As a kid, I grew up going to the St. Louis Arch. Way back before it was given National Park status.
Over the weekend, we took our kids to the Gateway Arch National Park to see what it’s like to be 630 feet up in the air!
Gateway Arch National Park Facts
The St. Louis Gateway Arch National Park is in downtown St. Louis, sitting along the Mississippi River.
So what is this St. Louis arch? Why was it even built?
In 1947, there was a nationwide contest to design a monument to represent Thomas Jefferson’s vision of the United States expansion westward.
Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen won that contest with his design of a 630-foot stainless steel arch.
The “Gateway Arch” represents the “Gateway to the West” during the United States’ expansion westward.
The building of the arch was considered an engineering feat. Construction began in 1963, and the arch wasn’t completed until 1965 (unfortunately, after Eero Saarinen’s death.)
The Gateway Arch was originally called the “Jefferson National Expansion Memorial”, until 2018 when it became an official National Park, as opposed to a National Monument.
The smallest National Park, it consists of the arch itself, a museum underneath, the Old Courthouse (where the Dred Scott case was heard), and a riverfront park.
Our day at the St. Louis Gateway Arch National Park
We visited the St. Louis arch on a Sunday early afternoon.
There are several different areas to park, depending on which direction you are arriving from. We parked down along the river on the old cobblestone levee parking lot in front of the riverboat cruises. This is off of Leonor K Sullivan Blvd.
From here, you walk straight up toward the arch, up a big set of stairs, also known as “the grand staircase”.
To enter the arch, you have to go through the west entrance, which faces the Old Courthouse.
Luckily, it wasn’t busy at all on the day we were visiting. It was a quick walk through security, where you are told to remove bags, belts, electronics, and empty pockets. After walking through the metal detector, you will get all your things back. It is similar to airport security.
Inside, we got our Gateway Arch tickets to go to the top for 12:30pm.
The Gateway Arch Inside – a Ride to the Top
When our time came, we got in line for the tram elevator. Your party will be given a number that tells you which tram you will be going up in.
The trams are pretty small, each with 5 seats. There is a Gateway Arch tram car replica sitting out in the lobby that you can test out beforehand if you think you might have an issue with claustrophobia. The trams do have windows, which look out on the stairs that maintenance and emergency crews use.
It’s a 4-minute ride to the top of the arch, going 3 mph.
Once at the top, there are 16 windows looking out on each side over the river and the city. On a clear day, you can see up to 30 miles on each side.
Make sure you get all the photos and views you want right away because you only get to spend less than 10 minutes at the top of the arch before getting back on a tram to go down.
Exploring more of the Gateway Arch National Park
Once down, we had lunch at the Arch Café. The food was good but definitely pricey. If you’re planning to spend more time in St. Louis, it might be worth it to check out some other restaurants near Gateway Arch National Park. Here are several dining options for you!
Restaurants Near Gateway Arch
- Sugarfire Smokehouse for BBQ
- Salt + Smoke is another barbeque option.
- Chili Mac’s Diner for classic diner food
- Pickles Deli for deli sandwiches
- The Old Spaghetti Factory for Italian food
- Ballpark Pizza for St. Louis-style pizza
- Slice Pizzeria and Pasta
- St. Louis Union Station Soda Fountain
- BLT’s Breakfast Lunch & Tacos
After lunch, we walked through the whole Gateway to the West Museum, learning about the arch itself as well as the U.S. expansion and life during that time.
There were several interactive touch-screen games that our 9-year-old enjoyed. He especially loved the one that was similar to the Oregon Trail game.
Other things to see are a stagecoach from the time, a covered wagon, a replica of a cabin from the period, and more.
After walking through the museum, we stopped in at the gift shop before leaving.
Gateway Arch Hours, Pricing, and Other Information
*info correct as of January 2023
Summer (Saturday before Memorial Day through Labor Day)
Daily: 9am – 8pm (last tram to the top leaves one hour before closing)
Winter (Tuesday after Labor Day through the Friday before Memorial Day weekend)
Daily: 9am – 6pm (last tram to the top leaves one hour before closing)
*CLOSED Thanksgiving, Christmas Day & New Year’s Day
*The park grounds are open all year, 5am – 11pm.
Walking around the park and visiting the museum that’s inside Gateway Arch is free. Inside, you can purchase tickets to ride to the top, watch the documentary, and go on a riverboat cruise.
Tram to the Top: $15/adult, $11/child (age 3-15)
Tram & Movie Combo: $19/adult, $14/child (age 3-15)
See Everything Combo: (tram to the top, movie, 1-hour riverboat cruise) $41/adult, $26/child (age 3-15)
Gateway Arch Location
The Gateway Arch National Park is located in St. Louis, Missouri along the western bank of the Mississippi River.
- Leashed pets are allowed on the park grounds, but not in the Visitor Center or Old Courthouse. Service dogs are permitted.
- Wheelchairs, scooters & strollers are not permitted to ride to the top.
- There is no seating and no restrooms at the top.
Before you go, check out these other articles that might interest you!
- The Ultimate Guide to National Parks for Families
- Discover the Best Missouri State Parks: Epic MO State Parks You Can’t Miss
- 5 Fun Places to See Animals in St. Louis
- Expert Tips for a Memorable Visit to the St. Louis Zoo
- The Ultimate Guide to Cape Girardeau with Kids
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