Anakeesta in Every Season

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of visiting Anakeesta for the first time. Thanks to their local appreciation days, I went again in November and was able to take the family with me! We had such a lovely time, and I’d like to share all the wonderful adventures you can experience at Anakeesta in the fall and winter.

The View

The view is just as gorgeous now as it was in the spring. With fall colors blooming and the breeze in your hair, the view is an experience unto itself. Whether the trees are in full fall bloom or bare and dusted with snow, the view is sure to be gorgeous.

Getting up and down the mountain

The ride to the top and back down is an experience, too! While the line was a bit long the day we visited (our ticket taker recommended visiting on a Sunday next time, as they are slower that the Saturday we chose), the view is gorgeous. My four year old and I rode one of the enclosed cabins up with my sister-in-law, while my husband, mother-in-law, and six year old rode one of the chondolas (it looks like a ski lift). We all rode the chondola down, as the cabin line was extremely long and it was past our kiddos bed time already.

The view is gorgeous and the kids were on best behavior, so we did okay in the chondola. I was worried about them losing a shoe, but it was unfounded. We did hold on to them tight, but that’s just normal parents over-worrying because we were very high up.

We generally park at the aquarium’s parking garage, because it is the best priced and centrally located. There’s also a visitor center with bathrooms next door to the aquarium (adjacent to the ticket line), which is helpful for hitting the bathroom before hitting the road.

This time of year, Gatlinburg is all dolled up with holiday decor. We had a great time walking amongst the decorations and got some fun photos of the kids with the decorations outside of the aquarium.

Firefly Village

When you exit your ride up the mountain, you arrive in Firefly village. This cute area has adorable shops, a quaint bridge, a sweet shop and a restaurant.

There are more gorgeous views, of course. As you continue on, you’ll see the fire memorial as well as come across the children’s play area.

The Treehouse Village Adventure is a series of treehouses connected by rope bridges and different features of access, from a rope tunnel to a maze like treehouse to a balance beam surrounded by rope. It is so fun. I completely surrendered to my inner child and played with the kids on this. It’s such a cool kid’s feature. They even have an enlarged replica of a goldfinch’s nest with eggs and an information card. I’m so glad I have kids so I got to play on this! We spent a significant amount of time here, and we all just had a blast.

Vista Gardens

After exploring the treehouses to our heart’s content, we headed over to the Vista Gardens. This gorgeous area showcases local nature as well as the breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains. Thought provoking quote plaques line the way, and a Bearventure course helps the kids continue to run off all that energy. I’m a little jealous- I totally wanted to do the Bearventure course, but my four year old needed my hand and the area was pretty busy while we were there. I do wish they’d designate an entrance and exit, because it’s really only compatible one way and there were people going in both directions.

With twigloos to pop into and a giant sculpture to take a photo with, the kids will enjoy the walk as much as the parents.  I couldn’t help but focus on the quotes and how perfect they were.

Treetop Skywalk

This is why I was dying to come back to Anakeesta! These rope bridges with tree platforms are so fun, and the view is gorgeous. It’s a unique experience to be walking among the tree branches instead of their trunks, and I planned our trip on this part to coincide with sunset. With the fairy lights turning on and the gorgeous work of Mother Nature surrounding us, it was a spectacular experience.

The bridges are sturdy and the handles high, so everyone in our group felt comfortable; even those not generally that comfortable with heights.


We stayed longer than we anticipated and wound up eating at Cliff Top Grill and Bar. Though it was a little chilly, there are heaters on the ceiling that really warm it up. The food was declared delicious, and between us we got: kid’s mac and cheese (warning: it does not look like Kraft. But it is delicious and comes with a side, drink, and Moon Pie, so my kid was still happy); kid’s corn dog; Brisket Mac and Cheese; Chili Mac; and two burgers with fries. For our family of four with a military discount, our total was around $40 (two kids meals, two adult meals, one tea and one fountain drink). I heard a rumor they had hot cider at our restaurant and hot cocoa next door, but we didn’t partake in those.

Anakeesta for Every Season
Gorgeous ceilings and well-working heaters at Cliff Top Bar and Grill.

More to Come!

We’ve now visited Anakaeesta during two seasons, and I can see the appeal for visiting once a season. The view is always changing, the scenery blooming in different ways. Make sure you’re following them on Facebook- when we had some snow last month, their photos and videos were gorgeous.

They’re also expanding and adding new activities in 2020, including an indoor restaurant and a tower for kid’s to play in and climb amongst that looks so fun.



What do you love most about Anakeesta?


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