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If you don't arrive in Washington by train, you should definitely make your way down to Union Station. It's a grand building, designed by the great Daniel Burnham, the architect behind New York's Flatiron Building and the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. It's an awe inspiring structure, competing with the likes of Grand Central Terminal in New York. It's also alive with great places to shop and eat.
Unlike Grand Central Terminal it's still a functioning train station - in fact it's Amtrak's busiest station and home t their headquarters. It handles around 13,000 train passengers a day, and gets over 40 million visitors a year. It was also once the scene of a terrible accident, when in 1956 the overnighter from Boston crashed through the station into the Great Hall and collapsed into the basement where today's food hall is. Amazingly nobody was killed. This accident was the inspiration for Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder's comedy Silver Streak.
Union Station is a big building (the largest at the beginning of 20th century) that was built in 1907 in beaux-arts style by D.Burnham.
It used to be the main transfer hub for anyone traveling into DC and even today thousands of people use it every day.
We took a train only once (to Baltimore) but we went there some morning for breakfast because Union Station is also a shopping center with numerous cheap restaurants at low level (pic 3) etc
Nothing really interesting to do here while wait for your Amtrack train but you can check the fountain outside which is dedicated to Columbus or the 31 Presidents trees that were planted in 1934. Right next to the station you will find the Postal Museum(see next tip) which is way more interesting that this train station.
Built in 1908 in the Beaux-Arts style of architecture, this railway station is visually attractive both inside and out. It was renovated to its former glory in 1988. The stations main hall, the Grand Concource is particulary stunning as it's designed in the style of the Roman Baths of Diocletian.
Today the station as well as being a major transport hub is home to over 100 places to shop, eat and drink. The station also hosts exhibitions and cultural events.
You are in luck .while .. a while .. while away!
If you are at Union Station in between trains of if you have arrived too early,
if you are feeling energetic, you are in luck, I have, for you 34 different things to do, depending on the time at your disposal, most of them dont cost much.
(These tips are for the high-energy persons, give yourself twice as much time if you need)
If all you have is ...
10 minutes - visit the passenger information booths and avail yourself of the free maps - full of maps, fun-filled facts, discount coupons and attractions lists
10 minutes - sit down at a seat in any of the open spaces and take it in, look up, look ahead, look left, look right - this place is awesome, take pics
10 - minutes - browse the arts shops and the history shops, to remind you of what you could see of DC when you have more time
10 - minutes - step outside and take it all in !
10 minutes - restroom break !
10 minutes ? - rush to the ATM and get some cash
20 minutes - quick bite in the food court
20 minutes - quick look outside
20 minutes - browse in the book store
20 minutes - browse at Amtrak information office and start dreaming about a rail-road trip
30 minutes - quick lunch at one of the many eateries inside
30 minutes - a cup of coffee - great for people watching
NOW - get the map out - quick ( the freebie for the visitor information booth will do fine)
mark the Capital (1/4 mile straight ahead, south of you, mark the Washington Monument (2 miles west of Capital) mark the White House (roughly 3/4 mile north of the Washington monument)
30 minutes - a quick jaunt to the Capital Hill and back
40 minutes - shopping ! Lots of shops, all around you
40 minutes - quick jaunt AROUND the Capital Hill plus Supreme Court and back
50 minutes - quick jaunt AROUND Supreme Court, Folgers Shakespeare Theater, Library of Congress, National Botanical Garden and back
60 minutes - a quick short trip on Constitution Avenue to the Newseum and Canadian Embassy (outdoors) and back - open all 24 hours
60 minutes - just relax outside the Capital Hill in any of the gardens and take pictures
60 minutes - take advantage of the US Post office
2 hours - you have 2 hours ? how about the Botanical Garden (its indoors and heated and air-conditioned !) or one of the nearer Smithsonian museums or Library of Congress or Judiciary Square, - dont forget to look around you, you will see many Federal Buildings
2 hours - watch a movie in the theatres at Union Station
2 hours - saunter around to the US Postal museum (reminder to myself!)
2 hours - check your luggage in and pick it up later - well worth it
3 - hours , did you say 3 hours ? - find the Circulator Bus and take a go-around trip
3 hours ? - Do you have FlexiCar or ZipCar membership ? make reservations and go for a ride around
3 hours ? - take a taxi and vist the FDR memorial, Tidal Basin, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, go around the Washington Monument, wave to the White House and come back, you will have time to stop at any one but not all of the places
3 hours ? - take a taxi to the Arlington National Cemetry and back
4 hours? - definetely skip all else and head straight for your favorite Smithsonian Museum, it will take you 50 minutes round trip walking, but you will have sufficient time to enjoy your visit also
4 hours - Walk to the Washingtonian monument and rush back if you have to, but you can also cover WWII memorial, look outside into the White House, gape at all the Federal Buildings around you and relax some on the Mall !
5 hours ? you say 5 hours , MAN you are talking serious fun time - I would take one way taxi to Thomas Jefferson Memorial, walk back wards to FDR memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam memorial, WWII memorial, Washington monument, White House, walk backwards towards Union Station,
5 hours ? did I mention the other museums ? monuments? art galleries ? universities ? Chinatown? Verizon Convention Center? National Cathedral ? there are just too many places, but you could pick one if you had to choose - happy discovering !
US Post office - there are two of them - one inside the terminal on the main level and there is also the US POstal Musuem (and of course a post office), the next building on the west side, at the intersection of Massacheusettes Ave, 1st ST NE and Norht Capital St
The FBI building is near Judiciary Square Metro Station, you could walk there and be back to Union Station in 20 minutes - but the exterior is not very exciting and you will not be allowed inside.
Greyhound Bus station is at 1005 1ST ST NE, Washington, DC 20002 - brisk 10 minutes walk north of Union Station
- Historical Travel
- Family Travel
See a Movie
Maybe you don't have time for a movie but if you did, you can see it here at Union Station. Lots of places to choose from to have a bite to eat and shop til you drop because there are many retail stores here. And, if you need to catch a train, you actually can.
Located on the lower level.
- Theater Travel
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
Exciting shopping destination
Union Station is the most exciting and dynamic shopping destination in the country. The quality and diversity of its stores have made it the choice of Presidents as well as millions of busy commuters and wide-eyed tourists each year.
You will find specialty boutiques, fashion and gift stores, shops offering Washington souvenirs, and much, much more.
For a tasteful break from shopping, visit the food court on the lower level with hundreds of delicious choices.
With a subway station in the building and a location near the National Mall, it is popular with tourists.
Outside the building you can find a Columbus statue.
- Family Travel
- Food and Dining
Fantastic Architecture, and a Great Meal!
Union Station is a masterpiece of architecture and it has been restored to its original magnificence. not only is it worth a visit to admire the building itself, but there are many stores to browse in and a very extensive food court on the lower level. There is even a movie theater, if you're so inclined.
- Family Travel
- Arts and Culture
Union Station must be one of my favourite buildings in Washington. This grand building dates from 1908. It is built in a Roman style. The main hall is huge, with a vaulted ceiling. There are many shops and restaurants at the station. It is still a functioning station with trains leaving from here to many big cities in the US.
One of a kind Beaux Arts styled train station
Washington DC's Union Station is another captivatingly beautiful building.
Just think, the primary use of this building is as a train station. The train
terminals are served by Amtrak, MARC, VRE commuter railroads plus DC's
own metro transit system of subway trains and buses. The main hall
interiors are simply grand with marbled floors and soaring ceilings. It is the
most visited destination in the nation's capital with at least 30+million
visitors a year. It is the site of various world-class exhibitions and cultural
events. Aside from that, the station has two levels of specialty shops and
boutiques, seven full-service restaurants as well as a food court in the
lower level. Opened in 1907 and completed in 1908 with various
restorations most recently in 1988. It's an example of Beaux Arts
architecture, Daniel Burnham served as the architect.
- Business Travel
- Arts and Culture
Most Visited Place in DC!
Union Station is the most visited destination in Washington, DC with over 25 million visitors a year. Washington’s train station and premier shopping mall, also serves as a venue for world-class exhibitions and international cultural events. The elegant Main Hall with its vaulted ceiling more than 90-feet high and marble floors is reminiscent of the days when railway travel was fashionable. This beaux-arts building, opened in 1908, fell into severe disrepair in the 1940s. It underwent a monumental restoration project and reopened in 1988. Restaurants, including an international food court, and more than 100 specialty shops draw visitors. Its proximity to the Library of Congress and the U.S. Capitol make it a perfect midday stop for lunch. Still a working train station, Amtrak has service from here to all points in the country.
You will find 130 stores at Union Station featuring everything from men’s and women’s fashion to jewelry to decorative arts to games and toys. The Food Court at Union Station is a great place to enjoy a snack or take the whole family for a quick and inexpensive meal. Full service restaurants include America, B. Smith, East Street Café, Station Grill, Thunder Grill and Uno Chicago Grill. A state-of-the-art, 9 screen American Multi-Cinema complex is located on the lower level. Sightseeing tours depart from Union Station for the Gray Line, Old Town Trolley and Tourmobile.
Open Hours: Station: 24 hrs, Shops: 10am-9pm M-Sat, noon-6p Sun
- Historical Travel
Beautifully Restored Station, Shop and Eat Too
This is the most beautiful train station you will ever go in. I remember it from before it was restored and I can tell you they have done a beautiful job. There are also lots of shops and restaurants here as well as a number of cinemas so you can spend all day here. It is also a major metro stop.
- Women's Travel
- Study Abroad
Most visited site in Washington
There are a reported 25 million visitors each year to Union Station making it the most visited site in Washington. Old train stations tend to be grand and beautiful structures and this is no exception with its central archway based on the Constantine Arch in Rome and barrel-vaulted ceiling decorated with gold leaf. There are Italianate statutes lining the corridor and a marble floor throughout. It was built in 1907-08 as the new terminal for the Baltimore and Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroads and was the main gateway to the nation’s capitol for over 40 years. It was constructed between 1907 and 1908 as the new terminal for the Baltimore & Ohio and the Pennsylvania Railroads. The terminal would be the main gateway to the capital of the United States for more than 40 years with over 100,000 passengers passing through per day. It even had a Presidential suite up until the time of President Eisenhower. As air travel popularized the building deteriorated and even parts of the roof started to cave in. In the 1980’s it was restored to the grand place it is today. It still functions as a rail terminal with Amtrak service as well as commuter service to Maryland and Virginia. It is also a starting point for many of the tour trolleys and mobiles and is on the metro Red Line. It is also now has over 100 shops and restaurants so you can fill your stomach and empty your purse. In front of the building is the Freedom Bell, a replica of the Liberty Bell given in celebration of the US Bicentennial by the American Legion.
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
The most visited and multifunctional
With over 25 mln people passing through each year, the Union Station is the most visited place in Washington. One of the finest examples of the Beaux-Arts style of architecture has welcomed visitors, 17 Presidents and countless foreign dignitaries among them, to the capital since 1908. This gateway for the capital city is monumental in every respect and has been restored to its former glory since renovation at a cost of $160 million in 1985 - 1988.
The architectural design of the main buiding both its exterior and roomy main hall, I have seen after dusk, has convinced me that the Beaux-Arts style, ever if it's not my favourite one, may create pleasantly hostile atmosphere. But I didn't come to the Union Station to amaze it but to enjoy company of VT-ers who came to meet my wife and me. Walking along its vast undergrounds I have shortly and easily realized that the Union Station performs a few functions.
Surely it's a busy transportation terminal which serves as the main depot for Amtrack trains as well as several types of bus service and the metro. Keep in mind that the USA is not a train country but a car country ("a plane country" as well). But Washington, DC, although it is the capital city, is not at all American city. Look, it's probably the only world's capital which has no airport. Well, there is one, but only for domestic flights just across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia.
Apart from key transportation function the Union station has become underground shopping mall since 1988. There are over 130 different stores from cheap and kitchy to fancy and upclass ones together with also different restaurants and the multiplex cinema. Diversity and freedom of choice are common in the USA. One exception: there is no space for all those crazy smokers at the station. For me the Union Station is the place, where we, a group of VT-ers, ended up in that unforgettable evening on 16th October, 2004.
Details in my travelogues, nightlife, shopping and restaurant tips.
The great old railroad station of Washington D.C. was to be closed, believe it or not. I understand that Elizabeth Dole led the movement to save Union Station. Thank you Mrs. Dole!
Today it serves two functions: it is still a railroad hub, but it also serves as a large shopping mall. very nice.
- Historical Travel
What a beautiful building! You must step inside to see the wonderful architecture. In 1988 after 3 years of renovation and at a cost of $160million it was re-opened. There are over 130 unique shops and lovely restaurants and a food court spread out on two levels. There is also a 9 screen cinema complex on the lower level.
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Washington D.C. Travel Guide
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