Visit Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis, Missouri, for great views, a glimpse of history, and some welcoming outdoor spaces.
When the husband and I found ourselves with a little time to spend in St. Louis, Missouri, earlier this year, our national-park-loving instincts kicked in.
At this point, we’re sort of collectors of national parks. Although we still have a lot out there waiting for us.
That’s why we took a morning and made our way to Gateway Arch National Park, right on the edge of the mighty Mississippi River.
Our Missouri explorations also took us to some great restaurants, like Mary Jane Burgers and Brew!
Curious about what this national park has to offer? Here’s what to expect if you go!
How is Gateway Arch Different From Other National Parks?
The arch itself has existed since 1965, but its status as a national park is much newer — that came in 2018.
While most national parks in America preserve landscapes, this one is more about memorializing history. The 19th century westward expansion of settlers, to be exact.
That’s why you won’t find major hiking trails or outdoor recreation at this national park.
What will you find? Tram rides inside the arch, museum exhibits, and a 91-acre landscaped park.
Curious about the variety and history found in other national parks? I highly recommend Conor Knighton’s book Leave Only Footprints.
How Much Does It Cost to Visit?
The grounds at Gateway Arch National Park are free to walk around in, and so is the museum underneath the arch.
All activities, though, are paid. These include a documentary viewing, tram rides to the top of the arch, river cruises, and helicopter tours (in season). Check current pricing on the website.
You can buy tickets for everything at the building right below the arch. Except for the helicopter trips: head to the pad on the riverfront to book those.
Do consider buying tram tickets online ahead of time if possible. When we visited, they were sold out for the next hour and a half – and that was on a weekday morning!
You can find paid parking at a garage nearby, or at other facilities in downtown St. Louis.
Exploring the Grounds, Museum + Shop
There’s a manicured, tree-lined path to the arch.
Great views of the city surround you, even from the ground level.
You can check out a couple of small shady zen gardens located along the walkway between the arch and the Old Courthouse. They’ve been placed to provide visitors a place to rest, picnic, journal, or read.
For views of the steamboats, walk down the steps to the river.
As mentioned above, you can book a one-hour riverboat cruise. And Paddlewheel Café offers lunch on the riverboat dock during the summer season.
The museum includes storytelling galleries that relate the history of the past 200 years in this area.
There’s also a replica of the keystone piece of the arch, complete with “windows” featuring a livestream of the view from the top.
If you don’t have time to wait for the tram experience (we didn’t), then at least this replica gives you a little peek at what it’s like up there.
Don’t forget about the gift shop with souvenirs, fudge and lots of food gifts. (Our favorite!)
There’s one other major component to this national park: the Old Courthouse, about a quarter of a mile west of the arch.
Under normal circumstances, it’s home to legal and historical exhibits. It also boasts some beautiful architecture. But for the time being, it’s closed for renovation.
Have you made a visit to St. Louis or Gateway Arch National Park? Let us know in the comments what your favorite parts are!