Anakeesta

Anakeesta vs. SkyLift Park: Which attraction is better?

Anakeesta vs. SkyLift Park: Which is better? While both attractions offer fun ways to soak in gorgeous views of the Great Smoky Mountains, it can be hard to choose just one.

So let’s compare some of the differences between Anakeesta and SkyLift Park to help you plan your next Gatlinburg vacation:

Anakeesta vs. SkyLift: The similarities

Why are these two attractions often compared to one another? They have a lot in common: They are both located in downtown Gatlinburg and offer breathtaking views of the mountains.

Both have a chairlift. Both offer food, snacks and drinks for guests to enjoy while soaking in mountain views. And let’s be honest, both could offer a solid challenge for a person with a fear of heights.

So how are they different?

Anakeesta Ridge Rambler
The Anakeesta Ridge Rambler boards at the base of the mountain near the parking lot and offers guests an alternative way to get up the mountain (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Anakeesta vs. SkyLift: The heights

Anakeesta may be a less scary option for those with a fear of heights for two main reasons:

a. Getting up the mountain

Let’s start with getting up the mountain. While you can ride a chairlift to get to either attraction, Anakeesta also offers a Ridge Rambler, which is basically a big truck you can ride in lieu of the chair lift.

SkyLift Park offers no such option, and the only way to get up to the park is to take the SkyLift.

b. The SkyBridge 

The Gatlinburg SkyBridge at SkyLift Park is famous, claiming the title for the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in all of North America.

The SkyBridge spans 680 feet with glass floor panels at the center. The midpoint is 140 feet high.

It’s both gorgeous and nerve-wracking, even for those who aren’t entirely fearful of heights.

Read Also: Opinion: Cracking the Gatlinburg SkyBridge glass floor isn’t the fastest way to win friends

Gatlinburg SkyBridge
The Gatlinburg SkyBridge spans 680 feet (Gatlinburg SkyLift Park media photo)

By contrast, Anakeesta offers what they call the longest “tree-based” skywalk in North America. But it’s not to be confused with the SkyBridge behemoth.

I consider the Anakeesta skywalk like a baby version of the SkyBridge. Anakeesta’s skywalk spans in total about 880 feet, but it’s only suspended 50-60 feet in the air.

The winner: It depends. If you want a thrill, you’ll enjoy the SkyBridge at SkyLift Park. If you want to ease into the heights, you may want to start with Anakeesta.

The Treetop Skywalk at Anakeesta in Gatlinburg, Tenn is the longest tree-based Skywalk in North America (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)
The Treetop Skywalk at Anakeesta in Gatlinburg, Tenn is the longest tree-based Skywalk in North America (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

Anakeesta vs. SkyLift: Which one is cheaper?

At the time of this writing, general admission tickets for Anakeesta are $28.99 for adults, $21.99 for seniors and $19.99 for kids (ages 4-11). But, discounts are available. For instance, you can usually save a couple of bucks when you book on Tripster.

General admission for the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park is $28.95 per adult, $18.95 per child (4-11) and $23.95 per senior.

Children under 3 are free at both locations. Both offer group discounts for groups of 20 or more.

SkyLift Park offers $2 military discounts for both military members and immediate family (with military ID). Local residents also receive a $4 discount with proof of residency.

Anakeesta also offers a military discount (10% off), and local discounts for Sevier County residences (20% off). But again, it’s normally cheaper just to book through Tripster. Plus, you’ll save yourself from a long queue at the ticket counter.

Prices may vary by season and are subject to change.

The winner: Anakeesta. We love a good discount.

TreeVenture
The new TreeVenture was part of Anakeesta’s recent multi-million dollar expansion (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

Anakeesta vs. SkyLift: Which has more things to do?

Anakeesta offers plenty of things to do for kids, including the Treehouse Village Adventure, BearVenture, the TreeVenture Challenge Course and even a splash pad for warmer months, all of which are included with the price of admission.

The adults will enjoy the many shopping areas, restaurants, Treetop Skywalk, Memorial Forest Walk, Vista Gardens, and the all-new AnaVista observation tower.

Additionally, Anakeesta also offers a mountain coaster (the Rail Runner) and a dueling zipline for an extra fee. Anakeesta has so much to offer, and they continue to expand and add to the Anakeesta experience.

Read Also: Anakeesta debuts 7 new attractions at the Black Bear Village grand opening

By contrast, SkyLift Park is home of the SkyLift, SkyBridge, SkyDeck, SkyCenter and SkyTrail (coming fall 2021).

The most famous and most thrilling thing to experience at SkyLift is the SkyBridge. Once the guests have conquered that, they usually relax a bit at the SkyCenter and SkyDeck.

The SkyCenter building has a gift shop and snack bar that offers pizza, salads, ice cream and more, with a seating area that overlooks Gatlinburg.

The winner: It’s hard to compete with zip lines, mountain coasters and multiple shops and restaurants. Anakeesta wins in this category.

This brave pup belongs to SkyLift Park's Marketing Director Marcus Watson (photo courtesy of Gatlinburg's SkyLift Park)
This brave pup belongs to SkyLift Park’s Marketing Director Marcus Watson (photo courtesy of Gatlinburg’s SkyLift Park)

Are dogs allowed at Anakeesta or SkyLift Park?

Pets are not allowed at Anakeesta (with the exception of ADA service dogs), but dogs are allowed at SkyLift Park.

If you wish to bring your dog to SkyLift Park, dog owners must adhere to the dog policy, which includes guidelines such as:

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times
  • Dog owners must securely hold their dog on the SkyLift
  • Owners must always accompany the dog and are responsible for the dog’s behavior

Read Also: Top 11 dog-friendly destinations around Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge 

The winner: SkyLift Park

The new Cliff Top restaurant in Black Bear Village serves up elevated American Classics such as gourmet hamburgers (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)
The new Cliff Top restaurant in Black Bear Village serves up elevated American Classics such as gourmet hamburgers (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

Anakeesta vs. SkyLift: Which has better restaurants?

While you can get snacks and pizza at the Gatlinburg SkyCenter at SkyLift Park, Anakeesta has some restaurants that are simply hard to beat.

At Anakeesta, you have many choices, including:

  • Cliff Top (offers modern American cuisine)
  • Smokehouse (offers smoked meats)
  • Kephart Cafe (offers fast meals)
  • Tap House (offers craft beers)
  • Pearl’s Pie in the Sky (offers desserts)
  • Snack Shack (offers sweet treats)

Here’s the caveat: Reservations are usually not accepted, so be sure to plan ahead. Wait times can be long on top of the mountain.

Read Also: A look inside Anakeesta’s brand new restaurant: What’s on the menu?

The winner: Anakeesta wins this round!

Are Anakeesta and SkyLift Park wheelchair accessible?

Anakeesta offers wheelchair-accessible areas, which include the Firefly Village shops, dining pavilions and scenic viewing platforms. Visit their park policies page to learn more.

The Gatlinburg SkyLift Park staff also accommodates disabled individuals on the SkyLift, SkyDeck and lower levels of the SkyCenter. However, the SkyBridge is not wheelchair accessible. Visit their website for more information.

Read Also: Wheelchair accessible things to do in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge: Our top 7

Anakeesta vs SkyLift: Which is better?

In conclusion, if you want to eat your way through a relaxing vacation while gazing at incredible views, you could probably toggle between both attractions and be a very happy camper.

While it’s hard to compete with the variety of things to do at Anakeesta, the famous SkyBridge is just simply a one-of-a-kind experience.

If you have the opportunity to visit both, go for it! But if not, we hope this guide will help you choose between the two attractions.

What’s YOUR opinion on the differences between Anakeesta and SkyLift Park? Let us know in the comments!

A walk between the trees in Tennessee at Anakeesta: Prices and location

Anakeesta’s world-renowned Treetop SkyWalk in Tennessee reminds me of one of my favorite moments in literature.

In J.R.R Tolkein’s “The Hobbit”, trudging under the dark canopy of the mighty Mirkwood forest, the Hobbit Bilbo and his Dwarven companions are sullen and angry and nearing despair.

Seemingly abandoned by the wizard who’d promised to lead them, they are trapped in a dark, foreboding, seemingly endless forest that does not allow light to enter or air to move. It is oppressive and they feel increasingly trapped. 

Finally, they send Bilbo, the lightest and most nimble of the traveling party, to climb through the canopy and see if he can get a bearing.

Bilbo pokes through and for a few moments is allowed to soak in the sun and enjoy the breeze. Butterflies flit around the treetops and all of the weight he had felt moments before is lifted. 

But Bilbo’s revelation does nothing for the dwarves below whose burden grows heavier upon hearing of the reprieve that is so near but unattainable for them. 

It’s a lesson in the importance of perspective, one that is driven home throughout popular culture. Think of the “O Captain! My Captain!” scene from “Dead Poet’s Society.” 

Perspective can be everything. 

It’s the difference between walking through a forest and walking above it, and that’s the experience offered by the Treetop Skywalk at Anakeesta. 

What is the Treetop Skywalk at Anakeesta?

Anakeesta bills itself as a mountain-top theme park located in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

The park offers a variety of Smoky Mountain themed activities, but it’s the Treetop Skywalk that tends to be the real show stopper – the hanging bridge that allows guests to take a walk between the trees.

Anakeesta’s Treetop Skywalk is the longest tree-based skywalk in North America.

Treetop skywalk at Anakeesta
The Treetop Skywalk at Anakeesta is suspended 50 to 60 feet in the air (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

What it’s like to experience the Treetop Skywalk

I like the idea of treehouses. From Pippi Longstocking to the Swiss Family Robinson, there’s something about being among the treetops that makes me feel like Bilbo during his few moments in the sun.

Being romantically predisposed to enjoying a Treetop Skywalk, I especially looked forward to experiencing the Skywalk despite my fear of heights. The 880-foot walkway is suspended 50 to 60 feet in the air, after all. 

I liked it immensely. It’s romantic in the idealistic sense of the word. 

But the truth is I think I would have preferred to have it to myself. 

Walking along the swinging ropes over the bright green canopy, my mind wanted to wander. I wanted to find a spot along the course somewhere alone, where I could pull out a chair, sit and think. 

It would be a great place to ruminate, to loosen a few mental shackles and exercise the mind. But, that’s hard to do in the middle of Gatlinburg’s theme park. 

There are couples taking the walk hand-in-hand, families and kids running ahead of their father briefly heeding admonishments to wait and slow down.

The Skywalk offers a sense of joy and wonder

The Skywalk was a place I really wanted to be alone, but that would be a poor business model. 

Not that I begrudged the others the experience. They paid for their ticket as well, after all. 

But there were places built to exercise the mind, and I felt like the Skywalk really could be one. 

Still, as walks through – or above – nature go, the Skywalk is a notch above. 

There is a sense of joy, of wonder, in the changed perspective. It’s a sense of adventure walking from treetop to treetop on rope bridges and wooden planks. And a sense of possibility.

And there are dozens of opportunities to take great pics for the ‘gram. 

Read Also: Is Anakeesta worth it? An honest review

Treetop Skywalk at Anakeesta
While sturdy, the Skywalk will sway a bit if you are around a more rowdy crowd (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

Is the Treetop Skywalk between the trees wheelchair accessible?

Accessibility is an issue. There are stairs down to the Skywalk and then a couple of flights back up and out. It isn’t arduous but if stairs present an issue for you, they are worse upon exit – which is nearer the Anakeesta Chondola – than they are upon entry near the rear of the park. 

At the time of this writing, while many parts of Anakeesta are wheelchair accessible, the Treetop Skywalk is not.

Is the Treetop Skywalk recommended for people who are scared of heights?

The Skywalk course is plenty sturdy. I never felt remotely unsafe.

But it is a rope bridge, it’s gonna jostle and sway. If you get a rowdy batch of teens, you might feel like Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom. As long as no one is holding a giant scimitar and promising to help you meet an ancient god, you should be fine.

With that said, guests who are deathly afraid of heights might want to skip attraction. 

Location and pricing information

Though Anakeesta’s main course is just a hundred yards or so away and the main strip of Gatlinburg is within view, if you can get a moment’s peace on the Skywalk, it feels successfully remote, appropriately wild. 

They say you can watch nature, and might see wildlife – including a bear – on the forest floor below.  I think you’d be better off watching the birds flit through the treetops.

Read Also: Black bear takes walk on Treetop Skywalk

A general admission ticket to Anakeesta includes access to the Skywalk. At the time of this writing, general admission tickets are $28.99 for adults, $21.99 for seniors and $19.99 for kids (ages 4-11) on Anakeesta’s website. Children 3 and under are free. However, you can usually find a better deal and save a couple of bucks per ticket when you book through Tripster.

Anakeesta is located 576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.

Does Anakeesta offer any military discounts?

Yes – Anakeesta offers a 10% off daily discount to active/retired military and their immediate family. Guests most show a military ID at the gate.

Again, Tripster usually offers an even better deal than the military discount, plus you’d save yourself from a long line at the ticket booth. Always check Tripster first.

On special occasions, (usually on or around Veterans Day) Anakeesta will run limited-run promotions granting free admission to active/retired military as thanks for their service and sacrifice to our country.

Have you taken a walk between the trees at Anakeesta’s Treetop Skywalk attraction? Let us know in the comments!

Click here to view the web story version of this article.

Is Anakeesta worth the money? An honest review

Anakeesta is one of Gatlinburg’s new jewels.

It sits atop a mountain offering spectacular views of both the village and the mountains. Sunsets can be breathtaking and the ride down the chondola at night is especially cool.

But, the more I talk to people about Anakeesta, 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. It all depends on your point of view.

Anakeesta, which bills itself as an award-winning theme park, is very much a work in progress.

A food truck at Anakeesta
Anakeesta offers many tasty places to eat, including food trucks (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

How much does Anakeesta cost?

Your $28 ticket (prices vary for seniors or kids) to ride to the top of the mountain buys you access to spectacular views, the newly added AnaVista Tower and the truly cool Treetop Skywalk. And you can usually find discounted tickets on their Tripster page.

For the kids, a ticket includes access to 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.

Two years ago, Anakeesta featured a spectacular haunted walk around Halloween that just wasn’t possible last year due to all the 2020 in the air.

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.

BearVenture at Anakeesta
BearVenture is included in the admission price at Anakeesta (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

Which features cost extra at Anakeesta?

At the time of this writing, the Dueling Zipline experience runs around $84 and the Mountain Coaster is around $13.

When you buy a zipline ticket online, it does include the price of general admission, which makes the deal a little sweeter. Especially compared to other prices for ziplining in the Smokies.

But the tickets for the Rail Runner 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.

Anakeesta also offers great dining options from the sit-down options at Cliff Top, 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.

These, of course, add an additional cost to your trip, but 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 shopping, which is fine, but I can’t imagine anyone paying a $28 entrance fee just to shop up there.

And there lies the rub.

Anakeesta, in my opinion, is pretty great. But it suffers from a split personality complex.

Anakeesta adventure course
For the kids, a ticket offers access to 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 (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

What can you do at Anakeesta?

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.

Anakeesta’s operators have been very open from the beginning that the park is a work in progress.

Read Also: 4 Anakeesta secrets revealed at the AnaVista Tower grand opening

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 that.

To my mind, Anakeesta is a unique destination but it’s not a theme park. It’s all theme and very little park.

I think eventually, Anakeesta would be served by two-tiered pricing at the start. One level for those who don’t want to ride the zip line and coaster and another price for those that do.

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 a very good business.

Music at Anakeesta
Anakeesta also occasionally offers live music (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

But is Anakeesta worth it?

But if you’re asking me is Anakeesta worth it? It depends on your point of view.

For my wife and I, we’d pay $28 each (or $25 on Tripster) 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 $50 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.

Once you pay for admission, a zip line each and a couple of rides on the coaster, we could have gotten into Dollywood and had access to unlimited age-appropriate rides.

I like Anakeesta. I think it’s really cool. But if I want a $100 theme park experience, I’m going elsewhere.

Read Also: Anakeesta vs. SkyLift Park: Which attraction is better? 

For more information on Anakeesta, visit anakeesta.com. Click here to book your tickets.

Do you agree with our review? Let us know in the comments!

To view the web story version of this article, click here.