Newsletter Exclusive: Union Station Culture Hop!

Learn More About the History of Union Station

Photo Courtesy of Visit KC

When you think of Kansas City, you might think of the Chiefs or the Royals, you might think of the Western Auto sign or any number of things that just make you think of home. One thing that is probably close to mind for a lot of longtime Kansas City residents is Union Station. It's one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city, and it is jam-packed with exhibits, attractions, restaurants, and more for all of us to enjoy. We'll dive into the history of this Kansas City institution, and let you know all about what Union Station has to offer.

Union Station History

Union Station has a storied history in our city, with the original plans for the station beginning after a flood in Kansas City destroyed the previous station, the Union Depot, in the West Bottoms. After over 10 years of planning and construction, Union Station opens up to the public on October 30th, 1914. With the station newly opened, Kansas City was in the perfect position to take advantage of the popularity and prevalence of railroad traffic during WWI and through the early 20th Century. Union Station continued to host hundreds of thousands of passengers every year, up until the mid-50s, when airline travel started to become the preferred method of traveling in the United States.

In 1972, Union Station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, marking it as a protected structure, and providing the benefits of being on the National Register. In the following year, traffic drops to 32,842 passengers for the whole year, a sharp decline from the hundreds of thousands of passengers the station had entertained in the years prior.

Many years later, in 1996, voters in both Kansas and Missouri voted to approve a bi-state tax that would help restore and redevelop Union Station, including the addition of a science museum that would eventually become Science City. In 1999, Union Station reopened with many of the features that we enjoy today.

Attractions, Exhibits, and More in Union Station

Maybe you have to step into Union Station to catch a train on the Amtrak line, but more than likely you are there to see an exhibit or attraction within. Out of all of the exhibits in Union Station, Science City is the most impressive without a doubt in this writer’s humble opinion. With tons of interactive exhibits for children to enjoy, this is one of the best family-friendly spaces to enjoy in the city, and hopefully encourages your young ones to explore the wonderful world of science.

Following along with the theme of science, the Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium is another way for the whole family to enjoy some science-themed entertainment. The planetarium provides guided tours of the stars, astronomy programs, and even laser light shows in the evenings paired along with hugely popular musicians like the Beatles, Queen, and Michael Jackson!

Calling all model train enthusiasts! Union Station is home to a massive model train display, with over 8,000 square feet of trains and displays. When Christmas starts to roll around as well, the display grows even larger, nearly doubling in size, so make sure to check back when the snow starts to fall!

For all you movie fans out there, the Regnier Extreme Screen Theatre is a must-see on the lower level of Union Station. Featuring a massive, five-story tall, and 75-foot wide screen, the Extreme Screen Theatre is perfect for the latest blockbuster, or an old classic. You can check out what’s coming up soon by viewing showtimes here!

Union Station also features an exhibition space that hosts different traveling exhibitions yearly. The exhibit that is currently showing is Maya: The Exhibition, which covers the history of the Mayan people, and their impact on the world today.

If you end up visiting Union Station and get hungry, no worries, you don’t even have to leave the building to have some fantastic culinary delights. There’s the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for those looking for a sweet treat, Parisi Coffee for a caffeine fix, and Harvey’s Restaurant and Pierpoint’s Restaurant to stop and sit down for a while to enjoy a great meal.

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