If you’ve ever laid on your back in the cool grass and imagined what it would be like to soar like a bird, Anakeesta is for you. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it would be like to take a casual stroll 40-60 feet above the forest floor, Anakeesta is for you. If you’ve ever seen a fairy tale and wondered what it would feel like to spend time in a magical village, Anakeesta is for you.
Nestled in the bosom of the Smoky Mountains is Gatlinburg and at the heart of Gatlinburg is the wonder of Anakeesta. Although it’s not the only attraction in town to offer a bird’s-eye view via chair lift, it is the newest. It may also be the most unique. Your experience truly is customizable from the ground up, beginning with options regarding how you will make the 600 foot trip to the summit. You can opt for an open chair with a safety bar or ride comfortably inside a gondola cabin.
The 14-minute ride from downtown Gatlinburg to the summit can feel like sensory overload, but in the best possible way. As your eyes seek to take in the utter splendor of the living mountain, you are surrounded by the aroma of dogwood trees, spruce, and hemlock. And no matter how warm the day, the air that touches your face at that elevation feels cool and fresh. Given how much there is to do on top of the mountain it is, perhaps, a good thing to have 14 minutes to simply relax on the way up.
Firefly Village at Anakeesta
From the moment you step off your chair lift or gondola you will recognize the thought that went into creating the magical Firefly Village. With treehouse-themed buildings and scenic overlooks that provide a nearly 360-degree view of Eastern Tennessee, you may just feel transported to another time and place. And once you’re there, there are more options. Shop, enjoy a slice of pie or ice cream cone, dig into southern barbecue, take the kids “mining” for gems, or indulge your inner daredevil and go zip lining.
Anakeesta Tree Canopy Walk
The Tree Canopy Walk is a must-see. Comprised of 16 connected sky bridges suspended, it is designed to let you experience the mountain in an up-close-and-personal way. Each bridge leads to an observation post that offers both a breather and an opportunity to see wildlife in its natural habitat (wow, is that a bear?). There’s also the Forest Memorial Interpretive Trail, providing a stroll through forest charred in the devastating November 28, 2016 fire.
- Although you will likely enjoy Anakeesta from your first experience up the mountain, it’s a place you’re going to want to visit time and again. Parts of the village are under construction with plans to open a restaurant, amphitheater, and single rail mountain coaster. It appears to be growing into itself with management receptive to criticism and suggestions.
- If you have kids with you, make sure to keep an eye (or hand) on them around the Adirondack chairs, fire pit, and the Interpretive Trail as there are no rails to protect them from falls. That said, make it a point to allow them to play in the Children’s Treehouse Village Playground where interconnected multiple bridges are designed to build strength and confidence. By the time your children are done crawling through the tube net, climbing walls and going on a bird hunt, they might just be pooped out enough to nap during the ride back down the mountain.
- In Gatlinburg for a family reunion or get-together with old school friends? Anakeesta offers group rates that are worth checking out.