If your trip to Washington, D.C. includes train travel, chances are you’ll pass through Union Station. When it was built in 1907 Union Station was the largest train station in the world, and in an era when the best mode of long-distance transportation was the railroad, it added to the grandeur of Washington.
With the rise of air travel and the construction of the Interstate Highway System, however, railroad travel declined, and with it so did Union Station. Over the years the building deteriorated, until 1981, when Congress appropriated $160 million to refurbish it. The main hall was refitted with gleaming marble and all the old decorative elements were cleaned, fixed, and restored.
Today Union Station houses more than 130 shops, including a nine-screen movie theater, seven restaurants, a food court, and car rental and sightseeing companies. It is one end of Amtrak’s busiest line (the Northeast Corridor, which stretches from Washington, D.C. through Philadelphia and New York all the way to Boston), and a terminus for Maryland Area Rail Commuter (MARC) and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) commuter trains. With 32 million visitors a year, it is recognized as Washington, D.C.’s most visited tourist attraction.
The station also serves as a venue for some of Washington’s important events—for example, it hosted one of the ten official balls for President Obama’s inauguration.
During the week, the food court and some of the station’s restaurants can get pretty packed with people on lunch break from offices nearby. So if you plan on dining there, be warned that it will be crowded.
If you are driving to Union Station and are trying to find it on a GPS, make sure to enter 2 Massachusetts Avenue, NE as the address, as GPS systems do not recognize the station’s actual address.
For more, visit http://www.unionstationdc.com/.
Hours: Stores and food courts are open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Parking: Union Station has a parking lot located at 50 Massachusetts Avenue. Rates are as follows: $6 up to one hour, $9 up to two hours, $12 up to three hours, $13 up to four hours, $15 up to five hours, $17 up to 12 hours, $19 up to 24 hours.
Metrorail: Red Line to Union Station