May 28, 2015

5/19/15 - Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

I wanted to see the St. Louis Arch. I learned they call it the "Gateway Arch". Then I found out that the official name for the national park it's located in is called Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.  We didn't know that there was construction going on all around until we got to St. Louis, but apparently they're expanding and revamping the whole area around the Arch.

Temporary Visitor Center is in the Old Courthouse. We stood in line to get tickets to ride the tram up into the top of the Arch. The tickets are timed, so we hustled to get around the detours and construction mess. Just follow the arch-arrows on the sidewalk.
This thing is huge--630' high and 630' wide at the bottom! (That's a 192 m equilateral triangle to those of you who prefer metric. I looked it up so you wouldn't have to.) But George wouldn't let me gawk and take pictures because we had to go through airport-like security at the Gateway Arch Visitor Center before we could get on the tram.
Once we got inside, we got our boarding passes, went downstairs. Five of us at a time stood opposite a small doorway--the door is just the small section with numbers. When the tram comes in, the doors open and the people on it get off and go upstairs. You sort of climb into the round pod which has 5 little chairs in it. It's only a 4-minute ride, so you don't get much time to gripe about how uncomfortable it is. They say the pods stay upright when moving, just like ferris wheel seats. (Actually, I'd never considered that they might not. I can do ferris wheels; I can't do the upside down stuff.)
The inside of the top of the Arch is 65' long and has 16 windows, 8 looking towards St. Louis and 8 looking toward Illinois on the other side of the Mississippi River. There's no time limit so you can wander around and see if the view changes from window to window. (Mostly it doesn't, but you have to be careful aiming the camera because the floor slants unless you're in the exact middle.) You can see the Cardinal's Busch Stadium on the left, and if you knew where to look across the river, you can almost see the campground where we stayed.
Back down, there's a museum so you can learn all about westward expansion, but it's closed until next year because of all the construction. Just in case you didn't pay attention in American History class, here's a brief recap: President Thomas Jefferson bought the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803, then sent Lewis and Clark to check out what he'd bought. They started their trip from St. Louis. They were followed by other explorers, mountain men and trappers, emigrants and soldiers, and lots of them headed west from St. Louis too. Hence, westward expansion.
Outside, we wandered around the Arch, down the Grand Staircase to the riverboats. Would have been nicer without the construction fences and mess.

We headed back to the Old Courthouse. I went upstairs to check out the courtrooms and get a closer look of the dome.
Maybe we'll be able to go back someday when they've finished their improvement project... 
You know the drill--more pictures here:  Jefferson NEM 

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