AAA Magazines

Tank Trip: What to do in Independence, Missouri

The Truman home has been preserved so well that on tours today it appears as though Harry and Bess have just stepped out for a walk. Photo by Shelley L. Dennis/

Independence may appear to be just a suburb of Kansas City, but one of its most famous citizens held it in high regard. In fact, President (and onetime AAA sales agent) Harry Truman referred to this city as “the center of the world.” Embrace Truman’s hometown, where presidential and pioneer history come alive alongside charming shops and flavorful cuisine. 

What to do

Independence had already played a significant role in American history before becoming the home of our 33rd president. As a frontier town along the Missouri River in the 1800s, it was a gateway to the West via the Oregon, California, and Santa Fe trails. The free National Frontier Trails Museum, reopening early this year at a new location in the Truman Memorial building, tells the story of these overland routes.

Taking over the museum’s former space in the Waggoner-Gates Milling Company building, the Missouri Model Railroad Museum is scheduled to open in spring 2024 to showcase railroad memorabilia and working model trains.

Man aboard a wagon pulled by 2 horses.

Mule-drawn wagon tours with Pioneer Trails Adventures showcase Independence landmarks and history. Photo courtesy Pioneer Trails Adventures

Take your own journey into the past on a mule-driven covered wagon tour with Pioneer Trails Adventures. You’ll be treated to entertaining oral history while seeing landmarks like the 1859 Jail Museum, which once held outlaw Frank James, Jesse’s older brother. Various tours are available and reservations are required. Adults, $15–$40.

Mural showing Native Americans and American settlers inside the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum.

Explore the former president’s life and political career at the Harry S Truman Presidential Library and Museum. Photo courtesy

Delve deeper into the former president’s life at the Harry S Truman National Historic Site. The modest house offers a peek into the simple life Truman and his wife, Bess, enjoyed before and after his presidency. Admission is free but requires a ticket from the site’s visitors center.

And at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum, explore exhibits that chronicle his evolution from farmer to politician. Learn about the thinking that went into some of the difficult decisions he made. Adults, $12.

Just as Truman was known to briskly walk about town, you can stroll on designated trails to gain more insight into the city, including the Truman Historic Walking Trail, the Missouri Mormon Walking Trail, and the African American Historic Sites of Independence walking trail.

You may also like: These Midwestern presidential homes and museums celebrate some of our nation’s greatest leaders

Where to shop

A pair of ice cream sundaes on the bartop at Clinton’s Soda Fountain.

Belly up to the bar at Clinton’s Soda Fountain for sundaes and shakes served with a heaping of nostalgia. Photo courtesy

Community events are often held among the redbrick buildings of Independence Square, home to Clinton’s Soda Fountain. A 14-year-old Truman worked his first job in this building. Try what’s said to have been his favorite, a butterscotch sundae with chocolate ice cream, while perusing souvenirs. At Under the Awning, close to the square, the shelves overflow with home decor, gifts, and wellness products.

Where to eat

Interior of Ophelia’s Restaurant.

The steak, seafood, and chicken dishes at Ophelia’s Restaurant, which overlooks Independence Square, are among diners’ favorites. Photo by Karen Gibson

Choosing between the grilled salmon and the crab mac-and-cheese at Ophelia’s restaurant is an agonizing decision. At Vivilore, dine on ribeye with sweet bourbon glaze in a picturesque courtyard. When you’re finished, stop by the adjoining art gallery.

Where to stay

Exterior of Woodstock Inn Bed & Breakfast.

Built as a home in 1894, the Woodstock Inn Bed & Breakfast features European-themed rooms. Photo by Karen Gibson

Be close to everything at the centrally located Woodstock Inn Bed & Breakfast. The 1894 home converted to an inn features European-themed rooms. Rates start at $129. Enjoy the lodge-style decor of Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center, where you can stroll a 1.2-mile trail around a lake behind the property. Rates start at $150.

Be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol.

You may also like: 

Follow us on Instagram

Follow @AAAAutoClubEnterprises for the latest on what to see and do.

Read more articles

You'll find more of the articles you love to read at AAA Insider.

Travel offers & deals

" "

Hot travel deals

Get the latest offers from AAA Travel’s preferred partners.

" "

Travel with AAA

See how we can help you plan, book, and save on your next vacation.

" "

Entertainment savings

Save big with AAA discounts on tickets to your next adventure.

" "

Travel with confidence

Purchase travel insurance with Allianz Global Assistance.

back to top icon