Our top getaway spots need to check a lot of boxes: rich history, culture and art, a good vibe, great places to grab a bite to eat, and, of course, plenty of opportunity for outdoor adventure!
The city of Independence, Missouri, has you covered in all of these areas, especially when it comes to getting out and about. From excellent hiking and biking to birdwatching and even practicing your putting, there’s a lot here for any recreation enthusiast to enjoy and explore. Here are a few of our favorite ways to spend some active time in the great outdoors while visiting Independence.
1. Hit The Little Blue Trace
Hands down, one of the best places to get a breath of fresh air while checking out the city of Independence is the Little Blue Trace Walking & Biking Trail. The 15-mile crushed rock and asphalt trail located just east of town is beloved by bicyclists, joggers, and walkers, and once you experience it for yourself, you’ll quickly understand why! It’s got great amenities, including restrooms, shelters, picnic areas, and several emergency call buttons along the trail to make sure your adventure is both comfortable and safe. While portions of the Little Blue Trace feel downright rural with its rolling meadows and fields, keep in mind that it winds through a suburban area. You likely won’t find yourself completely alone, which ultimately boosts the trail’s friendliness factor and grants peace of mind. Parking is a snap at the Hartman Heritage Center in Independence. Additional parking is available at several points along the trail, making access super convenient.
Then, there are the views. As its name would suggest, the trail hugs the Little Blue River, making for a scenic trek no matter your distance. In the summer, much of the surrounding area is filled with blooming wildflowers, and there are some other neat points of interest, including several old train trestles you’ll pass under. Wildlife, deer, wild turkeys, geese, and even snapping turtles all frequent the area! Whether you pack a picnic and bring it along for a leisurely all-day, out-and-back activity or are just looking to get a few quick miles in before breakfast, this memorable trail has you covered. And four-legged friends are also welcome, as long as they are leashed. (Make sure you bring clean-up supplies for them as well; your fellow trail users will thank you!)
2. Unplug And Unwind At George Owens Nature Park
Another terrific opportunity to get up close and personal with nature awaits you at Independence’s George Owens Nature Park. Here — just a few minutes away from the city center — you’ll find a suburban haven that includes more than 80 acres of wooded forest, rain gardens, and hiking trails. If you’re lucky during your visit, you’ll also spot plenty of critters who call the park home — including the gorgeous residents of the park’s butterfly garden. Adding to the fun, there are two well-stocked fishing lakes, a family picnic area, and an on-site learning center that houses several aquariums and rotating exhibits that focus on natural wonders.
This park is the perfect one-stop place to unplug, relax, and find peace in reconnecting with nature. It will provide just the break you need if you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the daily grind.
3. Go Golfing!
If you’re ready to hit the links, Independence has you covered as well. There are a number of excellent public courses with tons of tee times available both in and around the city. No matter if you’re a novice or an expert, you’ll want to make the time to work in a round (or two!).
Drumm Farm Golf Course, nestled in Independence’s rolling hills, offers golfers two choices for their day on the links. The par-72 Champion Course is designed for experienced golfers, and the Executive Course is the ideal place to brush up on or further refine your golfing skill and technique.
WinterStone Golf Course, which opened to the public in 2003, has an intriguing backstory. It’s part of a development project that actually began with a limestone mine. While the mine is still there, WinterStone was added to the property, and what an addition it is! Its wooded setting includes elevation changes, towering trees, lakes, and creeks, all of which add to the aesthetic experience of the quintessential golf outing. Lessons and senior rates are also available at this challenging course.
The Greg Norman-designed Stone Canyon Golf Course, with its consistent accolades and appearances on “best of” lists and rankings, is just southeast of town and is a favorite of both local and visiting golf enthusiasts. The landscape, which incorporates large stone outcrops, is stunning, as are the views of downtown Kansas City from the fairway.
Bottom line: There’s no shortage of great greens where you can get your golf fix in while you’re visiting Independence!
4. Fish Near The Waterfall
Waterfall Park, located in the heart of Independence, features a paved mile-long walking and bike trail that loops by a man-made waterfall, making it the perfect selfie spot. Also tucked away within its confines is an excellent playground that’s a favorite with young locals and visitors alike, and anglers should take note: The park’s 18-acre lake is a terrific fishing spot. If you want to combine your love of the outdoors with some retail therapy (or you need any essentials for enjoying the great outdoors), a Bass Pro Shop location is adjacent to the park. There you’ll find all the gear you could ever need for your next outdoor adventure!
5. Visit A Birders’ Paradise
Serious birders know that Independence has a hidden gem when it comes to observing many different types of fine feathered friends. The Missouri Department of Conservation acquired the 34 acres that comprise the Lipton Conservation Area in 1997, and the area adjoins Independence Parks and Recreation’s Santa Fe Trail Park. While this area is small, with a short half-mile hiking trail, it passes its way through thick brush, making it a great place for prime birding! Summer will feature the usual suspects, but it’s during the migration season that you’ll spy a greater variety of birds, including warblers, vireos, sparrows, and thrushes. This spot has even earned a place on the Great Missouri Birding Trail, so bring your binoculars and plan to spend a bit of time scouting the different species that make Lipton either their permanent home or temporary stopover spot.
6. Peruse The Farmers Market
While you won’t necessarily be communing with nature per se, Independence’s open-air Uptown Market is definitely worth a visit. Here, you’ll find a wide (and delicious!) selection of locally farmed produce, meat, and eggs just steps from Historic Independence Square. The farmers market is housed in a newer building with large doors that are kept wide open when the weather is nice. The market is open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays starting in May, and June through September it is open Wednesdays 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., too. In addition to produce, you’ll also find homemade jams and jellies, honey, and arts and crafts. More than five dozen vendors offer their wares for sale at Uptown, and a stop here is a great way to enjoy the fresh air — not to mention the equally fresh fruits and veggies!
7. Get Your Steps In
What if getting out into the woods or on the trail isn’t your cup of tea, but you still want to enjoy some outdoor time during your visit to Independence? No worries — just head to the Square! Historic Independence Square is the perfect place to explore, and it definitely makes for an adventure all its own. This is the city’s true heart and has been for generations. The Square was a meeting point for pioneers coming through on their way out West back in the 1800s. Today, anchored by the Historic Truman Courthouse, it remains the city’s best-known and most beloved gathering place with free tours taking place Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. In and just off the Square, there’s a whole host of restaurants, cafés, boutiques, and shops, many housed in historic buildings. You’ll have no trouble getting your steps in on the Square! It’s also a romantic spot for a cozy date night.
There’s another option for power walkers in Independence: one that seamlessly blends outdoor time with an interesting dose of American history. Former President Harry S. Truman loved to walk throughout his hometown of Independence and kept a famously brisk pace. To follow along in the footsteps of our nation’s 33rd president, consider taking the Truman Historic Walking Trail. Set your own pace along the 2.7-mile-long tour, which includes 44 sites that highlight important places in Truman’s life. Each is marked with a plaque; learn more and download a brochure (PDF).
To learn much more about all of the fantastic things — outdoors and otherwise — to see, do, and experience in Independence, Missouri, check out the city’s online visitors guide or visit our Independence content here.