AAA Editor Notes
The Gateway Arch is at Memorial Dr. and Market St. within Gateway Arch National 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 Tram Ride to the Top 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 up to 30 miles on clear days.
The round-trip takes about an hour. Timed tickets are issued every 5 to 10 minutes throughout the day. A movie theater in the underground complex beneath the Arch shows "Monument to the Dream" a 35-minute film about its construction.
Pets on leash allowed on grounds. Service animals only allowed in the facility (call for restrictions/fees).