Whether you’re a Tourist or a Townie, there’s always something different and fun to do in the Los Angeles area. But the cost of fun in the City of Angels can add up fast. Below is number 10 in a series of 25 things to do in Los Angeles that will cost $25 or less.
All aboard for Union Station! On May 3, Los Angeles Metro, Amtrak and Metrolink will partner to celebrate National Train Day and the 75th birthday of Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. This beautiful architectural landmark opened in May, 1939. Partially designed by father and son team John Parkinson and Donald B. Parkinson in a mix of Spanish Colonial Revival and Art Deco styles, the station once served trains from the Union Pacific, Santa Fe, and Southern Pacific Railways. It became known as the “Last of the Great Railway Stations” built in the United States and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Considering its proximity to Hollywood, just imagine how many movie stars passed through this magnificent building in its heyday!
Union Station now serves as the hub for all train lines that run through Los Angeles and is the largest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States. 60,000 passengers a day pass through the station to access Metro Rail subway and light rail routes, Metrolink commuter trains and Amtrak regional and national railways. It’s also a major bus terminal.
Only ticketed passengers are allowed on the platforms, but the public is welcome to explore the meticulously restored station building. Red, tan, yellow and blue tile-work designed by Romanian artist Herman Sachs unifies the interior space and gives it a distinctly mission style. The magnificent waiting room displays an elegant vaulted, coffered ceiling that looks like wood, but it’s fabricated from steel to withstand seismic activity and to support six huge 3000 pound circular chandeliers. On the north and south sides of the waiting room, enclosed outdoor patio gardens filled with native plants provide a uniquely Californian landscape to welcome arriving passengers.
Harvey House, the first chain restaurant in the United States, was Union Station’s main restaurant. Harvey House designer Mary Colter devised a vibrantly-colored tile floor that looks like Native American weaving. Though this space has been preserved, it’s not open to the public. The Ticket Concourse, with its grand floor to ceiling arched windows, 62-foot ceiling and 110-foot ticket counter along the east wall, is not usually open to the public either, but you can view it from the station’s main vestibule.
If you schedule a walking tour with the Los Angeles Conservancy, you’ll have special access to some of the areas that are closed to the public, including the Harvey House. Union Station is located at 800 N. Alameda Street. The tour meets in the lobby of the Alameda Street entrance. Tours last 2-1/2 hours and cost $10 for the general public. These tours are very popular right now, so you must make reservations. They will not take walk-ins. Get details at the Los Angeles Conservancy website or call (213) 623-2489.
There are a number of parking lots in the area that cost $5-$15. You can also park in the MTA garage for $6. It’s located in the rear of Union Station, with entrances on Cesar Chavez Avenue and Vignes Street. Don’t want to drive downtown? You can take the Metro using the Gold line or Red line. Check the Metro website for details.