Anakeesta Tower

Anakeesta Things To Do: Is it worth it?

Anakeesta is one of the most popular attractions in Gatlinburg. Driving into town, you’ll usually see a long line waiting to ride the chairlift up the mountain. But is it worth the price?

Anakeesta is a love it or don’t love it attraction, and some people don’t love it. But after visiting Anakeesta and Ober Mountain back to back, we’re convinced that Anakeesta is the better deal.

We just renewed our annual passes for another year. Compared to other attractions where you pay over $20 for a ride that lasts only several minutes, the $35 for Anakeesta feels like a good deal.

A Day at Anakeesta: Attractions

Chondola Ride

Anakeesta Chairlift Leaving Station 1

The day starts with the scenic Chondola ride or Ridge Rambler to Anakeesta at the top of the mountain from the entrance to the valley of Gatlinburg. The Chondola ski lift is both a ride and transportation up to the mountain.

Riding the Chondola? Choose between an open-air chair lift or an enclosed gondola cabin. However, you’ll wait a LONG time if you want an enclosed cabin.

We’ve sometimes walked right onto an open-air lift while there’s been an hour-long line for the enclosed cabin. That’s because there are not very many of them.

If you look at our pictures of the ski lift, you’ll see only a couple of red enclosed cabins out of the long line of ski lifts.

With spectacular views of the city of Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this relaxing journey is the perfect way to kick off your Anakeesta experience.

Ridge Rambler Adventure Truck

The Ridge Rambler is a truck with bench seats in the back that drives you up the mountain if you prefer something closer to the ground.

Ridge Rambler Adventure Truck Anakeesta

Rail Runner Mountain Coaster

The Rail Runner Mountain Coaster is an exhilarating single-rail coaster with 1,600 feet of downhill twists and turns.

There’s an option for a tandem ride with a child or single-ride, though the combined weight limit is a pretty light 230lbs! There’s an extra fee for this ride and your Anakeesta ticket price.

The Hellbender Mountain Coaster

The new Hellbender Smoky Mountain Coaster is a more traditional alpine coaster (of which there’s plenty in the area!). We’re big fans of alpine coasters; they offer exciting rides and are unique to the area.

AnaVista observation tower

The AnaVista observation tower is a lookout tower at the top of the mountain. Admire the jaw-dropping 360-degree views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The beautiful Vista Gardens surround it. This is one of our favorite pictures of Anakeesta!

Anakeesta Tower

BirdVenture: A Unique Family Adventure

Smoky Anakeesta Night Gatlinburg Large

BirdVenture is a new attraction featuring a bird-themed play area.

Kids can explore three colorful birdhouses with interactive areas and slide down seven unique, light-up serpentine slides over 50 feet long.

The slides are pretty fast; the slides were closed when we first visited after this area had just opened. An employee told us they were too fast and were worried about injuring kids!

TreeVenture Challenge Course

Anakeesta Playground

The TreeVenture Challenge Course is a vast outdoor playground for kids. Before the BirdVenture opened, it was\ typically our first stop and where our kids spent the most time.

Dueling Zipline Adventure

Looking for a more thrilling experience? Try the Dueling Zipline Adventure! Soar through the treetops and race your family members on this dual zipline. This requires reservations and is an extra cost of $59.99.

TreeTop Skywalk

Treetop Skywalk Anakeesta

Walk in the treetops on the TreeTop Skywalk, North America’s longest tree-based sky bridge. Suspended 50-60 feet above the forest floor, these bridges offer lots of fun and some exercise. It’s an excellent way to end your day at Anakeesta, as it ends up near the chair lift that takes you back down the mountain.

Anakeesta Waterfall

Astra Lumina

Astra Lumina is a mesmerizing light show that tells the tale of the Cherokee word for “place of high ground.” This captivating has an extra cost, and reservations are needed, but it’s worth it. We’ve been to it several times, usually whenever family and friends come to visit.

TreeVenture Playground

Anakeesta Playground 1

The TreeVenture Challenge Course is a vast outdoor playground for kids. Before the BirdVenture opened, it was\ typically our first stop and where our kids spent the most time. TreeVenture has slides, rope bridges, and climbing nets.

Treehouse Village

Anakeesta Treehouse Village

Before you reach that area, there’s a smaller Treehouse Village play area, suitable for smaller kids.

The net bridges are pretty short; you can watch them more easily. The larger TreeVenture above tends to be hard to keep an eye on the kids without climbing through it yourself.

Take A Picture with willow and the heart

Willow Anakeesta 1

Make sure you get a picture with Willow, Anakeestas 20 foot tall keeper of the forest statue. He is a bit creepy-looking for younger kids, though.

Anakeesta Heart 1

The heart back with the mountains in the background also makes a great picture!

Making the Most of Your Visit to Anakeesta


We love going to Anakeesta in the morning or evening or on cloudy or cool days. On the top of the mountain, there’s not much shade, except for the treetop walk. So it gets hot during summer!

Check the local weather forecast.

Anakeesta’s Dining and Shopping Guide

Dining Options:

  1. Clifftop Restaurant: Offers modern American cuisine, including steaks, burgers, salads, appetizers, and desserts. Enjoy local craft beers and stunning views of Mt. LeConte. Indoor and outdoor seating is available. Admission to Anakeesta is required.
  2. Smokehouse BBQ: Located in Firefly Village, this restaurant serves smoked meats like pulled pork, brisket, and chicken wings alongside southern BBQ favorites. Enjoy the mountain views—admission to Anakeesta is required.
  3. Kephart Café: A walk-up spot in Black Bear Village for quick bites like gourmet hot dogs and flatbread pizzas. Complement your meal with a local craft beer.
  4. Tap House: Offers local craft beers and signature cocktails. Enjoy the infinity bar or relax by the fire pit in Black Bear Village.
  5. The Bar at the Top of the World: Located next to Smokehouse restaurant, enjoy specialty drinks with panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains.
  6. Pearl’s Pie in the Sky: Serves hand-dipped Bluebell ice cream, sundaes, and homemade fried pies reminiscent of 1940s Gatlinburg.
  7. Snack Shack: Known for delicious donut bites with assorted toppings. It’s an excellent place for a quick snack between Firefly and Black Bear Village.
  8. The Watering Can Bar: The highest bar in downtown Gatlinburg, offering a variety of drinks at the base of AnaVista Tower.
  9. The Watering Can: Offers healthy sandwiches, wraps, and sweet drinks near Vista Gardens and AnaVista Tower.
  10. Tennessee Sidecar: Enjoy Tennessee Walking Tacos and other quick bites, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.
  11. Rocky Top Canteen: Dive into Mexican cuisine with dishes like Carne Asada tacos, Pollo Rojo, and Pork Carnitas.

Shopping Options:

  1. Adventure Outpost: Start your Dueling Zipline Adventure here. Also, shop for Anakeesta logoed merchandise and other souvenirs.
  2. Bear Essentials: Offers a selection of gifts, clothing, and souvenirs inspired by the Smoky Mountains. (Note: Closed for remodeling from Jan. 8, 2024).
  3. The Mercantile: A modern general store with home goods, kitchen items, local jams, sauces, and vintage games. It is located inside a Clifftop restaurant.
  4. Great Outdoors Trading Company: Shop for Smoky Mountain branded apparel and products. Located in downtown Gatlinburg, no Anakeesta admission is required.
  5. Catching Fireflies: Find jewelry, wind chimes, candles, women’s apparel, and toys. Features Milkhouse Candles, made from natural waxes, and supports breast cancer research through the Save the Girls purse line.

In Conclusion

Anakeesta is one our favorite things to do in Gatlinburg, we have annual passes and visit probably 5 times a year or more. We recommend spending at least half a day here!

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