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    Union Station in Los Angeles: The Last Great Train Station in the United States

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    Martí Micolau

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    Precious marbles and gardens in bloom: are we sure we are in a station? Union Station in Los Angeles is not just a train terminal, but it can be considered one of the historic buildings not to be missed during a visit to the Californian metropolis.

    Between 2014 and 2019, in view of the station's 75th anniversary, a major five-year restoration was carried out, which returned the building to the value it deserves. If you're passing through Los Angeles, even if you don't arrive by train, don't forget to stop by the station!


    • Where is it and how to get there
    • History of Union Station in Los Angeles
    • Why visit Union Station
      • Union Station in the cinema
      • Art in Union Station
      • Events in Union Station
    • Eat and drink in Union Station
    • Guided tours of Union Station
    • Where to sleep in the area

    Where is it and how to get there

    The station's main entrance overlooks N Alameda St, sandwiched between the large Santa Ana Fwy and East Cesar E Chavez Avenue. If you are driving you can easily reach Union Station, but to avoid parking problems the best way to get there is in the most classic way with which you reach a station: on the train.

    Of course, if you are already in the city you will not take a classic train to go to the station, but you can use the metro. Here is in fact the terminus of the Red and Purple lines, while a few steps away you will find the stops of the Gray and Orange lines. Therefore it is quite plausible that you will be able to arrive comfortably with this means of transport.

    Finally, there are also alternatives such as Metrolink short-distance buses or trains. On the official website you will find all the details and in our article many useful tips on how to get around Los Angeles.

    History of Union Station in Los Angeles

    Union Station was built in 1939 and still is today the largest train station in the Western United States. Named today "The last of the great railway stations", when it was conceived it was to be the meeting point between the Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe rail terminals.

    The style of the building, the work of the architects (father and son) John and Donald Parkinson, is an example of Mission Moderne, that is a mix of Spanish colonial architecture, mission revival and art deco. The project wanted express the Californian lifestyle, seen in an eccentric and sumptuous way. The huge walnut ticket office, gigantic brass-finished windows, art deco chandeliers and inlaid marble floors are some examples of the style chosen to convey the message of grandeur and success. It took about 11 million dollars (which today would correspond to 1,2 billion dollars) to give life to this railway terminus which was inaugurated with three days of events in which half a million citizens took part.

    In the early years the Union Station was a continuous coming and going of trains and people, arriving at host one hundred trains a day, loaded with troops, during the Second World War. Then, starting from the 1972s, air and road transport began to prevail over rail and the use of the station gradually decreased. In XNUMX Union Station was designated as historical-cultural monument and in 1980 it was included in the National Register of Historic Places.

    Why visit Union Station

    Union Station it's not just a train station. It testifies to a chapter of American history and does it with art and taste. Already in itself it represents one of the most important historic buildings in the city of Los Angeles, but inside it houses works of art and is home to events and initiatives that make it an even more relevant place of interest.

    Union Station in the cinema

    Before delving into what we can see in Union Station, let's ask ourselves: where have we already seen this building? In fact, if looking at it doesn't seem new to us, there is a reason. Los Angeles station has appeared several times on the cinema screen.

    Lots of movies set in Los Angeles see Union Station appear in some scene, at least in passing: there are 152 (at least until 2021), some little known and others of great importance such as Pearl Harbor of 2001. However, there are some films that have scenes set right inside, in particular Speed ​​from 1994, Drag Me to Hell from 2009 and above all Blade Runner from 1982. In this latest masterpiece of Hollywood cinema, the station is transformed into the waiting room of the police office.

    Furthermore, in 2021, Union Station hosted none other than the Oscar night! How to better establish the link between this station and the world of cinema, if not with the most important Hollywood award ceremony?

    Art in Union Station

    City of Dreams, River of History

    The Union Station building deserves to be included on a tour of Los Angeles for its distinctive architecture. Starting from the clock tower, up to the hand-painted tiles that decorate the interiors, passing through the period seats of the waiting room. Over the years though many other forms of art have been added, both in Union Station and in the nearby Metro building, making this place a kind of museum of passage.

    One example is May Sun and Richard Wyatt's multifaceted 1995 work “City of Dreams, River of History”: a large mural depicting early contemporary settlers and residents. In the atrium of the metro stop we find instead the mural "Traveler" of 1993 by Terry Schoonhoven, in which historical and contemporary references of the trip to Los Angeles and that intertwine creates the illusion that the station corridor continues into the artwork. The works vary from paintings to benches, from fountains to mosaics: on this page you can see the main ones.

    Each year the station is also seat of temporary exhibitions, both artistic and photographic, so whenever you go to Los Angeles you can find something new to be amazed at Union Station.

    Events in Union Station

    Art is at home at Union Station, but not only in static form. In addition to exhibitions and exhibitions, in fact, the premises of the station also open their doors to shows, concerts and events of various kinds. On this page you can check if any initiatives open to the public will be held when you are in Los Angeles.

    Eat and drink in Union Station

    Union Station is now much more than a station. From a great crossroads for local and national transport, over time it has also become a container for various forms of art, as described above, but not only. Inside we find in fact restaurants, bars and meeting places which make it an ideal stop also for a refreshment stop during your visit to the city.

    If you are passing through, it may help you to know that here you will find places to have a coffee, or to do a snack or a quick lunch. For example, Starbucks for breakfast or a takeaway coffee, Green Bowl 2 Go for salads and other light and quick dishes, or Subway for sandwiches or Wetzel's Pretzels for German donuts and other snacks. For a longer stop there are breweries or restaurants, like Imperial Western Beer Co. and the Streamliner which offers craft beers and American dishes, or Traxx for an elegant dinner.

    Guided tours of Union Station

    The Metro Community Education proposes Free guided tours of the station, for groups from 5 to 40 participants. These tours last approximately 30 minutes and need to be booked at least 1 week in advance. All the details are available on the dedicated page.

    If, on the other hand, you are looking for a walking tour that takes you to all the historic sites of Los Angeles, including Union Station, here are a couple of interesting options:

    Where to sleep in the area

    The best area to find accommodation in the vicinity of Union Station is certainly the Downtown district, which is particularly recommended thanks to its strategic position in relation to the other important attractions of Los Angeles. You can find more targeted information on this and other districts of the city by clicking on the link below.

    Our tips on where to sleep in Los Angeles

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