Union Station from Wynkoop Street — Photo courtesy of Scott Dressel-Martin / Visit Denver
Renovating Denver’s historic train station, its glory days long in the past, was never just about the station. It was always about community, the environment, improved transportation and a renewed quality of life for anyone working or living in or even passing through LoDo. No new structure, not even Coors Field, has so dramatically and positively altered the LoDo landscape.
It may seem odd to call Union Station a major attraction, but it makes perfect sense.
It’s a gathering spot. It’s a 21st-century emporium. It’s an art gallery, a watering hole, a hotel and an architectural ode to Beaux Art style. And, yes, it’s a modern transportation hub.
Amtrak trains come and go twice daily, transporting travelers to San Francisco and Chicago. In addition, the well-designed bus concourse below and light-rail platform adjacent provide easy access to every part of the Metro Area and beyond.
Interior architecture seamlessly integrates striking new chandeliers and historic wall sconces — Photo courtesy of Ellen Jaskol / Union Station
In Union Station, past and present are complementary forces. Throughout the building, visitors can see historic photos and artwork that shine a light on Denver's past: blueprints from the original station built in 1881, framed newspaper pages and tickets uncovered when the old benches were dismantled, as renovation began.
Contemporary items were designed to fit seamlessly with historic elements. The massive chandeliers, for example, are new but reflect detailing in the wall sconces, which are original to the building.
Looking up from the Great Hall, it’s possible to see another original architectural element, the pristine white molding depicting Colorado's state flower, the columbine, which had been hidden under a coat of dreary brown paint.
Contemporary artists and designers have also added pieces that speak to past and present, such as the old-school suitcases piled atop a safe on the mezzanine and signs designed to recall traditional flip-style departure boards.
Eclectic 5 Green Boxes offers cards, gifts and collectibles in the coziest retail space in the station — Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis
As for community, three popular local merchants opened outposts in or around the Great Hall, the centerpiece of the building. A small edition of the beloved Tattered Cover Bookstore is here, as is Bloom, a florist/lifestyle boutique with home décor and other fun items, plus flowers, of course.
At 5 Green Boxes, shoppers can peruse eclectic greeting cards, jewelry and whimsical items to keep or give as gifts. And there's The Crawford Hotel, sister property to the historic Oxford Hotel across the street, fully integrated into the station building.
Cooper Lounge on the mezzanine level is for guests of The Crawford Hotel and those who reserve in advance — Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis
There’s food and drink galore. A coffee shop and barber-shop-turned-ice-cream-parlor are among those offering quick service.
At Terminal Bar, the station's primo gathering spot and watering hole, more than 30 Colorado beers are on tap. High above it in The Cooper Lounge, upscale cocktails and fine liquors come with an expansive view over the Great Hall.
Mercantile Provision & Dining offers foods to go and sophisticated dining — Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis
Full-on eateries from four of Denver’s best-known restaurateurs invite diners to linger. The last to open offers another nod to the past in its name, Mercantile Provision & Dining.
Although settlers won't be riding in to stock up on goods, locals, passengers and tourists can find tasty preserves, pickles and other edibles to take away, or they can sit down to dinner in this European market-inspired venue from Chef Alex Seidel of Fruition fame.
The Mercantile joins Stoic & Genuine and The Kitchen Next Door as the station's primary restaurants, while Snooze brings its whimsical retro vibe to the breakfast scene.