You’ll find both historic charm and modern-day fun in Independence, the county seat of Buchanan County. This community of about 6,000 people dates back to June 1847. That's when city founders decided to name it after the upcoming Independence Day holiday. Today, Independence has more than one reason to celebrate, and more than one place to throw a great event.
1. Buchanan County Tourism Visitors Center
The former Chicago Rock Island Depot and the Illinois Central Depot has been restored and is now home to the Buchanan County Tourism Visitors Center. In the depot, open from May through October, it’s easy to envision life in times past as a traveler on the railroad.
2. Independence Day Sites
3. Wapsipinicon Mill
The Wapsipinicon River flows through the center of town, with the Wapsipinicon Mill located on the riverbank. Built about 150 years ago, this iconic, six-story grist mill is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. When the river cooperates, it is open for tours.
4. Heartland Acres
The history of American agriculture is told at Heartland Acres, located just off Hwy 20. You'll need plenty of time to see everything at this Silos and Smokestacks site. The museum’s summer hours are 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
5. Independence Motor Speedway
If you like fast cars and powerful engines, the excitement happens on Saturday nights at the Independence Motor Speedway, located at the Buchanan County Fairgrounds. Racing season runs through mid-September.
6. Buchanan County Fair
Country music, livestock judging, 4-H exhibits, dock dogs, and more. No wonder they’re counting the days until the Buchanan County Fair. Don't miss this annual, county-wide gathering.
7. Amish Country
Drive north from Independence toward the tiny village of Hazleton, and you’re likely to see signs of the nearby Amish farming community. Take a cruise down Amish Boulevard and be cautious of the buggy traffic. Or pick up a map of Amish Country and go shopping at the area's country stores.
8. Fontana Park and Interpretive Nature Center
If the natural world is your favorite habitat, don’t miss Fontana Park and Interpretive Nature Center, located nine miles north of Independence. Explore the hiking trails along Otter Creek or enjoy live exhibits of Iowa wildlife.
Whatever you choose to do in Independence, you'll be glad that you visited this friendly Iowa community.
Photo of the Buchanan County Tourism Visitors Center was contributed by the author.