The Gateway Arch dominates the St. Louis skyline and is an integral part of this city’s identity. Like Forrest Gump said, they’re like peas and carrots. Read why visiting the Gateway Arch with kids in St. Louis is worth a day, and how to plan a great trip.

Gateway Arch with kids in St. Louis

Exploring the Gateway Arch with kids

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Officially known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the Gateway Arch represents America’s westward expansion into the untamed West, and St. Louis’s important role during the nineteenth century. It’s also the city where Lewis and Clark set off to explore America’s frontier. We’ve visited twice now, and each time has been a great experience.

The memorial pays homage to Thomas Jefferson’s vision of opening up the West to an expanding population of settlers and pioneers, as well as to the slave Dred Scott, who successfully won his own freedom in the downtown courthouse.Courtroom at the Old Courthouse

There’s plenty to see and do at this National Park, even if you’re just passing through the city. Take a trip up to the top for amazing views of St. Louis, or just take a walk through the Old Courthouse and learn about some of our important American history. No matter what, there’s lots to see and do here in this spectacular National Park.

Start your adventure at the Old Courthouse

Old Courthouse at the Gateway ArchYour first stop at this National Park should be to the Old Courthouse. Here you’ll be able to purchase tickets for the tram to the top of the Arch, explore the gift shop, and get your Park Passport stamped.Explore the Old Courthouse in St. Louis

  • Purchase tram tickets at the Courthouse

    Tickets to the top of the Arch are available in the Courthouse and you must have a timed ticket to ride.
    Adults 16 and up: $13
    Children: $10
    Parks Pass Holders (including Every Kid in a Park): $10

Note: As the park and museum are being renovated, some of the exhibits from the Museum of Westward Expansion have been relocated to the courthouse.

The Old Courthouse is where you can learn about the incredible story of Dred Scott’s fight for freedom. In 1847, Mr. Scott went to trial and only after a second trial in 1850 did Mr. Scott and his wife ultimately prevail. It was also the location of Virginia Minor’s case for women’s suffrage and women’s right to vote.

Know a 4th grader? Get free park admission!

If you have a 4th grader, be sure to sign up for Every Kid in a Park. It allows free or discounted admission to many of America's National Parks, and we loved using ours this past year. You can read more about Every Kid in a Park here.

Every Kid In A Park

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial with kids

Various rooms in the courthouse have been restored and provide a peek back in time at the 19th century judicial system in the United States. Be sure to climb the staircases up to the second and third floors to get an up-close look at the incredible dome ceiling and verandas.Dome of the Old Courthouse - Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

Beginning on Flag Day and running through the 4th of July, the courthouse is decorated top to bottom with American flags, and it is a sight to behold. We were lucky enough to see it during our visit.Visiting the Old Courthouse in St. Louis with kids

Exploring the Arch and the Museum of Westward Expansion

Located just a short walk from the Old Courthouse and directly under the Arch is the entry to the park and museum. Inside is a movie theater where you can watch a screening of the film “Monument to the Dream”, do some shopping at the large gift shop, and also explore the Museum of Westward Expansion.Museum of Westward Expansion at the Gateway Arch

During this most recent visit, the museum was under a pretty extensive renovation, but we had visited a few years ago and found it to be interesting and well done. Exhibits revolve around the struggle of settling America’s western frontier. Cowboys, Native American history and lore, covered wagons – it’s all here. The story of how the American West was settled is pretty fascinating, and the museum tells it very well. And it’s fun for kids to learn about!Museum of Westward Expansion with kids in St. Louis

Be sure to take the time to watch the movie. The theater is fairly large and comfortable, and the film is a unique look at the construction of the Arch. We all really enjoyed it, and it’s a great way to rest for several minutes and get off your feet.Gateway Arch in St. Louis

  • Fun Fact!

    The Gateway Arch is America’s tallest National Monument!

Visiting the Gateway Arch with kids

Ride a tram to the top of the Arch

View of the Old Courthouse from the top of the Gateway ArchIf you have a ticket to ride to the top, you’ll find the entrance at the bottom of the Arch near the museum. This ingenious train/tram system will get you to the top of the Arch in 4 minutes. If you can handle confined spaces for a short amount of time, it’s a cool ride to the top, and the small windows allow you to see the Arch from the inside.Ride the tram to the top of the Gateway Arch with kids

Once at the top, gaze out one of the sixteen windows that look out over downtown St. Louis in one direction and the mighty Mississippi River in the other.Gateway Arch on the Mississippi River

While we were there, we got to see a bird’s-eye view of the St. Louis Cardinals playing at Busch Stadium. Definitely not a bad way to see the Cards play some ball!St. Louis Cardinals from the Gateway Arch

Take a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River

Book a trip on a replica paddle-wheel river boat! Narrated trips down the Mississippi River are available aboard the Becky Thatcher or the Tom Sawyer where guests can learn about the history of St. Louis and the importance of this waterway.

Choose from a 1-hour sightseeing cruise, a dinner cruise, or one of many seasonal and specialty cruises. Cruises are narrated either by the captain or an NPS Ranger and are availble throughout the year.

Ticket prices:
Adult: $20 (Save $3 when you make it a Captain’s Combo**!)
Child (age 3–15): $10 (Save $1 when you make it a Captain’s Combo**!)
Children under age 3: Free

**The Captain’s Combo includes the One-Hour Sightseeing Cruise plus A Journey to the Top.

Click here to make a cruise reservation.

Helicopter Tours

Get a unique view of St. Louis and the Gateway Arch with a helicopter tour. Tours are narrated by the pilot and are available April through November.

Click here to make your helicopter tour reservation.

Fees and Passes

Entry to the park and Gateway Arch facility is $3 and is waived for America the Beautiful pass holders and Every Kid In a Park pass holders.

Journey to the Top – Arch entry, movie screening, and tram ride to the top

  • Adults 16 and over: $13 ($10 with a pass)
  • Children 3-15: $10

Sightseeing Cruise Only

  • Adults 16 and over: $20
  • Children 3-15: $10

Captains Combo – Arch entry, movie screening, tram ride to the top, and sightseeing cruise.

  • Adults 16 and over: $30 ($27 with a pass)
  • Children 3-15: $19

Click here to compare all prices and book your adventure.

Hours of Operation

Gateway Arch

Summer: Daily, 8am – 10pm
Winter: Daily, 9am – 6pm

Old Courthouse

Summer (Memorial Day weekend–Labor Day weekend), Daily, 7:30am–8pm
Winter (Labor Day weekend–Memorial Day weekend), Daily, 8am–5pm Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Riverboat Tours

Daily, March–November (Cruise times and hours vary.)

Where to stay

We’ve previously written about staying in St. Louis and have several options here. For this trip, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis which is literally across the street from the Courthouse and the Arch. It’s the perfect home base to explore the Arch and downtown St. Louis. Not only that, the views are fantastic! Make sure you request a room on a high floor if you can!Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch

Check the latest prices here.

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Visiting Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis

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