Gateway Arch National Park
When you imagine traveling to a United States National Park, you think wide-open spaces. If you're like us, locations such as Yellowstone, Glacier and Grand Canyon come to mind. But then again, what about places like Gateway Arch National Park in the heart of St. Louis, Missouri? Yes. If you can manage it, go there.
The Gateway Arch is a part of the essence of St. Louis. It beams brightly over the downtown area. You'll find it's likeness everywhere in St. Louis. You wouldn't necessarily think of a giant, steel-clad arch as beautiful, but it is! It rises out of the ground and climbs high into the sky before gently arching at the top and heading back to Earth. It's stainless-steel exterior shines and sparkles in the natural sunlight, moonlight or city lights at night.
You can walk right up to the Gateway Arch and enjoy its majesty. Unfortunately, being able to do so means that people like to scratch their names into the legs. Ugh, why do people do that? Nonetheless, walk around it, over to it and under it! Place your hand on one of the triangle-shaped legs while looking toward the sky. Examine how the clouds float past the tiny windows at the top center of the structure and then imagine what it would be like to look out from one of those tiny little windows. Once inside take a tram ride to the top of the monument. After a very tight, jerky and fun ride to the top, find a tiny window on each side (yes, they're still small once you're at the top) for a fantastic view of the Mississippi River on one side and downtown, St. Louis on the other.
The Gateway Arch was constructed over several years beginning in 1961. The final section at the very top was placed in 1965. The structure soars 630 feet into the sky and is the tallest monument in the United States. But there's something much bigger going on at the Gateway Arch. The structure is a part of Gateway Arch National Park. It's a place for people to visit and lean about westward expansion and reflect on the important history of the area. In the museum housed beneath the Arch you learn more about the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark and their guide, Sacagawea, and the early pioneers. A view from the top showcases the Mississippi River and historic features of the St. Louis area.
A short walk to the Old Courthouse located adjacent to the Gateway Arch is where you're reminded of the importance of Dred and Harriet Scott and their fight for freedom from slavery. It's there Virginia Minor fought for women's rights to vote. The Old Courthouse is currently undergoing a two-year renovation per the park website and is temporarily closed. That, however, doesn't stop a visitor from standing on the grounds of Gateway Arch National Park and appreciating the historical significance of the location.
We visited the Gateway Arch on an overcast day in Fall 2021 before we started our blog this year. Nevertheless, our visit wasn't that long ago and we think it's an important location that deserves a spotlight. A reconstruction of the main entrance to the monument was completed In 2018. The entrance is bigger and the museum is brighter as the new design utilizes more natural light. Displays are now more interactive. There is also a section about the magnificent construction of the Gateway Arch itself. We spent a good portion of the day at the park. We also took time to walk the grounds outside and watch the flowing river.
There is no fee to visit the museum, but plan to go through security screening to get inside. There is a gift shop available, as well as a snack area to get something quick to eat or drink. Plan to pay a fee for a tram ride to the top of the arch. Yes, you should ride to the top if possible. Please keep in mind that the tram ride to the top is not fully accessible for all guests with mobility issues. Visit gatewayarch.com to learn about accessibility, hours and pricing. Other area attractions and tours are available and are outlined on the park website.
Be mindful of rush-hour traffic on weekdays and plan to pay for parking once you get downtown. Public garages are available for smaller vehicles. There is limited street parking and some surface lots for a fee. A few RV campsites are located within a short drive of downtown St. Louis. This would be a good location to consider unhooking from larger trailers at camp or using your RV tow-behind vehicle for the visit if you travel with one.
While we generally like traveling the back roads, sometimes you just have to stop and see what's happening in the city. There's lots to do in the St. Louis area. A visit to Gateway Arch National Park should be at the top of the list. Thanks for reading our blog. We'll catch you again soon as we wander about.