Union Station in the Holiday Season

December 21, 2009

Yesterday I went to Union Station to shop for some last minute Christmas Presents.

Union Station - 1946 (or 1942)

I had been to the Galleria earlier in the day and it was just too packed for me even to breathe.  I anticipated Union Station being significantly less crowded than the Galleria, but had no idea how much of an understatement “significantly less crowded” would actually be.  Union Station seems almost abandoned (as opposed to completely abandoned).  The Fudgery, which in my memory was the most popular attraction at Union Station, had four employees working and of the five or six times I walked past them, only once were there more spectators than employees.  I remember coming to Union Station no more than ten years ago (well maybe a little longer ago than ten years) and having to wait forever to get a sample of fudge.  Now the employees get excited when anyone even shows interest in a free sample, much less in actually buying something.  As I walked around the mall and went into a few shops, I found that I was alone in almost every store with the exception of employees and the few friends I had brought along with me.  I don’t even know how the few stores left manage to stay in business if at the busiest time of the year the whole mall is devoid of customers.  I was very happy to see stores advertising that they accept the new Downtown Gift Card, and hope that a lot of people find them in their stockings this Christmas (or whatever holiday presents people get), but more needs to be done.  I often notice STLtoday.com commenters complaining about the fact that parking is not free at Union Station.  If free parking is what it takes to attract people to Union Station, I’m all for it.  This Sunday the parking lot was mostly empty and none of the stores that I shopped at offered validation.

Despite the sad state of the mall at Union Station, my experience was very positive.  I never waited in line once and never felt the slightest bit crowded (maybe a bit lonely at times).  The employees at Union Station are so glad to see any customers at all that they are extremely polite and helpful.  The food court has many good options including several non-chains that offer delicious food with the added benefit of supporting a local business thrown in, something much more rare at other area malls. There is also no lack of fun things to do.  On the second level close to the main entrance there is “Galactic Glow Putt” similar to one in the St. Louis Mills Mall, which looks like it would make for a great time.  Who doesn’t like putt-putt golf?  Another fun installation in Union Station is “Jump in the City”.  This attraction consists of four trampolines with bungee cords connected to harnesses positioned over each of them.  This allows people to safely jump extremely high and get lots of air time to do flips and appear to be having tons of fun.  I wish I had brought my camera because I saw some serious fun going down.

Galactic Glow Putt in Union Station

Overall there are many reasons to visit Union Station without even mentioning its HUGE historical significance for our city (Union Station was the largest and busiest train station in the world when it opened in 1894).  Despite the fairly large number of vacant retail spaces, the lack of visitors are the only aspect of the visit which makes it seem abandoned because very interesting exhibits about the history of Union Station have been installed in the empty stores.  Union Station is worth visiting just to look at, but actually going inside and giving it a chance may end up turning into a very enjoyable experience.  Give it a chance!



  1. There is also a great candy shop on the second floor with barrels of bulk candy, and a fun dog-oriented store with lots of gifts. I found it to be a fun place to spend an afternoon when I went with the eighth-grade girls of St. Cecilia Academy in South City as they did a transit-navigation project.

    Obviously I’m a fan of using transit and recommend that people use the MetroLink and get off at the Union Station station and walk across the street to all the shops and restaurants. I find in general that downtown is underutilized for shopping and entertainment. City Museum, Art St. Louis gallery, City Garden, the shops and restaurants on Washington Avenue…it’s really come a long way.

    • It is wonderful to see the dramatic progress that has been made downtown in recent years. My main reason for posting about Union Station was to remind people that it is there! I fear that the abundance of new attractions downtown is pulling visitors away from places that have been around for longer like Union Station.

      I also really enjoyed seeing your photo set! I went on a similar trip (most likely in the 8th grade) attending Ladue Junior High School and took Metrobuses and Metrolink to the FBI building on Market Street and to Barnes Hospital. I took advantage of the opportunity to reminisce about my own St. Louis Adventure (as it was called at Ladue), and about how beneficial it was to be exposed to public transportation when everyone is not necessarily given the opportunity normally. Great to see that these programs are still alive! Thanks for sharing!

  2. My apologies…I must have goofed my html.

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