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Ultimate Family Guide to Exploring Gateway Arch National Park

Are you getting ready for memorable family adventure at Gateway Arch National Park?

Our ultimate family guide has you covered!

Discover top tips, must-see attractions, and everything you need to know to plan an incredible family visit to Gateway Arch National Park.

View of one side of the Arch with a slightly cloudy sky.

St. Louis Arch Location

The St. Louis Arch is located in downtown St. Louis along the banks of the Mississippi riverfront.

This incredible monument stands tall and its unique location, slightly elevated on a hill, adds to its iconic and symbolic look.

The Arch is just 1.5 miles from Busch Stadium, 2.5 miles from Union Station, and 3 miles from the City Museum.


St. Louis Arch Parking

On the Gateway Arch website, it suggests utilizing the InterPark Stadium East Parking garage.

This garage is located at 200 S Broadway Street.

At this garage, visitors can park for up to 5 hours for a total of $9.

Make sure to get your parking validated inside of the visitor center at Gateway Arch National Park if you did not pre-pay for it here.

The walk from this parking garage will take you about 10 minutes.

Must Know Information

Note that this discounted parking rate may not apply during St. Louis Cardinal games and other major downtown events. To ensure a smooth experience, I suggest checking the Cardinals schedule before planning your visit.

St. Louis has additional parking lots for visitors to use as well, but they will not be at this discounted rate.

Expert Tip

If you are planning to spend more than one day in St. Louis, I recommend staying at a hotel near Gateway Arch National Park. It is super convenient because you can easily walk to the Arch any time you want. When my family and I visited, we loved strolling near and under the Arch, especially in the evening as the sun was setting. It’s a pretty unique experience, and the best part? Fewer people around which makes it extra special.

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Best Time to Visit the St. Louis Arch

There are pros and cons for visiting the Arch during different times of the year.

Summer is the most popular time to visit.

If you are visiting during baseball season, I suggest planning around the Cardinals’ home game schedule unless you are planning to go to a game too!

Fall is also a gorgeous time to visit St. Louis as well as the Spring.

Wintertime in St. Louis can be hit or miss.

St. Louis can have some mild weather during the wintertime but it can also be cold and snowy.

My favorite times to visit St. Louis are on summer weekdays as well as in the fall.

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Tickets and Admission

If you know that you are going to be heading to St. Louis and want to ride the tram to the top of the Arch, I STRONGLY RECOMMEND buying your tickets ahead of time.

Tickets are on a timed system and especially with kids, it is best to know what time you are going up so you can arrive right on time and do not have to wait around. 

Admission rates vary depending on the date of the visit.

For adults tram ride tickets are typically between $15-19 and for children ages 3-15, rates are between $11-15.

Expert Tip

If you have a National Park pass, you will receive $3 off each adult tram ride ticket.

If you do not want to ride the tram to the top of the Arch, you can still enjoy the Gateway Arch National Park experience.

It is free to go into the visitor center, browse the gift shop, and explore the museum.

Gateway Arch National Park Security

All visitors must enter the Gateway Arch through the west entrance which is the side facing the Old Courthouse, located on Fourth Street.

There is security at the Arch similar to at an airport but way less involved.

The day we were there it was not very busy so we made it through quickly but during busy times, it is suggested to allow about 30-45 minutes to get through security.

We went through security with our stroller, and it was super easy.

If you do have a stroller or wheelchair you will need to take the elevator down to the lower level versus using the escalator.

I will tell you that it is a little bit confusing knowing what floor to go to in the elevator so maybe ask before you get on. 

St. Louis Arch view of main entrance
Entrance for the Gateway Arch.

Family Friendly Attractions at the Arch

Gateway Arch National Park sets itself apart from the other national parks across the country with its unique charm.

What makes it truly special is its ability to offer a wide range of family-friendly attractions that cater to various ages and interests.

Tram Ride to the Top

The tram ride to the top of the Gateway Arch is something truly special for everyone.

Stepping into the tram pod gives you the feeling that you are boarding a futuristic rocket.

It is super cool and will be something the kids will surely remember.

The breathtaking views at the top of the Arch are incredible.

The kids had a great time pointing out all the various sights in downtown St. Louis visible from the top of the Arch and were amazed how small everything looked down below.

It’s also truly fascinating to experience what it is like inside at the very top of the Arch.

We thought it felt more spacious inside than it appears from the outside.

View from the windows at the top of the Arch.

Museum of Westward Expansion

The Museum of Westward Expansion inside of the Gateway Arch Visitor Center is truly incredible!

I was so impressed by this museum, and it is absolutely free!

The museum features six themed exhibit areas that offer a fascinating experience for visitors of all ages.

My kids loved exploring this museum and were amazed by the life-size statues, life-like animals displays as well as other large scale displays including a covered wagon, stagecoach, cabin, and more.

These immersive exhibits and interactive areas really bring history to life for the kids and for visitors of all ages.

You can spend time in the museum while you are waiting for your tram time or after your visit up to the Arch.

You can also visit the museum for FREE without even paying for a ticket to go up into the Arch.

The Gateway Arch National Park also has a great gift shop with tons of souvenirs.

This is also where you can get your National Park Passport stamped if you have one.

Outdoor Spaces

One of my favorite things about visiting Gateway Arch National Park is the green space.

This expansive area is perfect for a range of activities, whether it is a leisurely picnic, playing catch or kicking a ball, simply relaxing, and or gazing up at the clouds with the iconic Arch in the backdrop.

Gateway Arch National Park also has scenic walking trails and paths perfect for families looking to explore on foot or bike.

On one memorable visit to the Arch, we brought along our scooters from home, and the kids had an absolute blast riding around the Arch grounds.

On a beautiful day, the outdoor space surrounding the St. Louis Arch is an absolutely fantastic place to enjoy a portion of your day.

Riverboat Cruises

Another unique way to enjoy the area near the Arch is to take a cruise on the Mississippi River.

Seeing the Arch from the Mississippi River is a special experience in itself.

Riverboat cruises run daily March through November.

Make sure to purchase tickets ahead of time to reserve your cruise time.

If you buy the tram and cruise combination tickets, you can save $2 plus if you have the America the Beautiful Annual Pass, adults can save an additional $3.

Family Friendly Amenities at the Arch

  • The Arch Cafe is located in the visitor lobby of the Arch right next to where you board the trams is a fantastic option for a snack or even lunch. They have lots of family friendly food options including a kids menu.
  • The visitor lobby of the Arch has many tables to sit at if you are waiting for your time to board the tram, need a refreshment, or simply want to take a break.
  • The walkways and paths surrounding the Arch as well as the visitor lobby are stroller friendly. The one downside is there is no direct path next to the steps down towards the riverfront which is where you can find the national park sign.

Must Know Information

You cannot take a stroller or wheelchair into the tram car or up into the top of the Arch. There is a spot to park strollers near the tram boarding area.

What to Expect on the Tram Ride to the Top of the Arch

When you walk in to the boarding area, they will give you a number that tells you what tram car you will be on and let you know exactly where to stand.

Before you board there is a 5-7 min movie, and then they take each group’s picture. 

The tram car is fairly small.

It can fit 5 seated people inside each car or “pod” but there is not a lot of room for movement especially if it is all adults.

I went up with three of our boys and the four of us did have enough space.

The ride takes 4 minutes to go up and 3 minutes to go down.

I will admit I was very anxious about going up as I do get a little nervous in tight places.

It was also very hot outside so I was nervous about being super hot in the tram car.

I ended up having a good experience riding to the top.

Most of the ride you can see interior steps out your tram car windows so that made me feel better.

St. Louis Arch looking upwards towards the sky and top of the Arch.

What to Expect at the Top of the Arch

At the top of the Arch you will have ten minutes to enjoy the views and take pictures at the top.

It is definitely enough time to see what you want and get your pictures.

They do give you a 1-2 minute warning before it is time to descend.

The views from the top of the Arch are incredible.

It feels like you have more room up there than you would think.

From the ground looking up, the windows look so small but they don’t seem quite as small when you are inside of the Arch.

The boys loved climbing the ledge next to the windows and seeing the views. 

If you can, I would suggest purchasing tickets to ride the tram to the top and taking your kids too.

It is a fun and unique experience and a memory you will definitely cherish. 

Finding the Gateway Arch National Park Sign

I always love getting family pictures or at least kid pictures in front of the sign at every national park we visit.

To find the Gateway Arch National Park sign, you will have to take the steps down outside of the Arch towards the riverfront, and you will find the sign there.

If you have a stroller or wheelchair there is a paved trail down as well.

It is a longer walk than doing the stairs but definitely a beautiful one and worth it if you want a picture next to the sign. 

Tips for a Smooth Visit to the St. Louis Arch

  • Check to see if the Cardinals have a home game or if there are any other major events happening downtown St. Louis. This will help you prepare for parking, higher hotel rates, and larger crowds.
  • Pre-purchase your tickets for the tram ride to the top or any other attraction combination you may be interested in.
  • If you have younger kids, bring a stroller as there is quite a bit of walking to and from the Arch and in the area in general.
  • Unless you are one of the first tram times of the day, make sure to be at the Arch approximately 45 minutes ahead of your scheduled tram time to allow enough time to get through security.
  • Give yourself enough time in your schedule for the day to spend some time at the Museum of Westward Expansion. If you arrive early to go through security and have some extra time before you need to board the tram, this is a good time to enjoy this museum as well as afterwards!
  • Make sure to get a picture with the Gateway National Park sign.

10 Awesome Things to do at Gateway Arch National Park

  1. Take a family selfie
  2. Walk, ride bikes, or scooter around the Arch
  3. Have a picnic on the grass
  4. Play frisbee or ball
  5. Check out the interactive Museum at the Gateway Arch (it is free)
  6. Visit the gift shop
  7. Take the tram to the top of the Arch
  8. Take a picture in front of the Gateway Arch National Park sign
  9. See the Arch from a riverboat cruise
  10. Enjoy the 10 minute virtual reality experience

Visiting Gateway Arch National Park is definitely a unique and memorable experience.

It is also such a beautiful sight and a fantastic place to hang out and enjoy the great outdoors as well!

Download my free travel itinerary planner to help you plan your visit to St. Louis or wherever your adventures may take you!

May you love your adventure! KW

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