Fall is in the air once again in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.
It can be hard to choose from Gatlinburg’s wide range of attractions, but no place captures the beauty of the Smokies quite like Anakeesta.
Each year, Anakeesta hosts a fall-themed event in September and October. This year’s new Halloween event is called the Bear-Varian Fall Festival.
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When does Anakeesta’s fall event begin?
The Bear-Varian Fall Festival will run from Sept. 9 through Oct. 31, 2023. The beautiful Anakeesta theme park will be open from 9 am until 8 or 9 pm most evenings throughout the celebration.
Here are a few of the best things to do this fall at the park:
1. Experience the chondola ride at night
Your journey to Anakeesta begins with a scenic chondola ride, which is essentially a scenic chairlift ride without the skis.
For some folks, it’s a really fun part of the Anakeesta experience. However, if you do not enjoy heights, you can always take the Ridge Rambler vehicle ride instead, where you ride up and down the mountain in a large truck.
After you buy an admission ticket, you can go up and down the chondola as many times as you’d like.
Pro tip: I personally recommend riding at least once around sunset, because it changes the experience as you get to see the Gatlinburg lights and feel the brisk cool air.
2. See the carved pumpkins and fall decor
After a scenic ride to the top of the mountain, guests will be greeted by the sounds of the season with the best views of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Carved pumpkins will be on display throughout Vista Gardens and seasonal decor will be found throughout the mountaintop park.
Visitors will also be able to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the fall leaves transforming into yellow and orange colors from the tallest point in Gatlinburg, the AnaVista tower.
The tower is downtown Gatlinburg’s highest point, where visitors will see 360-degree mountain views and a unique look at beautiful Gatlinburg. There’s perhaps no better way to see the leaves change colors in the fall.
3. Sample the fall food and drinks
Of course, no fall event is complete without special food, snacks and beverage options.
Guests will once again enjoy the unique flavors of fall with the changing of the season at the park and get a unique taste of autumn with Bavarian-themed food.
This year, guests will also be able to add a Beer Tasting Experience ticket for $21.99, where guests will be able to taste six 8 oz pours of beers from multiple stations around the park.
Additionally, Anakesta will be offering seasonal food specials throughout the park.
For example, this year, be sure to grab a Pork Schnitzel with brussels and smashed potatoes at the Cliff Top Restaurant or the Giant Turkey Leg from Smokehouse Bar and Grill.
You can also find soft pretzels at The Watering Can, Bratwurst and Kraut at the Kephart Cafe or sweet German Chocolate Cake Funnel Fries at the Snack Shack.
4. Enjoy the special events
Anakeesta is hosting a variety of new entertainment options this year.
For example, the band “The SkeleTones” will be taking to Black Bear Village Stage on select nights.
The Scarecrow Bros will also be performing on select days, featuring a band of “corny” scarecrow brothers. Live music is included with the price of admission.
For full details on live performances, check Anakeesta’s calendar.
5. Enjoy the photo ops
With all the fall decor around the park, it’s the perfect time to take some family photos.
Enjoy the new Halloween-themed decorations, which will feature a glow of lights at night and several pumpkins and surprises throughout the park during the day.
6. Try some add-on adventures
Your general admission ticket includes many amenities, including the previously mentioned unlimited chondola and Ridge Rambler rides, the AnaVista Observation Tower, the Treetop Skywalk, the TreeVenture Challenge Course, Treehouse Village and the BearVenture Challenge Course.
The Treetop Skywalk is one of the most iconic features, with bridges that are 50-60 feet high above the ground. Of course, access to specialty stores and restaurants is included as well.
However, there are also some add-on experiences available. These adventures include gem mining, the Rail Runner mountain coaster and the Dueling Ziplines.
The zipline tour offers a thrilling ride for the more adventurous guests, and rappelling down the mountain is definitely a fun way to see the leaves change up close.
Pro tip: You can buy same-day zipline tickets since the zipline experience does not require an advance reservation. However, making a reservation in advance is recommended since tours may sell out.
Be sure to wear close-toed shoes if you plan on doing this type of adventure.
7. Experience Astra Lumina
Astra Lumina is another add-on experience, but it’s so special that it deserves its own category.
It’s a new experience offered by the park in collaboration with the Moment Factory that is unlike anything else in North America.
It bills itself as an enchanted night walk experience and uses lighting, projection and sound to help you connect to the stars like never before.
If you’re looking for a romantic evening walk or celebrating a special occasion, the add-on is definitely worth it.
How much is admission to Anakeesta?
Adult admission is currently $34.99. Seniors (60 and up) are $27.99, and the admission for children 4-11 is $22.99.
Children under 3 years of age are free. Check Tripster for discounts when you book, which can currently save you $2 off of admission.
Locals may also enjoy an annual pass, which would pay for itself after only two visits.
Anakeesta is located in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg TN, near the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
To learn more about Gatlinburg’s premier Halloween event or for further questions about Astra Lumina, visit them online.
Is Anakeesta on your list when you visit Gatlinburg this fall? Let us know in the comments.