Everything you need to know about visiting Penn Station (234 W 31st St, New York, 10001).
Although it’s considered the ugly stepchild of Grand Central Terminal, there’s no denying Penn Station’s necessity to New York City. Located underneath Madison Square Garden in the heart of midtown Manhattan, Penn Station—named after the Pennsylvania Railroad—serves over 650,000 rail passengers via Amtrak, LIRR, NJ Transit, PATH and NYC subway each day. Operating on 21 tracks via seven tunnels, it’s the busiest passenger transportation facility in the country. But this cramped, subterranean transit nave wasn’t always the catacomb of controlled chaos New Yorkers love to hate. Inspired by the Roman Baths of Caracalla and shaped from the same stone as the Colosseum, the original 1910 Penn was regarded as one of the most noble buildings in Manhattan. Sadly, the grand facade was destroyed in 1963, and in 1969, the city erected the fluorescent-lit battleship gray concourse you tolerate today.
Find a meal that's actually great
Admittedly, Penn Station isn’t all doom and gloom. The station does have its merits, one of which is the food. Sure, there are some decent quick bites within the station (falafel plate at Chickpea, California wrap at Zaro’s), but if you’ve got some time to kill, head on over to the Pennsy—the 8,000-square-foot food hall located just one level above Penn Station. Open seven days a week from 11am to 2am, the Pennsy houses six fast-casual restaurants serving everything from sushi burritos to vegan BBQ. Highlights include Pat LaFrieda’s slow roasted pork shoulder with broccoli rabe and provolone on ciabatta, Ribalta’s quattro formaggi Neapolitan pizza and spice-rubbed cauliflower tacos by Taco Dumbo.
Drink your worries away
If you fancy a liquid lunch, you’re in luck, because Penn Station has no shortage of boozy offerings. Forego the Amtrak bar and save a few bucks by purchasing chilled beer and wine in advance at one of several vendors prominently displaying refreshing alms on ice. For a more sophisticated tipple, there’s Penn Wine & Spirits—the station’s resident liquor store which boasts an impressive selection of local and international wines alongside a dependable array of gin, vodka, whiskey and Scotch. And thanks to the 2016 opening of the Pennsy, you won’t have to settle for a pre-made sour-mix–laden TGI Friday’s margarita—the Pennsy Bar serves bespoke cocktails, draft beers and eclectic wines everyday from 11am to 2am.
Imagine a brighter future
Rejuvenation is on the horizon as plans to expand Penn Station into the adjacent James A. Farley Post Office take shape. In June 2017, the brand new West End Concourse and entrance opened on Eighth Avenue, providing a new line of access to 17 of Penn’s 21 tracks. By 2020, the Farley Building will house a modern 255,000-square-foot train hall, to be named Moynihan Train Hall, and 700,000 square feet of new commercial space brightened by modern amenities and a massive, arched glass ceiling. It may not rival the voluminous Roman architecture of yesteryear, but it is a step in the right (and better-lit) direction.
Our New York editorial team is constantly updating and reviewing the best attractions, activities and venues across the city, so that you're always in the know, with the best of NYC. at your fingertips. Penn Station was most recently updated with new tips on July 28, 2017.