Gateway Arch National Park

We went to St. Louis just to see a brand new national park. The Gateway Arch, which stands 630 feet high, symbolizes the Pioneer spirit and opening the West to settlement. We spent a few hours at this national site visiting the museum, traveling to the top of the arch, and taking a cruise up the Mississippi River. Plan on spending about half a day exploring Gateway Arch National Park.

The museum sits below the arch.

There are a few different things to do at the Gateway Arch. You can visit the museum and grounds for free, but there are a few other activities that cost that we enjoyed on our visit. We are going to share what we did when we visited Gateway Arch National Park.

The Grounds

We started our day by taking a few pictures outside Gateway Arch. It is difficult to get the entire thing in a photo and still see the tiny people in your frame, but we managed to get a few good ones. The grand staircase down by the river offers a great place to capture the arch. There are lots of trails and places to walk around the arch, so you can definitely spend some time outside exploring.

We wandered the grounds for lots of different angles of the arch.
Walking directly below the arch was neat.
Make sure to walk to the Grand Staircase to get a view of the arch.


After some photos, we went in the museum. We got Junior Ranger booklets for our boys, and then went through the rather large museum. The museum is free to visit, and you do not need reservations. The museum is organized into six sections and takes you through different eras leading up to the construction of the arch. You could spend hours walking through the museum. There is so much to see, and so many interesting facts. The museum has some hands-on displays for the kids, too. We spent about one hour in the Museum at the Gateway Arch, and you could easily spend more time if you wanted. Our boys were able to finish their booklets and turn them in, too.

The museum is full of information.
There are hands-on screens and activities for kids.
Our boys really enjoyed learning at this museum.
Working on their Junior Ranger took about an hour.

Tram Ride to the Top of the Arch

Then we had an opportunity to ride to the top of the arch. You need reservations to ride the tram, and it does require a fee. They call the tram you ride in a pod, and we fit just like five little peas in a pod. If you’re claustrophobic, this ride may not be for you. The pod takes you slowly to the top center of the arch.

This is the pod you ride to the top.
We could not sit up straight inside.
You can see through the doors at all of the workings inside the arch.

Once you are at the top, you can walk around in a hallway-like area that is about 50 feet long. Tiny windows, that you barely notice from the ground, look both east across the river and west over St. Louis. We loved this part of the adventure. It wasn’t even too bad when the wind made the arch sway under our feet mimicking the rocking sensation of a being on a boat.

Inside of the arch is not very big.
There are small windows to see out on both sides.
You have a great view of St. Louis and the Mississippi River.

After our trip back down the arch, we grabbed some food from a family-run food truck down by the river. The food was actually really good, and not painfully expensive. Then we boarded our cruiseboat.

Riverboat Cruise

Another activity at Gateway Arch National Park is a riverboat cruise that runs up and down the river. The ride lasts about an hour and takes you underneath several bridges both new and old. Our guide, voicing over the intercom, knew a lot about the area and was informative and entertaining. We really liked the cruise and felt that it helped us learn a little more about the history of the arch. This activity requires a fee and reservation.

The riverboats look like old steamboats.
There are chairs and benches for the ride.
We learned a lot about the different bridges.
We also learned about the history of the area.

Documentary Movie

There is also a 35 minute documentary movie available that talks about the construction of the Gateway Arch. We did not watch the movie.


We highly recommend reservations before visiting Gateway Arch, especially for the tram ride to the top. These tickets will sell out. You can also book packages that group the different activities together. This is what we did with our tram ride and riverboat cruise. Learn more at

Make your reservations early.

Gateway Arch National Park

Altogether we spent between three and four hours at Gateway Arch National Park. It is a really unique addition to our much-loved national park system. For more information about the history of this park, and what you can do in the park, visit the national park’s website.

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