#50 – Union Station
30 W Pershing Rd, Kansas City, MO 64108
Features: Science museum, planetarium, beautiful architecture, restaurants, etc.
Good for: Families, history buffs, architects.
Tip: Grab happy hour at Pierpont’s.
Union Station is a 103-year-old, historic train station in the heart of Kansas City. In addition to its role as a functioning train station, Union Station now hosts a science museum, a planetarium, a model train display and more.
About Union Station
Union Station has some of the best architecture in the city. The wondrous, Beaux-Arts style building was finished in 1914.
The main hall of the station was once filled with enough beautiful mahogany benches to hold up to 10,000 people. Some of the benches still adorn the building. The complex also included restaurants, a cigar store, barber shop, railroad offices and more. Today, the Grand Hall’s 95-foot ceiling, three 3,500-pound chandeliers and the six-foot wide clock hanging in her central arch.
In 1933, four unarmed FBI agents, escorting fugitive, Frank Nash, were shot by Kansas City gangsters. The event would be known as the Kansas City Massacre, and helped lead to the arming of all FBI agents.
In rail’s prime, the working train station accommodated hundreds of thousands of passengers each year. It is estimated that one million travelers (mostly soldiers) passed through Union Station in Kansas City during WWII.
As passenger rail popularity declined, Union Station closed in the 1980s. It sat empty and in disrepair until 1996, when renovation was funded through public tax. Today, Union Station receives no public funding, and is supported by admission and theater tickets, donations and facility rentals.
What to do at Union Station
Today, there are many activities to enjoy at Union Station.
Science City – A wonderful science museum for children.
Planetarium – An interactive astronomy center with public shows and night sky viewing.
Exhibits – Recent exhibits have included Mummies of the World, Dinosaurs Unearthed and Titanic.
Eat – Union Station has two restaurants and a coffee shop, including Pierpont’s, (which has a great happy hour).
Mail a letter – Union Station has a large USPS center.
KC Rail Experience – Watch dozens of model trains race around the tracks, year round.
Catch a train – Union Station is still a working train station with two trips to St. Louis and one trip to Chicago daily.
Union Station during the Holidays
My favorite time to visit Union Station is in December. The whole building, inside and out is decked out with lights, trees, wreaths for the holidays. The model train display also expands and becomes festive during this time, too.
There are additional activities for children during the holidays at Union Station. They can write and send a letter to Santa, ride a mini train or see the real Southern Holiday Express Train bring Santa, Mrs. Claus and elves to the Station.
Regardless of the time of year you visit, Union Station is entertaining and awe-inspiring. xx, Libbie.