on January 2, 2008
The most recognizable symbol in St. Louis, and perhaps in the rest of the country, ranking up there with Mount Rushmore, is the Gateway Arch. The Arch is but one of a number of sites that is located on the grounds of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. It is a 91 acre park that also includes the Old Courthouse, which decided the Dred Scott case in 1857 as well as the Museum of Westward Expansion. The park’s location is near the starting point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition which led to the nickname "Gateway to the West."My first impression of the Arch was that it was another architectural wonder. As we crossed over the Mississippi River, the Arch stands next to it with the St. Louis skyline in the background. At a height of 630 feet towering over the "Mighty Mississippi" it is the tallest structure in St. Louis. The most amazing aspect about the Arch is that there is a tram system that takes you to the top of the Arch with some of the most amazing views of St. Louis, the Mississippi River, and Illinois. Visiting the Arch and the rest of the park is an all day affair. The park has an extensive security system such as found in many airports. Plan to arrive at least thirty minutes prior to your time to board the tram. All three sites in the park open at 8:00am and they close at 10:00pm with the exception of the Old Courthouse, which closes at 4:30. The only fees in the park is for the Arch which costs $10 for a ride to the top. Tickets are also sold for the theater and riverboat crusies on the Mississippi. Discounts are given when combined with the tram. The Visitor’s Center is located underground beneath the Arch. After going through security, we boarded the tram. Each pod on the tram holds five people and if you are someone who is claustrophobic then you might want to avoid going to the top. The pods reminded me of something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The pod is egg shaped with five seats and I felt as if I was going into space. The tram ride to the top takes four minutes and the tram rotates periodically to conform to the curved track of the Arch. Upon exiting the pods, we found ourselves at the top of the Arch. There are windows at the top, which are barely visible from the ground. The views from the top are breathtaking. All of St. Louis is visible, as well as the Mississippi River, and Illinois across the river. It has been said that on a clear day, you can see as far as 30 miles. There is no time limit for staying at the top of the Arch and when you are ready to go down, get in line for the descending tram.
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