Sponsored post – Anakeesta hosted us for our visit. All opinions are my own.
Anakeesta is an outdoor theme park on top of a mountain in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It is a very unique destination, and one of the main draws is the amazing view of the Smoky Mountains. Anakeesta means higher ground. It is a Cherokee Indian word. It is downtown Gatlinburg’s highest point.
In addition to the surrounding views, there’s also beautiful flowers, tree houses, a treetop skywalk, viewing tower, mountain coaster, and dueling zip lines. The area is also lined with adorable shops, snack stands, and a restaurant with views of the mountains. One of the park’s best qualities is that there is something for everyone. Your reason for visiting could range from seeking the thrills of zip lining down a mountain to just enjoying the food and the view.
The entrance to Anakeesta starts at the bottom of the mountain in the town of Gatlinburg. There is parking beside the main entrance building for the park. You may purchase tickets onsite, but it’s faster to purchase online on the Anakeesta website. After receiving your wrist bands, you’ll head up the mountain in either a traditional ski-lift chair or an enclosed gondola (chair + gondola = chondola).
Anakeesta Ski Lift
There are six gondolas available and spaced amongst the traditional ski-lift chairs. There are two different queues, one for the chairs and one for the gondolas. The gondolas have a roof, but are open air. There is a door that is secured before it starts its ascent up the mountain. If you choose to take the chairs, but have a stroller with you, the chair-lift operators will attach the stroller to the chair behind you to take it up the mountain.
Anakeesta Ridge Rambler
Half of the fun is getting to the top of the mountain! It’s a slow and scenic ride. However, if you’re not comfortable with the height of the chondola, there are open air buses called “Ridge Ramblers” to take you to the top of the mountain while staying closer to the ground. The road the buses take to the top looks a bit windy, but it appears to be smooth and paved.
If you arrive at the top via a Chondola, be sure to keep moving as you exit the chair. This is where your Anakeesta adventure begins, though riding up to the top of the mountain is fun, too! Be sure to choose the option to get to the top that’s right for you: Chondola or Ridge Rambler. Now, you can start exploring Anakeesta!
The great thing about Anakeesta is that you can choose your adventure, and there’s something for everyone in the family. For those that aren’t into adventures, there’s shopping, food, and many places to relax and take in the view. There are plenty of cute shops at Anakeesta.
After exiting the chondola, the first area you’ll come to is Firefly Village, an area with shops such as Catching Fireflies (children’s toys and gifts), Adventure Outpost (Anakeesta souvenirs) and Great Outdoors Trading Co. (pottery, home goods, books, art, puzzles, and more).
Another village of Anakeesta includes the tree houses of Anakeeta’s TreeVenture. This is a fun experience for both kids and adults. Each tree house has an obstacle course to complete in order to get to the house. Some are easy, but others are a bit more difficult.
My five-year-old was able to handle them with no problems, but some were a bit of a challenge for me! The center treehouse has a slide to reach the bototm.
Anakeesta Duel Zipline Adventure
There are dueling zip lines at Anakeesta, meaning two zips can happen at the same time, side-by-side. This is great if you want to zip line with your family member or friend. The zip line course at Anakeesta includes three zips and two rappels. The zip line adventure starts at the top of Anakeesta, and travels about halfway down the mountain. After zipping you can hop on the chair lift or take a van back to the top of the mountain.
If you purchase a zip line adventure online, be sure to arrive at Anakeesta approximately 1.5 hours before your scheduled time to zip. You’ll need to take the chair lift to the top of the mountain and put on your safety equipment (provided by Anakeesta). Keep in mind that your online purchase of a zip line adventure includes your admission to the park. It also includes an express pass to the Chondolas to get you to the top of the mountain as quickly as possible.
There’s everything from small snack shops to a full service restaurant at Anakeesta. Right at the top of the mountain is the Smokehouse. This is a quick service restaurant where you order at the counter and take the food to your seat. Pretty much every seat at Anakeesta comes with a magnificent view.
The Cliff Top is a full-service dining experience with windows that give surrounding views of the mountains. The lunch menu ranges from signature salads, to smoky mountain burgers and chicken sandwiches. They also have kids meals available, as well as adult beverages. Each kid’s meal comes with a small sweet treat at the end!
The mountain coaster, Rail Runner, wasn’t in service on the day we visited. Therefore, I can’t go into details about the ride experience. The Rail Runner goes up to 25 miles per hour and is the only single rail mountain coaster in the United States!
The great thing about the mountain coaster is you can control your speed. The course is over 1600 feet long with a 400 foot change in elevation along the way. The entry point to Rail Runner is at the top of the mountain. Check out all of the mountain coaster ride information here including height requirements for children.
The tower is the main focal point of the top of Anakeesta. There are numerous flights of steps to get to the top of the tower. Once at the top, there are 360 degree views of the gorgeous Smoky Mountains.
At each point of the compose there are informational signs to help you determine the different mountains that you are viewing.
Anakeesta’s treetop skywalk is the longest tree top skywalk in North America! The walks are high among the trees, but don’t swing very much. They were easy to navigate with kids, and even though I have a fear of heights, I wasn’t bothered at all by this walk high in the trees.
One of the most stunning parts of Anakeesta are the flower gardens. There are flowers almost everywhere when we visited in early June. There’s a cascading waterfall and of course, the beautiful views. Enjoy the garden while sitting in a rocking chair or gathering around the fire pit.
How Long does it Take to do Anakeesta?
At the very least, plan three hours for your Anakeesta adventure. You’ll need some extra time to take the chondolas or Ridge Rambler bus to the top. If you’ve scheduled a zip line adventure or a ride on the mountain coaster, then you may want to add an another hour. Your wrist band is good for all day, so if you are staying close to Gatlinburg I suggest visiting when they open in the morning and then again at sunset.