When Anakeesta – the outdoor family theme park in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg – came to town, it was a disruptor.
Specifically, it changed the flow of the strip. And it changed the hierarchy of downtown attractions and the way people thought about spending time in the Smokies.
What is Anakeesta?
Anakeesta theme park is a higher end destination – in more ways than one – on the Gatlinburg strip. Built on land running back behind the Arrowmont School and located on top of the Anakeesta mountain, the theme park is a perfect getaway.
In fact, it’s a place boasting of scenic views of Mt. LeConte and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But it also offers shopping, dining and adventuring, all seemingly at the top of the world.
Subscribe to our newsletter for area news, coupons and discounts
How do you get to Anakeesta?
First, you can purchase your general admission tickets online or at the Anakeesta base down on the strip.
Once there, you can ride to the top of Anakeesta on the Chondola chairlift. The lift is a skylift-like ride.
Or if you prefer, ride up on the Ridge Rambler Adventure Truck, which is essentially a big truck with lots of seating in the bed.
Does Anakeesta cost money?
Yes. General admission for adults is $34.99. Children 4-11 are $22.99 and seniors (60 and up) are $27.99. Prices are subject to change. Children three and under are free.
Generally, you may be able to find a discount on Tripster.
There are upcharges for certain attractions, such as the Rail Runner and Dueling Ziplines.
If you’re planning to visit more than once, annual passes are also available.
|General admission (12-59 years)||$34.99|
|General admission (4-11 years)||$22.99|
|General admission (60+ years)||$27.99|
|Adult annual pass (12-59 years)||$69.99|
|Child annual pass (4-11 years)||$57.99|
|Senior annual pass (60+ years)||$62.99|
Is the Sky Bridge and Anakeesta the same thing?
No, but I see how this can be confusing.
There’s an attraction called SkyLift Park in Gatlinburg that has the world-famous SkyBridge.
Anakeesta does, however, offer the Treetop Skywalk. This is somewhat similar. Anakeesta’s version is sometimes referred to as a walk between the trees.
Anakeesta’s version is the longest tree-based skywalk with 880 feet of hanging bridges suspended 50-60 feet in the air.
The SkyBridge at SkyLift Park, on the other hand, spans 700 feet and is the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America and hangs 500 feet above Gatlinburg.
What is there to do at Anakeesta?
A lot. There’s enough to do once you reach the summit of Anakeesta that we need to break it down into multiple categories.
We’ll borrow our five categories from Anakeesta itself and break down the popular attraction. We’ll start with things to do:
Included in your ticket price is, of course, the chair lift ride up and then back down the mountain.
The chondola ride is more than a simple conveyance, it’s a whole mood.
Especially so is the ride back down the mountain at night – especially when it’s cool but not quite cold. It is maybe one of the best experiences in the Smokies.
You’re gliding over the dark treetops in the chondola’s open-air 4-person chair bouncing silently along as the bright lights of Gatlinburg start to get larger.
The only interruption is an occasional scream from someone getting a late night ride in on the dueling zipline adventure – which only adds to the atmosphere. There are handicapped-accessible enclosed gondola cabins available as well.
The AnaVista Tower
Downtown Gatlinburg’s highest point, the observation tower AnaVista, offers sweeping 360 degree views of the mountains. It is great place to take in the beautiful scenery, including views of Mt. LeConte, views of the Smoky Mountains and views of Gatlinburg TN down below.
Surrounded by Vista Gardens, a lush Botanical garden with walking trails and interactive play areas, the tower truly offers gorgeous views.
The Treetop Skywalk
Also included in the price of admission, the Treetop Skywalk hangs 50 to 60 feet above the forest floor.
The sturdy rope bridges offer a walkway among the canopy, giving the feeling of what it’s like to be a bird in the tree.
With a sharp eye, you might even spot wildlife in the forest down below. The Treetop Canopy walk is the longest of its kind in North America with 880 feet of hanging rope bridges.
BearVenture Challenge Course
The challenge course gives Anakeeta’s younger visitors – and young at heart visitors – the chance to test themselves, slightly, as they climb, balance and play along the black bear-themed challenge course.
Treehouse Village Play Area
Nearby the BearVenture course, this whimsical treehouse-themed village is connected by multiple bridges of varying difficulty. And it is the best place for younger visitors to burn off a little excess energy. Surprises abound.
A great way to cool off in Black Bear Village, the splash pad is great for children of all ages with its mountain-themed water spouts and geysers.
Anakeesta adventure add-ons
In addition to the fun included in the price of admission, Anakeesta offers a variety of upsells that will add to your day.
Dueling Zipline Adventure
Take in some of the best views of the Smokies as you zip among the treetops. The zipline claims to be Gatlinburg’s fastest dual-racing zipline.
Racing side by side with your friends or family, you can experience the three-zip excursion with multiple rappels for an additional $60 per person in addition to your general admission.
Zipline purchases also serve as an express pass to the summit. Prices are subject to change.
Rail Runner Mountain Coaster
The first of its kind in the United States, Anakeesta’s Rail Runner is a single rail coaster that puts gravity in charge.
With a 400-foot elevation change, riders can reach speeds of 25 mph as they race through downhill twists and turns. Tandem rides are available for guests with small children.
The cost is $14.99 for a single rider and $18.99 for a tandem ride. Again, pricing is subject to change.
Tickets start at $8 for a chance to find your very own special gemstone or fossil.
Participants are given a bag of dirt to sift through using Anakaeesta’s sluice. It’s a popular activity the whole family can try.
Coming in the fall of 2022 is the Astra Lumina Enchanted Night Walk.
For 14 years, the show has entertained visitors around the globe. This fall, the immersive experience is coming to Anakeesta.
It’s the first time the show has appeared in the United States. It promises to bring the stars down from the night sky to create a celestial pathway of lustrous light, cosmic visions and astral song.
Shopping at Anakeesta
In many ways, Anakeesta is the best of Gatlinburg distilled into a single location.
Sure, you could walk up and down the strip, popping in and out of shops looking for the perfect gift and that perfect souvenir. Or you could come up to the top of the world at Anakeesta.
There, you can soak up some of the best views of the Smokies, have some adventures and also do a little quaint shopping.
At the entrance to the Dueling Zipline Adventure, the outpost sells a variety of Anakeesta-themed gear from T-shirts, to hats, to hoodies. It’s the perfect place for Anakeesta-themed merch as well as Willow Man and Sasquatch items.
Great Outdoors Trading Company
Anakeesta has a variety of shops that offer perfect options for souvenirs, gifts and items for everyday use.
The Trading Company sells rustic home goods, jewelry, soaps and a variety of knickknacks. Featured are mugs, magnets and custom bear figurines produced locally. There’s a wide variety of books about the mountains as well as day packs.
Anakeesta is also proud to partner with Bridgewater Candles. The store, in addition to providing high-quality candles, gives a portion of each sale to feed a child impacted by the worldwide hunger crisis.
This store is with beautiful jewelry, wind chimes, candles, home goods, women’s apparel and accessories. Catching Fireflies is a whimsical mountain boutique with a touch of magic.
The shop offers toys and plush animals for the kids and sells Milkhouse Candles, made with bee and natural soy wax and featuring leadless wicks.
The shop carries brands such as Mud Pie, Kavu, Simply Southern and the Save the Girls touchscreen purse line which donates a portion of its proceeds to battle breast cancer.
A modern-day general store, The Mercantile specializes in items for you home and kitchen.
Items include bowls, barware, utensils, cutting boards and decorations. Also, you can take a taste of the mountains home with you as they have jams, sauces, pickles and more. Get a feel for mountain traditions with gadgets, games and sweet treats.
What kind of food can you get at Anakeesta?
Anakeesta offers several dining options, some of which have views that can’t be rivaled.
No trip to Anakeesta is complete without sampling some of the fare offered at one of the most popular eateries on top of the world. Therefore we start with what is likely the best – Cliff Top.
This sit down restaurant offers an elevated dining experience right there in Black Bear Village. Serving modern American cuisine, guests can dine on stakes, burgers, apps and more all while being served sweeping views of Mt. LeConte and the surrounding mountains.
The food is delicious but the best part may be the views. Additionally, if the weather is nice, the outdoor deck at sunset is the perfect spot for a date night.
Order the charcuterie board and a couple of drinks. At the same time, you can watch as the sun falls behind the mountains, painting the sky vibrant colors as it drops the valleys into darkness.
Surely as you’d expect, southern barbecue classics like pulled pork, brisket and chicken smoked by a wood-burning fire are found at the Smokehouse.
Located in Firefly Village, the Smokehouse, like every eatery at Anakeesta, serves up great food and fantastic views.
Located in Black Bear Village, the Kephart Café offers quick service classics such as gourmet hot dogs and flatbread pizza. And it’s perfect for a quick pit stop that allows you to keep enjoying your day of fun at Anakeesta.
You can also grab a bite, a drink or soda and relax in the Black Bear Plaza. The cafe is named for author, adventurer and national park advocate Horace Kephart. Certainly, there is no better spot to gather with friends.
A true mountain experience wouldn’t be complete without sampling some local craft beverages.
Welcome to Anakeesta’s infinity bar overlooking the mountains – or sample with work of local beer artists while sitting around a fire pit in Black Bear Village.
Anakeesta offers plenty of places to sit down, drink a cold brew and soak in the majesty of the Great Smoky Mountains.
The Bar on Top of the World
Adjacent to the Smokehouse, the Bar at the Top of the World is the perfect place to unwind with your choice of special cocktails and adult beverages.
Pearl’s Pie in the Sky
Sometimes you need a little something sweet. With that in mind, Pearl’s Pie in the Sky serves up delectable hand-dipped ice cream, milkshakes and sundaes.
Order one of Pearl’s delicious fried pies and it will feel like you’re stepping back in time to the days before Gatlinburg was dominated by pancake houses and fried pies and brownies were the best things going.
Located between Firefly Village and Black Bear Village, the Snack Shack serves up funnel cakes done right and large enough to share.
Also, you can choose from a variety of flavors and get that sugar rush necessary to tackle the zip line or mountain coaster.
The Water Can & Watering Can Bar
A combination eatery and retail outlet, the Watering Can and its bar are located at the base of AnaVista Tower.
In addition to grabbing a healthy sandwich or wrap after touring the Vista Gardens, guests can choose from a selection of earthy products perfect for any passionate gardener.
The bar is a great spot to cool off with an ice-cold beverage.
Festivals and seasonal events
To everything, there is a season and to every season there’s something different at Anakeesta.
In the spring? It’s Blooms & Tunes, featuring giant spring-themed art installations and live music seven days a week and also chef-inspired seasonal menu items.
Certainly, it’s the perfect time to visit the Vista Gardens as the spring blooms explode in array of colors. The Treetop Skywalk is transformed into a Firefly Forest with lights above and below the canopy. And the result is the sensation of being surrounded by light.
From early June to early September, it’s Summer in the Smokies.
The 2022 celebration features the work of artist Sean Kenney’s Nature Connects – nature themed sculptures made of Lego Blocks. In addition to the whimsical art, the summer features live music and flavorful summertime cocktails and menu items.
Autumn at Anakeesta almost doesn’t need any extras as Mother Nature puts on her own dazzling show. But that doesn’t stop Anakeesta from upping the ante with seasonal food and drinks, live music and special fall and Halloween decorations.
Finally, Anakeesta’s Enchanted Christmas rounds out the year. Featured is a winter wonderland of immersive lights, holiday shopping and dining. And of course, visits from Santa.
Hot cocoas and hot toddies are the order of the day. Surely, the mountain light display will get even the Scroogiest of visitors in the holiday spirit.
Anakeesta is still growing
When Anakeesta launched, billing itself as a theme park was a bit of a stretch. But the vision – even from the start – was to grow and grow quickly.
It’s already had one major expansion and another is on the horizon.
What do we know?
We know the expansion will include another mountain coaster, a new village with shops, dining and more.
There will also be a new adventure. The Birdventure will be a massive treehouse area with multiple slides. More information will be released soon on the new expansion.
Have you been to Anakeesta? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!