Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Jackson County, MO

  • Published 2023/05/27

In the western region of Missouri, Jackson County remains a historic spot attracting many visitors to its borders time and time again.

I was one of these visitors, and I can say this county offers more than its historic legacy.

It got its name after President Andrew Jackson and is an integral part of the Kansas City metropolitan district.

It was once the home of the Osage Native American tribe back in the day.

With 18 diverse communities to explore, this county was a delight for me to travel to.

Its county seat, Independence, is notable for its historic establishments, including the Truman Library & Museum.

This is true with its second county seat, Kansas City, and its range of outdoor and indoor recreation, too.

If you’re still with me, read on for the 15 best things to do in Jackson County, Missouri:

Browse through Displays of Collectibles at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

Interior of the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

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In Kansas City, the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures holds the largest collection of historic toys and miniature displays in the whole world.

Established in 1982, this museum has about 93,000 objects up for viewing that I loved browsing through.

Its well-labeled exhibitions offered me a trip to nostalgia.

From dolls to intricate dollhouses with their miniature furnishings, I had many details to pay attention to, which was one of the highlights of my visit.

Noah's ark exhibit in the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

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There’s also a small gift shop onsite that was full of cool items.

It was only a shame I couldn’t purchase them all.

The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures sits along Oak Street.

This museum resides within the University of Missouri Kansas City campus.

Star wars exhibit in the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

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Satisfy Your Curiosity and Intrigue of History at the 1859 Jail Museum

The 1859 Jail Museum was an intriguing visit for me.

This jail museum was once where the third Jackson County jail stood and is now one of the oldest surviving ones of its kind within the county.

This museum was where Frank James resided for about six months.

The unassuming place offered a raw atmosphere to the place, whether from its unrefurbished cell walls or the historical artifacts and documents up for display.

Getting to know about the popular inmates that lived within the jail was also a unique experience for me.

I also got to take a picture of the museum’s mural, which added a nice finishing touch to my visit.

The 1859 Jail Museum is accessible along North Main Street in the city of Independence.

Discover More about Community Living in the Past at the Missouri Town Living History Museum

An immersive historical excursion awaited me when I came by the Missouri Town Living History Museum.

This living museum was a surprisingly interesting stop.

Centered on the Civil War era, this museum sits within 30 acres of rolling hills and astonishing nature vistas.

It features more than 25 buildings from the 1800s that I had a fun time visiting and learning more about.

But perhaps, what I loved most about this spot is its dedication to living history.

During my visit, I got to talk to historical interpreters and even meet livestock animals.

It really felt like I had gone back in time to simple countryside living in Missouri.

The Missouri Town Living History Museum—and all its historic buildings—are on East Park Road in the city of Lee’s Summit.

View the Extensive Collection of Art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Exterior of Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

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The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art brings together a plethora of art examples and artifacts within a well-rounded facility.

At the heart of Kansas City, this museum takes its visitors back 5,000 years in the past.

From contemporary art to ancient and Asian designs, I loved the display of art history everywhere.

Statue in front of Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

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It also has a sculpture park that I loved exploring at my own pace.

One of the best things about this museum is that most of its galleries are free to the public!

You can head over to Oak Street to get to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Shuttlecock sculptures at Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Rachael Martin /

Marvel at the Prairie Habitats at Burr Oak Woods Conservation Area

When it comes to natural areas you can relax in, I highly suggest Burr Oak Woods Conservation Area.

This natural preserve comes with a Nature Center and over 1,000 acres of varied habitats and environmental ecosystems.

Purchased in 1977, this spot brims to the fullest with prairie lands, ponds, and native vegetation.

I found my time here pleasant and relaxing.

I loved traversing the trails and spotting a few wildlife and birds flocking around the area.

The outcrops and aesthetically-placed boulders also offered a wonderful treat.

Come by with your camera and be sure you get a picture of the charming beauty of nature all throughout.

Burr Oak Woods Conservation Area is a Blue Springs staple that sits along Northwest Park Road.

Watch Elks and Buffalos at Native Hoofed Animal Enclosure

Native Hoofed Animal Enclosure is a must-visit if you’re interested in discovering wildlife out in the open.

This fenced enclosure in Lee’s Summit is where many elk, bison, and deer species come to enjoy the pastures.

Though feeding the wildlife onsite is not allowed anymore, I enjoyed watching the animals play around with their flock all the same.

I got to picnic while I was there, and it was a refreshing change to my usual modern itinerary.

This area sits within Fleming Park.

Located along East Park Road, Native Hoofed Animal Enclosure is a magical sanctuary I would gladly visit for a second time if given the chance.

Explore the Grounds and Arboretum of the Vaile Mansion

Exterior of the Vaile Mansion

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Art and architecture come together in an enchanting tale of history and elegance at the Vaile Mansion.

This 1881 mansion is one of the prime examples of Victorian and Second Empire architecture.

It was once the home of Colonel and Mrs. Harvey Vaile.

It has 31 rooms inside, giving it the title of a “princely” house.

Historical marker of the Vaile Mansion

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I liked that the tour of the house isn’t long, and it was as detailed as it could get.

The historic furnishings and ornate decor offer another level of mystery and eeriness to the whole place.

The Vaile Mansion is on North Liberty Street in the city of Independence.

Check Out the War Artifacts at the Lone Jack Civil War Museum

If you’re a fan of local museums like me, then the Lone Jack Civil War Museum might be a good stop for you.

This museum dwells within a 1963 native stone building shaped in a circle.

It features events and objects centered around the Battle of Lone Jack and militia life during this era.

There’s also a cemetery within the property which was also the grounds of the original battlefield.

I especially enjoyed the dioramas displayed within the facility.

The tour was informative too, and I went home with an open heart and a mind reeling with knowledge.

The Lone Jack Civil War Museum is right along South Bynum Road, which is within the city of Lone Jack.

Savor Delectable Craft Beer at Bonehill View Distillery

The old-fashioned Bone Hill View Distillery is one of my favorite spots within my Jackson County list of high-rated stops.

This distillery comes with a tasting room in a rustic sheen atmosphere.

The place had a good assortment of spirits, which came as a pleasant shock to me.

I got to sample a few of the distillery’s best-selling beverages while also enjoying the history embedded within the facility through the pictures hanging within its walls.

The place also hosts live music and entertainment on most nights, so just check in with the distillery’s calendar to catch an invigorating show.

You can head over to South Hudson Street to reach Bone Hill View Distillery.

This distillery is within the city of Buckner.

Go for a Walk along Fort Osage National Historic Landmark

The grounds of Fort Osage National Historic Landmark

The original uploader was Americasroof at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Sibley’s Fort Osage National Historic Landmark was a complete eye-opener for me on Jackson County’s history.

This historical site was once a military outpost in the early 1800s.

Now, it has transformed into a recreational park with an education center focusing on the native flora and fauna within the community.

Its center has an auditorium and even a laboratory.

I appreciated the reenacted tour; it added to the charm of the place.

The well-maintained grounds were also a sight to behold.

I recommend coming by this site at least once while you’re in Jackson County.

Fort Osage National Historic Landmark is on Osage Street.

Practice Your Endurance and Strength at IBEX Climbing Gym

There’s always a reason to have fun and work on your muscles at the same time in the community of Blue Springs.

IBEX Climbing Gym makes sure this is true.

This modern gym facility fuses the usual amenities of a regular gym with over 8,000 square feet of climbing walls.

I got to try out the auto belays and climbed to my heart’s content.

Long story short, it was an exhilarating time, and I got over my fear of heights at the same time!

That’s a double win for me.

There are also yoga sessions available for those wanting to seek inner peace and balance.

IBEX Climbing Gym welcomes every visitor to its modern facility on Northwest South Outer Road.

Meet and Interact with Several Wildlife at The Kansas City Zoo

Exterior of The Kansas City Zoo

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The Kansas City Zoo is an incredible stop, and I’ll tell you why.

This zoo sits within a 200-acre property and boasts over 1,000 animal species within its care.

As its name suggests, it is within Kansas City.

There were informative chats and interactive sessions with the animals, which I particularly had a fun time with.

A koala at The Kansas City Zoo

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From the penguin plazas to the stingray bay, I had the time of my life interacting with the animals within the zoo.

And I’m sure you will too, so add this stop to your must-visit list as soon as possible.

You can drive over to Zoo Drive to reach the marvelous Kansas City Zoo.

Penguins at The Kansas City Zoo

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Chill by the Waterfalls at Winterset Park Nature Area

Laidback and serene—Winterset Park Nature Area is a park of gentle vistas and abundant vegetation.

At only 10 acres, I was surprised by the amount of natural features to see and explore.

Its 0.95-mile trail welcomed me to a meadow of native Missouri flowers and other plants and trees.

But if I had to choose a spot that I consider my favorite, it would have to be the cliffs and rushing waterfalls.

The creek I got to visit was also a nice change of scenery.

Winterset Park Nature Area in Lee’s Summit is an ideal outing for the whole family or a large group.

You can find this park on Southwest Pryor Road.

Flaunt Your Swinging and Aiming Skills at Stone Canyon Golf Club

Along East 39th Street South, Stone Canyon Golf Club stands out with its dramatic topography and landscape.

This public golf course opened in 2009 and has only been one of Missouri’s most recommended courses since then.

Its Greg Norman Signature Design Course was something new to me, but it only added to the overall wonderful experience I had.

Its layout remains iconic because of its outcroppings and rock walls.

I got to challenge myself with the unique hole designs too.

So, come by for a round of golf, and be sure to bring a cart with you for easy navigation.

Stone Canyon Golf Club is in the city of Blue Springs.

Spend Time with Nature at George Owens Nature Park

The waters of George Owens Nature Park

Jon Kraft /

In the city of Independence, George Owens Nature Park offered me the ultimate outdoor getaway.

At 86 acres, this park is open all throughout the year, promising only fun times ahead for solo and group visitors.

It features forests and woodlands with winding trails that I had a great time exploring on my own.

Its nature center was also a worthwhile stop with its educational exhibits and offered aquarium display.

Signage of George Owens Nature Park

Jon Kraft /

I liked the rain gardens and the expanse of native plants and vegetation all around.

The enchanted forest is also worth checking out if you ever come by this place with children.

George Owens Nature Park is off of Speck Road.

Trail at George Owens Nature Park

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Final Thoughts

Jackson County was an all-around gem that I feel lucky to have explored.

From eccentric museums and mansions to nature preserves and parks, I had a grand time learning about the county’s culture and heritage.

Among the list above of the best things to do in Jackson County, Missouri, which attraction will you be visiting first?

I wish you a safe journey ahead!

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