I first visited Gateway Arch back in 2018, less than 2 weeks after its’ redesignation to a National Park. I had no idea about any of this at the time, as our National Park journey and knowledge didn’t begin until later that year. They were in the process of renovating the visitor center and there was a ton of construction going on. This visit however, was very enjoyable. It was just a quick ride to the top with my Dad, as we traveled across the country. I was moving to Phoenix and we were taking Route 66 as far as we could. This was one of our first stops on that journey.
We made it to The Top!
The Arch reflecting over the Mississippi
Fast forward 3 years later, including a move from Phoenix back to Michigan, and we’re on the road again, for yet another cross-country move. Insert Gateway Arch National Park part 2!
National Park #26!
Kayla and I’s visit to St. Louis occurred while driving out to Denver to scope out some apartments before our move. It was a busy couple weeks, as we drove out to Colorado for this trip, drove back to Michigan and then made our way back to the Mile High City for the move. We stopped at both Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park and Gateway on our return trip to the mitten. It was a bit of a stressful time and we ended up staying in Denver an extra day than planned. Because of this, we had to eliminate some other stops on the way back, as we had to be at Gateway for our scheduled activities.
Now designated as a National Historical Park
We stayed at a hotel that was actually across the Mississippi and in Illinois. We had a beautiful view of the Arch and of the fireworks that would happen the following evening, as we were in town for the Fourth of July. We spent our first night taking the train across the river, grabbing dinner and enjoying the lights of a St. Louis night.
View from hotel parking lot
Sunset over the Mississippi
The Arch and the Old Courthouse
St. Louis nights
We would start our July 4th with a walk across the Ead’s Bridge and enter the park on foot. We explored the grounds for a while, before our Noon showing of Monument to the Dream, the park’s film, which requires a ticket. This was one of the more in-depth films and was a very enjoyable watch. Along with the film, we also grabbed tickets for the Tram and a Riverfront Cruise. For 2 adults, with the America The Beautiful Pass discount, it was $74 for the 3 activities. It’s a little different having this added expense while visiting a park, but it is also a very unique park. Everything was amazing and we would definitely recommend going for the See Everything combo.
Crossing the Mississippi!
Missouri / Illinois state line
We made it to the park!
Under the Arch!
Although we enjoyed these activities, we were bummed to have to miss out on the Old Courthouse, which was closed for renovations. So after the 30-minute film, we wandered through the newly-renovated museum and visitor center, as we waited for our cruise. It’s a pretty impressive setup and took us some time to walk through the entire thing. It was a great way to space out our day, with everything having to be scheduled.
The Arch along the river
We got lucky with a few moments of no crowds!
Before boarding for our 3:00 Riverfront Cruise, we made our way over to the dock and grabbed a cold and refreshing beverage on this hot summer day. There’s a bar and live music on the dock, making it the perfect waiting place before hopping on your cruise. Once aboard, the tour is about an hour long, while riding up and down the Mississippi River. There is also a bar with drinks and snacks on-board, and a tour guide that spends the 60 minutes informing you of all the fun facts of the area. Not only were the views of the Arch beautiful, but it was so nice just being on the water and taking it all in from a different angle. We really enjoyed this experience and would consider doing it again, especially the sunset dinner cruise!
Not a bad Untappd check-in photo!
Sights along the Mississippi
The Arch slays from all angles
We LOVED this cruise!
After our journey on the water, we had about an hour before it was time for the main event. Having a 5:00 Tram Ride ticket, it gave us plenty of time to hop back over to the visitor center and grab a bite to eat at the Arch Cafe. The cafe actually has a decent menu and although I don’t remember much from prior to the renovations, the visitor center here is extremely nice and I assume it’s a great upgrade from the days before National Park designation.
To The Top!
We rode up in Elevator 6
Before we knew it, it was time to head over to the elevators and make our way “To the Top”! Once you line up for your designated time, there is a small wait and they have video walls with some trivia to kill the time. You eventually make your way to your specific elevator and cram in to the tiny tram. With COVID precautions still in place, you rode only with your party, which was very nice! Those that are claustrophobic may want to think this over twice, as it is a pretty tight space.
The trams are tiny!
Old Courthouse from above
Downtown St. Louis
The final chapter of this visit was experiencing the Fourth of July fireworks from our hotel’s parking lot. Before we left for the day, I moved the car to give us a good spot for viewing. It was hard to top these views, especially without having to fight for a spot in a crowd of people. It was a wonderful way to cap off our trip!
A great end to the trip!
Again, this is a very different National Park than you may be used to experiencing. I may not fully agree with the designation, but I will say, after each visit, I have left very satisfied and surprised with what the park encompasses. We will definitely have to return and explore the Old Courthouse, as I feel it is an important part of why this is designated as a National Park. Until then!