Editor’s Note: This article is now outdated. The $6.5M expansion is now complete, see it here: Anakeesta reveals sneak peek of newest additions including AnaVista Tower
Going to Anakeesta right now is bit like stepping inside an unfinished masterpiece.
It’s beautiful, but you can’t help seeing the potential for more.
And more is on the horizon. Anakeesta officials are eyeing growth plans for as early as Spring 2020.
Chief among these is a 50-foot tall observation tower. Anakeesta already boasts some of the best views in the Smokies, but the tower will allow guests to rise to a height of 1,930’ for a 360-degree view of the Smoky Mountains. The stone and timber structure will harken back to the traditional fire tower structure found at Mt. Camerer in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park but with a modern flair that ties into the iconic Anakeesta Chondola station found on the Parkway.
It’s hard to imagine the views being any better than they already are, but the tower will offer the kind of experience that usually requires quite a bit of hiking.
Right now – with all due respect to the Rail Runner, the Dueling Zip Line and the Treetop Skywalk, the chief activities at Anakeesta are dining, drinking and shopping. Accordingly, Spring 2020 will see additions to all these activities.
Another full restaurant, joining the Cliff Top Grill & Bar, will offer expanded seating options allowing guests to enjoy the scenic views of Mt. LeConte like never before. In the new restaurant, guests will be able to step inside during the colder months and cool off during those hot summer days.
Details about the additional retail options coming in Spring 2020 are scarce, but according to the Anakeesta website, if you love the locally made mugs in the Great Outdoors Trading Company, the soft Anakeesta t-shirts from the Adventure Outpost, or the beautiful jewelry from Catching Fireflies – something else is coming just for you.
The execution and rollout of Anakeesta so far has been fairly spectacular, but the potential for growth is evident. There are exciting possibilities on the horizon and, honestly, there are few better places to check out the horizon than Anakeesta.
According to the Anakeesta website, the name “Anakeesta” comes from a Cherokee Indian word referring to high ground. This word literally translates to “the place of the balsams”.
Today, the word is often associated with the massive rock layer that encompasses many of the peaks in the Smoky Mountains often referred to as the “Anakeesta Formation”.
Anakeesta is located on 70 acres of forested land and nestled in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg. Anakeesta offers some of the best views of the Smoky Mountains and Downtown Gatlinburg you’ll find next to maybe, SkyLift Park’s Skybridge.
The land that Anakeesta now calls home once belonged to the Pi Beta Phi fraternity for women. Over 100 years ago, these women identified Gatlinburg, Tenn as a population in need of access to literacy and healthcare. They set up a school, a healthcare facility and a cottage industry of weaving textiles and crafts.
In 1934 the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established. The park now attractions nearly 12 Million visitors a year.
In 2014, the Pi Beta Phi fraternity sold their land to Bob and Karen Bentz and their family. They exhibited a vision towards environmental stewardship and a family-friendly mountaintop experience in the Smokies.
Today, Anakeesta has become a landmark in it’s own right and is one of the most popular attractions in the city of Gatlinburg.
Location 576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Hours: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. weekdays or 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. on weekends, may vary by season
Price Range: $17.99-21.99 for admission; add-ons range from $12.99-29.99