Having visited Union Station in St. Louis, Missouri during the construction phase of the new aquarium, we were excited to be returning to see the completion of St. Louis Union Station Aquarium.
Check out our post from our first visit to the St. Louis Union Station.
The St Louis Aquarium at Union Station opened it’s doors to the public in December of 2019. St. Louis’ newest aquarium is the centerpiece of Union Station. This $187 million family-friendly entertainment attraction features not just the Union Station Aquarium but several additional family-focused attractions reminiscent of the 1904 World’s Fair.
The aquarium and the other family-friendly attractions are located adjacent to Union Station Hotel under the historic train shed.
For many years, Union Station was the largest and busiest rail terminal in the world that connected passengers from the east to the west and vise versa. It was also the station where many military men and women said goodbye to loved ones as they headed off to war. It was also the station where travelers first arrived when attending the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. In its glory days, this was one very busy rail terminal.
When we originally visited Union Station and the construction site of the soon to be aquarium, there were many different components going into St. Louis’ newest entertainment facility. I wondered how they would tie them all together. The first being an aquarium, the second being the historic train shed, and the third was the tribute to the 1904 World’s Fair. These three components were going to come together somehow to become one of St. Louis’ go-to destination. I couldn’t wait to see this vision come to light.
On our return visit, we discovered that the Union Station Aquarium is just one small amazing part of the experience that awaits you. St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station was designed to incorporate the three elements, the historic train shed, the amazing 1904 World’s Fair experience, and the new aquarium.
Most families can go through the aquarium in 3 hours. Don’t come expecting to spend your entire day at the aquarium, it wasn’t designed that way. The vision was for you to enjoy all of the elements that are part of Union Station’s amazing history.
Come prepared to experience the role the trains played in the history of St. Louis, the aquarium, the excitement of the 1904 World’s Fair, and the extras that await you under this historic train shed and in the Grand Hall of Union Station Hotel.
Visitors may come for the aquarium but, find a full days adventure awaiting them, when enjoyed the way it was designed, all the components coming together to be one wonderful adventure right in the heart of St. Louis, Missouri.
One ~ Aquarium at Union Station
St. Louis is a city that has so much to offer for families. The Union Station Aquarium is an exciting new addition to the St. Louis family-friendly list of places to visit. Although the 120,000 square foot aquarium is not as big as some of the well-known aquariums, we think they did an amazing job in creating something that is welcoming, educational, fun, and entertaining for all ages.
Your aquatic adventure begins with a train ride. The train theme is evident from the moment you step foot in the door. They have done an amazing job combining these two elements.
Your train ride takes place in two real train cars, where a virtual tour takes you through St. Louis and it’s history. It’s very well done, as you are seated on the train the virtual tour takes place as if you are watching through the train windows, and is narrated by Hollywood Star, John Goodman, a St. Louis native. I wished I had thought to video the tour, I would love to watch it again.
The Union Station Aquarium features over 13,000 animals in 44 exhibits with a view of over 80 different rays and sharks. On our visit, many of the sharks seemed small but we were told that they start with small sharks to allow them to adapt to their tank as they grow and mature. Even small they were very entertaining. They are housed in a 250,000-gallon beautifully integrated tank with great viewing for everyone.
Most of the aquarium is filled with features that allow hands-on activities and interactive experiences. These activities I’m sure were designed with the younger attendees in mind. Yet many of the adults were enjoying them as much as the children.
This engaging experience offers a unique perspective of our underwater world. From the local streams to the oceans, the aquarium takes you on a journey that allows you to explore the hidden treasures of the Mississippi waterways as well as the beauty of our ocean’s greatest predators.
Advanced and timed ticket purchases are required
Hours ~ Sun. – Thurs. 9am – 5pm
Fri. and Sat. 9am – 8pm
Location ~ 201 S 18th Street, St Louis MO
Two ~ The St. Louis Wheel
The St. Louis Wheel proudly stands 200 feet above the ground offering riders a scenic view of St. Louis. Each gondola is fully-enclosed, climate-controlled and the perfect place for a romantic ride to view the St. Louis Arch, the downtown, and the St. Louis Skyline.
The Ferris wheel has an interesting history with the 1904 World’s Fair which was held in St. Louis. A railroad builder by the name of George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. originally designed the Ferris wheel for the 1893 Columbian Expo in Chicago. That same Ferris wheel was taken apart and put back together in St. Louis for the 1904 World’s Fair.
The 1904 Ferris wheel stood 264 feet tall. It was one of the most remembered attractions at the 1904 World’s Fair. Over 80 couples got married in the Ferris wheel’s cars during the World’s Fair. In 1904, the view from the top of the Ferris wheel had to be quite the new experience for riders.
Unfortunately, after the fair, every attempt to sell the Ferris wheel fell through and in 1906 it became the victim of dynamite. Rumor has it that parts of the old Ferris wheel are buried under Forest Park in St Louis, Missouri.
It seems only fitting that the St Louis Wheel was one of the first additions to the Union Station Entertainment complex. A great tribute to the St. Louis’ 1904 World’s Fair.
Three ~ The Soda Fountain
Food played a huge role in the history of the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Many of the favorite foods that we enjoy today were first introduced during the 1904 World’s Fair, the ice cream cone was one of many.
Walking into The Soda Fountain was like walking into a refreshing blast from the past. The atmosphere and the lights make The Soda Fountain warm and welcoming. They offer an over the top unique spin on ice cream sodas and sundaes called “Freak Shakes”. But that’s not all they also offer old-time phosphate sodas, a glass of beer, and simply wonderful food.
The food offered at The Soda Fountain is not elaborate, it is simple food, burgers, chicken, grilled cheese, fries, and more. But what they do, they do with excellence. We had two of the best sandwiches we’ve eaten in a long time served to us at The Soda Fountain.
The Soda Fountain is a busy place, over the top Sugar! This is a must-stop when visiting the Union Station Aquarium. Don’t fool yourself in thinking it is only for kids. The Soda Fountain is a great place for adults and a perfect place for a fun date. The outdoor seating overlooks the nightly, hourly, Fire and Light Show. Don’t let the heat melt your ice cream.
Four ~ Mini Golf
For a perfectly fun evening out as a couple or a family adventure, Union Station’s outdoor 18-hole, mini-golf course is a choice fun. The golf course is stroller friendly and meets the ADA requirements. Located outside, under the historical train shed, these 18 holes of interactive and challenging miniature golf are waiting for you and your family.
Five ~ Fire and Light Show
Located directly outside Union Station under the Train Shed is a large welcoming koi pond. The pond is beautiful and welcoming during the day. Come evening it takes on a much different look.
A fire, water, and light show takes place on the hour in the koi pond. It features long icicle lights hanging from the trees, water that sprays into the air, color changing lights under the water, and explosive flames that shoot 25 feet into the air and it’s all set and timed to popular music. This very impressive sight is sure to impress everyone.
Six ~ Ropes Course
The Ropes Course is located indoors in the rafter and structure of the historic train shed, overlooking Union Station Hotel and The Aquarium. This course will test your strength, ability, and nerves. The course reaches a height of three stories and has almost 100,000 feet of climbing space. The 45 obstacles and the 100-foot Skyrail will challenge you. The course is designed in a way that you are in control of what obstacles and courses you take. Making it an adventure for all ages.
Don’t worry your little ones will not be left out of the fun. At ground level, there is a specialty designed ropes course designed with them in mind right next to the main ropes course. Don’t worry mom you can walk alongside your little one.
Seven ~ Mirror Maze
One of the iconic attractions of the 1904 World’s Fair was the Mirror Maze. You get to navigate your way through a labyrinth of mazes and discoveries. If you happen to go with Gary be careful he may be an additional obstacle. Imagine walking through the maze and seeing dozens of your partner.
If you think you are going to pull that engagement ring out of your pocket and propose in the Mirror Maze you might want to rethink that! It won’t be a secret, she’ll see it coming several times.
Eight ~ Carousel
Who doesn’t remember begging to ride a carousel as a child? This beautiful carousel is located outside under the historic train shed. A ride on the carousel is like re-living your childhood.
With the many beautifully designed animals it may be hard to choose your favorite.
Horses, zebras, giraffes, and more await your visit. This is a ride that is not just designed for kids! Kids of all ages are welcome.
Nine ~ Grand Hall 3D Light Show
In the center of the Union Station Hotel is the Grand Hall. This 65 foot high Grand Hall is the stage for stunning 3D light shows. Fireworks, flying birds, dancing flowers, and underwater shows dance across the ceiling as visitors watch with delight.
These state of the art show were specifically designed for Union Station Hotel and is the first of its kind experience in the US.
Experience one of Union Stations 3 D light shows HERE.
Watching the video is nothing compared to sitting in the lobby of The Grand Hall and enjoying it first hand with surround sound and video. Even if you are not staying at Union Station I would suggest stopping in one evening just to experience it for yourself. Shows take place daily on the hour.
The Grand Hall lobby is also this Union Station hotel’s lounge, offering signature cocktails, local brews, and light bites as well as plenty of seating for guests to watch the show.
Ten ~ Stay Overnight at Union Station
Enjoy one of Union Station’s stay and play packages. Union Station Hotel is the perfect place to stay during your visit to the aquarium. Union Station Hotel features over 600 beautifully decorated rooms.
We have had the privilege of staying at Union Station in St. Louis twice, each time has been wonderful. The staff is friendly and willing to go out of their way to make your visit memorable. Our blog feature about our first Union Station Hotel visit will give you a glimpse of what to expect on your visit.
The first train pulled into the Union Station’s train terminal on September 1st, 1894 and ushered in new and exciting times for St. Louis. Now, in 2020, right in the heart of downtown St. Louis, Union Station continues to usher in new and exciting times, with not just the addition of the Aquarium but also the same excitement of the 1904 World’s Fair activities. All of this is housed together under the historic train shed where that first train pulled into on September 1st, 1894.
A visit to Union Station in St Louis has become a perfect spot for a family staycation, a romantic night with your loved one, a vacation destination, or even a trip back in time to the excitement of the 1904 World’s Fair.
Union Station is not just the aquarium, it is not just the historic train shed, it is not just the Grand Hall and it is not just the World Fair excitement. It is the joining of all these components to create a beautiful and welcoming destination right in the heart of the beautiful city of St Louis, Missouri.
A special thanks to the Union Station Hotel and The Aquarium at Union Station for hosting us. All opinions are our own, we tell it like it is.
Gary and Michelle
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