Anakeesta is one of the newer jewels in downtown Gatlinburg, across from Ripley’s Aquarium.
It sits atop a mountain offering spectacular views of the village and the mountains, reportedly as far away as Kentucky.
Sunsets can be breathtaking and the scenic ride down the enclosed chondola cabin at night is especially cool.
But, the more I talk to people about the Anakeesta attraction, the same question arises: Is Anakeesta worth it?
The answer is both simple and complicated.
Yes, it’s worth it. But also, it might not be for everyone. It all depends on your point of view.
Anakeesta, which bills itself as an award-winning theme park, is still a work in progress.
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How long do you spend at Anakeesta?
How long people spend at Anakeesta will depend on whether or not they partake in extra activities. If you don’t partake in any extra activities, plan for about 2-4 hours.
You could spend the better part of the day there if you purchase a lot of the extra add-ons.
Is there a lot of walking at Anakeesta?
Sure. There’s walking involved, but it’s not necessarily the same amount of walking you would do at a theme park like Dollywood.
Anakeesta is built for relaxing. And there will be some walking in between.
Are Anakeesta tickets good all day?
Yes. The good news is, once you purchase a ticket, the ticket is good for the day. You can go up and down the mountain as much as your heart desires.
Tickets that are purchased at the ticket booth one hour before close grant you access to the following day for free.
How many feet up is Anakeesta?
Anakeesta is 600 feet above the city of Gatlinburg. Its AnaVista Tower offers the tallest point in the city. Anakeesta means “the place of the high ground” in the Cherokee language.
Guests who are not a fan of heights can ride the Ridge Rambler truck to get to the attraction instead of the chair lift.
What is the best time to visit Anakeesta?
Winter is an exciting time to visit the park because it is illuminated with beautiful lights and decorations.
But remember, if you’re visiting in January or February, Anakeesta runs on a limited seasonal schedule. Check the operating calendar before planning your visit.
In general, the park says that the hours between noon-3 pm tend to have longer wait times.
And no matter when you’re visiting, if you’re visiting during the day, I think it’s worth it to come back at night and enjoy the views as they are illuminated after dark.
How much does Anakeesta cost? Is there a discount?
Your adult general admission tickets are $34.99. The ticket to ride to the summit of Anakeesta buys you access to spectacular views and access to their included activities.
Remember, sometimes you can save a couple of dollars by booking with Tripster. Pricing for children and seniors is also available at a discounted rate.
The AnaVista Tower and the truly cool Treetop Skywalk, the longest tree-based skywalk bridge in North America, are included in your admission price. In addition, guests can experience the Vista Gardens retreat.
For the kids, a ticket includes access to the Treehouse Village playground, the TreeVenture Challenge Course, an interactive treehouse designed to entertain children of all ages and the BearVenture Challenge Course, a black bear-themed challenge course designed with young children in mind.
Seasonal experiences can add value as well.
For Halloween, Anakeesta features a spectacular haunted walk around the park.
At Christmas, they decorate the place with lights that really add a little something to the value of your admission.
But after that? You’ll need to break out the wallet. Nearly everything else costs extra.
Which features cost extra at Anakeesta?
At the time of this writing, the Dueling Zipline adventure is $49.99 (in addition to general admission) and the Rail Runner mountain coaster is around $12.99, or $14.99 for tandem rides.
You can buy a zipline and general admission combo online for $84.98 at the time of this writing.
But the tickets for the 25 mph Rail Runner coaster are only available for purchase at the park.
The prices can start to add up since most kids do not expect to only ride a single ride and call it a day. However, you can always ride again for half off. Mining for gems is also an add-on.
Anakeesta also offers a unique experience with the Astra Lumina night walk, which is the first of its kind in the entire United States. That feature alone makes the trip more worth it, even though it is also an add-on to your base price of admission.
Additionally, Anakeesta offers great dining options from the sit-down options at Cliff Top Grill, Smokehouse, Tap House or the Bar at the Top of the World, to quicker options at the Kephart Café, Pearl’s Pie in the Sky or the Snack Shack. They offer items like salads, chicken, pizza and a wide selection of beverages.
You can also relax by the firepit at Firefly Village.
The food itself, of course, adds an additional cost to your trip. However, no theme park in the world offers dining options for free, so it seems ill-conceived to blame Anakeesta for that.
Same with Anakeesta’s quaint shopping, which is fine, but I can’t imagine anyone paying an entrance fee just to shop at Black Bear Village.
And there lies the rub. Anakeesta, in my opinion, is pretty great. But it suffers from a split personality complex.
Is Anakeesta worth it?
If you’re asking me is Anakeesta worth it? It depends on your point of view.
Anakeesta is a theme park that charges extra for the rides because many of its visitors aren’t coming for thrills. It’s also a dining and shopping destination that charges an admission fee because many of its visitors don’t come to dine or shop.
It is an enigma, wrapped in a riddle and placed inside a conundrum but with spectacular views of mountain peaks and beautiful scenery.
I think it suffers a self-inflicted wound by billing itself as a theme park – just a few miles from one of the world’s truly great theme parks.
It’s an unfair comparison, but an inevitable one when you call yourself a theme park.
To my mind, Anakeesta is a unique destination but it’s not a theme park. It’s all theme and very little park.
Now, in fairness to Anakeesta, they seem to be doing very well without my input. Most nights I’ve been by, especially when the weather is pleasant, they’ve done very good business.
For my wife and I, we’d pay admission to ride the chondola, soak up the mountain views, do a little shopping and grab some dinner and some drinks. Yeah. Sure. Totally worth it.
The extra charge off the top hurts, but I figure those views and the atmosphere are worth it.
For my family, with three kids who will be bored of the views in 30 minutes? Who had their fill of the tree walk and the playgrounds in another hour?
Nah. With kids, once you pay for admission, a zipline each and a couple of rides on the coaster, we could have gotten into Dollywood and had access to unlimited age-appropriate rides.
To be clear, I like Anakeesta. I think it’s genuinely really cool. But if I want a $100 theme park experience around the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, I might consider somewhere else.
Do you agree with our review? Let us know in the comments! View the web story version of this article here.