The Gateway Arch is an instantly recognizable and impressive sight when visiting St. Louis. The St. Louis Arch, Gateway Arch Museum, and Gateway Arch Park went through an extensive construction project which have made this updated area a great national park to visit. See why visiting the Gateway Arch Museum and riding a tram to the top of the Arch should be on your St. Louis bucket list.
Gateway Arch Museum
The new, highly interactive Gateway Arch Museum opened in July 2018. The Gateway Arch Museum is broken into six different exhibits: Colonial St. Louis, Jefferson’s Vision, Manifest Destiny, The Riverfront Era, New Frontiers, and Building the Arch.
Each exhibit flows into the next allowing you to explore the sections at your own pace. We loved learning about the Western expansion through the mix of historic artifacts and multimedia displays.
For example, one interactive multimedia display we found especially interesting was about stagecoach transportation. This display is in front of a real stagecoach dating back to the mid-1800s. The interactive exhibit illustrates all the parts of the stagecoach using a touchscreen control for rotating the image.
The same touchscreen lets viewers learn about stagecoach experiences through several stagecoach stories. These stories are audio clips, some with coordinated videos, where people talk about being stagecoach passengers, guards, or even the driver. Seeing how people traveled from St. Louis to places far west in the late 1800s made me appreciate our modern transportation options.
Many parts of the Gateway Arch Museum shared frank details about how westward expansion interfered with and harmed the Native Americans and Mexicans who already lived in the west. The pioneers often polluted the trails and disrupted bison migration which severely impacted the Native Americans’ way of life.
St. Louis Gateway Arch Tram Experience
Reaching The Top Of Gateway Arch
Taking the Gateway Arch Tram up to the viewing platform was a highlight of our visit to Gateway Arch National Park. Access to the north and south trams is at the very back of the museum. Your tram ticket will note your tour time and which tram station you should enter.
After scanning your ticket you will be ushered into a queue with others in the same tour time slot. A short video outlines the Arch background and several pop culture references of the 1960s. After the video you take a set of stairs further underground to access the tram loading station.
The Gateway Arch trams are an engineering marvel. You climb through a narrow, four-foot-tall opening to enter the tram. Each tram holds up to five people in a small space. If your group is less than five people it is possible you will share your tram with another group. The Gateway Arch tram can be a tight fit, but thankfully the ride up only takes four minutes.
On the ride up the tram will alternate with upward and a slight rocking motion as you make the angled incline up into the top of the Arch. This rocking motion was a little odd at first, but I quickly got used to it. The tram doors are clear which allow you to see inside the Gateway Arch structure.
Experience At The Top Of The Gateway Arch
Once you reach the top of the Arch you exit your tram and are directed up a set of stairs to the Gateway Arch viewing area. The Arch is 630 feet (192 m) tall which provides amazing views from the top. On a clear day you can see up to 30 miles (50 km) east or west through the small, narrow windows.
The view to the west is that of downtown St. Louis. When the weather is clear this view makes for a great photo opportunity of the city. To the east are views of the Mississippi River and Illinois.
Return To The Gateway Arch Museum
You are free to spend as much or as little time as you want at the top of the Arch. When you are ready to descend back to the Gateway Arch Museum an employee will assign you a return tram number. After the people arriving have exited the tram, board your tram and take the three-minute ride back down to the museum.
St. Louis Arch Security Screening
Anyone entering the Gateway Arch Museum must undergo security screening. This security screening is similar to U.S. airport procedures where all bags go through an x-ray machine and people go through a metal detector.
Find out what items are prohibited at Gateway Arch National Museum here.
St. Louis Arch Tickets
There are several ticket types available at Gateway Arch National Park. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time online here. If you want to take a tram to the top of the Arch it is recommended you purchase tickets ahead of time, as these sometimes run out. We appreciated having our tickets pre-purchased and printed so we could skip the ticket line once we arrived.
Parking For Gateway Arch National Park
Gateway Arch National Park does not have a dedicated parking lot, but suggests using any public lot nearby. We parked at Laclede’s Landing Parking Lot. This unremarkable flat surface parking lot is just north of Gateway Arch Park.
Once parked it took us just a few minutes of walking through the beautiful green space to reach the Gateway Arch National Park museum entrance. When we arrived at 9:25 am there were tons of spots to choose from, but when we left after noon the lot was full. The lot attendant recommends arriving before 10:00 for the best chance of snagging a parking spot. Check here for other Gateway Arch area parking options.
Final Thoughts On Visiting Gateway Arch National Park
Despite being able to admire the striking view of the St. Louis Arch along the riverfront for free there is something special about visiting the museum. The unique tram ride to the top of the Arch and exceptional views of the city below was one of our favorite things about our visit.
The new interactive museum provides easy to understand information on the western expansion, early St. Louis, and the creation of the monument itself. Give yourself plenty of time to explore the Gateway Arch Museum, ride a tram to the top of the St. Louis Arch, and walk the paths of the Gateway Arch Park when you plan your visit to Gateway Arch National Park.
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