Anakeesta Kicks Off Gatlinburg’s 75th Anniversary Year With Largest Expansion Ever

Thursday, January 9, 2020 - by Kay Watson

As part of its largest expansion ever, this year Anakeesta is adding new ways for guests to enjoy an authentic outdoor Smoky Mountain experience in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg.  The city that’s grown from a dirt road into the United States’ most visited mountain town will celebrate its 75th Anniversary in 2020. And it’s still growing up.

Anakeesta’s new one-of-a-kind observation tower will become the tallest point in downtown Gatlinburg.  Perched on the summit of the mountain, visitors will enjoy breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and surrounding states.

Our iconic tower will be the crowning element on top of Anakeesta mountain,” Anakeesta co-founder and co-owner Bob Bentz, who also designed the tower, said.

“Visitors travel from all over the world to enjoy the beauty of the Smoky Mountains and now they will be able to experience 360-degree panoramic views right in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg.”

Anakeesta’s $6 million expansion in 2020, its biggest to date, is now underway with plans to be ready this summer.

Opening just two-and-a-half years ago in September 2017, the mountaintop destination has invested a total of $30 million, continually adding shopping, dining, and fun outdoor entertainment for families to explore nature.  Soon, more adventure will await Anakeesta guests who ride 600 feet up the mountain on the Chondola’s open-air four-person chairlift or enclosed gondola cabin or the Ridge Rambler Adventure Truck.

Just when we thought the views couldn't get any better, Anakeesta gives us views like never before,” Mark Adams, CEO/President of the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, said. “This expansion is going to give our visitors even more reasons to come to Gatlinburg.”

In addition to the tower, the current project promises to double Anakeesta’s dining capacity. A new Smokehouse and Brewery restaurant will seat close to 300 guests who can delight in Southern BBQ favorites. Diners will be surrounded by mountain vistas from a glass-enclosed, climate-controlled indoor area or a spacious outdoor patio. The new restaurant will also serve local craft beers at an inside bar and a walk-up window.

“This restaurant is truly unique.  Where else can you dine and enjoy the sun setting over the Smoky Mountains or watch the clouds roll in through the valley below?” Mr. Bentz said. “Every seat from the Smokehouse restaurant will offer views of Mt. LeConte, the highest mountain peak that is completely within Tennessee.”

Just outside the storybook-styled restaurant, a new family-friendly water feature, designed to resemble a Tennessee mountain creek complete with waterfall will help kids of all ages keep cool. Additional walk-up windows will offer frozen yogurt and pizza. Guests can enjoy listening to live music from a new stage, relax together by two additional mountaintop firepits, and unwind at a Vista Garden’s new coffee and snack shop – all while overlooking the forested peaks and valleys of the country’s most visited national park.

Anakeesta is also adding a new play area for  for families to enjoy, featuring whimsical treehouses connected by a net challenge course and areas to swing and relax.  Finally, a new accessible boardwalk will be built to extend Anakeesta’s botanical garden walkway. The trail winds its way into the beautiful Vista Gardens, where the new, yet-to-be named, observation tower will stand.

All of these additions will complement existing activities like the Children’s Treehouse Village Adventure, BearVenture play area, Dueling Ziplines, Rail Runner mountain coaster and the Treetop Skywalk. At more than 800 feet long the Treetop Skywalk is the longest tree-based bridge in North America with a series of suspension bridges hanging 50-60 feet in the air between trees.

Anakeesta is located in and above the heart of downtown Gatlinburg at 576 Parkway.


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The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum on Saturday, March 28, will sponsor its Spring Excursion – a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad through the majestic mountains ... (click for more)

As part of its largest expansion ever, this year Anakeesta is adding new ways for guests to enjoy an authentic outdoor Smoky Mountain experience in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg. The city ... (click for more)

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