All About Visiting Gateway Arch National Park and St. Louis, Missouri

All About Visiting Gateway Arch National Park & St. Louis, Missouri

Gateway Arch National Park is the United States smallest national park.  Encompassing 91 acres in St. Louis, Missouri, Gateway Arch National Park can be visited in a few hours.  Read on to learn how to visit the park!

First of all, why is Gateway Arch a National Park?

Gateway Arch National Park contains the Gateway Arch, an engineering masterpiece created to represent St. Louis’ role in westward expansion.  Gateway Arch National Park is also a memorial to Thomas Jefferson who played a big role in the westward expansion, the pioneers who helped shape its history, and the Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott case took place, a pivotal point in US history. 

The Dred Scott case was a years long court case involving an enslaved man, Dred Scott.  Dred Scott fought for his freedom believing he should be free due to residing in an anti-slavery state.  The case lasted ten years, moving through multiple courts, and finally reaching the Supreme Court.  The decision was made claiming that because he was an enslaved man he was not a citizen and could not pursue freedom.  However, this decision fueled abolitionists who worked even harder in the anti-slavery movement, ultimately leading to the beginning stages of the Civil War. 

How to Plan Your Visit

Gateway Arch National Park encompasses Gateway Arch, walking paths and beautifully landscaped grounds surrounding the arch, an incredible visitor’s center and museum, and the Old Courthouse.

The top thing to do here is ride the tram to the top of Gateway Arch.  While at the arch, check out the visitor’s center, located underground, and watch the documentary film about the design, creation, and building of the arch in the 1960s.

Outside, take in the arch walking walking the lovely walking paths.  It’s a beautiful memorial in an urban setting.

Across the street from the arch lies the Old Courthouse.  When we visited, it was under renovation, so we didn’t get to go inside.  

GATEWAY ARCH NATIONAL PARK FACTS

The United States smallest National Park

  • LOCATION:  St. Louis, Missouri
  • ANNUAL VISITORS:  1.6 million (2022)
  • 17th most visited US National Park (out of 63)
  • BECAME A NATIONAL PARK:  2018
  • TOP THING TO DO:  Ride the tram to the top of Gateway ARch

Our Two Day Itinerary

St. Louis, Missouri is just under four hours from our home in Kentucky.  This made for a great weekend trip.

Where we stayed

Hotel St. Louis | St. Louis, Missouri

Hotel St. Louis is located within walking distance to Gateway Arch National Park, our main reason for choosing it.  It is a beautiful historic hotel with a lovely lobby bar and cool roof top pool.

When we visited

Mid-November.  Temperatures were in the 50s during the day and dipped a little cooler at night.  We had comfortable temps for walking the paths around Gateway Arch, photographing the arch, and walking around town.

Here is how we did it:

FRIDAY

We drove from our home in Kentucky to Hotel St. Louis, checking in in the late afternoon.

Daylight Savings Time began the week prior, so the sun was setting early.  We grabbed our camera equipment to take sunset pics of the arch.  We spent about 45 minutes getting photos of the arch from different angles against a lovely purple November sky.

The Gateway Arch | St. Louis, Missouri

Back at the hotel, we dropped off our camera gear and headed to dinner at Eleven Eleven Mississippi.  We enjoyed cocktails and apps and topped off our night with delicious coffee drinks.

Drinks & apps at Eleven Eleven Mississippi | St. Louis, Missouri

SATURDAY

On Today’s Agenda:

  • Gateway Arch National Park
  • Lunch at Sugarfire BBQ
  • Afternoon tour at Anheuser Busch Brewery
  • Jerry Seinfeld & Jim Gaffigan show at the Enterprise Center

Here is our timeline to help with planning:

9:00 am – We headed to Gateway Arch National Park, detouring to take photos in front of the courthouse.  

The Old Courthouse with the Gateway Arch behind it

9:20 am – We entered the museum, which is located underground, right underneath the arch.  You go through security upon entering the museum, however when we visited it was very quick.  Add in extra time for this in case it is busier when you visit. 

The museum is extensive and really well done, telling the story of the westward expansion.  The native peoples and the pioneers were featured along the way with their stories told.  

The Gateway Arch Museum

10:00 am – We had tickets to the documentary film, Monument to the Dream, located in the museum’s Tucker Theatre.

NOTE:  When purchasing tickets online, you have the option to buy a variety of combo tickets.  We chose “Tram and Movie combo”.  We first selected our movie time.  Once this time slot was selected, the tram option times autopopulated.  This ensures you have enough time in between experiences.  

You can purchase tickets to the tram and documentary film (plus additional experiences) here on the website.

10:40 am – A quick coffee break in the cafe until it was time to board our tram to the top of the arch.

Coffee break before our timed slot to ride the tram to the top of the arch | Gateway Arch National Park

10:50 am – Our tickets were for the 10:50 slot to take the tram to the top of the arch.  You start by lining up and getting a card with a number on it.  The number corresponds to the number of the pod you take to the top.

You will then line up in front of these elevator looking doors which lead to the pods that you ride to the top.  

Inside the tiny pod! | Gateway Arch

Each pod holds five people but it is tight.  The sensation of the ride is likened to that of a ferris wheel.  You feel that you are going up on a slight angle.  At various points, the pod swings slightly.  

Once at the top, guests get 10 minutes to take in the views, which is all that you need. 

The top of the arch – can you see where it bends? |Gateway Arch

Feel the bend as you walk around up there and look out the tiny windows to views of the city of St. Louis to the west and the Mississippi River to the east.  And you’ll likely come away with a new appreciation for this engineering masterpiece.

Views from the top | Gateway Arch

After 10 minutes, you get back into the pod you arrived in and head down.  The trip up takes 4 minutes, the trip down 3 minutes.  

11:30 am – Lunch at Sugarfire Smokehouse.  We love a good BBQ and this one was highly rated.  It was delicious!  Sugarfire is just a 10 minute walk from Gateway Arch National Park.

A delicious lunch | Sugarfire

3:15 pmAnheuser Busch Brewery Tour

We share all about the tour we did below.

Anheuser Busch Brewery

5:30 pm – Dinner at Bridge Tap House.  A cozy spot close to the Enterprise Center, we enjoyed wine and apps for a pre-show dinner.

7:30 pm – Jim Gaffigan and Jerry Seinfeld comedy show.  An epic duo!

Jim Gaffigan & Jerry Seinfeld – an awesome show! | The Enterprise Center

It was a very full, but well designed day.  Below we will share some more great things to do in St. Louis!

Anheuser Busch Brewery

As one of the top beer producers in the world, Anheuser Busch Brewery has a massive facility in St. Louis.  

The Anheuser Busch Brewery | St. Louis, Missouri

We did the Day Fresh Tour, which includes a tour of the Clydesdale stables.  

The Clydesdales stables | Anheuser Busch Brewery

The tour takes you all throughout the brewing, processing, and packaging facilities.

Everyone leaves with a 16 oz can of beer and you can enjoy additional brews in the massive on-site bar/restaurant.

Cost:  $15/person (2023)

Click here to be taken to the website to purchase tickets.

Professional Sports

St. Louis has major sports teams:  St. Louis Cardinals (baseball), St. Louis Rams (football), and St. Louis Blues (hockey).  In fact, I was looking up the hockey schedule, as the Blues play at the Enterprise Center, when I came across the Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Gaffigan comedy show! 

We love comedy and they are two of our favorites so we were excited to get tickets to this incredible show.

The City Museum

We had visited The City Museum on previous occasions when the kids were younger.  The name is a bit misleading because it is less museum and more massive play space.  The word “city” comes from the fact that its structures come from upcycling city pieces such as vehicle parts, pipes, etc.  It is one of the most unique places we have taken our kids to and they loved it!  After all what is not to love when you can go down a 10-story spiral slide or walk into a school bus hanging over the roof?!

The City Museum | St. Louis

Check out the website for up-to-date ticket information and hours.

The National Blues Museum

The National Blues Museum is dedicated to honoring the legacy of blues and the role it plays in American music.  

Tickets can be purchased at the box office.

St. Louis is a fun city and especially family friendly.  Add in that it houses a US National Park and you have a great getaway!

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