Home is where the heart is, and I can honestly say that my heart lies in the Smokies. Loading up in the car for a quick weekend getaway is nothing for our family. We love the adventure and memories we create each time we travel 441. The awe-inspiring views of the cascading light across the mountains and the bursting colors as the sun sets is something that needs to be experienced. Pictures just can’t truly reveal the splendor of the area like the human eye can. Now there is a brand new attraction in Gatlinburg that brings you up close and personal to that beauty! With a wide variety of activities, this mountain playground is geared for all ages!
Perched on the top of Anakeesta Mountain is an adventure park known as Anakeesta. In Cherokee, the word Anakeesta means “the place of the balsams” or place of higher ground. Balsam is an aromatic scent that is given from the evergreens in the area. The only way to get to the summit of Anakeesta Mountain to experience the magic and splendor is on a chondola. This unique fixed-grip transportation system has 104 quad chairs and eight 6-person gondola cabins. The Anakeesta Chondola is the first of its kind to be built in the United States!
Whether you choose to ride on a 4 person open chairlift or chondola or an enclosed 6 person gondola cabin, the 14-minute ride is something to enjoy! You will want to make sure you dress for the weather and that you have on closed toed shoes if you are riding in the chondola. Anything loose will need to be securely stored before hopping on. If you are traveling with a stroller or a wheelchair, you will want to board the enclosed gondola. There is plenty of room inside.
Once you step off the chondola, you are in Firefly Village. Take a stroll through the whimsical village to shop, relax, and eat. Plenty of Appalachian art, jewelry, home decor, and more from local artisans are available for purchase. No matter who you are shopping for, you are bound to find something to make them smile!
Worried about buying something at the top of the mountain and having to carry it around? Don’t be! If you purchase something, they will be more than happy to get it down to the base where you can pick it up after your day of adventure!
Tired from all that shopping or just want to enjoy the fact that you are on solid ground after a ride up on the chondola? Maybe you just want to take in that fresh mountain air? Why not gather around the fire pits and take in the beauty that surrounds you. Hidden throughout the village you can find glimpses of magic. From little fairy homes to beautiful birdhouses, the area is filled with little-hidden treasures just waiting for you to discover!
Don’t forget to gaze out at the breathtaking views from the summit’s panoramic overlook. If you are lucky enough to be there first thing in the morning, you can catch the mist as it rolls off the mountain. Those that stay late enough will be mesmerized by the beauty of the sun setting in the Great Smoky Mountains. No matter what time of day you come, you will be blown away by the views from Anakeesta Mountain.
If shopping helps you work up an appetite, Anakeesta has got some great dining options available. The Anakeesta Smokehouse Southern Barbecue food truck offers delectable menu options. From crispy chicken tenders to mouth-watering slow-cooked barbecue, this place is sure to satisfy that hunger. My son and I were eager to sink our mouths into the barbecue after hearing person after person exclaiming how good it was. We were not disappointed!
Because they slow cook it, the meat has plenty of time to become remarkably tender and delicious. As my son said, “It’s the stuff BBQ dreams are made of! The pitmaster really knows what he’s doing.” Topped with cole slaw and Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce, this smoked to perfection brisket was to die for!
Anakeesta is currently working on another full-service dining establishment. More details to come as the opening approaches.
Maybe you didn’t come with a hearty Southern appetite, but you know you are in need of something! Look no further than Pearl’s Pie in the Sky. Visiting this sweet shop is truly like stepping back in time! The decor is simply charming and the sweet treats, well, they’re as scrumptious as can be! With mouth-watering baked goods and creamy ice cream, you will satisfy that sweet craving! My son and I decided to share a fresh strawberry sundae! As you can see from our picture below, it was more than enough!
Anakeesta is not just about eating and shopping, it’s an adventure waiting for you! If racing on zip lines sounds like your style, then you have to check out the Dueling Zipline. Just as the name suggests, you can zip 1,000 feet through the treetops with a family member or friend! They have even got a few places where you can really test your courage as you rappel 60 feet off from one platform to another!
Perhaps the adventure of a zip line is not your idea of fun, but strolling through an enchanted forest is. The Tree Canopy Walk is a great place to encounter a beautiful bird’s eye view of the scenic landscape of Anakeesta Mountain. Suspended 40 to 60 feet above the forest floor, the canopy walk includes 16 hanging bridges. Each bridge leads to a new observation platform where you can take in the breathtaking views and learn about the area with the help of several interpretive signs.
The Treehouse Village Playground is one of our favorite places at Anakeesta. Made out of whimsical treehouses interconnected by bridges of varying challenge, you can’t help but release your inner child as you uncover the surprises awaiting you here. It’s like something out of Swiss Family Robinson. Rope-bridges suspended between the treehouses set against an enchanted forest is something all kids need to experience!
Try your luck at striking it rich with Anakeesta’s gem mining. It’s the perfect activity for children of all ages. Just purchase your package and head on over the waterfall to uncover what gems are waiting for you beneath the dirt! Imagine all the memories that will be created as you become prospectors!
One of the things that I want to make sure you see is Anakeesta’s Forest Memorial Interpretive Trail. November 28, 2016, is a day that is etched into the memories of locals as well as many others that call this place their home away from home. More than 15,000 acres of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Gatlinburg were damaged by the devastating wildfires. Stroll through the Forest Memorial Interpretive Trail, located on the southside of Anakeesta Mountain. This area was badly scorched during the fire and now stands as a reminder of the courage and strength of those impacted. Read the stories and gaze out at the charred remains. Find out how the area united as one and became mountain strong.
This is not all that Anakeesta has to offer visitors! They are currently working on enhancing guest experiences with the addition of a mountain coaster, amphitheater, and lodging. Coming Summer of 2018, the Anakeesta Rail Runner Mountain Coaster promises to be an adrenaline-pumping coaster. With the ability to reach speeds of up to 25 mph, this coaster is going to be epic! It will flow seamlessly through the beautiful landscape of Anakeesta Mountain beginning with 1,600 feet of downhill twists and turns that include a 400 ft vertical drop and ending with a scenic uphill ride back to the top of the mountain! It will even take you through tunnels and across bridges!
In 2019 Anakeesta will welcome an amphitheater that will be nestled into the summit of Anakeesta Mountain and overlooking the beautiful views of Mt. LeConte and the Smoky Mountains. This outdoor amphitheater will host live music and other events.
Even lodging options will be coming soon. Rumor has it that there might be a few treehouses to stay in!
Anakeesta is the perfect place to experience the magic of the Smokies! This unique outdoor attraction immerses guests in the beauty and adventure of the Smokies!
What are you waiting for? The mountains are calling!
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