The Gateway Arch is at Memorial Dr. and Market St. within Jefferson National Expansion Memorial park. Soaring sculpture, symbolic gateway to the West, America's tallest monument—the Arch is all of these things. Standing 630 feet above the site of French fur trader Pierre Laclede's 18th-century trading post, this inverted catenary curve (the same shape that a free-hanging chain takes when held at both ends) commemorates St. Louis' role in the westward expansion of the United States.
Designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, this gleaming stainless steel icon is ingenious in its simplicity, despite taking 2 years and 8 months to build (it opened to the public in 1967). The span of the two legs at ground level is the same as the height. Construction of the Arch required specially designed equipment; each leg needed to align precisely, and the margin of error for the failure of either one to do so was 1/64 of an inch.
The Journey to the Top tram ride takes you on a trip through history en route to the small observation room at the top of the Arch. Instead of a standard elevator, passengers step aboard a unique tram system with egg-shaped compartments, each compartment containing five seats. The observation room has narrow windows with views of downtown St. Louis and the Mississippi; visibility is best on clear days.
The round-trip takes about an hour. Timed tickets are issued every 10 to 20 minutes throughout the day. A movie theater in the underground complex beneath the Arch shows a 28-minute film about its construction.
Notes: The purchase point for Arch tickets, the Museum of Westward Expansion, is currently closed for renovations through spring 2017. In the interim, tickets can be purchased at The Old Courthouse. The Arch's pod-like tram compartments have low, sloping ceilings and cramped quarters; for those who are claustrophobic, the 4-minute ride up might be a challenging experience. Visitors entering the Gateway Arch are required to pass through a security screening.
Pets on leash are allowed.
Hours: Ticket center (Temporarily The Old Courthouse) open daily 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m., Memorial Day-Labor Day; daily 8-5, rest of year. Tram departures daily 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Memorial Day-Labor Day; daily 9-6, rest of year. Closed Jan. 1, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Phone ahead to confirm schedule.