I treasure the mornings when I wake up knowing that I will be visiting an iconic place. Given the fact that I don’t consider the casinos of the Las Vegas strip iconic, these mornings mean that I am traveling. Last year during a summer road trip, Shawn Reece and I visited the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. This iconic peace of America was truly impressive in person and warranted a visit for sure.
The Gateway Arch was built from 1963-1965 as a monument commemorating America’s westward expansion. As a structure of this size and scope should, it dominates St. Louis’ downtown area hovering above just about everything. The perspective of standing at the base of one of its legs and looking straight up is unique.
While standing outside and marveling at the curved lines is fun, the inside is better. Contained on the inside of the structure is a museum about the United States’ western expansion and an area to buy tickets for the trip to the top. We arrived around 8am to be among the first people of the day to visit the top and thus avoid long lines. This timing was also convenient and necessary given that tickets can sell out very quickly.
Perhaps the most unique thing about the arch is the elevator system. To get to the top, you must enter enclosed pods that rotate as they move up the tower. While not for the claustrophobic, they are unique and Shawn Reece loved it! The small window inside, gave me enough sense of space that the enclosed area didn’t cause much anxiety for me despite the lack of height and leg room. It wasn’t my favorite ride ever, but given its uniqueness, I was happy to experience it and I am sure most children would see it as an adventure.
After a three minute ride we arrived at the cramped observation area at the top. While not the most comfortable of spaces, this area affords views of the entire surrounding area. They even have a park ranger at the top to answer any questions. Shawn Reece not only was able to get a few of his questions answered, but we both learned a lot by hearing the ranger answer other people’s questions as well.
In the end we spent about twenty minutes at the top of the Gateway Arch. Rides down to the ground leave every few minutes and people can stay at the top as long as they wish. While it is a fantastic experience, there is only so much you can see from up there and the low ceiling height ensured we didn’t over stay our welcome. The museum at the arch’s base is also great for children. Many of the displays kept Shawn Reece’s attention and we both genuinely learned a lot. If you are in the St. Louis area then visiting the Gateway Arch is a no brainer.
For hours of operation, ticket prices and parking directions I highly recommend visiting the official Gateway Arch site.