Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

Renting an RV from Cruise America allowed us to comfortably tour the National Parks of Colorado. You can read our full review of Cruise America rental RVs here. You can also view our entire 3,200 mile Summer road trip itinerary to Colorado and Utah by clicking here.

From Cincinnati, our first stop on our RV road trip adventure was the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial otherwise known as the St. Louis Gateway Arch. By the time we had picked up the RV in the morning and loaded our things, it was mid afternoon. Just five and a half hours away from Cincinnati, St. Louis was a good place to stop for the night and we were excited to camp our first night in the RV when we pulled in to the St. Louis/Granite City KOA. Dave parked the huge camper in our spot like a champ and then spent a few nervous minutes setting up the sewer hook up.  He definitely did not want to reenact Robin Williams misadventures from the movie RV.  Dave did great hooking everything up and we all marveled at how easy it was to pull in to a camping spot and be totally set up in just minutes.

By this time it was already getting dark so after eating dinner we spent some time figuring out the bed set up.  We rented the Large 30 foot RV since we have 6 people in our family which has a queen size bed in the back bedroom, a queen sized bed over the front cab, a table which lowers into a bed and the sofa flattens into a bed as well.  Our typical set up throughout the trip was Dave and I in the bedroom, Sophie and Naomi in the over-cab bed and Maya and Garrett on the pull out sofa.  Although easy enough to use, we only used the table bed a couple of times throughout our trip.  Once we had our sleeping situation figured out we took a short walk around the campground, used the camp restrooms and headed in for bed.  Unless we were camping in a spot without bathrooms, this is what we usually did so that we would have less sewage to worry about.  For the record, I purposefully did not learn how to handle the sewage hook-ups or clean-up since I was absolutely certain I never wanted that responsibility.  Thank God for Dave!

We all slept well and woke up early to head to downtown St. Louis to visit the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.  Before our trip I had made sure to read where we should park once we arrived and so we headed to the oversize vehicle street parking about a half mile from the Gateway Arch.  This is one drawback to traveling in a RV since there is not always parking available nearby.  Thankfully we had no trouble parking and took the easy walk to the Visitor Center along the Mississippi River.

Jefferson Expansion National Memorial: Saint Louis Riverfront

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

Jefferson Expansion National Memorial: Saint Louis Arch

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial: St. Louis Arch

The Gateway Arch itself is impressive looking.  Having only previously seen it in pictures, I was impressed with how big it was and also that such a graceful building is strong enough to remain standing.  It looked like it could just topple over! We went into the Visitor Center where the kids got their Junior Ranger Booklets and we purchased tickets to see the park movie and for the tram that would take us up through the arch. Because we have the America the Beautiful Annual Pass, our tickets were discounted three dollars each.

While waiting for our tram and movie times, we toured the exhibits in the Museum of Westward Expansion learning about the westward traveling pioneers and Thomas Jefferson’s role in expanding the American frontier.  This is a great museum with wonderful educational and entertaining exhibits and the kids completed their Junior Ranger books while exploring. We then watched the fascinating park movie “Monument to the Dream” which is a detailed account of the building of the Gateway Arch.  While this may sound boring, it is really interesting and should not be missed.

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Junior Rangers

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial: Tram to the Top

Once the movie was over, it was time to ride the tram to the top so we headed over to take the trip.  I sometimes am afraid of enclosed spaces but this didn’t bother me too much and before we knew it we were at the top.  In case you are worried, the ride up and back was slow and steady and not scary at all. The views were incredible! We spent 15 minutes or so at the top looking through all the windows before taking the slow tram back down.

Tram Ride Through the Gateway Arch

Inside the Gateway Arch in St. Louis

All in all we spent about five hours at the memorial and really enjoyed our visit.  It was also a symbolic start to our westward adventure! Our next stop was supposed to be Rocky Mountain National Park but we took a little detour.  You can read about that in the Cruise America review link HERE.

Have you been to the Jefferson Expansion National Memorial? I’d love to hear about your visit!

Happy Travels!

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I love to plan family travel adventures with our four kids. Encouraging time in nature, National Parks travel, backpacking and hiking are my passions and I love to write about them.

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