Audrey and Harry Lesner, otherwise known as The Budget Savvy Travelers, are full-time travelers and digital nomads. Born and raised in Chicago, their passion to show others how to break free without breaking the budget. They are the proud winners of the 2019 Top Budget Travel Blog.
As one of the city's most iconic buildings, it is no surprise that Union Station Kansas City is often used as a filming backdrop. The landmark has been featured in hundreds of music videos, movies, and television shows.
Opened October 30, 1914, Union Station was once considered one of the busiest train stations in the United States. In its prime, it offered 850,000-square feet of space and 900 rooms, welcoming thousands of passengers each year. During World War II, an estimated one million travelers passed through the terminal, many of whom were soldiers. The Grand Plaza could hold 10,000 people and offered amenities such as a barbershop, restaurants, a cigar store, and railroad offices.
Union Station Kansas City created this informative video that shares the official history, decline, and revival of this remarkable building:
The Union Station building has served as the backdrop in many productions on the big and small screen. These include HBO's Truman, Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, and NBC’s American Ninja Warrior.
However, the building's biggest claim to fame was its feature in Robert Altman's film, Kansas City. The movie stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Harry Belafonte and was released in 1996. Many scenes were filmed in the historic station. Some critics consider it a love letter to Altman's beloved hometown.
Prior to the film's production, the train depot was in a state of steep decline and had been closed for 10 years. However, the movie made a positive impact on the city. This is because as the film crew began renovations, locals were reminded of the beauty and charm of the historic building. Many believe that Altman's choice to set a significant portion of the film in Union Station kickstarted a citywide campaign for a $250 million dollar renovation one year later.
Surprisingly, Union Station played a role in the life of one of the country's most famous animators—Walt Disney. During his time in Kansas City, Disney started up his short-lived Laugh-O-Gram Studio. It was located on the second floor of the McConahay Building at 1127 East 31st in Kansas City. To save money, he lived in his office and took his showers at Union Station. When Laugh-O-Gram failed, Walt bought himself a first-class train ticket to California.
Today, guests are welcome to explore Union Station and take advantage of the many great amenities located onsite. For example, there is Science City, the B&B KC Extreme Screen Theatres, the City Theatre, and the Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium. There are dining and shopping opportunities and a variety of rotating exhibits. Another option is to purchase train tickets to set off on a new adventure—just like Walt Disney did.
Cover image by Dual Freq is licensed under (CC BY 3.0).