Extraordinary Experiences for Families, Friends and the Future

Catching Up with Kirkwood Resident Bob O’Loughlin, Chairman and CEO of Lodging and Hospitality Management at Union Station

Last year, over 70,000 pajama-clad kids and adults took a trip on the Polar Express. 850,000 people visited the St. Louis Aquarium, and 550,000 adventurers rode The St. Louis Wheel. These exceptional family experiences result from one of Kirkwood’s most visionary residents. 

As an expert at creating memorable experiences, talk about the experience of living in Kirkwood. 

I grew up on the East Coast and moved here from San Francisco. We moved to the Sugar Creek neighborhood 32 years ago, and I love the people, how charitable the community is, and that everybody knows each other. We’ve had opportunities to move, but we love Kirkwood. My wife volunteers at the train station and has tickets to Stages. We love the restaurants in town, the farmers’ market, and the traditions. We wouldn’t live anywhere else. 

Your charitable mindset has made a tremendous impact on our community.  

Our company started 35 years ago in St. Louis. Through the years, we have been blessed, and St. Louis has been so good to us. I want to continue to do what I can to give back. I’m on the Board of Directors for the St. Louis Zoo, the Science Center, Logos School, St. Louis University, and Washington University. We’ve contributed to the downtown lighting project, Siteman Center, and most recently, we became the lead donor in St. Louis University’s Champion Center for student-athletes. 

Describe Union Station at Christmastime. 

We bought Union Station in 2012, and I always say, “If you own a train station, you better own a train.” So, we bought eight train cars and the rights to Polar Express. The experience is amazing. Families dress up in pajamas and board the train with the conductor, the hobo, and chefs who make hot chocolate and cookies. The train pulls out of Union Station and heads down to the riverfront, where Santa is waiting at the North Pole. Each child receives a bell to ring if they believe in Christmas. They take their pictures and head back to have pancakes with Santa in the lobby. Families love it. From Thanksgiving to the end of the year, it’s a great place to visit. 

Don’t forget about seeing the light show in the Grand Hall.

The Grand Hall in Union Station was built in 1894. Everything is original. The lobby is so magnificent that it’s been listed in U.S. News as one of the 10 most beautiful lobbies in the country. We wanted to bring entertainment to the lobby, so we collaborated with a team out of Orlando to create a light show on the ceiling of the Grand Hall. In 2015 we won a TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) award. That same year Disney won for It’s a Small World, Universal won for Harry Potter, and we won for our light show. The shows run every half hour and have spectacular themes ranging from images of the Sistine Chapel to songs from the Beatles. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience. 

The St. Louis Aquarium is a unique, interactive experience. 

We have 120,000 gallons of water in the aquarium and make our own salt water. One side of the aquarium is filled with freshwater fish found in the Missouri River, and the other side is filled with saltwater fish, sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, and otters. We even have a sloth. There are interactive shows every hour. 

What’s your favorite St. Louis experience?  

We have 20 hotels, developed Union Station, Westport Plaza, and The Cheshire. If anyone is coming to St. Louis and wants to experience the city, go to 360 Rooftop Bar on top of the Hilton at the Ballpark. It’s been listed as one of the top 10 rooftop bars in the world. 

What’s next? 

We will completely transform Westport Plaza by adding 255 apartments, bringing in the soda fountain concept, and building 360 Rooftop Bar West on top of the Gold Tower. Westport will have a unique live, work, and entertainment experience.

For more information, visit

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