St. Louis Gateway Arch

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It’s May~We are in St. Louis, Missouri. Avery wants to do something cool for her 14th birthday.

Since we can’t really have a party, and Hayden’s birthday is a week later, we decided to buy season pass tickets to Six Flags.

Six Flags wan’t open until the weekend, so what’s their to do in St. Louis, Missouri on her actual birthday?

We headed to the Gateway Arch, of course!

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To be honest, I never really knew the background of why the arch was built. I guess I thought it was just an art piece, like The Bean in Millenial Park in Chicago. As I was doing a little research to prep us for our visit, I learned that it was built to commemorate Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, which expanded our country from the current Missouri boundary out to the Southwest. It also celebrates the Mississippi River as the gateway to the West. The river was the edge of the USA until explorers like Lewis and Clark ventured out into the wild unknown.

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The Movie

As a national park, there’s more to see and do than just visit the exterior of the 630 ft. Arch. There’s an underground visitor’s center, with a museum and two movies available to watch. The main attraction is the ability to ride a special elevator to the top of the Arch and look out the observation windows on each side.

We bought our tickets and while we awaited our departure, we watched the movie about how it was constructed. The movie was created in the 60′s and the video and narration are reflective of that time period. But if you can look past that, it was interesting to see how the Arch came to be.

I can’t believe how resourceful the engineers were in creating such an architectural feat, in such a short 3- year time period. Each leg was built, with the intention of meeting in the middle, but having no guarantee it’d work. The construction workers spent their days hundreds of feet in the air, with no harnesses or safety nets. It gave me anxiety just watching it! It was comforting to know that no one was injured in the construction.

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Elevator to the Top

Our ride to the top was a little nerve-wracking. The cart that transported us to the top was small, similar to a ferris wheel cart.

It’s definitely not for the claustrophobic! After a 2-3 minute ride we were deposited on the walkway at the top of the arch. There’s small windows on each side, so we could see the city view, and the river view. You have to lean forward to look out the windows, and that was tricky for Avery, who has some issues with heights.

I enjoyed the views, and capturing pictures from this vantage point, but it was difficult with the amount of people crammed into this small space. Since there’s no time limit on how long you can remain at the top, elevators can keep bringing people up, even if no one is going down. I would’ve liked to stay longer, but the conditions were getting crowded, so we left.

The Museum

The most pleasant surprise of the day was IMG_2391the Westward Expansion museum. It was an open style setting, and you work clockwise around the room as the displays are set up chronologically.

Starting with the early frontier, mountain men, pioneers, wars, gold rush, etc. The information was in bite size chunks, with a great balance between the written word, photos and artifacts of the time periods.

We’ve seen a lot of museums in our travels, and I’d probably rank this in my Top 10 for how visually appealing it was, and how easy to consume the content.

We ended the day by taking the steamboat for a short jaunt down the Mississippi. It was nice to relax and see the city from a coastal perspective.


The Gateway Arch was worth the day it took to explore it. Even if going to the top isn’t appealing to you,

seeing it first hand is spectacular. The museum and movies are a good way to experience what this national park has to offer.

Have you been to the Arch? What was your experience like? Share your thoughts below, I’d love to hear from you!







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