeral in Washington, D.C. Family members also buried here include Truman’s wife, Bess; their daughter, Margaret; and Margaret’s husband.
If you’d also like to get a better feel for Truman before he took over the nation’s highest office, a stop by the Harry S Truman National Historic Site should be on your list. It actually includes a couple of buildings in Independence, like the Harry S. Truman Home, 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 from the Visitor Center.
The historic courthouse where Truman served as a judge is now the permanent home of the Jackson County Historical Society; guided tours of the office and courtroom where Truman once worked and presided are available.
Pro Tip: Be on the lookout for large navy-blue signs featuring a silhouette of former President Truman near downtown; these indicate areas of interest for those wishing to see additional spots 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 get your steps in before the game!
In the pioneer days of the 1800s, Independence was literally the crossroads to the West. The Oregon, Santa Fe, and California trails all originated in town, and thousands of people passed through on their way to seek land, fortune, and, sometimes, infamy. You can find out more about these indomitable folks, and Independence’s role in 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 feel for what traveling the road west was really like 150-plus years ago. It was tough, rough, and difficult, with any number of hardships endured along the way. You’ll leave with a true sense of appreciation for the pioneers’ efforts, and perhaps a bit of gratitude for our way of life today.
Pro Tip: Train enthusiasts won’t want to miss the 1879 Chicago & Alton Depot. The railroad station, located on the museum’s grounds, was reconstructed and relocated 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 areas are true show-stoppers for architecture buffs. Of course, downtown has many wonderful historic buildings and homes, so much so that the area around Truman’s home has been designated a historic district. Make time to stroll by the Bingham-Waggoner Estate. Plotted in 1827, mural artist George Caleb Bingham once called it home.
The three-story Victorian Vaile Mansion, north of downtown, is also worthy of a look-see, with its marble fireplaces, rich walnut woodwork, and onyx accents. Constructed in 1881 for a wealthy businessman and his wife, today it’s open for tours and special events, including ghost-hunting expeditions!
Independence has put together a comprehensive walking tour with many other architectural standouts. From log cabins to craftsman creations and everything in between, you’re bound to be delighted by the different historic styles you’ll see in the city.
Stroll (And Shop!) the Historic Independence Square
Perhaps you want to get in a retail fix before heading to the stadium. No problem there! Historic Independence Square was the center of action for pioneers heading out West and is still the city’s beating heart. The Historic Truman Courthouse is at the center of the district where you’ll find galleries, boutiques, and shops, many housed in storied buildings. Foodies will rejoice in Gilbert Whitney & Co., located at the site of a mercantile by the same name that dated back to 1833. Here, you’ll find everything to stock your kitchen, from gadgets and tools to linens and dry goods, including specialty coffees, teas, and jams. There’s also a terrific cheese and wine selection!
Tivona Naturals, with its full line of natural body products scented with essential oils, is the perfect place to stop and stock up if you’re looking to treat yourself. We love their body butter and soaps.
Bottom line: The Square is the best stop to really get a feel for what Independence is all about before you take in the ball game.
Hit The Farmers Market
If you’re attending an evening Royals game on Saturday, another terrific spot to check out is the Independence Uptown Market. Here, you’ll be able to score some farm-fresh snacks and peruse handcrafted items including jewelry, textiles, and even natural pet treats. The market, which runs Saturdays from May through October, is located just off the Square.
Grab A Craft Brew
If you’re a microbrew fan, maybe your ideal pregame routine includes some samples from a local brewery. If that’s the case, head to 3 Trails Brewing. This fun spot offers a variety of beers on tap, including IPAs, stouts, and even sours in season. Flatbreads are available for snacking, and there’s an adjacent art gallery in the space next door. 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 small sips of each!
Are you the designated driver? No problem. Instead of a beer, indulge in a Polly’s Pop! This locally crafted soda comes in a variety of flavors, from root beer to black cherry, grape, and even pineapple. Since Polly’s is made right in Independence, many places — including 3 Trails — proudly serve it as a tasty and nostalgic nonalcoholic alternative.
Have A Terrific Pregame Meal
Perhaps the idea of making a “meal” out of loaded nachos, hotdogs, popcorn, and peanuts isn’t your idea of acceptable dining. We get it! That’s why a detour to Independence before catching a Royals or Chiefs game is a great idea, especially for foodies. Vivilore, which also houses an extensive antique collection and home goods shop, offers incredible steaks, seafood, and other classics with flair and finesse. The food is beautiful as is the space, which is located in the historic Englewood Station Arts District — more on that below.
Ophelia’s Restaurant on the square serves up modern American cuisine with a Cajun accent, with favorites including shrimp and grits, fried chicken, and gourmet mac ’n’ cheese.
Pro Tip: Ophelia’s also has a charming inn with spacious rooms, nice amenities, and even a common area to gather for tea or coffee located on top of the restaurant. If you’re looking for a space to spend the night after the game, the inn is a terrific option!
Admire The Art
If you’re looking to cram in some culture before the baseball or football game, head straight to Independence’s historic Englewood Station Arts District. This stretch of 1940s buildings, anchored by the old Englewood movie theater, has a unique charm and funky feel all its own. Galleries, studios, shops, and cafes dot the district, providing the perfect opportunity for you to browse and perhaps buy the perfect new accent piece for your home! Englewood Station also hosts special events throughout the year, including art walks and gallery open houses.
To learn much more about all of the fantastic things to see, do, and experience in Independence, Missouri — before the big game and beyond! — check out the city’s online visitors guide, a first-person pregame experience, or visit our Independence content here.