Family Guide to the Gateway St. Louis Arch
On our road trip out west, we couldn’t miss stopping at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. It would be a fairly quick stop, and allow us to get back on the road. We got early tickets (9:20 am) for a Saturday morning, and we truly beat any crowds. It was much more crowded when we left.
Getting to the Arch from I-70
We were coming from KY, and decided to stay outside of St. Louis based on some recommendations from friends. So, we stayed in O’Fallon, IL at the Drury Hotel. This was about 20 minutes outside of St. Louis. This was a very nice hotel for family. It was super clean, which is my priority. It had a nice snack time, and we got there in time to have some popcorn prior to heading to bed. It also had a nice pool, which we weren’t able to enjoy due to our short stay. It also had a free breakfast, which happened to be one of the nicest hotel breakfasts I’ve ever had. I have honestly paid for much worse hotel breakfasts! We were pleasantly surprised with what a nice hotel it was!
The next morning, we only had 20 minutes to drive before getting to the arch from IL. Once we got across the river, we needed to park. To be honest, I found signage lacking for parking. It can be missed easily. (And don’t trust your GPS because ours took us back across the river.). We finally parked in Laclede’s Landing (cost: $7). Once you find the parking, though, the walk through the park to the arch is quite lovely, with a nice stroll beside the Mississippi River.
A Brief History of the Arch
The park was founded in 1935 by the National Park Service. President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated this property along the St. Louis riverbank to be developed as the Jefferson National Expansion Museum. In 1947-1948, the city held a nationwide competition to design the monument. Architect Eero Saarinen won with his stainless steel arch. Construction began in 1963, and was completed in 1965. Today it is the tallest national monument in the US, standing 630 feet over the Mississippi River. It serves to commentate the pioneering spirit of the 19th westward pioneers and celebrate the city’s role as the “Gateway to the West”.
Getting on the Tram for the Arch
There is a new entrance for the arch – the park guide told us it was very recently opened. It opens up like an oval and you enter underground. There is a pretty wading pool that you walk around. You be directed to your north or south tram area. There is a very large museum to view, but sadly it wasn’t open for us to see. It said the grand opening was July 2018. It looks like it will be fantastic!! Once inside, there’s a cafe, the arch gift shop, and some interactive displays. You aren’t allowed to line up for your tram any sooner than 5 minutes before your time.
My husband bought our tickets online. So, they were emailed to him to show electronically. Fair warning – if you do this, remember you are underground and the phone signal is poor to non existent. We had a small panic attack because we couldn’t bring them up, but the ticket person was able to play with his phone and get them up finally. If I could give you a tip, I would screen shot the tickets so they are saved to photos and could be scanned from there!!
The Ride to the Top
The ride up to the top of the arch may have been the most interesting and fun part! You get in a small pod with 5 seats and ride up. It functions kind of like a Ferris wheel. It takes 4 minutes to ride to the top. (And 3 minutes to come back down!)
Once you are at the top, the view spans 30 miles east and west. You are also 630 feet up!!
If you have a chance to visit the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, don’t miss it!!