An arch consists of two weaknesses which, leaning one against the other, makes a strength.Leonardo da Vinci
About the Park
Gateway Arch National Park in Missouri symbolizes St. Louis’s role in the United States Westward Expansion during the nineteenth century. The park pays tribute to Thomas Jefferson for his role in opening up the American West and to the pioneers who moved across the country and shaped history. It is also a tribute to Dred Scott, who sued for his freedom in the Old Courthouse, which is now part of the National Park. St. Louis Arch was one of our favorite day trips while we raised our children in southern Indiana.
Check out the view from below the Arch!
Live it up!
Best Things to do in the Park
- Ride the tram to the top of the Gateway Arch for views from the observation deck
- Go through the Explorer’s Garden in the North Gateway area and learn from Lewis & Clark
- See the brand new Museum Exhibits underneath the arch telling the history of the early pioneers
- Watch the Monument to the Dream documentary on the building of the Arch. This is a must do!
- Visit the Old Courthouse, which was the site of the Dred Scott case
- Walk the trails along the Mississippi River under the Arch
We have made many trips to the Gateway Arch in Missouri, as we lived in southern Indiana for many years. However, on the journey with the Airstream, we will never forget our stay at the nearby RV park with a “baby arch” over the gate! We loved that little detail. It was so Mom & Pop!
Size of Park
The Arch is 630 feet tall and 630 feet from the base of one leg to the other
The Gateway Arch National Park was formerly known as Jefferson National Expansion Memorial as it was constructed as a memorial to Thomas Jefferson’s role in opening the west. The Gateway Arch National Park is the smallest national park in the country, with only 91 acres.
The park’s highlight is its Gateway Arch, a 630-foot-tall monument. The Arch is a stainless steel structure built in the 1960s. Beneath the arch is a museum, so even if you don’t pay for the tram ride, the museum and grounds in the park are still a great place to visit.
Gateway Arch National Park also includes St. Louis’ Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott case was held. The Old Courthouse was built in the early 19th century and is one of the oldest standing buildings in St. Louis.
What to do in the park
Ride the Tram inside the Arch
Most people visit the Gateway Arch National Park to visit this iconic arch in person. Inside the arch, a tram that takes you up to the top. Before boarding the tram, you can learn about the architect and the building of this magnificent structure.
The tram car can accommodate five people and takes about 4 minutes to reach the top. From there, you can look out from the windows of the arch and enjoy the amazing views of the cityscape of St. Louis from one side and the Mississippi River from the other. Once done, the tram car takes you back to the bottom in 4 minutes.
Visit the Museum
The Museum of Westward Expansion was opened in 2018 and is located underground beneath the Gateway Arch.
The museum covers over 200 years of America’s westward expansion history. We found that this museum is very informative and educational. We loved learning about Lewis and Clark, the Native Americans, and the effort to expand the country west.
Learn about the history behind the Old Courthouse
The Old Courthouse in the Gateway Arch National Park has a significant historical value. In 1847 and 1850, this building was the site of the first two trials of the Dred Scott case. The courthouse also witnessed the trial of Virginia Minor’s case for a woman’s right to vote in the 1870s. The courtrooms have been restored for the public, and visitors can learn more about the judicial system in the 19th century.
The inclusion of the Old Courthouse in the park highlights the importance of civil rights. While over 300 suits for freedom were filed at the courthouse, one particular case stands out in history. In 1847, Dred Scott and his wife Harriet sued for their freedom, and the case went to the Supreme Court. After 11 years, the court decided against Scott and his wife. It is considered the worst judgment ever handed down by the Supreme Court.
In 2012, a statue of Dred and Harriet Scott was installed on the south lawn of the Old Courthouse to honor the couple’s fight for freedom.
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