The Gateway Arch was erected in this location was to commemorate US expansion to the west and honor the American spirit of exploration. Gateway Arch is one of the Top Ten things to do in St. Louis for kids. Your children will be engaged, exercised and educated all in one stop!
In case you’re curious, here’s what else makes our top ten list of attractions in St. Louis for kids.
Gateway Arch National Park
The first and most important thing I want to share is that the Gateway Arch museum is FREE! There is only a fee if you wish to ride the tram to the top or see one of the shows. When you enter, it appears as if you’d need tickets to enter, but you can proceed through Security without any sort of ticket or reservation.
I highly recommend exploring the museum even if you’re not riding to the top. There are six exhibits to explore. Stop by a ranger station to pickup the Junior Ranger workbook. Kids who complete one page for each of the six exhibit areas will receive a Junior Ranger badge as a keepsake.
Also inside the underground museum, there is a café, a store, a theater ($), and the tram entrance ($).
Construction of the Arch was completed in 1965 with the total cost of the project being $13M. It stands 630′ tall and is also 630′ wide and remains the tallest arch in the world.
Arriving at the Gateway Arch National Park
If you are getting dropped off, the best spot is right in front of the Old Courthouse. I had my husband drop us off before he went to park. He found excellent street parking on the east side of the Hyatt hotel, right next to the Arch.
Riding the Tram to the Top is a top experience to do in St. Louis for Kids
It felt like an obligatory experience to ride to the top of the arch and peer through narrow glass windows overlooking the city on the West side and the murky Mississippi River on the East. I’m glad I did it, but wouldn’t say I’d do it again.
If you decide to book this experience as well, reserve about 75 minutes for the tour in total. Arrive 20 minutes early for Security Screenings (required whether or not you are riding the tram). There is a brief video ran before you’re led down a few sets of stairs to reach the tram loading area. The tram ride is 4 minutes up, 3 minutes down. You ride in 5-seater pods of sorts. The design of the Arch’s lift system is explained as a cross between an elevator, a tram, and a Ferris wheel. You’ll have about 10 minutes at the top before they usher you to return to the trams for your ride down.
A ranger is stationed at the top to answer questions.
The cost of the tram varies by day, but expect to pay between $11-$19. You get a few dollars off your ticket if you have an annual National Park Pass or it is a National Park fee free day. Book your tickets in advance online, at least 1-2 weeks early as they sell out early and often. They allow cancellations and reschedules.
Exploring the Grounds and Riverfront Park
Go on, touch it! Some of our favorite photos of the arch were taking right up next to it. Another great photo op is if you stand on the opposite side the old courthouse and then you’ll have the domed courthouse in the forefront with the arch over the top.
The grounds are beautifully maintained on its riverfront park so spend some time strolling the area.
Fun Facts about the Gateway Arch National Park: St. Louis for Kids
😲The arch is as tall as it is wide.
😲It is the tallest Arch in the World.
😲Forty city blocks of St. Louis were leveled to build the arch and its park.
😲It is also the tallest monument in the Western Hemisphere.
😲Both sides of the arch are grounded in 25,980 short tons of concrete measuring 44 feet thick and 60 feet deep.
😲Twenty feet (6.1 m) is further grounded in bedrock.
😲The arch can actually sway 18 inches in either direction.
😲Recent renovations cost 2.5x as much as building the arch initially.