When our family visited St. Louis, Missouri this summer, visiting the Gateway Arch was at the top of our “must see” list. What we didn’t realize until actually arriving on the grounds of the Gateway Arch is that there much more to see than the arch itself! The Gateway Arch is only part of what’s known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (JNEM) which include a number of other attractions worth seeing.
Here are four fun things to see while visiting this amazing memorial.
I didn’t know (and you might not either) that there are observation platforms at the top of the Gateway Arch which can be reached by a system of barrel shaped trams. Tickets are required for this popular attraction and can be purchased beneath the arch. The lines are quite long which is why recommend arriving at opening time at 9:00am.
Between the Arch and the Mississippi River is the Grand Staircase which mirrors the shape of the Arch as it descends to the banks of the Mississippi River. For those of us who grew up reading Mark Twain, seeing the Mississippi River for the first time ever is a Really Big Deal. If you have the time, we recommend taking a ride on a replica 19th century paddle-boat for a one hour narrated tour of the river. Tickets can be purchased inside.
Museum of Westward Expansion
Beneath the Arch are a couple of theaters and the Museum of Western Expansion which show how American Indians and pioneers lived. The exhibit halls have a great collection of historical artifacts and animatronic narrators that bring the story to life. The museum is free to view though there is a fee for the theaters.
Historic Old Courthouse
To the west of the Gateway Arch (and also part of the JNEM grounds) is the Old Courthouse, where the famous Dred Scott lawsuit took place in 1846. The courthouse is free to view and has both exhibits and a small gift shop inside.
Our family only allotted about four hours to see the Gateway Arch and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial though easily could have spent an entire day here. Additional things you should know:
*Parking is available at the Arch Parking Drive for $6 a day ($4 if you arrive between 6am-9am).
*Aside from a mercantile that sells coffee and soft drinks, there are no restaurant facilities anywhere on the grounds. If you are planning to spend the entire day at the JNEM, you might think about bringing a sack lunch since the closest downtown restaurants are a bit of a walk to reach.
*Visitors to the Gateway Arch are required to pass through a security checkpoint and weapons (including knives) are prohibited. Due to the long lines, ticket holders to the tram should show up at least 30 minutes before their scheduled departure time.
The Gateway Arch and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is an amazing place to visit with lots of interesting things to see for children and adults alike. To help plan your visit, be sure to visit the JNEM website at NPS.gov for a trip planner and additional information.
More by this contributor:
10 things our family loved on Route 66 through Missouri
What to see at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis
Five free things to see in St. Louis, Missouri