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The Ultimate Guide to Gateway Arch National Park — Best Things To Do, See & Enjoy!

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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Keri Stooksbury

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Gateway Arch National Park is a small national park located on the riverfront of the Mississippi River in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. Visitors can travel to the top of the Gateway Arch and view miles and miles of land and water below. From historic buildings to award-winning park films, and from guided tours with knowledgeable rangers to the best visitor center in the entire National Park Service, there’s so much to see and do at this national park.

Each year, almost 2 million visitors come to Gateway Arch National Park to get a first-hand encounter with one of the most significant landmarks in the country. 

How To Get to Gateway Arch National Park

Where Is Gateway Arch National Park?

Gateway Arch National Park is located in the heart of St. Louis. This park sits right on the bank of the Mississippi River. This national park is one of the smaller ones in the system and stretches over a mere 91 acres. 

Nearest Airports to Gateway Arch National Park

St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) is the most used airport for Gateway Arch National Park visitors. This airport is about 15 miles from the Gateway Arch and offers daily flights in and out of the St. Louis area.

There are nonstop flights to 70+ destinations in the U.S. and numerous connecting flights to destinations worldwide. STL services many major airlines, including Air Canada, American, Delta, Southwest, and Spirit. 

With its convenience to Gateway Arch National Park and a long list of flights and airlines, choosing to fly into St. Louis Lambert International Airport is the perfect choice for your national park vacation. Choosing this airport will maximize your travel time and help you to get straight to your adventures.

Driving to Gateway Arch National Park

Gateway Arch National Park is easily accessed by many major interstates since it has such a central location. Interstates 55, 64, and 70 can bring visitors in from Illinois. Interstates 44, 55, 70, and 64/40 can be utilized for those from the Missouri side. No matter where you are coming from, the first sight of that majestic arch will take your breath away. 

Taking the Train to Gateway Arch National Park

A national park vacation by rail is a wonderful experience that can take you back in time while helping you to truly enjoy the journey. Amtrak offers service to St. Louis, which is extremely convenient for those wanting to see the arch and visit the park. Book your railway journey with Amtrak, and let someone else take over the stress of driving while you get to take in the spectacular sights along the way. 

Public Transportation

Visitors are able to access the St. Louis MetroLink Lightrail and the MetroBus to get to Gateway Arch National Park. These affordable and convenient options can help alleviate the stress of driving in a new city. If navigating causes unwanted stress, take advantage of St. Louis’s public transportation to make the most of your national park experience. 

Getting Around Gateway Arch National Park

The best way to get around Gateway Arch National Park is on foot. This national park is smaller, and everything is close together, making it an easy park to explore. There are several parking opportunities throughout the city, as well as public transportation that can get you close to the park.

Hot Tip:

The park’s website offers a helpful map to help you plan your parking and activities.

What To See and Do in Gateway Arch National Park

Gateway Arch National Park is a small park, but that doesn’t mean it is boring. There is so much to see and learn about at this national park. Take a look at some of the top events in Gateway Arch National Park and see which activities and sights you’d like to add to your itinerary. 

Films

There are 3 films that highlight the history of Gateway Arch National Park and key events that have taken place within its boundaries. One film is called “Monument to the Dream.” This documentary has won awards and showcases how the Gateway Arch was constructed.

The other park film is shown at the Old Courthouse. This film is called “Slavery on Trial: The Dred Scott Decision.” This film teaches about slaves’ struggles for freedom and details Dred and Harriet Scott. Another film offered at the courthouse is called “Lewis and Clark, Preparation for the Expedition.” This film shows the journey and discoveries of the Lewis and Clark expeditions. 

Gateway Arch

Gateway Arch
Image Credit: Shane Keaney via Unsplash

When visiting Gateway Arch National Park, you won’t want to miss a visit to the actual arch. Visitors are able to take a tram ride to the top of the arch and take in incredible views of St. Louis. Small pods will take visitors up either side of the arch. The tram ride takes 8 to 10 minutes.

Once at the top, there are 16 windows that look over the Mississippi River and the lands of Illinois to the east and 16 windows to the west that showcase St. Louis. The journey up the Gateway Arch and the top view will take your breath away. 

Guided Tours

Ranger-led tours take place on a regular schedule at Gateway Arch National Park. Some of the popular guided tours include the Indoor Museum Tour, the Outdoor Walking Tour, Running with a Ranger, and puppet shows. At some points during the year, special programs highlight key historical events. There’s a guided tour that guests of every age will enjoy at Gateway Arch National Park.

Old Courthouse

The Old Courthouse is a historic landmark you won’t want to miss when visiting Gateway Arch National Park. This site is where the first trials of the Dred Scott case took place in 1847 and 1850. This is also where women’s voting rights came to trial in the 1870s. This historic courthouse can be toured, and visitors can learn about America’s 19th-century judicial system. 

Riverboat Tours

Riverboat Tours Gateway Arch
Image Credit: Gateway Arch

Some of the best views of the Gateway Arch come from a riverboat cruise. Riverboat tours are not a part of Gateway Arch National Park, but they are an excellent way to enjoy the views of the arch and park area.

Visitors can choose from different cruise experiences, such as a standard riverfront cruise, a skyline dinner cruise that features live music and incredible meals, or specialty cruises to celebrate a holiday or other event.

Bottom Line:

No matter which experiences you seek, you can rest assured that the riverboat tour will give you and your group incredible memories to last a lifetime.

Visitor Center

Gateway Arch National Park is right under the arch. The visitor center is an excellent jumping-off point to a visit to this national park. This visitor center has many key attractions in the park, including the Arch Museum, the Arch Store, and the Arch Café. The visitor center also features park films for guests to watch and learn more about the history of this national park. 

Best Times To Visit Gateway Arch National Park

A trip to Gateway Arch National Park is a chance of a lifetime, no matter what time of year you are able to visit. However, if there are specific events or activities you’d like to participate in, there may be a better time than others to visit.

Best Time To Visit Gateway Arch National Park for Ideal Weather

The best month to visit Gateway Arch National Park for ideal weather is in the month of October. The temperatures in October are comfortable, with highs in the upper 60s and lows in the upper 40s. For tourists, October is a busy month, so be prepared for crowds and longer wait times. While it may be a busier time to visit Gateway Arch National Park, it is a perfect time to explore with ideal weather. 

Best Time To Visit Gateway Arch National Park To Avoid the Crowds

Gateway Arch National Park Without Crowds
Image Credit: Sue Ford via NPS

A solitary national park trip is one to be remembered. For those who want to visit Gateway Arch National Park and avoid crowds, the best time to visit is in the winter, specifically in February.

February brings fewer guests to the park, which means better lodging and flight rates. Another bonus of visiting in February is that there are incredible events that take place in St. Louis during this time of year, including the Soulard Mardi Gras event. Even though a February trip will be colder than other months, it is a great time to visit and not worry about crowds and traffic. 

Best Time To Visit Gateway Arch National Park in Spring

The best spring month to visit Gateway Arch National Park is in May. The flowers at the nearby Missouri Botanical Gardens are in bloom, and the temperatures are at a comfortable 60 to 70 degrees. There are also many spring events that take place in May, such as the St. Louis Microfest, the Art Fair at Laumeier Sculpture Park, and Schlafly Art Outside Festival. May is the perfect time to visit if you enjoy art, food, and fun festivals. 

Cheapest Time To Visit Gateway Arch National Park

Saving money while traveling can be quite the feat, but it isn’t impossible when visiting Gateway Arch National Park. The best time to visit Gateway Arch National Park and save money is to plan a trip in the winter. The cheapest time to visit this national park is in mid to late September. Flight and accommodation rates are at the all-time cheapest during this time of year once school has returned to session and Labor Day passes. 

Annual Events in Gateway Arch National Park

Gateway Arch National Park offers regularly scheduled events all throughout the year, but there are several events that take place on an annual basis near the park. These annual events bring in many visitors. There’s an event for every traveler near Gateway National Park. Let’s explore some of the most popular events that take place near this national park. 

GO! St. Louis Marathon

GO! St. Louis Marathon takes place each year in April. This event is geared toward individual runners, walkers, families, community groups, and corporate partners. This race has been taking place for 23 years. The course winds through downtown St. Louis and takes participants through the parks, historic landmarks, and several streets of the city. The views and race experience are unbelievable.

This event is exciting for participants of all ages. If you want to combine a national park trip and a marathon, be sure to visit Gateway Arch National Park during the month of April so you can combine a visit to the park and a thrilling race for a trip of a lifetime. 

Saint Louis Art Fair

The Saint Louis Art Fair has been taking place in downtown Clayton, just 9 miles from Gateway Arch National Park, for over 30 years. This event takes place each year in September and is a fantastic opportunity for artists and art enthusiasts alike. 

This art fair attracts art lovers from around the world. Not only can visitors admire and purchase incredible artistic creations, but there is also amazing food and activities for visitors of all ages. 

Bottom Line:

For the opportunity to get a one-of-a-kind creation and an event to remember for life, visit Gateway Arch National Park during the month of September.

Taste of St. Louis

Taste of St. Louis
Image Credit: Taste of St. Louis

If you are an appreciator of fine foods, you will want to visit Gateway Arch National Park during the month of September. Taste of St. Louis is a popular event that attracts locals and visitors alike.

Taste of St. Louis is a free, 3-day event that takes place in downtown St. Louis, near Gateway Arch National Park. Live music and incredible food vendors are set up for all to enjoy. Top chefs from the region compete in battles to win the Chef Battle Royale Champion.

If you are a food enthusiast, you will want to plan your Gateway Arch National Park trip in September so you can experience the fun and flavor of Taste of St. Louis. 

Where To Stay in Gateway Arch National Park

There are no lodging options inside Gateway Arch National Park. There are several cities that have a variety of choices for accommodations just minutes away. Whether you are looking for ultimate comfort in a luxury hotel or an affordable option such as a motel or campground, your list of opportunities is endless when visiting Gateway Arch National Park.

Cities Near Gateway Arch National Park

There are several options for visitors who want to stay outside of the park’s boundaries. Whether you want a big city or a smaller suburb, there’s a perfect spot for you near this national park. Take a look at some of the options for setting up a base camp during your trip to Gateway Arch National Park. 

St. Louis

St. Louis is an incredible city that makes a perfect home away from home while visiting Gateway Arch National Park. There is so much to do and see in this city and endless options for lodging and dining.

There’s no shortage of places to stay, with incredible options around every corner. From historic hotels to RV campgrounds and from luxury downtown hotels to affordable extended-stay suites, there’s something for every traveler in this beautiful city. 

Foodies love staying in St. Louis, as there are amazing and unique restaurants, including steakhouses, rooftop gourmet restaurants, pubs, and breweries all around. With dining choices like no other, be sure to plan ahead to make deciding on where to eat an easier choice. 

The biggest draw to this city is the Gateway Arch, but that’s not the only thing to see as entertainment and recreation options abound in this lively city. There are several casinos, theaters, museums, and sporting activities to also check out. 

Gateway Arch National Park is in the heart of downtown St. Louis, making this city an obvious choice for staying during your visit. There are endless opportunities for fun, food, and lodging, so staying in this city will help you to create memories to last a lifetime. 

Chesterfield, Missouri

Chesterfield is a small suburb about 25 minutes from downtown St. Louis. This is a great city to make your home base during a visit to Gateway Arch National Park. The town attracts many people who want to visit the big city of St. Louis, but still want to enjoy a quiet stay. This town has many options for lodging, including luxury hotels, extended-stay suites, and budget-friendly motels.

Food enthusiasts are in for a treat, as the area has an amazing variety of restaurants to choose from. From locally-owned steakhouses to taverns, no matter what you crave, you can find exactly what you’re looking for in Chesterfield.

Nicknamed the City of Volunteers, for decades, the citizens of Chesterfield have worked to make the city peaceful, beautiful, and thriving. There are plenty of places to shop, explore, and learn. One of the most famous places to visit is Faust Park. This park has a historic village, walking trails, a playground, and a butterfly house. 

Bottom Line:

Chesterfield is an incredible place to stay when visiting Gateway Arch National Park. It is close to the park and has something to offer visitors of every age and stage in life.

Kirkwood, Missouri

Kirkwood is another suburb outside of St. Louis that is a wonderful place to stay outside of the park’s boundaries. This town is brimming with history, entertainment, and plenty of places for dining and lodging. 

The area offers a variety of charming bed and breakfasts, chain hotels, and campgrounds. Whatever accommodation you seek, you can rest assured you will find exactly what you are looking for in Kirkwood. 

There’s an exciting array of dining choices, with dozens of locally-owned diners, restaurants, and bars that serve a variety of cuisine, from classic American favorites to dishes from around the world. 

Kirkwood is a historic town that offers plenty of excitement to travelers and has everything from ancient train stations to farmers’ markets and from historical societies to lively festivals and celebrations. 

Where To Eat Near Gateway Arch National Park

There is a single option for dining inside Gateway Arch National Park and hundreds of options nearby, thanks to its wonderful location in downtown St. Louis. You don’t have to drive far to get to a fabulous restaurant. Check out some of the top-rated restaurants near Gateway Arch National Park to help you plan your itinerary. 

Arch Café

Arch Café is a new restaurant that is located at the base of the Gateway Arch. This restaurant features farm-to-table, organic dishes with options for gluten-free and vegetarian diets.

Some of the menu items featured on the menu include juicy burgers, flavorful paninis, St. Louis barbecue ribs, and soups. Arch Café is the perfect option for visitors who don’t want to leave the park’s boundaries for lunch. You can’t get any closer than right below the magnificent Gateway Arch. 

Eleven Eleven Mississippi

Eleven Eleven Mississippi is a 5-star restaurant just 2 miles from Gateway Arch National Park. If you are looking for amazing food and elegant ambiance, you won’t want to miss Eleven Eleven Mississippi. This award-winning restaurant serves an impressive menu that features Tuscan California cuisine.

Some of the featured dishes include oak-oven flatbreads, house-made pastas, charcuterie boards, and gourmet seafood, poultry, and steak creations. Customers recommend the char-crust Iowa premium ribeye, assorted wild mushrooms, pecorino polenta, and eggplant parmesan. The menu also has a nice assortment of options for those who have food restrictions. 

You won’t want to miss the delicious dining opportunities at Eleven Eleven Mississippi. Be sure to add this to your Gateway Arch National Park itinerary. 

Pi Pizzeria

Should you get the craving for a sizzling, cheesy slice of pizza, you will want to stop by Pi Pizzeria. This pizza restaurant is located 6 miles from Gateway Arch National Park and is one of the top-rated restaurants in St. Louis. 

Pi Pizzeria’s menu features snacks and appetizers, salads, specialty pizzas, create-your-own pizzas, and desserts. Customers rave about the garlic knots, blazed wings, Bucktown pizza, and meatballs. Along with this long list of menu items, there is also an impressive selection of craft beer and menu options for vegan and gluten-free diners.  

When hunger strikes, Pi Pizza is there and ready to satisfy any craving. Don’t forget to stop by for a delicious slice and a cold beer after exploring Gateway Arch National Park. 

Stacked STL

Stacked STL
Image Credit: Stacked STL

Stacked STL is located 7 miles from Gateway Arch National Park. This is a 5-star restaurant that is loved by locals and tourists alike. 

The menu at Stacked STL features signature dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients. Some menu items include hot wings, gourmet burgers, salads, sandwiches, and delicious desserts. Favorite menu items are the fried pickles, the TriPPPy burger, and the fish sandwich. A lot of customers choose to create their own custom burgers specifically to their liking.

Bottom Line:

Stacked STL gets rave reviews for the best burgers ever. If you are a burger connoisseur, you won’t want to miss this amazing restaurant.

Sugarfire Smoke House

Sugarfire Smoke House is an award-winning restaurant half a mile from Gateway Arch National Park. This restaurant has been featured in magazines and food channels and is highly complimented by famous chefs. 

The menu at Sugarfire Smoke House features tender pulled pork, perfectly seasoned baby back ribs, and the best beef brisket in the city. There are also unique options like cheese curds, mushrooms, and artichokes.

For a taste of the best barbecue in St. Louis, plan to dine at Sugarfire Smoke House. With one bite, you’ll see why this restaurant has racked up so many awards and compliments. 

Gateway Arch National Park Facts

St. Louis Gateway Arch Tram
Interior of a tram at the Gateway Arch. Image Credit: Nan Palmero, MBA via Wikimedia Commons (license)

1. A New National Park

While this park was founded in 1935, it wasn’t established as a national park until February 2018. 

2. Blowing in the Wind

Many people comment that the Gateway Arch feels as if it is swaying while they visit the top. This structure was built to lean either way up to 18 inches and withstand winds up to 150 miles an hour. Guests will feel a slight sway once reaching the top, but it is typically less than an inch. 

3. National Historic Landmark

The Gateway Arch, along with the landscape surrounding it, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. 

4. Old Courthouse Linked to Underground Railroad

The Old Courthouse has many important events and people connected to it, and one connection is that it is linked to the Underground Railroad. It is listed in the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. 

5. Record-Winning Monument

The Gateway Arch is the tallest monument in the U.S. This massive arch stands 630 feet tall. This structure stands taller than the Washington Monument, Mount Rushmore, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty. 

6. Hidden Treasure?

Some of the original builders of the Gateway Arch claim a time capsule was welded into the top of the arch. While no one knows for sure if this is true, those who claim to know about this secret treasure say that the capsule contains 700,000 signatures of school children from the St. Louis area during the mid-1960s.

7. What’s in a Name?

Originally, the park was named the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial after President Thomas Jefferson. In 2018, a bill was signed into law to change the name to Gateway Arch National Park. 

8. A Colossal Structure

The Gateway Arch is a colossal structure that weighs 43,226 tons. 

9. An Architect’s Dream

The Gateway Arch was designed by a Finnish-American architect named Eero Saarinen. A design contest was held when deciding to build this monument, and Saarinen was the winner out of 172 total submissions.

10. Try, Try Again

Before the idea of a tram to take visitors up and down the arch, there were several other ideas that were in the running for a transport system. Some of these ideas included escalators, elevators, and a Ferris wheel. 

Final Thoughts

There’s so much history and adventure awaiting you at Gateway Arch National Park. Viewing the city of St. Louis from the iconic Gateway Arch is a chance of a lifetime. With museums, visitor centers, and historical landmarks, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at this national park. Book your vacation to Gateway Arch National Park and learn about the role St. Louis had in the Western Expansion of the U.S. during the 19th century. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to enter Gateway Arch National Park?

There is no entry fee to Gateway Arch National Park. There are fees for riding the tram to the top of the arch, which costs $3 per visitor.

How many days should I plan to visit Gateway Arch National Park?

Most tourists choose to spend half a day to a full day when visiting Gateway Arch National Park. A full day allows visitors to participate in special programs, take a tram ride, view one of the park’s films, and tour the museum.

What is the weather like at Gateway Arch National Park?

The weather varies throughout the year at Gateway Arch National Park. This area of the U.S. experiences 4 different seasons. Winter temperatures can dip into the mid-20s, and summer highs can reach up to 90 degrees . Spring and fall are comfortable, with lows in the upper 40s and highs in the 70s.

Can I bring my dog to Gateway Arch National Park?

Pets are welcome at Gateway Arch National Park, but if you intend to go into the visitor center and the historic Old Courthouse, it may be best to leave them at home. Pets are not permitted in the buildings at Gateway Arch National Park.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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