Your Ultimate Guide to Visiting the St. Louis Arch
Everything you need to know for your visit to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri
Visiting the St. Louis Arch has been one of my dreams as I have driven past the arch so many times, but had never had the chance to go inside, until now. On top of that, William had never seen the St. Louis Arch in real life, so when we found that our move to the east coast would pass through St. Louis, we knew we HAD to stop! We aren’t the kind of travelers that go from point A to point B without any stops in between, instead if there is something cool to see along our path, we will make a small detour to see it!
About the Arch:
The St. Louis Arch is actually a national park! I didn’t know that either! Technically it is the Gateway Arch National Park.
The Gateway Arch represents a gateway to the West. It’s a symbol of westward expansion in the 19th century and what that meant for our country.
According to the National Park Service, “The park is a memorial to Thomas Jefferson’s role in opening the West, to the pioneers who helped shape its history, and to Dred Scott who sued for his freedom in the Old Courthouse.”
The whole national park consists of 90.96 acres, including both the Arch and the Old Courthouse, along with lots of trails all around the Arch.
The Tram Ride:
As you hop into line for either the North or South tram just outside the museum, there’s a bit of a wait to get to the top. The entire tour, including pre-boarding, can take about an hour or more, depending on how long you choose to stay at the top.
After scanning your tickets, you’ll slowly move toward the entrance to the St. Louis Arch elevator where you’ll meet your guide for your trip to the top. They will pass out cards with your group number. Hold on to this card, you’ll use it later. Once it is time, you will be lead into a large room to watch a short movie about the years when the Arch was being built.
After the movie, they’ll snap a quick picture of your party, which you can purchase when you come back down. (It’s just a green screen that they upload a picture of the arch as the background. I wouldn’t recommend it.) Then they’ll take your card, and direct you to which tram number to board. Then you’ll walk down the stairs to your tram door.
Before you can enter your car, people coming down will empty out of it. Get ready to squeeze in because it’s a tight fit; each pod barely has room for 5 seats, perfect for people who don’t mind getting cozy with strangers.
Next, the doors will seal. Then up, up, up and away you’ll go. You’ll only be able to see out the windows of your door, but this means you’ll be able to see down, as well as the stairwell that seemingly goes on and on forever. You’ll also get a glimpse of the inner Arch, which includes lots of concrete and cables.
As a former welder and aspiring mechanical engineer, William was very impressed with the engineering and welding that went into the construction of the arch.
William and I also have this thing where we make it a goal to kiss in the weirdest places, so we kissed in the elevator and on the top of the arch. Our favorite thing to ask each other when we do this is, “I wonder how many people can say they’ve kissed [wherever we are at the time]. It is a great way to make the experience more romantic.
VIEW FROM THE TOP OF THE ARCH:
Once you’re at the top, you can stay as long as you’d like. There will be guides and even a park ranger or two to answer any questions you may have.
Enjoy the view of the city on one side and the view of barges gliding by on the Mississippi River, bordering Illinois, on the other side. Because of where we parked, we could see our Jeep from the window on the city side!! That was pretty cool!
We ended up, funny enough, riding the tram down with the same couple that rode up with us!
It was also pretty cool because, as we were walking down to the trams, we could feel the arch sway. It was a slight sway, but it was there. And it was freaking awesome!!!
Warning: It can get quite crowded, and you’ll likely bump shoulders with other people perched on a ledge gazing out at the city. Also, as you make your way down to the tram, you’ll need to pack in super tight as you wait for the trams to empty so you can get back on and head back down to the bottom.
The whole awesome experience is worth the wait time, worth the money, and worth the trip to visit! But it is not recommended for people who are claustrophobic or afraid of heights.
Gateway Arch National Park is located at 11 North 4th Street in St. Louis, Missouri, on the St. Louis Riverfront.
You can enter via the riverfront, the Walnut Street Bridge near the Old Cathedral, or through Laclede’s Landing.
Gateway Arch tickets can be purchased online, or at the door. We highly recommend reserving your tickets in advance, especially if you’re visiting in peak season. We purchased them at the door and it wasn’t too bad. But if it is peak season, tickets will sell out quickly
You can buy tickets here.
The Arch is 630 feet (192 meters) tall; 630 feet is also the distance from leg to leg at ground level.
1 story is about 10 feet so the Arch is 63 stories tall.
The tram takes four minutes to get to the top and three minutes to travel from the top to the bottom. Add an additional three minutes to load down at the bottom so a tram just leaving the top will take approximately 10 minutes round trip.
To read more about the Arch, check out the NPS (National Park Service) website here
If you’ve ever been to the St. Louis Arch, or if this guide helped you, tell me about your experience in the comments 😀
Great travel guide! And it seems you really had a great time. I wish to travel there someday. Thank you! ?