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Gateway Arch National Park offers new experiences to St. Louis visitors

Gateway Arch National Park offers new experiences to St. Louis visitors

May 5th, 2019 by Sally Ince in Features

If you're looking to make a trip to St. Louis, the Gateway Arch National Park and its partners are offering an entirely new experience for the familiar icon.

Starting at the west end of the park, visitors can enter the Old Courthouse, which recently celebrated its 255th anniversary. Not only is the courthouse an example of old world St. Louis with its mid-19th century architecture, the building also hosted some of America's most well-known civil rights cases such as Dred Scott's fight for freedom from slavery and Virginia Minor's arguments for women's right to vote.

Constructed in 1828 and having served as the city courthouse until 1930, the Old Courthouse now features restored courtrooms and free exhibit galleries that show the history of early St. Louis, exploring the west and the clash of cultures.

"The original courtroom where the Dred Scott case was held has since been converted into offices, but the restored courtrooms look almost identical to what they would have looked like back then," park ranger John Pellarin said.

Continuing outside to the courthouse steps, visitors can see the most noticeable additions to the Gateway Arch and surrounding area after the park underwent a $380 million renovation.

Surrounding the arch, guests are now able to enjoy 11 acres of parkland, 5 miles of walking and biking paths, and an outdoor amphitheater.

Located between the Old Courthouse and the Gateway Arch, the park spans across Interstate 44 with Luther Ely Smith Square and leads visitors directly to arch's new entrance.

Designed with glass walls to showcase its surrounding foliage, the new west-entrance now serves as the only access point to entering the arch. However, the single entrance system allows guests to partake in interactive experiences offered within the Arch Museum.

Before ascending to the viewing deck and being lifted 630 feet high to the arch's center, guests walk through the 46,000-square-foot Gateway Arch Museum showcasing six redesigned underground galleries arranged chronologically from the settlement of St. Louis to the building of the arch.

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The galleries commemorate 201 years, from 1764-1965, with topics such as colonial St. Louis, Thomas Jefferson's vision, Manifest Destiny, St. Louis's Riverfront Era, traveling to new frontiers and the building the Gateway Arch.

"We have multiple perspectives represented," said Erin Hilligoss-Volkmann, director of education of Gateway Arch National Park. "We want to tell history from all different sides of the story and we have experiences for all different learning abilities and interests."

Most of the galleries include interactive and digital enhancements with enlarged text panels, touchable tangibles, audio descriptions, touchscreen games and short educational presentations by park rangers.

Guests can also purchase tickets to take a tram ride to the top of the arch or watch the "Monument to the Dream" documentary, which details the arch's construction.

Although visitors can only enter through the west entrance, they are able to exit from the north end of the arch.

Located just a short walk from the arch, visitors can get a unique view of the city and the Mississippi River with a riverboat ride or helicopter tour.

The Gateway Helicopter Tours offer four tours, and the Riverboats at the Gateway Arch offer daily riverfront cruises, skyline dinner cruises, specialty cruises and, now through October, lunch on the Paddlewheel Cafe located on the riverboats dock.

What was once a tangle of freeways, overpasses and parking structures, the new Gateway Arch National Park has made touring the monument easier than ever, connecting the "Gateway to the West" with the city that has hosted it for 50 years.

For upcoming summer events at the Gateway Arch and its surrounding areas, visit www.gatewayarch.com/events.

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