First-Timer’s Guide to the Gateway Arch

One of the coolest things to do in St. Louis is visit the Gateway Arch. Built in the 1960’s this giant is 630ft tall in the center and towers over the Mississippi river . One side of the arch overlooks Illinois and the Mississippi, while the other overlooks the city of St. Louis. You will want to have a plan before arriving at the park. If you visit the arch on a nice day, you will want to take a stroll before exploring the arch itself. You can get some pretty epic photos within the national park so definitely allow some time for a photoshoot with your friends and/or family. Below is a First-Timer’s Guide to the Gateway Arch with some important things you’ll need to know.

First-Timer's Guide to the Gateway Arch

buy tickets online

You’ll want to buy tickets online if you want to skip the ticket line. The line can get really long, really fast so make sure you buy tickets online so all you have to do is wait in the line for security. School trips and tours are frequent visitors so make sure to get to the arch at least 45 minutes before your ticket time.

the security line

The security line is pretty lengthy. You won’t be allowed to join this line until 30 minutes prior to your tour time. The security here is just like TSA at the airport. The only difference is that you don’t need to take your shoes off at this one. They have an X-Ray machine for your coats and bags. The park does not allow pets, luggage, weapons, or alcohol on the premises so don’t bring your beer either. The line moves fairly quick but in bad weather it can be a drag so dress accordingly.  The line begins right at the front doors and you will be standing in line outside the building. Once you get through security you might want to use a bathroom before you take the tram to the top. There are no bathrooms until you come back down.

the tram ride

Did you know you can take a tram ride to the top of the Gateway Arch? If you want to get a birds-eye view of the city and Mississippi river you can ride to the top. Warning: If you are easily claustrophobic you may not want to ride to the top of the arch. You will need to sit in a small pod with 4 other people (your knees will be touching the person’s across from you and beside you). You will also bump your head (if not almost bump your head) a few times trying to sit down inside. The doors are clear and you can see the iron work from the inside of the Arch. Don’t worry, there are stairs all the way up incase you get stuck.

the top of the arch

Once you get to the top they will tell you to skip the first 4-6 viewing windows so that everyone can get into the arch easily. The trams run continuously so you won’t be stuck up there for long. The very top is about the width of a small passenger aircraft with small windows on each side. You may have to wait a few minutes to be able to get to a window, but the view is amazing. The Mississippi River is viewable out one of the sides, and there is an amazing view of the city of St. Louis out of the opposite side. You likely will not be able to move around very quickly due to the amount of people a the top, but you won’t need to hang out long. Once you finish continue across the arch to the opposite side and descend down the other leg of the arch.

the gift shop

If you need somewhere to grab a gift or two for friends or family the gift shop has loads of merchandise as well as some pretty awesome fudge. There is a section near the back that has native american history as well. There are books, tumblers, coffee mugs, magnets and more to choose from. The staff was very friendly and there was a lot to look at.

If you choose the option for the riverboat ride along with your arch tour, it is located on the east side of the arch down the steps towards the Mississippi river. You can also visit the Old St. Louis Court House within the same National Park, but you will need to walk a bit to get there.

Share your own Arch stories in the comments below
Check out my day trip suggestions for S. Louis here.

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