Independence, Missouri, located just off I-70 near Kansas City, is a place packed with enough to see, do, and experience to delight any visitor. With its charming Historic Independence Square, lovely notable homes, and plenty of presidential history (Harry S. Truman hailed from here, after all!), the city is a great family destination, no matter the time of year.
But Independence also knows how to throw a party, and there are many terrific celebrations each fall. Here are nine of the city’s best upcoming events, festivals, and fall activities. Get ready to mark your calendar!
Indy Pride Glow Walk
Saturday, August 7, 2021
Independence prides itself on being a vibrant place where everyone can live, work, play, and have fun. This sentiment will be front and center at the Indy Pride Glow Walk taking place on August 7. The evening begins at the Englewood Station Arts District, and the half-hour promenade ends on the Square at Liberty Lounge, where there will be live music. The party wraps up with an outdoor movie. Taking part is very enjoyable and supports Independence’s LGBTQ+ community.
While all are welcome to walk at this free event, the Indy Pride Glow Walk’s Facebook page includes information about how, for $20, you can register as a VIP and receive a T-shirt and light-up rainbow flag to make the evening all the more festive!
SantaCaliGon Days Festival
Friday, September 3, to Monday, September 6, 2021
Don’t let the strange name throw you — the SantaCaliGon Days Festival that takes over the Square on Labor Day Weekend is one of Independence’s most cherished traditions, and it is a weekend full of many lively activities! Named to celebrate the town’s heritage as the place where the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon Trails began, this event traces its roots all the way back to 1940, when the event was first held — and featured events including a beard and mustache contest, the Miss Independence pageant, and a pioneer costume contest. Another celebration was held right after World War II, and then the festival didn’t resume until 1973.
In the 47 years since, SantaCaliGon has evolved to become a not-to-be-missed event presented by the Independence Chamber of Commerce. It draws hundreds of thousands of people annually. The festival features various vendors, main stage entertainment, Main Street 1849 reenactments, activities, and live demonstrations that truly bring to life Independence’s pioneer past.
Independence Uncorked Wine Festival
Saturday, September 11, 2021
Independence is blessed with a large number of historic homes and estates. One of the most prominent is the Bingham-Waggoner Estate. Located directly on the Santa Fe Trail in the middle of town, this beautiful home was plotted in 1827. It was home for a time to artist George Caleb Bingham, who is still well known for his Civil War-era murals depicting river life and historic events.
Wine-lovers know that one of the best events held at this gem of a place is Independence Uncorked. The eighth annual wine festival — presented by Edward Jones and hosted by the Rotary Club of Eastern Independence — is one of the largest wine festivals in the state. More than two dozen wineries will offer on-site tastings. The day’s fun will also include art, music, beer, food booths, and wine classes. Admission includes a wine glass and four-bottle wine holder; proceeds go to various national and local charities supported by the Rotary Club. The event’s website has more details on the day that no wine aficionado will want to miss.
Ghouls Night Out
Thursday, October 21, 2021
It might sound scary, but Ghouls (make that Girls!) Night Out is an entertaining celebration right on the Square that combines shopping, food, and costumes for an unforgettable event. Shops and boutiques on the Square stay open a bit later on this Thursday night to accommodate the strollers and shoppers, many of whom don their Halloween finest for the fun. Grab your girlfriends and make plans to prepare for All Hallow’s Eve with a little retail therapy!
Take The Paranormal Path
In the weeks leading up to Halloween, Independence embraces its spooky side, offering tours of its award-winning Paranormal Path, which includes three historic sites reported to routinely host visitors from the other side. Book each separately for the full frightening experience!
First, the Vaile Mansion, a three-story Victorian masterpiece built for businessman Harvey Vaile and his wife Sophia in 1881, is full of ornate decor, marble fireplaces, hand-carved accent pieces, and at least one ghost. After her husband became mired in a financial scandal, Sophia became gravely ill. Legend has it that after Sophia died in the mansion, she never really left! The home also served as a sanatorium for a time, further boosting its mysterious reputation.
The aforementioned Bingham-Waggoner Estate is also purported to be a hotbed of paranormal activity. People say they’ve seen an apparition in a top hat and long coat strolling inside the mansion, and it just might be the spirit of a former occupant, artist George Caleb Bingham.
Finally, the 1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home and Museum, located right downtown off the Square, housed criminals of all sorts through the years. Today, some claim they stuck around in those cell blocks past their sentence lengths.
All three spooky sites tend to book tours quickly in the fall, so be sure to call ahead to arrange your visits.
Leaf Peeping In George Owens
Mother Nature puts on her own spectacular show each fall, so if you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, head to Independence’s George Owens Nature Park. Trails wind their way through more than 86 acres of forests, providing plenty of opportunities to get your steps in, look out for wildlife, and take in the splendor of the brilliant autumn color.
And for the perfect multi-gen visit, mark your calendar for Friday, October 22. That’s when the park hosts its annual Enchanted Forest, a great scare-free alternative to Halloween fun for the littlest ghosts and goblins! Guides lead groups down the paved trail on evening hikes, and stories are enacted during several stops along the way. The event concludes with a hayride.
Courthouse Square Lighting
Friday, November 12, 2021
As fall transitions into winter, there’s great anticipation for the holiday season in Independence. Each year, the Historic Truman Courthouse hosts the city’s lighting ceremony, when the downtown district comes alive with sparkling holiday light and decor! The shops also celebrate, with many installing festive holiday windows. The downtown district is decked in greenery, and carolers and other entertainers help set a joyful tone. And you never know — you might even see Santa himself stop by to help get the Square’s Christmas tree ready for the season! The lighting ceremony has become a cherished Independence tradition, and it’s one you won’t want to miss.
Royals Wind Down, Chiefs Heat Up!
Independence is located just a stone’s throw away from where Kansas City’s two pro sports teams play when they are in town: both Kauffman Stadium (Royals) and Arrowhead Stadium (Chiefs) are about 15 minutes from downtown Independence. Autumn is a terrific time to experience both teams: As the Royals’ post-season outlook begins to take shape, the Chiefs are just kicking off their season. There are plenty of pre-game activities to experience in Independence! Check out this article about the best way to spend the day there before cheering on the Chiefs or Royals.
Events At Cable Dahmer Arena
From monster trucks and semi-pro hockey to musicals and concerts, Independence’s Cable Dahmer Arena has entertainment of all types covered! The state-of-the-art arena seats nearly 6,000 fans and has hosted a multitude of concerts by artists including Miranda Lambert, Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande, Adam Sandler, and Alan Jackson. For a premium experience, VIP suites are also available for all events. The venue updates its event calendar regularly. You’re bound to find an outing you’ll enjoy at the Cable Dahmer.
If you want your fall experience to last all evening — or even through the weekend — no worries! Independence has all sorts of overnight accommodations for visitors. In addition to mid-tier chain hotel options, there are also historic inns, boutique hotels, and bed and breakfasts from which to choose. Check out a selection of all the options here.