The hubby and I began planning a quick weekend getaway a few months ago. Anakeesta was at the top of our to-do list. After a few months of planning, the trip finally arrived and we were so excited to see what all Anakeesta had to offer. Our trip took place on Saturday, October 19th. The only downfall? It rained. But to be fair, I wouldn’t even consider it a downfall. Why? Because Anakeesta is enjoyable, even in the rain! The rain made the beauty and splendor of the mountains even more magical.
A Brief History LessonYou may be wondering how the Great Smoky Mountains and Anakeesta got their names. The Cherokee Indians referred to the mountains in our area as “Shaconage” (Sha-Kon-O-Hey), meaning land of the blue smoke. The Great Smoky Mountains are blue and smoky because the trees that are most common in the area have high concentrations of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that scatter blue light. The Smokies receive a lot of rainfall and sunlight, as well as high levels of humidity. When these things combine, you have the perfect recipe for gorgeous smoky mountains! Did you also know that “Anakeesta” is a Cherokee Indian word referring to high ground, meaning “the place of the balsams”?
Map of AnakeestaI’ve included a map of Anakeesta’s layout so you can refer to the locations of areas mentioned in this post. You can also download a copy of the map here.
Excellent Customer ServiceSince it was raining when we arrived, we were offered a FREE poncho before heading to the top of the mountain. What great customer service! I knew we were in for a great time before we ever made it on to the chair lift. Thank you, Anakeesta for looking out for your patrons!
Getting to the TopDid you know that Anakeesta boasts the world’s only fixed-grip Chondola? You may be wondering what a Chondola is. A chondola combines elements of a chairlift and a gondola. There are three ways to reach the top of Anakeesta: Open-air chair lift, enclosed gondola, or military vehicle. Choose to ride in an open-air 4 person chair with a safety bar. Or ride in an enclosed gondola cabin with seating for 6. Or take a ride on the Ridge Rambler, a 45-person military vehicle. Note: Unlimited rides on these are included with your admission.
Welcome to the TopOnce you arrive at the top of Anakeesta, you are greeted by the Anakeesta Information Booth and the Mountain Magic Photo Booth. Annakeesta’s photographers are ready to capture your smile at the Chondola base station, on the chairlift before arriving at Firefly Village and on Tower 2 during the zipline adventure. Do you have a special event you’d like to capture or are you interested in proposing? Stop by the Information Booth and speak with a staff member to make arrangements for a photographer to capture your special moment.
You Won’t Leave HungryThe Cliff Top Grill and Bar is located near the entrance in Firefly Village. The restaurant opens at 11 am and serves some amazing dishes. Ultimate Nachos, Mac & Cheese, Smoked Turkey, and Bacon Wrap, Smokehouse Stacker Burger, Fried Chicken Tender Platter; just to name a few. Check out their complete menu here. Food and drinks are not the only things the Cliff Top Grill and Bar offers. There’s a breathtaking view offered as well! Who wouldn’t want to dine with this gorgeous view? We chose to order the Crispy Fried Chicken Tender Platter which includes five chicken tenders, fries & honey mustard dipping sauce for $12. It was absolutely delicious! The chicken was both crispy and tender and the shoestring fries were on point! I think I will be trying the Ultimate Nachos on my next visit! I saw it being delivered to another table while we were waiting for our food (which was not a very long wait at all) and it looked amazing! The ultimate nachos include house-made tortilla chips, pulled pork, house-made bbq sauce, spicy cheese, salsa, jalapenos, sour cream, green onions for $11. Next to Cliff Top is Pearl’s Pie in the Sky. You can’t resist a delicious treat! Be sure to grab a scoop of hand-dipped ice cream in a cone, milkshakes, or sundae. There are a few other food and drink options offered as well. They are as follows:
- BeaverTails serves an irresistibly delicious, artisanal Canadian pastry in a variety of flavors
- A Little Coffee… offers over 15 different ways to enjoy this deliciously unique coffee truck
- The Bar at the Top of the World offers a choice of liquor, specialty cocktails, wine, and beer
- Anakeesta Smokehouse serves delicious wraps, savory melts, salads and more
Shop ‘Til You DropThree amazing opportunities to purchase Anakeesta souvenirs (and more) await you at Great Outdoors Trading Company, Catching Fireflies, and Adventure Outpost. I couldn’t resist purchasing a cute lime green Anakeesta T-shirt. I even wore it the next day.
Autumn at AnakeestaAutumn at Anakeesta offers family-friendly crafts, games, activities, character visits, and fall treats for all ages. October is the perfect time to visit Anakeesta. The fall and Halloween decorations were my favorite part of the trip! Pumpkins, skeletons, and bears…oh my!
Hallow MountainAs daylight turns to dusk, the Treetop Skywalk becomes Firefly Forest, Gem Mining treasures begin to glow, and Halloween movies air at the overlook. Click here for the movie schedule. The mountain coaster and zipline also become haunted. Vista Gardens transforms into Hallow Mountain Graveyard for ‘Scare Nights’ where the undead rise to find their way off Hallow Mountain. This experience is for ages 12+. You can view FAQ and warnings here. Please note that Autumn at Anakeesta and Hallow Mountain are included in the cost of general admission. Zombie Ziplining and the Haunted Rail Runner Mountain Coaster require an additional ticket purchase. The remaining dates for Hallow Mountain are as follows: October 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 and November 1, 2. The graveyard begins 1/2 after sunset. The Last tour through the graveyard is at 11:00 pm (actual times may vary). Hallow Mountain Graveyard adventure was not in operation after dark due to inclement weather during our visit. However, we did walk through the area and I managed to snap a few photos during the remaining hours of daylight. If you want to experience Hallow Mountain, make sure to do so before November 2nd!
Treetop SkywalkAnakeesta’s Treetop Skywalk is the longest tree-based bridge in North America! Walk 880′ along a spectacular hanging bridge suspended 50-60 feet in the air! Keep your eyes on the ground below as you might just spot a bear walking along the forest floor.
Dueling ZiplineHave a blast zip-lining side-by-side with friends and family through the treetops. Three ziplines and two rappel drops offer beautiful views of the Smokies. You can reserve your zipline time by booking directly on Anakeesta’s website. If you want to zipline, it is recommended to arrive at Anakeesta 1.5 – 2 hours BEFORE your reserved time. Zipline guests must check-in at the Adventure Outpost on the mountain 30 minutes prior to the scheduled tour time. The Adventure Outpost is the first building on the left when you exit the chairlift at the summit of Anakeesta in Firefly Village. Note: Anakeesta admission must be purchased as well to access the dual racing zipline course.
Vista GardensVista Gardens, a gorgeous botanical garden that features walking trails through gardens filled with stunning flowers and plants, offers fun for the whole family. The gardens feature art sculptures called twigloos, pergolas with shaded seating, and a whimsical 20’ tall Willow Man sculpture. There’s also a treehouse styled play area and the BearVenture challenge course for children.
We had a great time at Anakeesta despite the rain. We enjoyed eating at the Cliff Top Bar and Grill, checking out the stunning views of the mountains, and shopping in the stores. I highly recommend visiting Anakeesta in the fall. I already have plans to visit again at Christmas time! Would I recommend visiting Anakeesta? Absolutely. Whether you’re visiting with your significant other or as a family, a great time will be had by all! Now, to answer a few questions that I’m sure you have . . .
How much does Anakeesta cost and what’s included with admission?
Ticket pricing is shown below:
Adults: (Ages 12-59) $21.99
Children: (Ages 4-11) $17.99
Seniors: (60+) $19.99
Buy tickets after 6 PM & come free the next day!
Visit the pricing section on their website for detailed pricing information regarding annual passes, mountain coaster, zipline, group rates, and vacation packages.
Admission to Anakeesta gives you unlimited access all day long! Included in the price of admission is Anakeesta’s Chondola ride, Ridge Rambler military vehicle ride, Treetop Skywalk, Treehouse Village Adventure, Overlook Event Area, Vista Gardens Walk, Memorial Forest Walk, and shopping and dining experiences.