Union Station / the Train, Washington D.C.
When I had the opportunity to travel from New York City to Washington DC, options where to use bus, airplane or the train. As trains have allways been a fascination for me, I booked on the Amtrak Penn Express and did not regretted it for one second.
On-line booking and collecting the tickets was very easy.
"Under barrel-vaulted ceilings & among the vibrations of trains..." David Michaelis
Even though we did not take the train to Washington, we still visited Union Station because of its dynamic architecture. It has a barrel-vaulted concourse that is decorated with 70 pounds of gleaming gold leaf! It has 3 main archways that are modeled on the Arch of Constantine in Rome. It was a great place until about the 1950s when airplane travel became popular & Union Station started to be used less & less. It was looking quite shabby by the 1970s.
Thank goodness it was restored & has become the 2nd most visited tourist attraction in DC!
Over 23 million people pass through this station each year, & 100 trains pass through daily. A $16 million restoration (completed in 1988) added retail, food, & entertainment to make it a great place to welcome those who do come by train.
There are 130 shops, several restaurants, and a 9-screen cinema. Wow!
The Columbus Memorial (the photo) is quite impress as it stands in front of Union Station.
I did not take a photo of Union Station; this is from a post card (sorry).
If you hate to wait go to the self serve ticketing area and just get your ticket out of a machine. You can use any magor credit card and be on your way, there was no one in line. So is it complicated or people just don't know about it. Any way it looks easier than standing in line, which I know for a fact can be a long waiting in this station.
I you are looking to rent a car for your stay here in DC, check Union Staion on the lower lever you will find the car rental agents, there are several for you to choose from. You will find they are located near the rear of the station toward to parking garage not toward the street.
Union Station is full of ways to get around town, such as trolley, taxi, buses, tours and not to mension trains in and out of town. Inside you'll find some beautiful old woodwork, shops, restaurants and much more. You must visit here and have breakfast or lunch and take a stroll around just to see all the great stores.
40 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002
Washington's Union Station was jointly built by Pennsylvania Railroad and the Baltimore & Ohio line on a wetland just north of the U.S. Capitol in 1907. A number of freight and passenger lines have used it since then. An expensive renovation project completed in 1988 transformed Union Station into not just a transportation centre, but a key shopping and dining area as well. I don't know whether to put Union Station under transportation, restaurants, or shopping. Besides being Washington, DC's passenger rail station, Union Station is a shopping mall and a place to dine. There are several sit-down restaurants such as Pizzeria Uno, but in the basement, there are kiosks representing the cuisine of many nationalities.
Union Station is located near the capitol and also connects to the metro system. So.. take a train to Washington and avoid the traffic jams and parking woes :)
Also.. when your there check out the architecture of this building.. it is fantastic :)
Union Station is not just a train station but also a shopping mall with cafes and restaurants as well. There are two levels of cafes and stores.. including a movie theater.
Hours: m-sat 10am-9pm
The Union Station is where the train comes in to Washington DC. It's also a starting point for tours suchs as The Ducks or the Old Town Trolleys. Buy your tickets right there and start the tour from out front of the station.
Since we planned on taking a tour while our son inlaw worked, we took a taxi from the airport and then got on the Old Town Trolley. Our son inlaw works for the company, so it's convenient to just meet him at the station when he gets out of work and we complete the tour. ;-)
Of course we had to take a look inside the station. It's beautiful!
From their website:
"For over 90 years, Union Station has welcomed people to the most important city in the world. This magnificent building has even played host to 17 Presidents and countless foreign dignitaries. However, what may be most impressive is the fact that Union Station's marble floors echo with the footsteps of over 23.4 million people each year, making it the most visited site in all of Washington, D.C. "
I think Union Station is a pretty impressive place. Yes, it is very mall-ified inside, but there are some splending spaces that have been preserved. And the exterior of the building gives you a sense of the thrill and prestige of rail travel in a bygone era. Great train stations were never merely utilitarian depots; arriving at Ronald Reagan Airport is just not the same.
The best way to travel to Washington is Amtrak. Union Station is a great introduction to the capital city and there's a Metro (subway) station on the lower concourse.
The Metro is the best way to get around. It's clean and safe and efficient. Note: If you're going to the Zoo get off at Cleveland Park as it's a long, uphill walk from the Woodley/Zoo station. Save Woodley/Zoo for your return trip. It's not a bad walk DOWN the hill. Unfortunately there are no Metro stops in Georgetown. Get a cab or walk from Foggy Bottom or Dupont Circle.
The Union Station is the focal point of all train systems in the Washington DC Area. It includes national railway Amtrack, MARC (Maryland), VRE (Virginia) and Metro trains. The architecture inside is beautiful!!! There are also tons of boutiques and a food court to keep you busy :)
Driving is probably your best option if you hope to see some of Maryland or Virginia beyond your stay in the capital. However, the area is well-serviced by airports should you choose to go that route. If you're coming from the East Coast, Amtrak is also a possibility.
Driving in Washington is a huge pain in the you-know-where. Avoid it if you can. You might be better off staying at a hotel in the suburbs and taking the subway in to the city. I can't imagine why anyone would choose to drive in Washington as it has a good subway system. Not only that, but many of the sites you might go to are close together, making this an excellent city for walking.
I've traveled into D.C. by plane and by train. When flying in from the west coast, see if your carrier uses 777's. United does and since those planes are then headed onto Europe, there are seat back video screens even in the coach section which is a nice treat.
Traveling by Amtrak from NYC to D.C. takes a bit over 3 hours with their Metroliner service. I found it to be a really nice ride and nice to go city center to city center instead of having to drive in from Dulles. I wrote an atricle about my train trip. It can be viewed at- http://www.johnnyjet.com/folder/reporters/archive/meredith4.html
In my personal opinion (and I'm speaking strictly from a tourist's point of view), I think the best mode of transportation to take from New York to Washington D.C., would undoubtedly be the high-speed super-efficient TRAIN (per ticket on business class costs just over US$100 which you can buy straight off from the vending machine! Cool!!).
That's me in the photo below at the historic Union Station... after a delightful train journey from New York and looking pretty well-rested (I hope!).
If you much prefer to take a plane, feel free to do so too....er, but my flight from Washington D.C. back to JFK Airport in NY was a veeeerrryy scary experience indeed! First of all, the planes used by American Airlines are much smaller (compared to Delta's) and as such, the flight is soooo bumpy (and not to mention, the many air pockets it hit along the way!!), I didn't dare to breathe until we had reached JFK Airport! Yes, I noticed some of the passengers onboard (and there weren't many) were deep in prayer too! Not kidding...
Moral of the story: I don't think I want to board an American Airlines plane ever again! And I called my travel agent in Singapore to ensure that she notes it down in my profile - pronto!
Cabs are really reasonable here in Washington D.C., especially if you're traveling within the same zone.
Alternatively, you may wish to take the efficient (and clean too - compared to NYC!) Metro/ subway. It's quite an experience, believe me. ;-) You'd also meet nice folks on these train journeys who are ever-willing to help make your trip here more stress-free....
Once you arrived at the Reagan airport, there is a train at the airport that will take you to downtown. It is a nice train ride through the town. If you lucky, you might see some of the high profile congressman riding on the same train.