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Exploring: Our Journey To the Top

2015 June 7
by Becky


It’s been more years than I can even believe since I’ve been in the Arch. Must have been when friend or family visited back in the days before kids. No matter, I’ll always have fond memories of our trips to the top. Like the time we moved Stu to St. Louis, before I’d graduated from UNL, we’d been engaged all of 10 minutes. I insisted on taking Stu and his buddy Mark to the Arch after hearing them claim it was “no big deal.” Their faces as they stood underneath…priceless. Two engineers, fresh out of school, mouths gaping at the incredible structure soaring over their heads.

The Gateway Arch IS a big deal. It’s amazing. Worth a trip—or many—to it’s top. And bottom.


Right now it’s not all that pretty down below. The Arch grounds are under massive construction, plans depicting a spectacular surrounding and new entrance the monument. Visitors will walk from the historic Old Courthouse to the Arch without crossing a major highway. The museum below is being renovated to state-of-the-art status (I remember it being pretty great before too). But behind the orange construction fencing, beyond the excavators and skid steers, the Arch looms. We’ve passed it dozens of times, Ethan always yelling “there’s the Arch!” as we drive by on 70, usually on our way to the airport…or on that rare, special occasion, Illinois.


Though as we walked around the Old Cathedral, inching our way ever closer to the sky scraper, his excitement reached unprecedented levels. “Mom, I’m shaking!” When I asked him why, he replied, “Because it’s SO big! And I’m afraid it will fall on me!” I reminded him about our Fourth of July spent right there at the riverfront, over two years ago, watching an airshow and eating carnival food.

To go up, first you go down…


New Flash: Finn didn’t care, nor was he impressed. He chilled as always, getting a kick out of just about anything Big Brother was doing. So we went down two ramps, dropped off the stroller, then down more steps to the elevators, AKA Space Capsule Rocket Ship Things.


Ethan had been looking forward to this part especially. He even knew just how the “pod” would work. “Mom, it’s going to go eh-er-eh-er-eh-er” making an imaginary pod in his hands rotate, then straighten, rotate, then straighten. How did he know? From my detailed descriptions and our book To the Top!: A Gateway Arch Story by friend and neighbor Amanda Doyle. It was just moments before he experienced the real thing. He giggled and wiggled


After exactly one minute of looking out a few of the 16 windows, gazing across the Mississippi river on one side and downtown St. Louis on the other, Ethan was ready to go back down. I didn’t protest, it was about 95 degrees up there and I had a human strapped to me. A dad and his two kids were lucky enough to be squeezed into an elevator capsule with us where Ethan proceeded to shout every detail of Arch trivia he had crammed in his little brain.

“There’s stairs out there in case the elevators break.”
“If the elevator didn’t go back and forth we would be falling all over the place!”
“Don’t be scared, we will be at the bottom soon.”

Turns out he knows enough to last a whole two minute tram ride.

We arrived at the bottom just in time to sneak into the movie. If you go to the Arch, PROMISE me you’ll see the movie. It’s not long and if you weren’t already impressed by the structure, you will be after watching the incredible footage in this documentary.


I actually hold my breath every time they push the sides apart to place the center piece. Ethan ate three snacks but sat through the whole thing. There were cranes built ON to the arch segments as they were added, my construction-lover was riveted.

After a stop in the gift shop for a Christmas ornament, we headed up to ground-level and out for some exterior Arch views.


I’m pretty sure Finn is sitting on what will be the new entrance, now just a span of grass. Tough to get that whole Arch in the frame. We had a better chance in front of the Old Courthouse, which, by the way, is where we bought our tickets. The building is gorgeous, the rotunda really impressive. There is a ticket booth at the base of the Arch but I recommend checking out both.


This was just one of our downtown adventures last week. We parked in the lot I used when working down there, walking past my old building always strange since in those days I had no kids, now I have two. Totally different lives.

My promise to show Ethan the Arch – granted. We’ve been making the most of our Two Weeks of No Schedule before Ethan starts camp. Never a dull moment this summer!


7 Responses
  1. Linda Johnson permalink
    June 8, 2015

    What a great experience for Ethan. Love the adorable picture of Finn under the Arch.
    Someday when I visit I must take this adventure.

  2. June 8, 2015

    I have many memories of the arch including watching it being built and experiencing the daily excitement as each section fell into place. There are always a lot of skeptics out there, but when all was completed the “jaws dropped.”

    So glad the boys enjoyed it. Can’t wait to see the new museum and all the renovations. It’s about time they spruced up things !!!

  3. Barbara Kasten permalink
    June 9, 2015

    We still have not been to the top with the kids. We leave Sunday and will be in St. Louis for two weeks. Maybe we will add it to our long list of activities!

  4. June 12, 2015

    I love the movie the best, for sure. We took my niece and nephew up last summer, and we got that very book for my nephew for Christmas – I didn’t realize you knew the author! I could have gotten it signed. :)

    • Becky permalink*
      June 12, 2015

      Yes! Amanda Doyle! I’m sure she would be happy to sign his book. She lives just a couple blocks away and is at lots of events around town.

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