Courtesy of Union Station Kansas City
Union Station is one of Kansas City's key historical landmarks.
Kansas City history meets its present at the tracks
When they were younger, Kansas City natives Ed and Jan Guthrie traveled by train on a regular basis. The Overland Park retirees recently attended a train show and watched a film about the trains of their youth. While enjoying the film that day, both were stunned to see a young Ed Guthrie on the screen—part of a 1930s group of school kids shown boarding a train at Union Station.
The Guthries continue to enjoy visits to restored Union Station for myriad activities suited to adventurers of all ages. A day at Union Station might start with a stop at the information booth, where history brochures and maps are available, and breakfast at the Harvey House Diner to take time to plan the visit. The diner has reopened in its original location in the southeast corner.
Breakfast clientele on a Sunday morning might include informally dressed tourists and locals in their Sunday-best dining after early services. Harvey House Diner is one of three restaurants in the Grand Hall. Varying in operation times and prices, you’ll enjoy the fare at Pierpont’s and The Bistro at Union Station. The latter provides the best place for people-watching as seating juts over the Grand Hall.
People-watching at Union Station comes highly recommended by Tammy Gay, a Washington, D.C. federal employee who attends events at the station three or four times a year. Favorably comparing D.C.’s Union Station to ours, Tammy notes how much she enjoys the juxtaposition of history and vitality. “When you walk in, you realize just how much there is to see,” Tammy says.
Another frequent visitor, Lorrie Gordon, banker and lifelong Kansas City resident, says that “seeing the grandeur and history is worth a visit, even to the bathrooms” at the end of Sprint Festival Plaza. Lorrie also recommends visiting at Christmas when local service organizations donate and decorate trees, which are auctioned for charity, and seeing the traveling exhibits, which are exceptional.
The Post Office at Union Station is a Gordon-family favorite “because you can purchase unusual stamps as gifts for the kids in the family, unlike at the branch facilities.” A blue cow resting on her pedestal beside the Post Office entrance greets you as you enter.
Across the hall from the Post Office, just outside the entrance to The Chocolate Factory, you will find one of several model trains. Watch volunteers operate this one or run one yourself in Science City, the science museum located at the station. A third track is located just outside the KC Rail Experience in an area reminiscent of an old train shed. There, visitors can also see an actual engine and a 1950s observation car. Statues of various rail employees tell their story as you step across the sensor at their feet. Exhibits about railroad history line the walls and various kiosks.
Be sure to make time for the Gottlieb Planetarium. Children between three and seven can enjoy a first experience of astronomy on Thursday’s Half-Pint Space Adventure. The rest of us can settle back for enthralling presentations, the newest of which is a kid-friendly, thirty-five minute cartoon planetarium show, Larry Cat in Space, about a playful cat that stows away on a trip to the moon. One of the station’s most fascinating offerings is the five-and-one-half story Regnier Extreme Screen showing 3-D movies.
Entertainment and education beckon the minute you step inside. How about a couple of holes of golf on a putting green? Get an introduction to industrial engineering, and stroll through the nature center. How about exploring the subterranean environments of public works and investigate how everything works? Try your hand at cracking the case in the crime lab. Just when you think you have seen it all, slip into the Irish Museum and Cultural Center next to the ticket office.
To do Union Station justice, it will take more than one day. All Missourians are invited to enjoy one of Ed and Jan Guthrie’s favorite places. They will be the first to suggest that the best way to arrive is by rail. The Southwest Chief, service between Chicago and Los Angeles; the Ann Rutledge, service from Kansas City to Chicago; and the Missouri Mule, service from Kansas City to St. Louis operate daily. Get the complete experience—take the train.
Union Station is located at 30 West Pershing Road at Kansas City. Call 816-460-2020 or visit www.unionstation.org for more information.