Ever been to a national park? You'd expect loads of trees and wide-open spaces, right? But there's one that's completely different, and it's smack in the middle of a city. Yep, right in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, you'll find the tiniest national park in the U.S. It's not about size here, but what's inside that counts.
You can't miss it — there's this huge arch. It's like looking up at a skyscraper about as tall as a 60-story building. And it's not just big; it tells a pretty important story about how America grew.
People come here not just for the sights but to feel a connection to history. This place has a way of surprising you with its mix of city vibes and historical roots. It's where you get up close with the past, right beneath this massive arch.
Welcome to an unexpected find, just a stone's throw from the Mississippi River, where history stands tall amid the city's modern pulse.
It's more than a park; it's a slice of history, inviting you to explore a national park unlike any other. Let's discover the Gateway Arch National Park, a whole new way to experience history, all packed into a spot you wouldn't expect.
A Glimpse into Gateway Arch National Park
As you approach St. Louis, the iconic 630-foot stainless steel arch becomes a focal point, shimmering against the city skyline.
Completed in 1965 at a cost of around $13 million (equivalent to about $105 million today). Famed architect Eero Saarinen and structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel meticulously designed the arch.
Covering a modest 91 acres, the park, initially established as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in 1935, was rechristened the Gateway Arch National Park in 2018.
Its unique design and historical significance symbolizing America's westward expansion make it a remarkable national treasure.
Captivated by the Gateway Arch National Park? The Midwest has more hidden gems for you to explore in 5 Midwest National Parks That Are True Hidden Gems.
Experiencing the Arch Up Close
While it's breathtaking from any city vantage point, standing directly beneath the arch is an experience unto itself.
Its immense stature dwarfs you, as the sky frames its sleek curve above you. But to truly appreciate its marvel, consider journeying to its peak.
The ascent isn't just a simple elevator ride; it's via a unique tram system, the only one of its kind globally.
This tram is a chain of compact, egg-shaped pods, each seating up to five passengers. As they move, they pivot, ensuring you remain upright throughout the climb.
Upon reaching the top, observation windows greet you, showcasing downtown St. Louis on one side and the expansive Mississippi River on the other.
For a more vivid feel of the experience, take a look at this TikTok video, which captures the tram's journey and the panoramic views from the top:
@adventure_mom Did you know that you can go up to the top of the Gateway Arch? #gatewayarch #gatewayarchnationalpark #stl #stlouis #stlouisgram #explorestl #explorestlouis @explorestlouis ♬ No Stylist - Instrumental - Finesse God
On clear days, your gaze can stretch up to 30 miles away. And here's a fun fact: due to its design, the Arch can sway up to 18 inches in strong winds, though it's so subtle you'd scarcely notice.
Experiencing the inside of the Arch is more than just panoramic views; it's immersing yourself in an engineering masterpiece.
The History of The Gateway Arch
The Gateway Arch isn't just about the view from the top. Dive beneath its surface, and there's a whole world of history waiting for you.
The Museum of Westward Expansion, located beneath the Arch, meticulously showcases the lives of Native Americans, pioneers, and explorers through detailed exhibits.
Authentic 19th-century artifacts, from Native American beadwork to the rugged tools used by settlers, provide a tangible connection to the past.
The museum also offers a deep dive into the Lewis and Clark expedition and, importantly, sheds light on the intricate process of how the Arch was constructed.
A bonus for history enthusiasts and curious visitors alike: entry to this treasure trove of information is completely free.
Want a sneak peek inside the museum? Here’s a TikTok video by @mikothegreat1000 that gives you an insider’s view:
@mikothegreat1000 The Museum at Gateway Arch National Park #trending #trend #followback #follow #fypシ゚viral #foryoupage #bosnia🇧🇦 #freepalestine🇵🇸❤️ #balkantiktok #usa🇺🇸 #gatewayarch #tiktokchallenge #tiktok #architecture #arch #saintlouis #saintlouismo #museum #museumtok #museumtiktok #museums ♬ Chrysanthemum Tea - Prod. By Rose
Enjoying the Surroundings
Once you've absorbed the history and marveled at the arch, the park's pristine grounds beckon. Fancy a picnic? The Luther Ely Smith Square is your spot, a peaceful green haven right in the heart of the city.
Don't miss the Old Courthouse nearby. It's not just any building; it's where the famous Dred Scott case happened.
And those reflective pools? Perfect for a quiet moment or a selfie with the Arch mirrored in the water.
And if you're up for a little adventure, hop on a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi. It’s a whole different view of the Arch from the water.
@riverboatsstl 👀😮 Proof that some of the best views of St. Louis are from the Mississippi River 😍 #riverboatsstl #stl #gatewayarch #stlouis #mississippiriver #views #downtown #explorestlouis #explorestl #riverboatcruise #gatewayarchnationalpark ♬ Circles - Instrumental - Post Malone
Wrapping Up Your Visit
Before you leave, don't forget to visit the gift shop. It's the perfect place to grab a memento of your trip or gifts for loved ones.
In conclusion, while Gateway Arch National Park might be the smallest national park in America, it's packed with rich history, architectural wonder, and experiences you'll cherish.
So, the next time you plan a trip, don't overlook this urban gem. Remember, sometimes, the most unforgettable destinations come in small packages!