Elayna Fernández is a Latina storyteller, award-winning story strategist, and an avid Student of Pain, known worldwide for her bestselling books, life-transforming programs, and award-winning blog. Named one of the Top Latina Influencers in the USA, Elayna provides the training, support, and encouragement moms need to become authors, course creators, and digital entrepreneurs. Her philosophy is “BE Positive and You’ll BE Powerful!”

I fastened my seatbelt and took a deep breath. I couldn’t believe I was in the air again! Traveling is one of my passions, so being able to do so with my daughters is always a joy. We were on our way to Independence, MO, for a weekend getaway as a family.

In these unpredictable times, we seem to need a great deal of courage to pursue doing what we love. Gratefully, I’ve found that we can do almost anything as we do it safely and put our focus on finding the blessings in the journey.

Our flight from Texas to Missouri was short and safe. Elydia, my 10-month-old baby, was fascinated to witness the take-off for the first time, and after that, she ended up sleeping through most of the trip. Flying is so different today—wearing face coverings and staying physically distant—and yet our little ones remind us to appreciate this modern miracle.

A child watches ducks swim in a pond in Waterfall Park in Independence, MO
Waterfall Park

Waterfalls & the jungle

As we stepped outside the airport, we breathed in the pure, fresh air, and a clear, sunny blue sky greeted us.

We had driven through Missouri before and had wished we could make a stop or two, so we were all excited to visit Independence and seize the opportunity to explore this time.

We got settled at Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center, just minutes away from everything we planned to enjoy! The atmosphere inside was elegant and serene. The views of nature at Waterfall Park just outside the hotel made our stay infinitely more pleasant, too.

Eliana Fernández poses in front of District Jungle at Independence Center in Independence, MO
District Jungle

Our first night in town, we drove to the Independence Center to check out District Jungle, an indoor jungle-themed play area with climbing walls and ropes courses. It proved to be an ideal experience for my 7-year-old, Eliana, who appears to have an unlimited source of energy.

Burrito bowl, chips, and churros on a table at Paleteria El Chavo in Independence, MO
Paleteria El Chavo

We worked up quite an appetite for dinner at Paleteria El Chavo, which unexpectedly connected me to a little piece of my childhood. When I was growing up, everyone told me I looked like La Chilindrina from the popular Latin American TV show El Chavo del Ocho, because I was (and still am) petite. We noticed that certain items on the menu are actually named after characters in El Chavo! Isn’t that adorable?

Paleteria El Chavo offers appetizing Mexican food, fresh fruit juices, and delicious warm churros. Their burrito bowls are the best we’ve ever tasted, too.

Elayna Fernández and her daughters browse the Uptown Farmers Market in Independence, MO
Uptown Farmers Market

Farm fresh & nature views

That night, I had the best sleep I had had in months, and I woke up rested and ready for the day. The hotel beds were so heavenly that my kids had a hard time leaving them.

When we were finally out the door, we headed to the Uptown Farmers Market, where we found a rich variety of fruits, vegetables, and homemade goodies.

Elayna Fernández and her daughters eating watermelon at the Uptown Farmers Market in Independence, MO
Uptown Farmers Market

Afterward, it was so wonderful having a lakeside family picnic at Waterfall Park, surrounded by wild ducks, squirrels, and diverse kids safely having fun at the playground. Amidst the stunning scenery and the playful sounds of the children, I felt a sense of calm come over me. I take my responsibility to protect my children very seriously, and yet, I don’t want them to miss out on life. Being in nature is a healing experience that greatly impacts our mood, focus, creativity, intuition, and spirituality. And who would’ve thought it could help combat mommy guilt, too?

Elayna Fernández and her daughters put on a puppet show at the Puppetry Arts Institute in Independence, MO
Puppetry Arts Institute

Puppets & hummingbirds

Next on our schedule was a visit to the Puppetry Arts Institute. It was the most surprising and surreal experience. We had entered an unassuming building, only to find a world filled with treasures. Masterfully crafted puppets from all over the world are carefully and beautifully displayed throughout the shop.

A string puppet on display at the Puppetry Arts Institute in Independence, MO
Puppetry Arts Institute

The doll heads, popsicle sticks, and paints on make-your-own-puppet workstations juxtaposed with the table of “to-go” puppet kits illustrated how the world has had to pivot today to make sure we keep on living—and creating.

My 16-year-old daughter, Elyssa, who loves theater and wants to go into filmmaking, was mesmerized by the intricacy of the costumes. She couldn’t stop taking pictures!

We are advocates of diversity, inclusion, and representation, and we learned a new perspective that day from our guide at the Puppetry Arts Institute.

Elayna Fernández and her daughter Elydia at the Puppetry Arts Institute in Independence, MO
Puppetry Arts Institute

“I know Mexican people don’t walk around wearing serapes and sombreros, but otherwise, how can anyone tell we are representing their culture?”

Her eagerness to be inclusive and respectful with culturally costumed puppets was inspiring and eye-opening, as I had never thought of this dilemma.

Eliana had the privilege to put on a puppet show, and it turns out she is a natural! It was a proud moment for both of us. You only get 18 summers with your children, and I’m so grateful that we could savor this one.

Eliana Fernández at George Owens Nature Park in Independence, MO

Wide-open spaces & a celebration

After a quick rest at the hotel, we hopped back in the car and drove to George Owens Nature Park, where their annual Hummingbird Festival was taking place.

The park is beautiful and we learned so much about the ruby-throated hummingbirds as they flew all around the native plants and flowers. We enjoyed our walk amongst what seemed like a million feeders, and there were even crafts for the kids.

After the park, we were in the mood for some miniature golf. The Cool Crest Family Fun Center offers four 18-hole miniature golf courses, and it was a sweet bonding time for my little ones.

Our Saturday night ended with celebrating Elydia’s 11th month of life. We enjoyed a delicious meal at BD’s Mongolian Grill, where we built our own stir-fry bowls with raw ingredients and watched as they were cooked over a big grill.

Elayna Fernández and her daughters pose in front of a Pioneer Trails Adventures wagon in Independence, MO
Pioneer Trails Adventures

Independence history & a safe return

On Sunday, we were most excited to visit the 1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home & Museum. We had heard all about this place the day before during our mule-drawn Pioneer Trails Adventures City Limits Tour.

Before the tour, Eliana and Elyssa had a chance to feed the mules apples from the farmers market, although Elydia wasn’t quite ready to get so close yet.

Eliana Fernández pets a mule in Independence, MO
Pioneer Trails Adventures

On the tour, we loved hearing the history of the Independence Civil War battles and stories about outlaws Frank and Jesse James. The facts were interesting, and the storytelling was outstanding! It was as if we were actually transported to pioneer times.

By the time we made it to the 1859 Jail, we were excited to see Frank James’ cell, as it had been painted in our minds by our tour guide’s stories.

Elayna Fernández and her daughter Elydia at the 1859 Jail, Marshal's Home & Museum in Independence, MO
1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home & Museum


The preserved brick building, owned by the Jackson County Historical Society, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We were fascinated to learn all about what the jail was used for, what the inmates were like, and discover more about the time period. The cells were unfurnished and plain, except for Frank James’ cell. Upstairs, we saw the jailer’s room and understood why they do ghost tours!

After going back to Paleteria El Chavo once more (we couldn’t resist those fresh-squeezed juices) and driving around beautiful Independence, Missouri, it was time to say goodbye. We safely boarded our plane back to Dallas, Texas, with full hearts and renewed spirits.

Our county has a mask ordinance, so don’t forget to bring a face covering when you visit our historic sites! Click here for more visitor information.