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Anakeesta in the Great Smoky Mountains

Last week, my son was on Spring Break, and we decided to take a family trip to Pigeon Forge, TN. It is only about a 3 hour drive from our home. We rented a cabin on the river for several days, and were even able to take our Frenchie, Bella. The fishing wasn’t so great due to recent heavy storms, but there’s non stop entertainment in Pigeon Forge that kept us busy. We rode go karts, played putt putt, ate some really great meals, went to a comedy dinner theatre, shopped, etc. But, my favorite place that we went to was called Anakeesta.

Anakeesta is actually in neighboring Gatlinburg, TN. The word “Anakeesta” is a Cherokee Indian word meaning “the place of the balsams,” and refers to high ground. From the base of the mountain, you can either ride the sky lift up on a bench, in an enclosed chondola, or you can take the large ridge rambler up the road leading to the top. The ride up via the sky lift takes about 20 minutes. We did this our first time up, and I hate heights! But, I did it for my son.

Sky lift

Once at the top, there’s multiple activities you can choose from, plus there’s several dining and snack options, and a little village to pick up souvenirs from, or to sit, rest, and rock by the fire or water features. There’s a flat fee to enter the park, but there are 2 activities that cost extra if you want to do them: the mountain coaster, and the dueling zip lines. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do either of these. The mountain coaster was down due to having been hit by lightning during the recent storms, and the zip line was booked solid all week long. But, I do have a pro tip for you….if you buy your tickets an hour before they close to the public, you can enjoy the last couple hours that evening and get in for free the entire next day! We did this, and it was well worth it. The views at sunset were gorgeous!

At the peak of the mountain is the AnaVista Observation Tower. It is 60 feet high, and provides 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains, allowing you to see as far as Kentucky on sunny days. It even has two glass panel floors to look down at the gardens below.

AnaVista Observation Tower

Another fun activity is the Treetop Skywalk. There are suspension bridges (with high rope sides) hung between the trees, about 50-60′ above the ground. Their website says it’s the longest tree based skywalk in the world with 880′ of bridges.

Me and my son on the skywalk.

There are 2 ropes challenge courses (made for kids, but parents did it too), Bearventure Challenge Course, and Treeventure Challenge Course. Here you can climb, swing, crawl, and slide through multiple levels.

My husband and son on a challenge course.

If you’re looking for picture opportunities, there’s endless places for great pictures at Anakeesta. Here’s a couple cool ones:

As a bonus, we even saw a bear below while we were eating on the deck of one of the restaurants. They say you can often see them roaming below while you’re on the decks and skywalks throughout the park.

All in all, Anakeesta is the one place I wanted to visit while on our trip, and it most definitely did not disappoint! They are still adding to the park, and it will be on our list to re-visit in the future. I give it two thumbs up, and highly recommend!

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