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Just in time for fall’s splendor in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Anakeesta opens the new Black Bear Village, adding even more unique experiences to the Gatlinburg mountaintop destination.
“Black Bear Village brings together our vision for Anakeesta as a place to play and relax together outdoors while taking in the incredible beauty of the Smoky Mountains,” Co-Founder and Managing Partner Bob Bentz shared.
“When you reach the top of Anakeesta, you first see that we created an authentic and picturesque landscape, and then you find dozens of opportunities for experiences – from fun adventures to shopping and dining. But when you sit down or look out across the valley, it’s just you and the mountains.”
Together, Bob, his wife Karen, and their son Bryce thoughtfully designed and built Anakeesta to reflect the essence of the Smokies.
“My family has a long history of visiting and hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with family and friends,” Bryce Bentz shared. “At Anakeesta, we share our passion for the outdoors and give families all kinds of ways to experience the Smokies together. Building Black Bear Village was more than a project. It’s a reflection of our hearts and souls – and this area’s heritage.”
What’s new at Anakeesta’s Black Bear Village
Each new addition – including a climate-controlled destination restaurant – offers priceless views of the Smokies, and together, they amount to the greatest and final phase of Anakeesta’s $6.5 million expansion.
Below are some of the highlights of this brand new addition.
1. A new bandstand with gathering area
Anakeesta is well known for their live music performances. Now, talented musicians can play from an all-new bandstand surrounded by a spacious gathering area and overlook with seating for more than 150 people. The expansive area also includes tables and chairs for outdoor dining.
2. A new fire pit
The fire pit at the entrance of Anakeesta has always been a popular spot for a little rest and relaxation, which is perhaps why Anakeesta decided to add a second fire pit as part of the new Black Bear Village expansion. The fire pit is surrounded by a local artist’s river-rock creation and panoramic seating.
3. A new outdoor bar with walk-up window
Anakeesta is also known for their local craft brew selection and has added a new outdoor walk-up bar window for the adults, conveniently located near the firepit and mountaintop overlook.
4. A children’s water play area
It’s no secret that East Tennessee tends to get a little heated in the summertime. Now, the little ones have a place to cool off in a brand-new water play area surrounded by a mountain-themed waterfall. The play area features a “mountain creek” splash pad with jets that gently shoot cool water.
5. The Kephart Café
Anakeesta’s new take-away Kephart café, named after the explorer acclaimed as the father of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offers guests a quick way to enjoy a quality bite to eat. The café serves up gourmet hot dogs, flatbreads and brightly-colored frozen yogurt with rainbow edges for guests who order and pick up from its serving windows.
6. A new restaurant
Anakeesta is literally “elevating” the dining experience for everyone in the Smoky Mountains with its new Cliff Top restaurant which offers indoor and outdoor seating – plus sweeping mountain views with every bite. Cliff Top is serving local flavors and modern American cuisine, featuring hand-cut steaks, entree salads, savory appetizers, scratch made sauces and desserts – with everything made to order from 11 am until one hour before Anakeesta closes.
“Cliff Top is opening just in time for mother nature’s incredible display of fall foliage in the Smoky Mountains. While a little harder to imagine, we’ll also appreciate the phenomenal views of a winter wonderland, looking out the restaurant’s wall of windows,” Karen Bentz shared. “This is a destination restaurant for the casual diner with a slightly elevated menu featuring a 32-ounce bone-in Cowboy Ribeye and gourmet burgers. The unparalleled views of Mt. LeConte make it unlike anything in Tennessee.”
The old Cliff Top restaurant, located at the entrance of Anakeesta, has been renamed to Smokehouse and will now serve house-smoked meats, wings and southern barbeque classics.
7. A new Mercantile
Shoppers will also delight in throwback toys, amusing home décor, and local curiosities like a Gatlinburg beard-care line carried inside the new Mercantile attached to the Cliff Top restaurant.
Anakeesta is located at 576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN.
The adventure to the top of Anakeesta starts with a scenic ride on the Chondola or Ridge Rambler from the Gatlinburg Parkway (near traffic light #5). Guests riding the open-air vehicles on Anakeesta’s private road now arrive in Black Bear Village – even closer to the new AnaVista Tower that opened this summer with 360-degree vistas from the highest point in downtown Gatlinburg.
This Autumn is also the perfect time to experience Anakeesta’s Tree-Top Skywalk, the longest tree-based skywalk in North America; Haunted Rail Runner; Night-Time Ziplining; and Movies on the Mountain (Fridays and Saturdays in October). Visit www.anakeesta.com or call 865-325-2400 for tickets and more information, including current hours.
Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.