A Day at Union Station

By Raquel Vasquez
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Have you ever been to a train station that made you twirl into a tornado of confusion? Well rest assured our beloved Union Station in Los Angeles is quite a different experience. With its well thought out floor plan everything is very comprehensive, easy and simple. Digital schedule displays and friendly helpful staff are everywhere. On one side you have arrivals, on another side you have departures, imagine that!

It was my pleasure to cover Union Stations 80th Anniversary party this first weekend of May.

L.A’s Union Station opened in 1939. The architectural father and son team of John and Donald Parkinson had 11 million dollars to work with and had a three day grand opening. If you do some digging, you’ll see the opening was a huge exciting event with a parade, horses, marching bands and celebrities. Men with their waxed mustaches and three piece suits rode in convertible cars with women wearing endless ribbons, bows and bonnets waiving their handkerchiefs to the thousands of onlookers.

Prior to Union Station, LA had two train stations, La Grande Station on 2nd and Santa Fe Avenue, and Central Station on Central Avenue at 5th in East downtown Los Angeles. The original China Town was moved to make way for the Union Station we now cherish.

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On May 3rd & 4th Union Station will celebrate its 80th Anniversary with a two-day community celebration allowing Angelenos to enjoy the beauty and history of the beloved downtown landmark. On Friday, May 3, Union Station will celebrate this momentous milestone with the more than 100,000 commuters and travelers that move throughout the station each day. From 1–7 p.m. the regal Waiting Room will feature live entertainment from a selection of beloved L.A. bands including the California Feetwarmers and the New Recessionaries. A Living Gallery will feature a photo retrospective of the station’s storied past, and a model train exhibition from the Del Oro Pacific Modular Railroad will thrill train enthusiasts. Additionally, some of the station’s favorite eateries will include custom 80th anniversary menu items and cocktails, while the gift kiosks will deliver limited-edition Union Station anniversary T-shirts and merchandise. On Saturday, May 4, Union Station welcomes Angelenos to enjoy the beauty and history of the beloved downtown landmark. From 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. the North Patio will be transformed into a Family Fun Zone including a Griffith Park Travel Town activity corner, a Giggle Factory play zone and a kids’ concert series featuring a workshop from Rhythm Child and performances from Angel Bird and Jazzy Ash. From 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. the station’s majestic South Patio will become a marketplace showcasing local artisans with L.A.-inspired art, crafts and gifts including Angel City Press, Lit Soul Candles and Self Help Graphics and featuring live music from Soul Fab (DJ John Gregory) SOL!D Selectors ( DJ Mick Cole), DJ Funky Soul, urban soul from KCRW’s Raul Campos (with guest DJs) and performances from Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles and Latin soul band Jungle Fire. The city’s hottest food trucks will provide guests with a diverse taste of L.A. throughout the day. From 3:30 – 9 p.m. the Historic Ticket Concourse will become a hub of live entertainment featuring some of L.A.’s favorite bands. Metro Arts will be conducting art and architecture tours throughout the day to showcase the splendor of the station. #UnionStationLA #UnionStation80

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Eighty years later we still celebrate its existence in true American form. The station is as gorgeous as it ever was. The detailed ceiling, the colored cement floors and art deco chandeliers still shine and make you wish walls could speak. The original chairs that once had exhausted sailors draped over them are now roped off for paying train passengers only. As you walk past the classy shoe shine area with its oversized leather chairs, a feeling of a completely different era comes to mind.

It was time to get myself a glass of wine and take in all the beauty the two day party had to offer. The first thing I saw was Del Oro’s Pacific Railroad Model Train Exhibit. This was 200 square feet of model train building at its best. Literal trains scaled down to size with sound. “All aboard” sounds with a whistle and off the train goes. Stops include the “Grey Bar Hotel” that featured recorded dialog from “Cool Hand Luke” and the “Sons of Arthritis” clubhouse stop were entertaining and clever to see.

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On May 3rd & 4th Union Station will celebrate its 80th Anniversary with a two-day community celebration allowing Angelenos to enjoy the beauty and history of the beloved downtown landmark. On Friday, May 3, Union Station will celebrate this momentous milestone with the more than 100,000 commuters and travelers that move throughout the station each day. From 1–7 p.m. the regal Waiting Room will feature live entertainment from a selection of beloved L.A. bands including the California Feetwarmers and the New Recessionaries. A Living Gallery will feature a photo retrospective of the station’s storied past, and a model train exhibition from the Del Oro Pacific Modular Railroad will thrill train enthusiasts. Additionally, some of the station’s favorite eateries will include custom 80th anniversary menu items and cocktails, while the gift kiosks will deliver limited-edition Union Station anniversary T-shirts and merchandise. On Saturday, May 4, Union Station welcomes Angelenos to enjoy the beauty and history of the beloved downtown landmark. From 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. the North Patio will be transformed into a Family Fun Zone including a Griffith Park Travel Town activity corner, a Giggle Factory play zone and a kids’ concert series featuring a workshop from Rhythm Child and performances from Angel Bird and Jazzy Ash. From 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. the station’s majestic South Patio will become a marketplace showcasing local artisans with L.A.-inspired art, crafts and gifts including Angel City Press, Lit Soul Candles and Self Help Graphics and featuring live music from Soul Fab (DJ John Gregory) SOL!D Selectors ( DJ Mick Cole), DJ Funky Soul, urban soul from KCRW’s Raul Campos (with guest DJs) and performances from Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles and Latin soul band Jungle Fire. The city’s hottest food trucks will provide guests with a diverse taste of L.A. throughout the day. From 3:30 – 9 p.m. the Historic Ticket Concourse will become a hub of live entertainment featuring some of L.A.’s favorite bands. Metro Arts will be conducting art and architecture tours throughout the day to showcase the splendor of the station. #UnionStationLA #UnionStation80

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As you continued walking thru the station, four pillars on each side of the station were featured with digital photo galleries. Duck to the left and enjoy a live piano player, duck to the right and Cafe Crepe offered a crepe and wine happy hour. So far so good, no complaints. Illuminated trees twinkle with lights on both sides of the station for outdoor fresh air breaks.

Continue on and there was Wetzels Pretzels, Trimania Fresh Market, T & Y Bakery, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Shop, Starbucks, Subway and ATM’s all at your fingertips. The police had a presence, but nothing intimidating. No matter if you were there to catch the Dodger Stadium Express or just to celebrate the 80th birthday you felt safe.

Union Station celebrates it’s 80th birthday since it’s opening in 1939
Photo by Raquel Vasquez

Part of the celebration was a four piece swing band called the Recessionaries. They performed for a large group of travelers and party goers. Many swing dancers broke out in dance right there in the middle of the train station making you feel like you had literally stepped back in time! Keep on walking thru the station because you will catch some mosaic tile here, and maybe some art deco signage there, a feast for the discerning eye.

This 80th celebration was a total success with bands playing 30’s and 40’s jazz classics, food trucks, vendors, kids corners, dj’s and even cast members from Cirque du Soleil Amaluna twisting and turning to everyone’s amazement.

Visiting Union Station makes you want to take a train somewhere, anywhere! Not only can you relax and enjoy a trip, but here’s the latest, you can get there early and enjoy some oysters served on crushed ice with a frosty craft beer at the Streamliner. The Streamliner is a new restaurant on the south side of the station that offers a variety of American cuisine and a Saturday brunch from 1 to 4 pm with live music. Shoot a game of pool or watch the game, but be sure to take notice of every nuance of this incredible time capsule. From the borax soap to the hidden blue bar, you will not regret a day at Union Station.

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