The Gateway to the West

In St. Louis from Thursday morning through Sunday morning, Saturday was the day we allotted to sightseeing. Our first stop on Saturday morning was the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, more commonly known as the Gateway Arch.


The Gateway Arch was designed by architect Eero Saarinen, who won a national competition and the prize of designing the memorial in 1947, as a memorial to President Thomas Jefferson, who sent Lewis and Clark on their expedition westward by supporting the Louisiana Purchase. Construction finally began on the Arch in February, 1963 and was completed just two and a half years later in October, 1965. This year is the 50th anniversary, so they have some cool exhibits on display.

Because we stopped for breakfast to prevent Hangry Melissa from making an appearance, we decided to purchase tickets for the 10:30am time slot for the Journey to the Top. Tickets are $10 for the trip to the top, or $3 to enter the grounds, and are required (I highly recommend purchasing them in advance online as they are likely to sell out).


Once our entire group arrived, and after rectifying a small issue with my ticket (it is a well known fact that I am really bad with calendars, okay?), we got in line to ride the tram to the top of the arch. I will tell you right now, if you have even the tiniest fear of small spaces, this tram right is not for you! It’s a two minute ride to the top and you will, without a doubt, violate the personal space of the other four people sharing your pod. In addition to that, there is a tiny window in the door, which let’s your see the steps (aka your escape route in the event of an emergency) for .5 seconds and then there’s only steel beams and empty space.

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Getting real friendly in the teeny tiny tram

My friends and I made it to the top without any issues, and took some time to enjoy the spectacular views. St. Louis can be super hazy, but on the day, the skies were clear and we could see for miles and miles. To the west, you can see the city of St. Louis and beyond.


To the east, Illinois and the Mississippi River (there were tons of Oregon Trail and forging the river with our oxen jokes).

IMG_0419The website states the viewing area at the top of the arch can hold 160 people, but I am skeptical. Maybe if you wish to violate 169 other people to the point that you feel you should have taken them to dinner first, but it’s a tight space, and most tourists are idiots (myself included) and don’t have awareness of the space around them.  The fact that there were not one, not two, but three high school competitive cheer leading teams in my group, and I didn’t murder anyone, blows my mind. The views make the suffering worth it though.


No fear of heights here!

Fun fact: the 16 windows at the top of the arch so small (7″ high x 27″ wide) because anything larger wouldn’t be able to withstand the 500 tons of pressure created but the north and south legs meeting at the top of the arch.  That’s insane.


Helpful Info

Summer: Daily, 8am–10pm
Winter: Daily, 9am–6pm
Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Admission: $3 to enter the memorial, $10 to visit the top of the arch
Allot at least 90 minutes to visit the arch. Despite having a timed ticket, you still have to clear security (metal detectors and x-ray scanners for your bags), and wait in line to get on the tram. You may not spend a lot of time at the top, but there is also a cool documentary video included in the price of admission.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow!

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