If you are visiting Gatlinburg, Tennessee make sure that you plan a visit to Anakeesta!
I can’t say enough good things about this outdoor attraction that provides a unique experience surrounded by beautiful scenery at every turn.
Anakeesta is a great place for both adults and kids to have a great time with plenty of things to do during your visit.
Thanks again to Visit Gatlinburg for hosting our visit.
What Does the Name Anakeesta Mean?
In the Cherokee language, Anakeesta translates as “place of the balsams” or “a place of high ground.”
How Tall is Anakeesta Mountain?
Anakeesta is located 600 feet above the city of Gatlinburg on a 70-acre mountain.
How Do You Get to the Top of the Mountain?
You can either ride the scenic Chondola or ride the Ridge Rambler to get to the top of Anakeesta mountain. There isn’t a road open to the public to reach the top so you can leave the driving or machine operating up the experts.
Anakeesta guests have unlimited scenic chair rides on the Chondola or Ridge Rambler to the summit during their visit with all-day access. Admission includes unlimited scenic chair rides.
Ride the Scenic Chondola to the Top
Guests can choose to ride in an open-air 4-person chair lift with a safety bar or select an enclosed gondola cabin with seating for 6. Anakeesta has the world’s only fixed-grip Chondola.
There are a limited number of enclosed gondola cabins which means there is typically a much longer wait time in line if you choose to ride in one. The benefit of riding in the enclosed gondola is that it can also accommodate strollers and wheelchairs.
*Pets are not allowed but ADA certified service animals are permitted if you have a special needs guests traveling with you.
If you are waiting for one of the gondola cabins because you are concerned about riding the chairlift ride with small kids, you may want to consider the Ridge Rambler as another alternative.
The line does move really fast if you are waiting for a chair lift. If you are concerned about heights, the safety bar on the chair lift will hopefully help you feel more secure.
Once the chair lift reaches the summit, you’ll start your Anakeesta adventure in the whimsical Firefly Village.
Ride The Ridge Rambler to the Top
The Ridge Rambler is another alternative for guests who have a fear of heights, families traveling with a small child or elderly guest, or guests who want to experience Anakeesta in a new way.
Seat belts are provided to help secure guests during their ride on the steep and curvy paved road.
(It’s a good thing that the public can’t drive to the top.)
A ride on the Ridge Rambler adventure truck gives you a different perspective and appreciation of the beautiful property.
It takes the Ridge Rambler about 20 minutes to get to the top of the mountain and the vehicle can hold up to 45 passengers.
You are dropped off at the same area that you would wait at if you wish to ride the Ridge Rambler back down the mountain when you are ready to leave.
How Do You Get Down From Anakeesta?
Guests can take the chair lift or the Ridge Rambler back down the mountain. It’s nice to have the option to be able to try both experiences during your visit.
We rode the Ridge Rambler on our way up during the day and took the chairlift on the way down so that we could enjoy the city lights at night.
How Long Should You Plan on Visiting Anakeesta?
I would plan on staying at Anakeesta for several hours for the best value. There are plenty of things to do for guests of all ages during their visit.
To truly appreciate the property you need to spend time there during the day and when Anakeesta theme park is lit up at night.
What Should You Wear to Anakeesta?
You will be doing quite a bit of walking if you want to see everything at the family-friendly outdoor theme park so dress comfortably.
Good walking shoes are a must! If you plan on ziplining you need to wear close-toed shoes and I would recommend athletic clothing/capris so that your harness doesn’t ride your shorts up.
If you plan on staying after dark you may want to bring a light jacket as the temperatures cool down.
Guests are allowed to bring backpacks and you might want to pack a change of clothes for younger kids who may want to play in the Splash Park.
Admire the Beauty Along the Vista Garden Walk
The Vista Garden Walk is filled with artistic sculptures and gorgeous flowers at every turn.
There is a long ramp available if you are pushing a stroller or wheel chair and want to avoid the stairs.
Kids will be able to spot a bear along the way.
The floral design intermingled with the sculptures throughout the Vista Garden really enhances the design.
You’ll pass by a relaxing waterfall that draws your eye back to the AnaVista Tower nearby.
Kids will also find several elements for interactive play along the way, including the garden chimes that they can play.
On a warm day you’ll especially appreciate the misting tunnel that cools you off as you travel through the wisteria.
Meet Willow “The Keeper of the Forest”
If you are looking for a fun photo op make sure that you stop by to take a picture with Willow the forest troll.
Attempt the TreeVenture Challenge Course
Kids of all ages will gain more confidence as they make their way through three levels of interactive treehouses.
The TreeVenture Challenge Course has three treehouses and six netted bridges. Kids can move from the top level all the way down to the bottom level via a slide in the safety of the enclosure.
If you have a younger child who wants to try the enclosed course be prepared to join them to help them in case they need some extra encouragement along the way.
Test Your Balancing Skills on BearVenture
The black bear-themed challenge course is another great structure where kids can gain their confidence as they balance and climb across to the other side.
BearVenture is also a nice option for parents who want to be able to stay close to younger kids while they try the elements.
Parents can easily give a hand to their child while they observe on the sidewalk next to the course.
Enjoy 360-Degree Views on the Top of AnaVista Observation Tower
You can experience downtown Gatlinburg’s highest point on top of the AnaVista Observation Tower.
If you want to see incredible 360-degree views from the AnaVista Observation Tower, you’ve got to climb the stairs. I promise it’s worth it!
I’m even going to challenge you to climb the 84 steps to the observation deck TWICE during your visit.
You really need to see the view both during the day and then come back to see it later at night because it feels like two different experiences.
If you are feeling extra brave, walk across or sit on one of the two glass panel sections at the top of the tower that provide views 60 feet below.
I was really excited to see the new Anakeesta tower that was added after my first visit to Anakeesta theme park.
The top of the tower is like a giant compass. Be on the lookout for the direction markers on the beams to help you get your bearings as you observe the 360-degree views.
While you’re at the top of the observation tower use the interpretive signs to identify mountain ranges in the distance.
How Far Can You See on Top of AnaVista?
On a clear day you have views of more than 50 peaks and mountain ranges in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky.
Once you reach the observation platform of AnaVista Observation Tower you’ll feel like you are on top of the world.
You can see views of both the Great Smoky National Park and downtown Gatlinburg from the 60 ft tower that’s 1,947 above sea level.
AnaVista Observation Tower at Night
A second trip up the tower steps will reward you will gorgeous views of the area after dark.
You can see the Gatlinburg Sky Bridge lit up in the distance along with other Gatlinburg landmarks downtown.
Seating Area at the Base of AnaVista Observation Tower
There is plenty of seating at the base of the observation tower if someone in your party can’t make the climb or if you want a place to relax before or after.
Nearby there is a restroom and you can purchase a drink or snack at “The Watering Can.”
Explore Treehouse Village Play Area
Children of all ages will love playing in the trees in this whimsically-themed treehouse village interconnected by multiple bridges of varying challenges.
Kids will have a great time exploring this structure by a lot of crawling and balancing across the bridges.
There is even a special area they can climb up within the treehouse with a unique view from above.
Stroll the Treetop Skywalk During the Day
The Treetop Skywalk is the longest tree-based skywalk in North America. The skywalk takes you on an 800 ft path with bridges that are suspended 50-60 feet in the air.
Be on the lookout for birds in the treetops and if you are lucky you may even see a bear from afar on the forest floor below you.
The swinging bridges do have some sway when you walk across them which is why all guests walking on the treetop skywalk must be able to walk without assistance.
The Treetop Skywalk entrance is located to the right of the Treehouse Village Play Area and ends in Firefly Village.
It’s a one way path so go slow so that you don’t miss anything along the way since you can’t double back.
Children are also not permitted to be carried and strollers are not allowed which means that families may need to take turns if you have a child that’s too small in your party.
As you walk across the skybridge keep in mind that no more than 8 people are permitted on any skybridge at a time.
The Treetop Canopy walk is beautiful during the day and at night. I highly recommend experiencing both!
Come Back to Stroll the Treetop Skywalk at Night
Twice as nice! I told you that this treetop canopy deserves a second glance after dark!
If you don’t experience the beauty of the walk in two different light settings, you are definitely missing out!
Everything feels more magical with white lights guiding you to revisit the scenic path through the trees in a new way.
Feel free to take your time to take in the moment and allow other guests to pass you on the platforms.
There is also a large seating area on one of the platforms if you want to take in all of your surroundings before making your way to the exit.
Cool Off at the Splash Pad
If you visit Anakeesta on a warm day, the Splash Pad is a great option for your kids to cool off if you have younger children.
I would recommend packing a change of clothes for your kids so they don’t have to spend the rest of their time in wet clothes.
Anakeesta also has misting fans located throughout the area that you can pass by and cool off without getting too wet.
The Splash Pad has mountain-themed water spouts and geysers that kids of all ages will enjoying cooling off in.
Remember and Honor the Gatlinburg Fire Victims at the Memorial Forest Walk
Many of the images along the path for the Memorial Forest Walk are from a photo project called “Voices of Gatlinburg.” The project was created by Nashville-based photographer Jeremy Cowart.
You can read more about the fire victims’ stories paired with powerful images that demonstrate the resilience of a community that worked together during such a difficult time.
Sit and Admire the Mountain Views
One of the things that I appreciate about the thoughtfulness of the design of Anakeesta is the abundance of seating located throughout the outdoor theme park.
The whole entire property invites you to slow down and enjoy the views.
Listen to “Live Music”
Make sure that you check the Anakeesta calendar for upcoming events and free live music that may be happening during your visit.
Adventures with an Additional Cost at Ankakeesta
You can experience the following activities for an additional fee at Anakeesta:
Experience a Dueling Zipline Adventure
Thrill seekers will love experiencing the dueling ziplines as they adventure through the forest.
You’ll have a new appreciation of the Smokies on this guided tour from above that includes a rappel.
You can race family or friends side-by-side on the Dueling Zipline. Pro tip: the heavier you are, the faster you go.
Anakeesta offers my favorite style of zipline course because the participant does not have to use their glove to handbrake.
That means that braking responsibility for your zipline tour is left to the guides and you can just sit back and enjoy your ride and the views around you.
The course does include (2) 50ft hight rappels but don’t worry, it’s a very smooth rappel ride down to the ground.
Reservations are not required for ziplining but they are strongly encouraged. I would recommend making a reservation if you have a specific day and time that you want to visit.
If you are ziplining, then you are required to wear close-toed shoes and be able to pull back long hair.
Ride the Rail Runner Mountain Coaster
This is another adventure that thrill seekers will definitely want to try!
The Rail Runner Mountain Coaster can reach speeds up to 25 mph as it races down a 1600 ft single rail track with a 400 ft elevation change.
As the first of its kind in the US, the single-rail mountain coaster is such a unique adventure!
Guests can ride as single riders or as a tandem ride with small children.
Your scenic ride starts at the top and will take you back up Anakeesta mountain at the end.
Bring Home a Souvenir Treasure While Gem Mining
Kids can pan for their own special treasure and take home a souvenir of a special gemstone or fossil.
Dine and Shop at Magical Firefly Village
At Firefly Village you’ll find quaint shopping and plenty of dining options from sit down to quick service.
Places to Eat and Drink at Anakeesta
Outside foods and drinks are not permitted at Anakeesta unless required for medical purposes but you’ll find plenty of great dining options during your visit.
- Cliff Top Restaurant – (Great table service option for a date night or evening with friends)
- Smokehouse (Casual and family-friendly with indoor and outdoor seating)
- The Bar at the Top of the World (Located next to Smokehouse)
- Tap House (Enjoy local craft beer or a cocktail)
- Kephart Cafe (Hot dogs, flatbreads and sweet treats)
- Snack Shack (Snacks on the go including Funnel cake fries)
- The Happy Camper (Snacks and drinks)
- The Watering Can (Snacks, sandwiches and drinks)
Enjoy Ice Cream at Pearl’s Pie in the Sky
If you are craving a sweet treat, make sure that you stop by Pearl’s Pie in the Sky for ice cream or a sweet treat during your visit.
Shops at Anakeesta
You’ll find an assortment of items available to purchase at the Anakeesta shops ranging from clothing, decor, souvenirs, and more.
- Great Outdoors Trading Company
- Adventure Outpost
- Catching Fireflies
- The Merchantile
Relax by a Fire Pit
No visit to Anakeesta is complete without some time spent relaxing by a fire pit.
It’s such a nice way to unwind and reflect on a wonderful day with family and friends.
Where is Anakeesta Located?
Anakeesta is located in the heart of Downtown Gatlinburg at traffic light #5 at 576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN.
If you are taking the Gatlinburg Trolley, the closest stop is Ripley’s Aquarium across the street.
Does Anakeesta Have Parking?
Anakeesta doesn’t provide parking for guests.
There is a paid parking lot at “Parkway Parking” that is on-site but not owned by Anakeesta. This is the closest parking lot to the Chondola ride and ticket booth.
Other city parking garage options are across the street at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies or at Traffic Light #3, the McMahan Parking Garage.
What Do General Admission Tickets at Anakeesta Include?
The following activities are included with an Anakeesta general admission ticket:
How to visit at Night and Return the Next Day for Free
If you purchase tickets purchased at the ticket booth one hour before close you get access to the park the following day for FREE!
How to Save Time in Line at Anakeesta
If you don’t want to wait in line to purchase tickets you may want to consider purchasing an Express Pass online for your desired day and time.
On your desired date, you can show your PDF on mobile or as a printed pass and go directly to the Chondola Express Line without having to wait in the ticket line.
If they are out of Express Tickets, you can still purchase general admission tickets.
Save An All Year Annual Pass at Anakeesta
If you plan on visiting Anakeesta more than once in a year, the annual pass is the best value.
Is Anakeesta Worth the Money?
In my opinion YES!
To get the most value out of your visit plan on staying there for several hours and experience Anakeesta during the day and after the sun goes down.
I totally understand that families have to pick and choose where and what they spend their money on during vacation and I think that Anakeesta is worth the investment for the memories.