Gatlinburg has a new destination getaway that combines amazing views of the Great Smoky Mountains, genuine hospitality, and exciting attractions. Named after the Cherokee word meaning, “Place of the Balsams” [high grounds], Anakeesta delivers breath-taking experience from the mountaintop. In a town with so many great sights and attractions, it could be easy for a new attraction to get lost in the mix. However, Anakeesta is not a typical attraction. Blending a variety of memorable attractions and delicious food with stunning views atop the mountain, it is no wonder this new destination is an instant hit with locals and families visiting the area.
Magic in the Mountains!
There’s something special up there on that mountaintop; it’s a magical experience that guests from across the country must experience at least once. Anakeesta provides guests with a complete experience from start to finish. With so many things to do atop the mountain, it is not surprising that guests are visiting Gatlinburg’s newest destination more and more each day. While the popularity is growing, Anakeesta guests should have no fear about delays with massive crowds. The destination has so many things to enjoy both during the ride up to the top of the mountain and also once up there. Tourists and locals who are short on time still find great value and joy in taking the fourteen-minute chondola ride to Anakeesta’s Firefly Village and then soaking up the adjacent scenic, panoramic views of the Great Smokies. Others will look to make their visits to Anakeesta a day-long experience.
Scenic Ride to the Top
First Impressions are everything, and Anakeesta makes a great first impression. Guests park at the bottom of the mountain in Downtown Gatlinburg and take either a four-person open air chondola or a six-person enclosed cabin ride to the top. During those first ten to fifteen minutes on the ride up, guests are subjected to some amazing views of the surrounding areas. The ascent to the top of Anakeesta is so peaceful and beautiful.
After soaking in the amazing views on the way to the top of Anakeesta, guests arrive at Firefly Village. This welcoming area is filled with nice shopping and eating opportunities. Guests wanting to do some shopping will have a selection of choices – Great Outdoors Trading Company is a great place for guests to find gear for the outdoors as well as a variety of arts and crafts, jewelry pieces, and home goods made from regional artisans; Catching Fireflies is a boutique filled with hand-crafted children’s toys and clothing and women’s apparel. Guests can take in those amazing views of the surrounding Great Smokies; some of the popular panoramic vantagepoints are a view of Mount LeConte and another of Downtown Gatlinburg! For those hungry, Anakeesta Smokehouse is perfect for lunch or early dinner while Pearl’s Pie in the Sky offers delicious desserts. The only difficulty is deciding what to eat first!
Memorial Forest Walk – Mountain Strong!
The wildfire of 2016 affected the region unlike anything in the region’s history. In fact, the Anakeesta destination was in the process of being developed when the fire took hold of many trees in and around the area. Like Gatlinburg and surrounding area, Anakeesta took damage. The fire was by far the most devastating in Tennessee’s history. An account of the evenings of this “perfect storm” are showcased at this touching memorial walk, which is actually located in the heart of one area most affected by the fire. Many heroes helped save lives and land during this disaster; with this touching memorial, those stories will never be forgotten!
Treetop Canopy Walk
After taking a moment to remember the devastation and heroism from the fire of 2016, it is a perfect time to take in some amazing views from the treetops. Children will want to stop for a visit to the gem mining area and children’s treehouse village playground along the way to the canopy walk; both are perfect opportunities for family members to interact together and enjoy the outdoors. Once on the Treetop Canopy Walk, even more cherished family moments are waiting to be made. Take in the view of the surroundings from 50 or more feet off the forest floor in a safe and fun way. Sixteen connected bridges take guests back across to the Anakeesta Adventure Outpost. Towards the end of the stroll, guests on the skybridges can take in a unique view of thrill-seekers dueling on the zipline course!
Dual Ziplining: Dueling With Friends
With amazing views all-around, one of the best might be experienced while zipping through the treetops. Anakeesta offers a dueling zipline experience unlike most in the region. Combining the amazing views with the adrenaline-filled thrill of skimming above the trees, the zipline experience takes it up one notch by adding in the dueling aspect. Not only can guests experience the surroundings, they can do so with a friend or family member zipping right next to them. With two zipline segments and two challenge stations, thrill seekers can fulfill their need for adrenaline over the span of about an hour. Those not up for the challenge can watch others zip off from the Adventure Outpost’s observation deck or enjoy some shopping in nearby Firefly Village!
One Visit is Not Enough!
Many will want to return to the mountaintop over and over again. Announced in December of 2017, guests can do just that with the purchase of a season pass. The magic of The Smokies offers experiences not found anywhere else, including numerous seasonal sights. With the season pass, guests can come and go no matter the season.
Phase 2 Begins
As 2018 nears and guests continue to enjoy the amenities and views atop Anakeesta, another phase of projects are in the works. These new additions over the next year or two are sure to take this complete destination to a whole new level. The future at Anakeesta is very bright.
First up is the alpine mountain coaster thrill attraction called Anakeesta Mountain Coaster! This family-friendly thrill ride will give guests unique views of the surrounding mountainous areas while sliding down the hillside at speeds between 25 and 30mph. While Sevier County is one of the most popular places to find an alpine coaster, this specific coaster will the first of its kind in the United States. What sets this Brandauer-designed alpine coaster apart from the rest is that it will ride on a single rail. Look for the Anakeesta Mountain Coaster to be open in the spring of 2018.
Along the way, Anakeesta is planning to extend its world-class dueling zipline experience even further. The team at Anakeesta will add a third leg to the zipline course. That final leg will cross perpendicular above the scenic chondola ride. This additional leg of the zipline course will allow for even more memorable moments of the surrounding Gatlinburg area; expect to also see this completed in early 2018.
Next, there is an amphitheater that is coming soon. Once built, the new facility will provide guests with music and entertainment options with a second-to-none mountainous backdrop! While it is unknown if all events in this amphitheater would be held during current operating hours or not (or if this addition would allow for an expansion of operating hours), this new facility will be a perfect fit atop Anakeesta – one that should allow for memorable events for years to come.
Lastly, the leadership team at Anakeesta is exploring treehouse lodging options to truly turn Anakeesta into a definite multi-day destination. Treehouse lodging and possibly traditional cabins as well are in the conceptual and planning stage. Adding lodging in the next couple of years is a promising plan and one to be watched in the near future.
With so much to do and with the next phase of attractions and upgrades underway, Gatlinburg’s newest destination is sure to be a hotspot for years to come. Simply said, Anakeesta showcases the true magic in the mountains!
[Feature courtesy of Anakeesta.]