Is Anakeesta Worth It?
My Review of Anakeesta Adventure Park in Gatlinburg
(See Photo Gallery at bottom of page)
The building of the 47 million dollar project, now known as Anakeesta Adventure Park in downtown Gatlinburg, was a bright ray of hope right after the 2016 wildfires. After all the sadness and devastation, and amid the ashes that lay over the mountains, a glimmer of something new was on the horizon.
The name doesn't really give a clue as to what it's all about. The Cherokee natives of this area used the word to mean "place of the balsams" or "place of higher ground".
I had to look to see if the meaning of "balsam" was what I thought. It means the fragrance given off by certain flowering plants and evergreens. There it is. One of the most beautiful fragrances in the world. What's not to love!
So now it seems to make sense. You can see the chair lifts and chondolas slowing taking you up on to this mountain as you walk and drive by, but what is at the top?
Wait...what's a chondola? Well it's a hybrid chairlift and gondola. The chondola is enclosed (great for children and strollers ) and chairlift is open-air. Both rides are approximately 12 minutes each way and use the same lift line, at the same price.
Anakeesta is sometimes referred to as the new sky lift in Gatlinburg. It's a magical tree house themed adventure park where one can play, eat, shop and relax. So you'd like to know: Does it live up to the promise?
As of the 2020 opening, prices are $21.99 for adults, $19.99 for Seniors (60+) and $17.99 kids. This includes everything except the ziplines. The Dueling Ziplines are additional and run between $25-$30 each.
You can't get a refund once you buy your tickets but...if you have to cancel your visit, the tickets are good for 1 full year from when you buy them.
Also, if you buy a ticket after 3pm, you can go the next day for free.
(Adults are ages 12-59, Children are ages 4-11, and Seniors are ages 60+. Children 3 and under are free.)
Chairlift vs Chondolas vs Ridge Rambler
These are your 3 options to get up the mountain. You will want to consider the weather and children. After riding the open chairlift, my personal opinion is I would not recommend an open chair for small and squirmy kids, anyone afraid of heights or with extreme anxiety. The open air chairs have one safety bar and hold 4 people. The enclosed chondolas hold 6. Consider riding in the Ridge Rambler - a 6- wheeled military vehicle - up and down the mountain for those afraid of heights- it's no extra cost!
I would not recommend flip flops on the open chair lift. Things, including cell phones and sunglasses can drop out of our laps and hands. Something like this hands-free money belt would be really helpful.
Wheelchair access is available for chondolas. I was pleased to hear that wheel chairs DO fit into the chondolas and a ramp is provided for entry and exiting it. Everything on top of the mountains is also wheelchair accessible. Also FREE wheelchairs are provided at the top.
If you have a service animal, you will definitely need a chondola. Otherwise, pets are not allowed.
*I've provided a map at the bottom of this page to get an idea of the park layout.
Coming in 2020-
Observation Tower - A scenic tower with 360 degree views
Family Treehouse Adventures - Connected Treehouses, swings, and challenge courses
Smokehouse Brewery - Every seat with a view of Mount LeConte
These are the shops and places to eat that you will find upon arriving at the top. Summit Smokehouse (did not try it but the food we saw looked delicious), Pearl's Pie in the Sky, Great Outdoor Trading Company, Catching Fireflies, and Adventure Outpost.
Adventure Outpost is where you can buy zipline tickets. After zipping the 1,000 foot line you can repel down the side to the ground where an all terrain vehicle awaits to take you to the halfway point on the chairlift so you can ride back up the mountain. Stairs are always an option for getting down if you don't want to repel down.
We didn't go inside any of these on our visit there but we did have our photo taken on the trip up so that is also an option. According to the website, a photographer can be sent to photograph special occasions like a marriage proposal or other special occasion on the mountain. Personally i think it would be a great spot for a proposal.
I was very happy to see this included in the design. This is a quiet spot on a hill that commemorates the wildfire impact. Standing plaques with photos show different aspects of the fires and tell stories. A wind chime was blowing in the breeze as we walked around the area. Very nice addition. The fires did impact the land Anakeesta was built on and delayed the construction due to trees burning and safety issues needing to be addressed.
Anakeesta Mountain Coaster- Rail Runner
Intense, super-fast, exhilarating - made for adrenaline junkies, so be warned. Solo $12.99 or Tandem $14.99
Single rail, low to the ground thrill ride. Must be under 270lbs and you will be weighed. Speeds up to 25 MPH with hand brake controller to slow down.
Along the walk at the top we also saw a sign for "Future Site of Great Smoky Mountains Amphitheatre".
This should be very exciting as a one of a kind venue. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.
Zipliners are overhead or zipping by as you explore the canopy walk. We liked being able to watch them go. We didn't ride the zipline but I would have loved to! I think what makes it even more fun are the double lines side by side. You can zip at the same time right next to whomever you choose and share the awesome experience! It also makes for a great first time zip experience and beginner line.
Must be at least 7 years old. Any kids 12 and under will need to be with an adult. Weight limits are 70-270lbs.
Beautiful zip of 1,000+ foot line through the canopy (approx 200 ft. above ground) and then repel down (or use the stairs) the side where your ride awaits to take you to the halfway point platform of the chair lift so you can go back up the mountain. No reservations needed. You will, however, need closed toed shoes. Hair tying is recommended and small lockers are available if you should need one. Also, no hand braking is required.
Tree Canopy Walk
Really unique fun and relaxing part of the whole place. Probably my favorite. The canopy walk is beautiful and lets you enjoy the forest while watching others zipline overhead.
Gem Mining and Treehouse Themed Playground
Very kid friendly! Playground is free and it is $7.95 for gem mining. A bag of gems can be purchased to take home.
Tickets for all this can be bought in advance online but I would definitely check the weather forecast ahead and take a rain coat just to be safe! Most everything is outdoors.
Anakeesta is open YEAR-ROUND. During JANUARY and FEBRUARY, they are only open FRIDAY, SATURDAY and SUNDAY. Gates opens every day at 10 am and closes at varying times throughout the year. The phone number is
865-325-2400 if you have questions.
Triple AAA 10%
Military an immediate family 10%
Sevier County Locals 20% (This is very good!)
Find 10% off coupons here
576 Parkway at Traffic Light #5 in downtown Gatlinburg. Parking is available but sometimes scarce in Gatlinburg. If you cannot find parking at Anakeesta's lot, plan on paying for parking in one of the parking areas downtown. River Road is a good source for parking lots and random free roadside parking. There are also parking garages at traffic light #3 and behind Ripley's Aquarium.
"COMPARE THE CHAIRS"
Ober Gatlinburg vs Anakeesta vs Gatlinburg Chairlift
So some of you may be thinking, how are Ober Gatlinburg and Gatlinburg Skylift different from Anakeesta?
Well, yes, they both take you up onto a mountain for amazing fun. But the similarities end there.
Some key differences are:
Ober Gatlinburg - Aerial Tram or drive up, Adult $13.00 tram + $20 for activities + extra for other activities, winter themes, Chairlift is just one of the activities at top, Many activities
Anakeesta - Chondola, Chairlift or Ridge Rambler up, Adult $21.99 + extra for other activities, Tree house themes, Chairlift takes you to activities at top, Several activities
Gatlinburg Scenic Chairlift - Chair only, Adult $16.00, Scenic ride theme, Chairlift is the activity, 1 activity
The above options are all excellent choices. It just depends on what you want to do, how much time you have and how much money you can spend on any given day.
Overall, I believe Anakeesta is definitely worth it! It is a great time for families, single adults, kids, or even large groups. There are alot of little touches, such as a community fire pit surrounded by rocking chairs and wildflowers growing on sides of slopes. It is unique, beautiful, and shows alot of promise for expansion in the future.
Anakeesta rock is the beautiful rock that forms in the high altitudes of the mountains. Found on the crests of the Smoky Mountain tops, this rock was formed about a billion years ago from sediments in the ancient ocean waters.
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Map of Anakeesta in Gatlinburg below