Jon Marzette is a designer, illustrator, DJ, and podcaster based in Kansas City, MO. He likes supporting good people who do great things for the community. He can be found at The Peanut every Wednesday eating hot wings.
I must admit—I didn’t know much about Independence prior to my Labor Day Weekend getaway with my girlfriend, Ann. Luckily, she was somewhat familiar with the area, so we had a bit of insider info! I love new experiences, and in the time of COVID-19, any sort of adventure can really go a long way.
Comfortable & close to home
A convenient staycation for Kansas City locals, Independence is less than 20 minutes from our place in midtown KC. We drove straight to the very wholesome and quaint Woodstock Inn Bed & Breakfast. Neither one of us had stayed at a bed & breakfast before, so we were truly walking in blind. Shortly after pulling into the parking lot, we were greeted by Debbie, the proprietor of the Inn. She was so warm and welcoming, helping us feel right at home. We chose the English Spa suite, complete with vintage wallpaper and a jacuzzi tub. It was cozy and had everything we needed for a weekend away from home.
Ann had done a little research beforehand and discovered a popular restaurant, V’s Italiano Ristorante. This place has low ceilings, dim lights, and an air of romance and history. Perhaps the most charming thing about the restaurant were the plaques on the wall with the names of couples who had gotten engaged while dining there! We had a delightful meal with amazing service. The Friday-night batter-fried lobster special and prime rib were both delicious. The highlight of the evening was meeting the owner, who is still cooking at age 89! We will definitely be back.
We wanted to continue our night, so we headed to the Historic Independence Square for a drink at 3 Trails Brewing. The energy was great, and the people were kind. The outdoor seating area was a nice way to make some extra room for people during COVID-19 restrictions. The beer selection was honestly overwhelming (in a good way), and after savoring a flight, we headed back to our bed & breakfast to wrap up our first night.
The smell of bacon and eggs began to waft through the Inn on Saturday morning. We rolled out of bed to find the most welcoming spread of coffee and food downstairs. We hadn’t had a feeling of community in a long time, so being able to sit down and talk with other couples was refreshing. After the wonderful meal, coffee, and a shower, we started our first full day in Independence.
We went back to the Square to check out the Saturday morning farmers market, where we stocked up on treats such as homemade kettle corn and strawberry jam. Then, we took Debbie’s advice and waited for the Pioneer Trails Adventures tour. As we stood near the corner of the square, we heard the clip-clop of two mules leading a covered wagon for our tour. The guide was in full Western costume, and he was a total hoot. We climbed into the covered wagon, and our guide had obviously done this many times before, because his lines were razor sharp! We learned a lot of history in just 15 minutes! I highly recommend this experience.
After our tour, we ventured to an Independence staple: HiBoy. It is exactly what you’d think of when you hear the phrase “old Midwest fast-food diner burger joint”. We hit the drive-through and, in true old-fashioned style, ate the burger and fries in the car before we began our next adventure.
Fine dining & mini golf
Our afternoon visit was to the Bingham-Waggoner Estate, situated on nearly 20 acres of unique Independence history. Famed Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham once resided in this spacious estate. We got a quick history lesson via a short video, and then we began the actual tour. The place is a pinnacle of 19th-century history, and the grounds were beautiful.
We had a little bit of time before our dinner reservation, so we headed to an iconic Independence mainstay, Cool Crest to play a quick round of miniature golf. Don’t ask me how it went … I’m still a little bitter that I lost! It’s a must for families or couples looking for some friendly competition.
After a jam-packed day, we returned to our home base, the Independence Square. We wanted a relaxing change of pace and decided to grab a few drinks and a snack at the Courthouse Exchange. They have a welcoming outdoor space, and we enjoyed some of the most delicious fried pickles we’d ever had! By the time we finished, it was time for dinner.
Ophelia’s Restaurant came highly recommended and was just a hop and skip away from the Courthouse Exchange. Luckily, they were offering a three-course meal with wine pairings. I couldn’t tell you the last time we had a multi-course meal, so I was stoked to make a return to fine dining instead of our regular take-out dinners or home-cooking. We enjoyed a peach caprese salad, crab and lemon pasta, and a raspberry lemon cheesecake for dessert. It was the perfect ending to our day.
Fun & games & history
For our final day, we explored a few more places that had been on our radar. We headed to Independence Center and spent some time checking out the District Jungle. If you have kids, this is a can’t-miss activity for families in Independence. The place is equipped with first-class safety equipment and has a variety of climbing opportunities.
Our next two locations had us diving deep into more Independence history. Our first stop was the 1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home & Museum. This historic building is just off the Square, and reading about some of the outlaws that were kept there was quite the experience.
Our following stop was the far more luxurious Vaile Mansion. If you’ve ever seen any spooky haunted-house movies, then this mansion will give you the spooks. We saw in the welcome book that rapper Tech N9ne had recently visited to shoot an upcoming music video! Our tour guide was dressed in period costume and told us about the history and architecture of the home.
After taking in so much information, we wanted to recharge. What better way to take a break than with some wine?! Top Hat Winery, a family-owned business on the Square, boasts wine so delicious that we left with two bottles!
What break isn’t complete without some food? If you’re in the KC area, you know everyone has their own opinion about barbecue. We decided to check out A Little BBQ Joint for lunch. If you can imagine your uncle’s garage on a Sunday afternoon with the grill smoking right outside, that’s exactly what this place is like. We indulged in a variety of barbecue staples, but the burnt ends were our favorite menu item.
Our last stop of the evening had to be the one and only home of the 2019 Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, Arrowhead Stadium. Just rolling into the parking lot had us feeling like we were back in February again (oh, what a time that was!).