The first to remember about visiting Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is that it is in downtown St. Louis. Lots of people use it as a city park. So when my granddaughter, Hannah, and I got to the arch on a hot Sunday afternoon, the visitor center was crowded.
After flying to St. Louis on the way to Family Nature Summit, we jumped on their amazing Metro city and rode to the Arch. When you’re standing under it and look up to the stainless steel arch, it beats all the pictures you’ve seen of it. At 630 ft., it is the largest built structure in the U.S.
It’s on the banks of the Mississippi River and represents America’s westward expansion. In particular, it celebrates the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-1806) which started here and took them on the Missouri River to the Pacific Coast. There’s surprisingly little about the two explorers in the Museum of Western Expansion.
We really should have had a day to explore the whole site, instead of a short afternoon, but we took in a lot. We went in the Old Courthouse, a county courthouse where Dred Scott and his wife sued for their freedom in 1846. The case when up to the Supreme Court but they lost. Beautiful building which would be worth a trip on its own.
The Museum of Western Expansion is an open-plan museum which goes from the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 to the 1890s, the end of the frontier.
But the whole point of the visit was to go up to the arch on a 4-minute train. We had reservations for 4:30, which is when we got on line.
An hour later, we finally got on the capsule with 3 other people and went up. Hannah had no trouble with the wait since she made friends with two girls in back of her, standing in line with their grandparents.
The top was crowded but we saw out of both sides of the arch through tiny windows.Here’s a picture looking down to the Courthouse.
And another of Hannah under a sign.