Recently, my son and his family were visiting Gatlinburg, Tennessee from their home in Indiana. In order to satisfy the varied interests of our group, who ranged in age from 3- to 59- years old, we loaded up the cars and headed to Anakeesta, Gatlinburg’s recent addition to their top-tier attractions. While there, we found something for everyone to love!
The name Anakeesta is a Cherokee Indian word referring to high ground, literally meaning “the place of the balsams.”
We discovered that Anakeesta is very much a part of its mountain top location, surrounded by trees and wildlife. The kids and adults alike will find much to enjoy at this sky-high attraction!
Up We Go
Getting to the top of the Anakeesta Mountain is half of the fun! From the Chondola Base Station in downtown Gatlinburg, choose from a four-person ski style chairlift or a six-person enclosed gondola cabin. Both run on the same cable system, with about ten chairlift seats to every two gondola cabins.
We chose the chairlift and were efficiently loaded and seated by the friendly staff and up the mountain we went! It’s a fairly steep ride and lasted about 10 minutes. If you’re freaked out by the thought of your feet dangling over open air about 60 feet above the ground, the gondola might be a better option for you.
Along the way, the chairlift gave us great views of the surrounding area. When we looked below us, we spotted a momma bear and her young cub scampering among the brush! We found out later that the Anakeesta staff had nick-named the momma bear Ana!
Once we reached the top, the staff instructs you to unload quickly and hurry out of the way of the continually moving chairs. In the event of a mishap, the entire cable system can be stopped though.
There is plenty to keep the adventurous members of your group happy at the top of Anakeesta Mountain.
The Dueling Ziplines includes three dual zip lines and two rappel drops. Zip over the arriving chair lifts and shout out a friendly hello while zipping over 2,600 feet through the trees, side-by-side with a friend or loved one.
Our entire group loved the Tree Canopy Walk, where we walked among the trees tops on a series of 16 hanging bridges.
The Rail Runner Mountain Coaster was not open yet when we visited but it sure looked fun! On this coaster, visitors can zoom down the mountain on a high-speed single rail coaster that sits low to the ground. The best part is that you control the speed! Ride either single or tandem; this attraction opens in the Fall of 2018.
Look for Gems! Anakeesta Gem Mining Co. is a hit with young and old alike where you might discover a special gemstone or a fossil as you mine for a treasure to take home. My 3-year-old granddaughter Little E. was one sleepy and tired girl so we did not have time for mining. The hoots and hollers we heard as we passed by though let us know that visitors were having a grand time!
Look at granddaughter Little E. loving the Treehouse Village! She could have stayed for hours in this treehouse playground with interconnected bridges, plank walks, and tunnels. Even big kids and parents can play if they like!
Chilling, Relaxing, and Remembering
Along the walkways and in some central seating areas, there were plenty of misting fans that were a real treat on the near 90-degree day that we visited.
We especially liked the Vista Gardens with a walking trail that meandered through beautiful gardens with delightful flowers and plants.
There were cascading streams and a pergola where you can rest and enjoy the mountain-top views.
Be sure to snap a photo with Mt. LeConte as a stunning backdrop through the grapevine heart wreath-like structure.
Take a moment to observe how the mountain is recovering from the devastating forest fire on the Memorial Forest Walk. The charred forest serves as a somber reminder of the brave firefighters who battled the fires of November 2016.
Shop and Eat
As you arrive on top of Anakeesta Mountain, the chair lifts and gondolas deliver visitors to the Firefly Village where you can enjoy whimsically themed shopping and dining while taking in the surrounding mountain views.
View of nearby Mt. LeConte!
Choose from the Cliff Top Grill and Bar where our group enjoyed mountain-named burgers, hotdogs, and club sandwiches. I had the Mt. LeConte burger with fried green tomatoes. Yum!
Or, perhaps the Smokehouse BBQ and Beer truck is more your style. It sure smelled delicious whenever we passed by the food truck!
Pearl’s Pie in the Sky and an adjacent Ice Cream shop round out the dining and dessert choices so there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Anakeesta opens at 9 AM daily and is located in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg at 576 Parkway Gatlinburg, TN 37738 (traffic light #5).
With over 70 acres of mountain-top fun, Anakeesta is a must-do attraction for the whole family. We had a great visit, and as additional features are added, I’m sure Anakeesta will become one of the premier attractions in Gatlinburg.
Have you visited Anakeesta? Let me know what your favorite part was in a comment below!
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