Anakeesta: Family Fun in Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg is one of the most popular tourist towns in Tennessee, and it is packed full of attractions. Since there’s so much to do, it can be hard to know where to go first, especially if you’ve never been! Here’s the list of our top five Gatlinburg attractions, but newcomer Anakeesta probably deserves the crown as our all-time fave!

Anakeesta Gatlinburg

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A huge thanks to Visit Gatlinburg for hosting us on our Spring in the Smokies getaway. We received complimentary admission to Anakeesta, but as always, all opinions are honest and my own.

What Is Anakeesta?

Anakeesta is a magical place, high up in the mountains above Gatlinburg. There’s truly something for everyone with shops, food and drink, and family-friendly activities like the Tree Canopy Walk and Rail Runner. As of May 2022, tickets are:

  • $32.99 for adults
  • $19.99 for kids 4-11 (3 and under are free!)
  • $25.99 for seniors (60+)
  • There’s also an annual pass option ($59.99 for adults) that gives you unlimited access to the Chondola for a year and a 20% discount on many of the activities!

Anakeesta Chondola

Currently, there are two ways to get to all of the fun at Anakeesta. The first is to ride the one-of-a-kind Chondola to the top of Anakeesta Mountain- you can choose between the open-air 4-person chairlift or 6-person enclosed gondola. As part of the 2019-2020 expansion, Anakeesta added another way to reach the top – a drive through the forest in a military truck! The Ridge Rambler is included in the price of admission, and you can ride as many times as you’d like.

Anakeesta Gatlinburg

The only day that we had available to visit Anakeesta turned out to be dreadfully rainy. While it did limit our ability to explore everything Anakeesta has to offer, it also meant that we dealt with way fewer crowds.

As a family of seven, we opted for two of the enclosed gondolas, mainly due to the rain. Even with the poor weather, the chairlift was still an option, but no one in our group wanted to get THAT wet! Now, it is important to mention that one side of the gondola is open (for ventilation, I assume), so the people sitting on that side did get a bit wet.

Firefly Village

Anakeesta Firefly Village

Once you’re at the top of Anakeesta Mountain, you’re in the whimsical Firefly Village, high above the town of Gatlinburg. There are Adirondack chairs for relaxing, a firepit perfect for making s’mores (when it’s not raining), shops, restaurants, and AMAZING views of the Smoky Mountains.

Anakeesta Gatlinburg

The Children’s Treehouse Village Playground looked like so much fun and somewhere we could have easily spent a couple of hours. We only skipped it because it was pouring rain, but I know the kids, especially Ellie, would have loved playing there.

Firefly Village also offers the Dueling Zipline and Rail Runner (mountain coaster) for an additional charge. While the Dueling Zipline was open even with the rain, it’s an extra $59.99 per person, which adds up really quickly for a family of 7, so we decided to skip it this time. The Rail Runner was closed due to rain, though the extra $15 per person would have been easier to swallow!

Anakeesta Tree Canopy Walk

Anakeesta Tree Canopy Walk

Even though it was raining, like pouring rain, not just a drizzle, the kids still wanted to do the Tree Canopy Walk. Ellie begged and pleaded to go with them, but I had her hang out with me because I was concerned she wouldn’t be able to complete the walk in the rain. There’s no age/height requirement, but kiddos do need to be able to walk unassisted and cannot be carried.

Anakeesta Gatlinburg

The big kids set out with Jacob and headed across the first bridge, high above the forest floor.

Anakeesta Tree Canopy Walk

The Tree Canopy Walk is a series of 16 bridges and observation platforms 40-60 feet above the forest floor. While they could easily manage the bridges, they said that many spots were quite slippery, and Ellie would have had trouble. In hindsight, I wish they had worn their hiking boots instead of just their regular tennis shoes.

Anakeesta Gatlinburg

We had the Tree Canopy Walk to ourselves for over an hour because of all the rain, which allowed the kids to stop and take in the views. I’ve heard you can even see animals out there from time to time- even bears!

Anakeesta Tree Canopy Walk

Every so often, clouds would settle on the mountain, making it harder to see the kids crossing the bridges from my vantage point. They thought it was awesome to be walking through the clouds!

Eats at Anakeesta

Anakeesta Ice Cream

After the Tree Canopy Walk, we made a quick stop at Pearl’s Pie in the Sky and had ice cream for lunch- always a vacation must-do for our family! These single-scoop waffle cones were only $4 each, perhaps the best deal on ice cream in Gatlinburg! Plus, they serve Blue Bell ice cream!!

We were initially planning to check out the BBQ at Anakeesta Smokehouse, but we didn’t stay as long as we’d planned due to the rain. It’s definitely on the list to try next time we visit! The menu at Cliff Top Grill & Bar looked great as well with their 1/2 pound char-grilled burgers- definitely something that our crew would love. Kids’ meals at both Anakeesta Smokehouse and Cliff Top Grill & Bar are only about $10 each, so they’re both reasonable price-wise, even for bigger families!

Goodbye, Anakeesta

Anakeesta Gatlinburg

Since it was still raining, we decided to call it a day at Anakeesta and headed back down the mountain in an enclosed gondola. One of the best things about Anakeesta is that your ticket is good for the whole day! I’d recommend getting there first thing in the morning to beat the crowds and do the Tree Canopy Walk with fewer people and then going back in the evening for the firepit and sunset views. We had a fantastic time at Anakeesta – even with the rain! We’ll definitely be back again to explore everything that we missed!

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