Anakeesta mountaintop attraction in Gatlinburg announces major expansion

Anakeesta, the 70-acre mountaintop attraction in Gatlinburg, has launched its biggest expansion since the venue’s opening on Sept. 1, 2017.

More scenic features, more dining and shopping, and a new way to the mountaintop are coming, the company announced Tuesday — some opening this spring and summer, some in 2020.

Anakeesta began with the vision of creating an authentic experience where families would enjoy the outdoors together,” Managing Partner Bob Bentz said in a news release. “It’s been exciting to see that vision become a reality and we are excited to continue to grow and expand the park.”

Already open is an overlook platform with panoramic mountain views, a stage for live music, beer truck, area for arts and crafts demonstrations, outdoor games, and restaurant seating.

Coming next, on Memorial Day, is an expanded Vista Garden Walk — doubling in size with more than 5,000 new flowers, 800 shrubs and 250 trees. The garden now includes twig sculptures called “twigloos,” shaded pergolas and a 20-foot “willow man” sculpture, the news release said. Within the garden are treehouse play areas, the BearVenture Challenge Course for children, and musical instruments for interactive play, according to the announcement.

Late this summer, a 14-minute ride aerial ride in a “Chondola” chair or cabin will no longer be the only way to reach the mountaintop. A 45-passenger “adventure vehicle” will leave from the Chondola station in downtown Gatlinburg and take a ride through the forest to the summit, while playing an audio tour with facts about the area’s history, plants and animals, the news release said.

Also coming later this year will be a 50-foot observation tower in traditional stone and timber style, providing 360-degree views of the Smoky Mountains.

In spring 2020 a new casual-dining restaurant is planned, seating up to 150. And two more shops are expected to open, adding to the existing Adventure Outpost, Great Outdoors Trading Company and Catching Fireflies.

Work began on Anakeesta shortly before the November 2016 wildfire. Fire damage pushed back the opening date on the $47 million development.

Visitors start at a “Chondola” station at 576 Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg, taking a four-seat chair or six-seat enclosed gondola on the 20-minute trip to the mountaintop, 600 vertical feet above. Visitors arrive in treehouse-themed Firefly Village, which features shops and restaurants.

A treetop canopy walk offers 16 bridges more than 40 feet above ground. Two ziplines let riders slide more than 1,000 feet, and rappel down 60 feet onto a cushioned platform. Other features include a children’s treehouse village playground and memorial walk for the 2016 wildfire.

Adult admission is $21.99 plus tax, with discounts for children and seniors. That includes the Chondola ride, Tree Canopy Walk, Treehouse Village Playground, and Forest Memorial Walk. Children under age 3 get in free. The ziplines and Rail Runner mountain coaster cost extra.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Jim Gaines

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Published May 3, 2019