Complete Guide to Gateway Arch National Park
Did you know one of the newest National Parks is in the middle of a city, easily accessible and does not require miles of hiking? Gateway Arch National Park, located in St. Louis, Missouri was officially designated as a National Park in 2018. The Gateway Arch, Old Courthouse and surrounding park area can be found on Fourth Street between Market and Chestnut streets. Below I share a complete guide to Gateway Arch National Park including its history, fees, things to do at the park, and more.
** Visitors are required to go through security to enter the Museum under the Arch, area to get on the Tram, Cafe, Store, etc. Plan ahead for delays in the security lines. As of July 2022, masks were required in enclosed areas.
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About the Gateway Arch and Old Courthouse:
The stainless-steel Gateway Arch is a symbol of Western Expansion following the Louisiana Purchase. Architect Eero Saarinen inspired the design of the Arch and construction began in 1963 and was completed in 1965. Today you’ll find it in the background of many selfies, but the history of the Arch remains so important.
The Old Courthouse which is about two blocks from the Arch is famous for the Dred Scott trials in 1847 and 1850 where an enslaved individual sued for his freedom. It is also one of the oldest buildings in St. Louis. Please note it is currently closed for a two-year construction project (Summer 2022).
Where to Park:
There are several parking lots around the Arch. Stadium East Garage located at 200 S Broadway, St. Louis, MO 63102 offers preferred parking for $9 for the first five hours. You can prepay here (highly recommended) or have your parking validated inside the Visitor Center. However, if you do not prepay, preferred rates do not apply on MLB Game Days and you will pay the Game Day rate.
There are many additional lots and garages around the park grounds for various prices. We were able to find a parking lot about 2-3 blocks away for $10 for the day. Check here for additional parking options.
Gateway Arch National Park Entrance Fee:
There is no fee to walk around the grounds of the Gateway Arch or to enter the Museum under the Arch. If you choose to do an activity like ride to the top of the Arch or take a riverfront tour, there will be a fee with details provided in the next section.
Shop My Travel Must-Haves:
Gateway Arch National Park Hours:
- Summer Hours (Saturday before Memorial Day – Labor Day)
- Sunday – Saturday: 9am – 8pm
- Winter Hours (Labor Day – Memorial Day)
- Sunday – Saturday: 9am – 6pm
** The park grounds (Park District) are open daily from 5am – 11pm
- Holidays – Closed or Special Hours
– New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Juneteenth National Independence Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day
What to Do:
Gateway Arch National Park provides plenty to do whether you have 30 minutes or an entire day. A majority of the activities are free and fun for all ages, whether you want to run around the grounds or experience the history of St. Louis and the westward expansion.
Walk the Grounds
- Price: Free
- Duration: 15 minutes – 1 hour
- About: The grounds surrounding the Arch are stunning. On one side of the Arch you’ll find the Mississippi River and on the other side you’ll get gorgeous city views. There are several paved paths to walk around, including a path along the river. The paths winding around the Arch and leading to the Museum are well-maintained and are lined with benches frequently if you need to rest or simply want to take in the views. Locals also frequent the area as a great place for daily runs or walks.
The Museum at the Gateway Arch
- Price: Free
- Duration: 15 minutes – 1 hour
- About: covers the westward expansion of the United States, begins with the founding of St. Louis in 1764 through the completion of the Arch in 1965, 6 different story galleries to explore the history. The museum is really well-designed and interactive, includes an excellent mix of images, text and artifacts and great for all ages.
- Colonial St. Louis
- Jefferson’s Vision
- Manifest Destiny
- The Riverfront Era
- New Frontiers
- Building the Arch
Tram Ride to the Top
- Adults: $15-$19
- Children (3-15): $11-$15
- America the Beautiful Pass: $12-$16
- Duration: 45-60 minutes
- About: One of the most popular activities at Gateway Arch is the Tram Ride up 630ft to the top of the Arch. 43 tons of concrete and steel make up the 63 floors of the Arch. There is a short interactive exhibit prior to boarding the tram which then provides a 4-5 minute ride to the top of the Arch. Once at the top, there are windows where you can look out over the Mississippi and windows that look out over the city of St. Louis.
St. Louis Riverfront Tour
- Adults (16-59): $24
- Children (3-15): $14
- Seniors (60+): $22
- Duration: 1 Hour
- About: Hop on this one-hour boat tour to learn more about how the Mississippi helped shape St. Louis history and the role of the Mississippi River today. The cruise is narrated either by the captain or a National Park Service Ranger and runs daily from March through November. You can purchase concessions aboard the boat. This is the perfect activity when visiting the Arch as it allows you to explore the Mississippi and gain even more knowledge about the area.
Documentary Movie – Monument to the Dream Film
- Adults: $7
- Children (3-15): $3
- America the Beautiful Pass: $4
- Duration: 35 minutes
- About: A documentary that shares the journey of the Gateway Arch. You’ll hear from those who played a role in the huge project, including architects, builders and supporters. The film showcases the successes and difficulties during the construction process. It’s a great way to learn more about the behind-the-scenes of the beautiful Arch we get to pose in front of today. Please note timed tickets are required to view the film.
Please note the Old Courthouse is currently closed for a two-year renovation project that began in 2021.
- Price: Currently Closed
- Duration: Currently Closed
- About: Home to one of the nation’s most famous cases, the freedom trial of Dred and Harriett Scott, the Old Courthouse is now a historic building with courtrooms restructured to display more about the old court system. The Old Courthouse is also listed in the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. I’m looking forward to visiting again when the building is open to learn more about the cases that were tried here.
Other Things to Do in St. Louis:
If you’re heading to St. Louis to check off another National Park, don’t miss all of the other amazing things the city has to offer. Whether you’re looking for good food, fun drinks, an energetic atmosphere, or fun activities, St. Louis has something to offer you. It’s easy to spend a weekend, or longer, exploring the city.
- Catch a St. Louis Cardinals Baseball Game at Busch Stadium
- Watch a St. Louis CITY SC game – Coming 2023 – New MLS Soccer Team
- Enjoy Ballpark Village – Especially before a Cardinals game
- Walk around The Grove
- Visit the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station
- Explore the Saint Louis Zoo – It’s Free!
- Have Fun at City Museum – Great for all ages
St. Louis Lodging Options:
Downtown St. Louis offers many lodging options from budget hotels to luxury stays – there’s everything from a Best Western to a Four Seasons. Many hotels are under a mile away and within walking distance from the Gateway Arch and the other fun activities St. Louis has to offer. I book a lot of travel through points so most of my stays are at Marriott Bonvoy properties, but no matter what hotel brand you are loyal to, you’re sure to find it in St. Louis. Below are a few located close to the Arch so you wouldn’t have to worry about additional parking.
- Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis at the Arch
- Magnolia Hotel St. Louis, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel
- Hampton Inn St. Louis – Downtown (At the Gateway Arch)
- The Westin St. Louis
- Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch
- Hilton St. Louis Downtown at the Arch
Final Thoughts on Gateway Arch National Park:
I was really impressed with Gateway Arch National Park – both the grounds around the Arch and the museum under the Arch. It’s very different than any of the other National Parks I’ve been to, especially because it’s in the middle of a large city and doesn’t have “trails”, but I love how accessible it is. There’s also so much to do around the Park in downtown St. Louis and the surrounding area. I cannot wait to go back for another visit to the Arch and to explore more of the city!