Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Independence, MO

  • Published 2023/02/10

Independence, Missouri, is the setting for several iconic American figures, from the city’s pioneers to former president Harry S. Truman.

While the 33rd president’s birthplace and library are essential to the community of Independence, there is much more to the town than its most famous son.

Independence is ideally located in Jackson County, just outside Kansas City and at the center of the nation’s history.

It has various interesting, unusual, and historically significant attractions.

You can have family fun because of its many one-of-a-kind attractions, events, and arts and entertainment facilities.

Travelers of all ages may experience new things while feeling at home in the sights, sounds, tastes, and experiences that fill this area.

Discover the best ways to spend a day in this picturesque Midwest metropolis without spending a dime.

Here are the free things to do in Independence, Missouri:

Remember a U.S. President at the Truman Home

Facade of the Truman Home

Nagel Photography /

The city of Independence has preserved the house of President Truman to celebrate the legacy of the 33rd U.S. president.

The Truman Home, built in 1867 by his wife Bess’ grandfather, was where they got married and remained when they left Washington.

The Noland Home, where Truman’s aunt and uncle resided, is across the street from the Truman Home.

Truman Home during autumn

James Kirkikis /

Truman formerly served as a judge at this building, which is now the home of the Jackson County Historical Society.

You may get free tickets to the house tours if you register at the tourist center located in the former firehouse.

Retrace the Steps of President Truman at Truman Historic Walking Trail

The Independence community created the Truman Historic Walking Trail in his honor so that others might continue to enjoy his lifelong passion for hiking and learning about the past.

Travel around the city that was so dear to the heart of the 33rd president of the United States.

One of Truman’s favorite things to do was to stroll through Independence, so if you want to learn more about him, you should try it out.

The Truman Historic Walking Trail stations depict the most significant locales in the lives of the former president, his wife Bess, and their daughter Margaret.

They are full of unique architecture and rich history.

A plaque stands at each significant stop along the route, including well-known sights and the residences of Truman’s friends and acquaintances.

Take in the great outdoors while learning about the city, which shaped Truman’s future as a politician in Washington, D.C.

Learn about Local Railroad History at the 1879 Chicago and Alton Depot

Exterior view of 1879 Chicago and Alton Depot

Jon Kraft /

The 1879 Chicago and Alton Railroad Depot is Missouri’s solely restored two-story train depot.

A nonprofit organization started to resist the facility’s demolition and oversaw its complete reconstruction and relocation in 1996.

From 1996 to 2002, the city gradually moved the depot from its original position on East Pacific Avenue to its new location on West Pacific Avenue.

Signage of 1879 Chicago and Alton Depot

Jon Kraft /

As a living history museum, it has undergone restoration to its original state and now welcomes visitors.

The public may access the waiting room, the station manager’s office, and the luggage room on the ground floor.

The upper floor was once the stationmaster’s private house with 19th-century items.

You may take a guided tour or catch special events all year long at the 1879 Chicago and Alton Depot.

1879 Chicago and Alton Depot decorated during christmas

PhotoTrippingAmerica /

Trace Your Ancestry at Midwest Genealogy Center

Are you curious to know if your ancestors were in early Independence?

The Midwest Genealogy Center is the place to go.

If you want to trace your ancestry for free, this is one of the finest locations.

Extensive online archives of original materials such as newspaper articles, census records, and more are available here.

There are librarians available, but if you want to go deeper, you may schedule an appointment with a genealogical specialist.

Starting your quest at the Midwest Genealogy Center is a terrific way to begin researching your family history or to flesh out what you’ve already discovered.

Appreciate the Historic Truman Courthouse

Facade of the Truman Courthouse

Nagel Photography /

Before becoming President of the United States, Truman worked in the Historic Truman Courthouse, now a museum.

The Colonial Revival structure, built in 1836, had its last major repair in 1933 and featured exquisite architectural modifications by George Frederick Waller.

The Historic Truman Courthouse is now a museum dedicated to Truman’s life and career as the Jackson County judge before he was elected.

Statue of Harry S Truman placed outside the Truman Courthouse

Jon Kraft /

There are additional buildings for the Jackson County Historical Society and the local tourism department, as well as offices for the county’s Assessment, Collections, and Recorder of Deeds.

The building’s upper level is an art museum, which features a sizable collection of George Caleb Bingham’s paintings and political cartoons from the area.

Statue of General Andrew Jackson at Truman Courthouse

Nagel Photography /

Celebrate Local Heritage at the SantaCaliGon Days Festival

Independence, the starting point for many hardy settlers on their way west in the 1800s, is celebrated annually at the SantaCaliGon Days Festival.

Every year over 300,000 people make the trip to the Queen City of the Trails to celebrate Labor Day at the region’s longest-running four-day celebration.

The SantaCaliGon Days Festival is Independence’s primary event, but it’s also a celebration of Independence’s tradition, history, and the joy of being a family.

Have a great time this weekend with live music, shopping, eating, and drinking.

Find unique presents at one of the more than 500 stalls devoted to handcrafted goods.

Discover what it was like to sit in the cockpit of a helicopter from the Vietnam War era, then travel back to Main Street in 1849, replete with pioneer actors and traditional pastimes.

Taste the Fresh Air at George Owens Nature Park

Lake at George Owens Nature Park

Jon Kraft /

Since 1977, local families have taken advantage of George Owens Nature Park‘s family-friendly outdoor activities.

A lovely forest covering 86 acres, together with two fishing lakes, hiking trails, and a variety of native flora and fauna, is accessible year-round.

Turtles at George Owens Nature Park

Wirestock Creators /

Visit the rustic nature center and learn about the wildlife in the area through interactive touch tables and new displays that change with the seasons.

Check out the 75-gallon freshwater aquarium or the 150-gallon turtle exhibit.

The opportunities for thrill-seeking here at George Owens Nature Park are limitless!

Hiking trail at George Owens Nature Park

Jon Kraft /

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

After only a 20-minute ride from Independence, Missouri, Kansas City is easy to access if you’re looking for more adventure without breaking the bank.

Home to over 200 fountains, several art galleries, universities, museums, and more, the city offers much to see and do for free.

Learn the History of Money at the Money Museum

Exterior view of Money Museum

Josh Forden /

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City had a significant part in the development of Kansas City, Missouri.

In 1907, the Money Museum opened to shed light on this topic.

How does one go about earning a living?

Why does it keep the world going around?

This museum has exciting and educational exhibits for people of all ages, including those interested in learning about money.

Check out the compelling interactive exhibits while getting an education on the state of the economy, and see if you can lift the gold bar worth half a million dollars.

Don’t leave until the tour ends; you won’t get the whole bag of shredded money as a souvenir!

You may reserve your free tickets in advance through their website.

The Money Museum is 22 minutes from Independence.

Catch Live Music at First Friday in the Crossroads

Downtown Kansas City floods with merchants every first Friday for an event called First Fridays on the Crossroads, 19 minutes from Independence.

Thousands of people from all over the city go to the Crossroads Arts District on the first Friday of every month to enjoy live performances, food vendors, and art galleries.

It’s one of Kansas City’s most well-attended events and one of the many fun things to do in the city that won’t cost you a dime.

Enjoy some tasty treats from a street vendor while you browse the stalls, take in the performances, and shop for unique souvenirs made by local artisans.

During the event, parking might be challenging, although some are available at the TWA Building, located at 1740 Main.

Visit Kansas City’s Famous Fountains

Fountain at Union Station

djr8 /

The first Kansas City fountain was built in the late 1800s to provide a watering hole for the city’s horses and dogs.

Since then, the city has been renowned as the “City of Fountains.”

Over 200 fountains serve as tourist attractions in the modern metropolis.

J C Nichols Memorial Fountain

Wallace Weeks /

Check out the well-known fountains like the Mill Creek Park Fountain, the Crown Center Square Fountain, the Firefighters Fountain and Memorial, and the Henry Wollman Bloch Fountain.

You may also find many smaller, quaint fountains in various areas, which are as lovely.

Night view of the Fountain at Union Station

David Peterlin /

If you want to hit two birds with one stone, the Fountain Basin and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art are in one location.

Explore the City of Fountains!

Fountain at a park in Kansas

Wirestock Creators /

Learn How Hallmark Started at Hallmark Visitors Center

In 1985, the Hallmark Visitors Center opened its doors to the public.

Since then, it has documented its fascinating 100-year history.

It’s the brand you envision when thinking of Christmas postcards, Mother’s Day, and Thanksgiving cards.

While at the Crown Center Complex, take advantage of the free tours and exhibits at the Hallmark Visitors Center to learn more about the company’s past and present endeavors.

In addition to a theater showing a film on the company’s rich history, the museum features interactive displays and exciting artifacts.

Other Hallmark-owned and operated destinations, like the Kaleidoscope and the Coterie Theater, are within walking distance of the Hallmark Visitor Center.

Explore the Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden

Colorful flowers at Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden

Jon Kraft /

You will find the family-owned two-acre Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden within the Kauffman Legacy Park.

Take photos of this gorgeous garden as souvenirs of your trip to Kansas City, 24 minutes from Independence.

This place is ideal for a picnic, with charming fountains surrounded by colorful flowers, vine-covered stone walls, and magnificent bronze statues.

Colorful tassel decoration at Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden

Wirestock Creators /

Since the flowers bloom according to a seasonal cycle, you don’t have to worry about timing your visit.

Some flowers bloom in the winter, while others do so in other seasons.

Fountain at Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden

Jon Kraft /

Let Your Kids Explore Their Imagination at Kaleidoscope

Hallmark manages and owns the free art facility Kaleidoscope, which welcomes children of all ages.

Take the kiddos to the Kaleidoscope when you’re at a loss for Sunday afternoon entertainment ideas.

Children will have a blast discovering their inner artists while sketching, coloring, painting, and playing with engaging displays.

The kids should enjoy making their unique thoughts a reality.

Although leaving your children here while you go out and enjoy the rest of Crown Center might be tempting, you should always check on them.

Worry not, though; Kaleidoscope is enjoyable for people of all ages.

Kaleidoscope is in Kansas City, 21 minutes from Independence.

Take a Stroll around Westport

Before its incorporation into Kansas City in 1897, the Westport area was an autonomous town.

Head to Westport, 23 minutes from Independence, for diverse entertainment.

Discover several fun brewpubs, retro-chic eateries, and DJ bars!

Aerial view of Westport

Tino Bandito /

Trendy boutiques create a fun atmosphere during the day, which is a great time to buy everything you want or need.

Additionally, fun events at Westport feature local musicians, performers, and food trucks.

Explore the Horace M. Peterson III Visitor Center

Next to the American Jazz Museum is the Horace M. Peterson III Visitor Center in Kansas City, 18 minutes from Independence.

This place chronicles the life and legacy of Horace M. Peterson III, a well-known advocate for racial harmony.

Learn about the man who received the highest accolade for promoting racial harmony in America.

Read some of his writings and life at the center, a quick stop you can complete in an hour.

Likewise, you can see the stirring documentary “A People’s Journey” at the Horace M. Peterson III Visitor Center.

Final Thoughts

It’s not difficult to find free things to do in Independence.

Discover a former president’s legacy and vibrant new additions in the lovely city.

Enjoy the free things to do in Independence, Missouri!

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