Looking for something fun to do to celebrate the spooky season this year? The Bear-Varian Fall Festival at Anakeesta certainly qualifies. Whether you’re traveling as a family, a couple, or just on a solo adventure to satisfy the soul, you’ll find it here in autumn.
Anakeesta, one of the nation’s most unique and charming adventure parks – located in the fan-favorite town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee – takes adorable Americana to new heights. During the Bear-Varian Fall Festival, it puts an autumnal spin on things that even the scroogiest person can’t help but fall for.
Before you finalize that trip itinerary, let’s take a look at what this festival is, when it is, and how you get there. We’ll also consider the best activities, where to stay, and how much to budget. Read on!
What Is It?
When you visit the Bear-Varian Fall Festival, you’re really having two experiences at the same time. The fall festival is certainly a hoot, with scarecrows and themed bands (hello, “The SkeleTones”), fall décor and photo booths, and pumpkins galore.
However, you also get the pleasure of immersing yourself in one of the most entertaining amusement park venues in the United States. Anakeesta, an Appalachian wonderland like no other, offers a raft of ways to stay busy all day long … and all night as well.
For example, the Forest Adventures neighborhood offers a chance to walk amongst the treetops and test your adventurous spirit on ziplines. Firefly Village has a roller coaster to get your thrills in and a smokehouse to satisfy your cravings, while Black Bear Village splash pad and waterfall, stage, and lots of yummy dining options.
During the Bear-Varian Fall Festival, each place gets fall updates to maximize the experience for you and your traveling companions.
When Is It?
One of the nicest aspects of the Bear-Varian Fall Festival is that it runs for almost two months, so there’s no hurry to get there. Starting September 9 and stretching through Halloween, there’s plenty of time for you to book your tickets and plan a trip that works for you.
How Do You Get There?
Once you’ve taken your plane, train, or automobile to Anakeesta’s entrance, you will need to wait to hop a ride to the top. You can either take the Ridge Rambler, a truck that runs constantly to ferry guests to and from the park, or the lift.
If you opt for the lift, which is an amazing way to see the surrounding Smoky Mountains, you again have two choices: a chair lift or an enclosed gondola, which fits six people. The line can get a little long sometimes, so if you go at the busiest times (on holidays and weekends), then you could wait as long as an hour. Shoot for off-hours if you don’t want to wait.
What’s There to Eat?
Um, what isn’t there to eat? In all seriousness, though, this festival brings the treats in style. Your options include:
- Cliff Top Restaurant in Black Bear Village offers classic American cuisine
- Smokehouse Smoky Mountain Restaurant in Firefly Village, a BBQ joint with a view for miles
- Kephart Café in Black Bear Village is an excellent place to find pizza
- Tap House in Black Bear Village, with an infinity bar to help you take in the fresh mountain air
Of course, you’ll also enjoy Bavarian classics throughout the park, such as pretzels, funnel cakes, pork schnitzel, giant turkey legs, and other tastes of the season.
Where Do You Stay?
Anakeesta is in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. You have many options when it comes to where to stay, from smaller hotels to grander resorts. If you want to go all-out, try the Margaritaville Resort or the Glenstone Lodge. Zoder’s Inn and Suites is still charming, located on a river, and features a pool, but costs less per night.
What Does It Cost?
Calculating costs is an important way to make sure you stay within budget for your trip, so here’s a breakdown of what you might pay. Note that each price is for a single admission.
To experience the best of the Bear-Varian Fall Festival, you’ll need to buy a general admission park pass. This costs $34.99 for adults, $21.99 for children, $26.99 for seniors, and nothing for children 3 and under. With it, you’re eligible for everything the park has to offer except Astra Lumina, discussed below.
Specifically, you can ride the lifts and Ridge Rambler as many times as you want, check out the Anavista Observation Tower and the Treetop Skywalk, and visit the Vista Gardens. You can also explore all of the challenge courses and play areas, and you’ll have access to all on-site restaurants.
You can also buy an add-on beer pass. Rather than paying separately for drinks, the $21.99 pass entitles you to six different 8-ounce pours. Both cider and beer are included, and you can find them at various places around the park (so, you know, you’ll still get those steps in). Beer and cider sampling this year are backed by local breweries including Gypsy Circus, Blackhorse Brewing, Tailgate Brewery, Highland Brewing, and Blackberry Farms.
While you’re there, be sure to check out Astra Lumina too. This jaw-dropping installation will provide you and your fam with a walk to remember, that’s for sure. The concept is simple: what if the stars came to you? As you take a self-guided walk down the designated paths, you’ll experience showers of stars, glimmering stardust, and gentle mystical music – all created through stunning hidden AV effects. It’s an experience to remember, and for only $34.99 per adult and $22.99 per child, it’s an affordable one to boot.
What Are You Waiting For?
Et voilà, that’s everything you need to know about this classic annual celebration. Throw your costume on, grab that beer pass, and head into the mountains for an unforgettable autumn experience!
Now, there’s just one more FAQ left: what are you waiting for?