Visiting the Gateway Arch in St. Louis

Gateway to the West

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To St. Louis locals, the Gateway Arch is a source of great pride. And for good reason. This stainless steel monstrosity is the tallest manmade monument in the Western Hemisphere and Missouri's tallest accessible building. As a city visitor, this gives you a good reason to lay your eyes on it. Daring tourists should hop a ride to the top in one of the arch's mini trams to gain the full experience. It's a unique attraction you won't find anywhere else. So while in St. Louis, don't pass up this one-of-a-kind landmark.

History

In 1935, the federal government selected the St. Louis riverfront as the site for a new national monument, honoring the pioneers who explored the American West. This spurred a nationwide competition in 1947, won by architect Eero Saarinen for his design of a giant stainless steel arch. Construction on the Arch began in 1963 and was completed in 1965. Today, St. Louis' Gateway Arch is, arguably, the most popular city attraction, with millions of people visiting it every year.

Fun Facts

As the country's tallest monument, the Gateway Arch sits at 630 feet tall. It is also 630 feet wide at its base and weighs more than 43,000 tons. The Arch may be heavy, but it was designed to sway with the wind. It moves up to an inch in a 20-mile-per-hour wind and can sway up to 18 inches if the winds hit 150 miles-per-hour. There are 1,076 stairs going up each leg of the Arch, but the tram system carries most of the visitors to the top (unless, of course, you want a good workout).

Ride to the Top

Some visitors can't stomach the four-minute ride to the top in one of the Arch's tiny trams. But for those who can, there's nothing quite like it. During the ride, you'll see the inner workings and structural supports of the monument, getting a sense of how it was built. Once on top, take in the views of St. Louis, the Mississippi River, and the Metro East from one of the Arch's 16 windows. And if you’ve already seen this site during the day, make the trip again at night to revel in the city lights.

Location and Hours

The Gateway Arch and Museum of Westward Expansion are located in downtown St. Louis on the Mississippi Riverfront. Both are open from daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with expanded hours from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The Old Courthouse just across the street is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Visiting Tips

Everyone must obtain a ticket to enter the Arch. You can purchase an entry-only ticket or an entry and tram ride combo ticket, available at both adult and child rates. Kids younger than three are free. Tram tickets do sell out, so it's best to buy in advance and tickets can be purchased online.

The Arch's extended hours in the summer make it an ideal time to visit. Schedule your ticket to watch the sunset from the top. And if you plan on taking the tram up, expect to spend at least two hours at the Arch in order to gain the full experience. 

Regional Things to Do

The Gateway Arch is just one part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Under the arch, you will find the Museum of Westward Expansion. This free museum features exhibits on Lewis and Clark and the 19th-century pioneers responsible for moving America’s borders westward. Across the street from the Arch is a third Memorial attraction, the Old Courthouse. This historic building hosted the famous Dred Scott Slavery Trial of 1857. Today, you can tour restored courtrooms and galleries. And if you visit during the holiday season, you’ll see some of the finest Christmas decorations in town.