Discover the St. Louis Arch

BY: Rashawn Mitchner | Jun 10, 2016

St. Louis Arch Hero

Standing 630 feet high, the St. Louis Arch has been the defining feature of the city’s skyline since 1965. Here’s what you need to know about seeing the famous landmark when you’re visiting St. Louis.

What is the St. Louis Arch?

First and foremost, it’s the defining feature of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, a national park that also includes a museum and the courthouse that hosted the famous Dred Scott trial. The arch’s iconic design sprang from the mind of architect Eero Saarinen, who came up with the idea during a competition in the late 1940s that called for an eye-catching memorial celebrating westward expansion. The project broke ground in 1959 and wrapped in 1965.

Why is it called the Gateway Arch?

The Gateway Arch is a symbolic “Gateway to the West,” commemorating the United States’ westward expansion in the 1800s. It’s a fitting monument for St. Louis, as Lewis and Clark launched their history-making expedition from here in 1804. Plus, the surrounding national park takes its name from Thomas Jefferson, who championed the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

Buying tickets

You’ll only need a ticket if you want to go inside the arch or take the tramcar ride to the top—entry to the park outside is free. It’s best to buy tickets in advance online or by phone if you’re visiting in spring or summer (they tend to sell out), but you can also buy them in person at the Old Courthouse. The St. Louis Arch hours are 8 a.m.–10 p.m. daily from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day, and 9 a.m.–6 p.m. daily the rest of the year.

View from the top

A four-minute tramcar ride inside one of the arch’s legs will take you to an observation area at the top. The 16 windows on either side of the area truly provide “gateway” views: downtown St. Louis to the west, and Illinois and the Mississippi River to the east. From here, you can catch aerial glimpses of Anheuser-Busch, the courthouse, and the barges and riverboats cruising along the Mississippi. And if you time it right, you might even get a bird’s-eye view of a Cardinals baseball game at Busch Stadium.

Best places to take photos

The skyline views from the top of the arch are stellar, but there are great photo ops at ground level, too. Standing at the bottom of the stairs between the arch and the riverfront, you’ll be able to get a shot of the whole monument—something that’s hard to do from the lawn of the park. Head about three blocks west to Kiener Plaza for a shot of the arch framing the Old Courthouse, or, for that iconic waterfront view of the arch and downtown St. Louis, head just across the river to Malcolm Martin Memorial Park.

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