Far more than a beautiful train depot, Kansas City’s Union Station is home to exhibits and experiences that will engage both children and adults.
This unique and popular Kansas City attraction is also one of its more historically relevant locations. The impressively large and glamorous Union Station is sure to delight visitors to Kansas City with its family-friendly Science City, fun and fascinating traveling exhibits, theaters, restaurants, and more.
Kansas City Union Station History
Built in 1914 and once a bustling center of rail travel, Union Station is one of Kansas City’s more interesting historical hot-spots. Before the availability and popularity of commercial air travel, this immense, gorgeously appointed station saw millions of people moving through its doors.
The station originally featured 900 rooms covering 850,000 square feet. Travelers could dine, get a haircut or purchase a cigar all without stepping foot outside of the complex, which had its own power plant. In addition to the thousands of travelers it saw each year, the station also used to contain the largest freight and mail shipping building in the country.
As rail travel became less ubiquitous, the number of travelers coming in and out through the station dwindled drastically. Long-time station tenants were forced to shut their doors and find more profitable locations. Eventually, the station closed in the early 1980s and fell into disrepair, facing the threat of demolition many times.
Union Station Renovation
Fortunately for Kansas City residents and city visitors, the station was spared from destruction by the passage of an initiative in the 1990s for the restoration of the building. The care and detail that went into restoring Union Station to match its former glory are remarkable. Restorers worked tirelessly to salvage, repair, and match as closely as possible the features of the 1914 building, right down to paint colors.
Union Station Today
Today, Kansas City’s Union Station continues its rail tradition as the home of the city’s Amtrak station. It also houses much for the rail enthusiast, including the KC Rail Experience, a permanent exhibition that provides a history of the rails, railroad artifacts, and an actual rail car and engine. Train lovers will also get a kick out of the Model Railroad Experience which features model trains of all sizes in one of the largest displays for model railroads in the nation.
Families will enjoy the interactive activities and displays of Science City, housed in Union Station. Kids will have a blast building a robot in the Engineerium, or watch scientists work to extract dinosaur bones from rock in the DinoLab. A Planetarium, massive 3D theater, and live theater stage round out Science City.
Though viewing the impressive interior of Union Station is always free, Science City and most of the exhibits do cost money to enter, so visitors should be sure to plan for entry fees. To learn about upcoming or permanent exhibits, and more about this landmark building’s remarkable history, visit the Union Station website.