Twelve Reasons Why Independence Should Be Your Heritage Holiday Hometown

The Truman Home, shown on a snowy day in Independence, a true Winter Wonderland.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me. . . .” As a little girl, I wondered if anyone really was lucky enough to open a new present for 12 days! Sadly, that pattern never materialized in my home, so we only opened gifts on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. For those who’d like to expand the excitement, Independence offers a different present for 12 days – and more!

1. Are you frustrated at the challenge of finding one-of-a-kind gifts for those hard-to-please people on your list? I’ve nailed down some real winners of presents in the quaint, family owned shops around the historic Square. Think Swedish delicacies such as ginger cookies in Scandinavia Place for my part-Swedish husband, a stained glass hummingbird sun catcher for my mom in the antique mall, freshly wrapped home-made salt water taffy or minty fudge from the Taffy Shop (a piece or two for me, a piece or two for the gift bag), locally bottled salsa and artisan cheese at Gilbert and Whitneys and frontierish looking snowmen at Be Here Now. The list is endless! Decorated up in their finest, shop the stores, and dine in one of the fragrance-filled restaurants on the historic Independence Square during the Holiday Open House, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 4-5.

Visit Santa's Workshop at Bass Pro in Independence.

2. Get your Santa Fix early for kids and grandkids at Santa’s Winter Wonderland in Bass Pro Outdoor World, beginning Saturday, Nov. 5, and running through Dec. 24. Score a free 4×6 photo of your child on Santa’s lap, play games, make simple crafts, watch trains and more. Details online at www.basspro.com.  Santa also holds court across the street at Independence Center Mall from Nov. 5-Dec. 24. This year, Saturday, Dec. 3 is the morning that kids can dine with Santa at the Breakfast with Santa, free for Kids Club members.

3. Do handcrafted gifts and décor make your heart beat a little faster? Then don’t miss the two-day “Best Little Arts and Crafts Show” on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18-19 at the Sermon Community Center. What might you stumble onto as you wander three floors of booths? How about fleecy handcrafted scarves,  cheery wreaths, floral arrangements and Christmas trees,  grapevine decor, silver jewelry, spices, woodworking finds, folk art and aromatic candles.

4. If you miss the Square Holiday Open House, you can also visit with Santa, hop on a fire engine red, mule-drawn sleigh to circle the historic Jackson County Truman Courthouse, join in cookie decorating, face painting and other children’s activities, listen to strolling carolers, watch dancers and sing along with your favorite carols at the Independence Square Christmas Lighting on Saturday, Nov. 19.

A reenactor is shown during Spirit of Christmas Past Heritage Homes Tour at Vaile Mansion.

5. Here’s one of my favorites. Tour the festively decorated 1859 Jail and Marshal’s Home, Bingham-Waggoner Estate and Vaile Mansion during the Spirit of Christmas Past Heritage Homes Tour. Doors open for tours on the Friday after Thanksgiving and don’t close till Dec. 30 (except Dec. 23-25). See them in the magical glow of early evening hours during the Sunday, Dec. 4, Twilight Tour. We are pleased to announce that these homes have been included (again) in a nationally published book on decorating historic homes for Christmas. Chances are you’ll never see anything quite like the decorated Bingham-Waggoner Estate and Vaile Mansion. The volunteers spend hundreds of hours transforming these landmarks into magical fairylands. The decorated Chicago and Alton 1879 Depot also offers tours, but on a more limited schedule.

6. When your wallet is feeling a little pinched but the holidays still have days to go, turn your kids loose to play carnival games, jump on a moonwalk, get their faces painted and visit with Santa all morning at the Mayor’s Holiday Carnival on Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Sermon Community Center. As a bonus, it’s a freebie and no advance reservations are needed.

7. Get into the mood of a frontier-style Christmas at the National Frontier Trails Museum, with refreshments, covered wagon rides, festive decorations and gift shop specials during the  Dec. 3 Holiday Kickoff. Also on Dec. 3, the museum will present a program on “The Real Santa Claus” as historian Jim Beckner, dressed in a Civil War-era Santa suit, tells how modern Christmas traditions began. Learn about Christmas in the West on Dec. 1, 8 and 15 gallery walks. Live period era music and treats welcome families for their Holiday Cheer events on Dec. 10 and 17.

8. Nothing says Christmas more than toys and the Puppetry Arts Institute is staging an original puppet show Treasures from Toyland” on Saturday, Dec. 3, 10 and 17, with two performances each day. If your kids haven’t experience live theater, this is a great introduction.  Or, if history is your thing, stop in at the Truman National Historic Site Visitor Center any day from Nov. 15 through Jan. 10 daily to see a free exhibit, “From Tops to Trains: Toys from the Truman Home.”

9. You can also tip your hat to President Harry S. Truman and his family by visiting his home to hear tales of how the first family celebrated the season Harry referred to as “the Great Home  Holiday,” or plan to catch a special “Christmas at the White House” program at the Truman Library on Saturday, Dec. 10. Visit with Harry at the Library on Nov. 25 and 26 and Dec. 26.

10. What’s a bigger thrill than live entertainment – by kids and for kids? Come along for an enchanting journey into the imagination of “Dr. Doolittle,” the beloved children’s book. The Children’s Performing Theater presents this show Dec. 2-4 and 9-11 at the Sermon Center. For free fun, the Mid Continent Public library has booked  Mr. Stinky Feet on Dec. 1, Jim “Two Crows” Wallen on Dec. 3 and the  Cool Cats and  Santa With a Tune, both slated for Dec. 8. Don’t forget the Community Christmas Concert, featuring hundreds of school children, area choirs and other music at the Community of Christ Auditorium on Sunday, Dec. 4. Free, but donations accepted and proceeds benefit the Community Service League

11. If you’d like your family to focus on the reason for the season, consider coming to a spectacular multimedia event about the life of Jesus on Sunday, Dec. 18, at the Independence Events Center. “The Story” features Max Lucado and Randy Frazee, along with a stellar musical cast including Steven Curtis Chapman, Newsboys, Francesca Battistelli, Natalie Grant, Selah and Anthem Lights. The production will stop in Independence as part of a national tour visiting 13 major markets.  Stunning visuals accompany every song projected on a massive screen encompassing the entire stage.

12. Pamper the winter sports fans in your family during the holidays by planning a night out cheering on the Missouri Mavericks CHL hockey team as they score another goal at the Independence Events Center. And circle Dec, 20-24 and 26-30 on your calendar for another not-to-be-missed outing: family skating in a winter wonderland on the Centerpoint Ice at the Events Center, complete with holiday music, lights and decorations, hot cocoa and skating appearances by Santa.

For a complete listing of holiday events, accommodations and discounts, or to receive one of our holiday brochures, call (800)-748-7323, or go to www.VisitIndependenceForTheHolidays.com.

Written by Janeen Aggen, media relations representative, Independence Department of Tourism.