The Gateway Arch (St. Louis, MO)

After a little over a week in Arkansas, our short jaunt through The Show Me State took us to Table Rock State Park and then to St. Louis, the Gateway To The West. (Wikipedia tells us that “Gateway To The West” is also the nickname for Fargo, ND; Fort Wayne, IN; Omaha, NE; and even Pittsburgh, PA.)

We only had one full day to explore as we continued eastward to Kentucky and Tennessee for a few weeks, so our options were limited. Since Edie had never been to St. Louis, we decided to go with The Gateway Arch, part of the Jefferson National Expansion Monument, before heading to Pappy’s Smokehouse for some BBQ. (This was Scott’s 4th trip up in The Arch.)

The Gateway Arch

So what’s there to say about The Gateway Arch? Well, it’s the tallest National Monument at 630 feet. It took over 2.5 years to build, from February 12, 1963 to October 28, 1965.

The tram ride to the observation deck is $10 (only $7 with your National Parks Pass). There’s not a ton to do at the top except look out over the incredible views of the Mississippi River, downtown St. Louis, and southern Illinois. On a clear day, you can see 30 miles from the observation deck.

The tram ride itself is rather novel with the cars tilting with the curve of the Arch, then righting themselves over and over again. If you’re claustrophobic, the tram ride might not be for you. Be sure to check it out by sitting in the tiny little tram car available near the ticket counter.

“Monument To The Dream” Documentary

In Tucker Theater, you can (and should) watch the 28-minute documentary called “Monument To The Dream”. This short film discusses the conception, design, and building of The Arch. It’s amazing to watch these construction workers 400, 500, and 600 feet above the ground without safety harnesses or nets (this was before OSHA). Sorry for the spoiler, but incredibly, not a single worker died while building the monument. $7 ($4 with your National Parks Pass) gets you a ticket to this flick.

Lewis & Clark Documentary

The Odyssey Theater is currently showing “Lewis and Clark, Great Journey West,” which runs 45 minutes. We didn’t get to see that one, so we can’t tell you what it’s about, but from the title, we can make some assumptions. The movie is $7 ($4 with the National Parks Pass).

We’ve actually been pretty surrounded by Lewis & Clark stuff lately. We’ve been listening to The Thomas Jefferson Hour podcast and a couple of recent episodes were about the new Meriwether Lewis book the show’s host wrote. And Scott’s been reading The Frontier in American History by Frederick Jackson Turner, which is all about the westward expansion of the US.

Museum of Westward Expansion

The Museum of Westward Expansion was built beneath The Arch. This free museum houses hundreds of artifacts from the Lewis & Clark Expedition and others that followed, such as farmers, hunters, and miners. Included among the artifacts and exhibits are a life-size longhorn, a covered wagon, and a tipi. There’s also plenty of information about the native populations that lived in these areas long before the westward expansion.

In case you missed the part about “free museum” above, the museum is free.

The Old Courthouse

The final piece of the Jefferson National Expansion Monument is The Old Courthouse. The Courthouse is around 150 years old and has seen some major legal proceedings, including the Dred Scott case. Within the Courthouse today, you can explore its role in the slave trade, with slaves being sold from the courthouse steps during estate sales. After that, The Old Courthouse was part of The Underground Railroad.

An interesting piece of information for Louisvillians and alumni of the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law (like Edie): Louis Brandeis was admitted to the bar in the Old Courthouse in 1878. This part of the Monument is free as well.


In our one day, we didn’t take many pictures, but the few are cool, particularly the one with the fountain, Courthouse, and Arch all in a line.