Monday, August 19, 2013

Union Station, St. Louis City

1820 Market Street
St. Louis, MO 63103

Amenities: paddle boats, fish to feed, restaurants, museum


To be honest, I wasn't expecting a whole lot out of Union Station - I hadn't been there for 7 years (since I worked downtown). The only reason we went down to check it out was so I could have a "U" location for this blog. BUT, I was pleasantly surprised. We spent 2 hours here and could have spent more but my 3 year old needed to get home for a nap.

We rode the Metrolink from Shrewsbury to Union Station, so my daughter could ride a "real" train. She really enjoyed the trip down on the train, and the metrolink stops right outside of Union Station so it's just a short walk up a flight of stairs and you're there. You have to pay to park at Union Station, so depending on how many are in your group, you might pay less by riding the metro (it's $2.25/ride for adults, kids 5 and under are free, and ages 5-12 are $1.10/ride).

Union Station Entry from Market Street side
When we got to Union Station, we first headed inside, and the ladies at the welcome desk offered a St. Louis coloring book and crayons to my 3 year old daughter. We had lunch in the food court area upstairs (the food court is at least half empty but we could choose form Sabarro Pizza, Charleys, Subway and a couple other locations). After lunch we went back outside to the pond out front and rode the paddle boats - they had life jackets for the little ones (and any adults who choose to wear one). The paddle boat operator who got us in the boat said the pond is 4 feet deep. We paddled around the lake for awhile and saw fish (koi mostly) and some aquatic turtles - including the biggest aquatic turtle I've ever seen! The paddle boat operator told me this turtle - named George - has been living in the pond at Union Station since 1991!

Food court inside Union Station

paddle boat lake

"George" - He's been in the lake at Union Station since 1991
After the boats we spent quite a while feeding the koi fish in the pond. These fish are CRAZY! When they saw that we had food, they piled on top of each other and fought for the pellets. We got splashed by the fish several times while feeding them. The food is available in vending machines right by the lake, 25 cents for a handful. If you need change there is a change machine inside Union Station right by the visitor desk.

Back inside the station there are coin operated rides for children on the second floor (the pony one didn't work and - of course - that was the only one my daughter wanted to ride). And a little farther is the Railroad Memories museum. This store front would be interesting to spend time looking through, but alas, not for a 3 year old. Throughout the empty storefronts inside Union Station there are other history displays as well. Also check out the walking tour with plaques around the station with pictures of the history of Union Station. At the back of the station there are a couple of photo op spots - a painting of platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter and a model caboose.

While you're at the back of the station be sure to check out the grand hall upstairs in the hotel. This is the hall that originally greeted train riders when Union Station opened. Quite impressive! You can also do a walking tour around the station for a peek into its history.

Back downstairs there's a caricature booth, a spinning thing to drop coins in and watch them go around (you know you can empty your change purse in these when you have a preschooler!), and everyones favorite, the Fudgery. They do a show every so often, complete with songs and audience participation - and of course after the show you get to sample some fudge.

So while Union Station has seen better days as a mall/tourist destination, there's still some fun activities for you and your family here.

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