Saint Louis Aquarium


To the Top Gateway Arch
Aug 15

Views from the Top of the Gateway Arch

by Family Attractions Card in Family Fun, Live Like a Local, Museums, Parks, Tours category

“So, you’re telling me we’re going to peek out of those teeny tiny windows at the very top? And what are these ‘trams’ you keep talking about?!” my out-of-town friend inquired as we squinted in the sunlight with our heads tilted back to see the Gateway Arch.

Even with the slight panic in her tone, I couldn’t help but grin. Total newbie.

“The views are worth it!” I assured her. “It’s not what you’re expecting; trust me.”

In case you haven’t heard, the Arch got a makeover.

From an official name change, to renovated trams, new landscaping and a revamped underground museum, St. Louisans can expect big things from the project’s completion.

It was a project that directly affected tourism and individual pockets of the city, especially Laclede’s Landing. With St Louis’ biggest and most iconic attraction undergoing continuous construction, we’ve faced a few challenges the past three years.

And while it still might take some time before things bounce back to what they were, the care and attention put into this project were totally necessary, considering the Gateway Arch is over 55 years old!

But just like the views at the very top, the wait was worth it.

As we walked along the freshly landscaped grounds, we found ourselves commenting on the numerous trees along the path and admiring their symmetry. Approaching the North exit ramp, tourists stared wide-eyed in awe of the Arch’s architecture and sheer size. It’s a sight to behold!

Walking toward the Gateway Arch with trees along the path

When we finally made it over the hill and stopped in front of the new entrance, window panels offered a glimpse inside at all angles, courtesy of the crescent moon shape. And in true St. Louis fashion, there was an outdoor splash pad front and center, complete with a young woman cartwheeling.

woman cartwheeling in front of the entrance to the Gateway Arch

Inside, the floors and walls glistened, clean and bright, and we stepped in line to purchase our tram tickets. If you’re planning a spontaneous trip to the top, at least make sure you don’t go too late in the afternoon. Speaking from personal experience, the tram rides can sell out!

Our estimated wait time was just under two hours, but thankfully the museum, food court and gift shop kept us entertained downstairs.

Leisurely, we strolled through the underground museum, taking our time reading and experiencing westward expansion, and understanding how it shaped St. Louis as a city and inspired the sculpture built directly above us.

Welcome to the Museum underneath the Gateway Arch

Follow the walking paths in each section of the museum and step into a different era on every side. Digital touchscreen videoboards let you tap into the history of the time to learn more – impressive new features that make the experience incredibly interactive.

With our stomachs grumbling for dinner, we meandered over to the café. I noticed a few local St. Louis products here and there, like the Volpi salami in my Italian club or the Pappy’s barbecue sauce sitting on the center of every table. What a great way to show a little love to the local scene!

As soon as we wrapped up with our dinner, it was time to board the trams!

Only 40 people in a group can fit in the eight trams on either side of the Gateway Arch. We twisted our tickets excitedly as our tour guide explained what we could expect and handed us our boarding passes.

Gateway Arch tour guide

After close to 20 minutes of waiting, we hopped into a tram that was just as small as I remembered. In the four-minute ride to the top, the tram constantly readjusts itself so that you’re always sitting upright. Time passed quickly, and I was grateful that my claustrophobic tendencies are virtually nonexistent.

Pro-tip: Small spaces give you the creeps? Not to worry. There is a ‘test’ tram upstairs that you can practice sitting in before you buy your ticket.

The tram doors popped open, we climbed up a short flight of stairs and navigated our way through the crowd until an open window beckoned us over.

On a clear, sunny afternoon, the views look a little something like this:

View of St. Louis from the top of the Gateway Arch

As I peered through the glass, I felt like a kid again, pointing, taking pictures and tugging the sleeve of my brother’s shirt to direct his attention to what I saw along the horizon.

After we had taken enough photos to drain the batteries on our phones, we boarded a south tram and descended quickly back underground.

“You were right!” my friend exclaimed as we exited the North Ramp. “Totally worth it.”

Mission accomplished.

This post in the Live like a Local series was written by a local on Laclede’s Landing watching the rain fall and humming that one Chicano Batman tune that’s playing on a loop in her head.

View of the Mississippi River and Illinois from the top of the Gateway Arch

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