With the opening of its new AnaVista Tower, now the highest point in downtown Gatlinburg, Anakeesta is literally taking guests in the Smoky Mountains to new heights.
During a Grand Opening Ceremony on Wednesday, special guests and tourism leaders had the chance to experience the breathtaking beauty from the top of the new observation tower and recognize the impact of Anakeesta’s $32 million mountaintop investment that opened less than three years ago.
“The sweeping panoramic views – especially from the top of AnaVista Tower – are even more beautiful than I had imagined,” Tennessee Commissioner of Tourist Development Mark Ezell said during a Grand Opening celebration on Wednesday.
“With these magnificent views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – the most visited national park in the country – this iconic observation tower is a must-see for anyone who lives in or visits Tennessee. Anakeesta truly is the perfect outdoor family theme park for an authentic mountaintop experience.”
Offering 360-degree views of the Smokies and the only one of its kind in the world, AnaVista Tower offers a unique view of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and surrounding states. The tower which has multiple look-out levels was also built with a Compass Rose in mind. Its eight beams, each stronger than steel, signify the points on a compass. Compass points at the base and top of AnaVista Tower help orient guests, with signage designed for each direction, identifying about 50 of the highest peaks plus dozens of landmarks that you will see from the top.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash spoke during the event, pointing out Mount LeConte to the South, one of the highest peaks in the park.
“What sets Anakeesta apart – what makes this entire outdoor adventure park truly unique – is its focus on what you see, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” Superintendent Cash said. “From AnaVista Tower to its ziplines, treehouses, and tree canopy walk, Anakeesta keeps creating ways for all of us to enjoy and experience these incredible mountains together. In many ways, Anakeesta shares this scenic vision with our National Park. It’s clear Anakeesta treasures the Great Smoky Mountains and basks in their glory, and they are also wonderful community partners.”
Co-Founder and Managing Partner Bob Bentz, a landscape architect and former Park Ranger himself, designed AnaVista Tower to resemble a flower.
“Perched here on the summit of Anakeesta mountain, it’s certainly the largest flower in AnaVista Gardens,” Mr. Bentz said. “This fall, we will also add a light show to the tower at night. It’s my hope that everyone who visits Gatlinburg can experience the magic and the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains in an authentic way, outdoors from the peak of Anakeesta’s mountaintop with views in every direction that are easy to reach at the top of AnaVista Tower.”
As part of its $6.5 million expansion, Anakeesta is also adding a water play area designed to resemble a Tennessee mountain creek, new stage for live music, and mountaintop firepit with walk-up bar for local craft brews. In addition to the shopping and open-air dining already available, Anakeesta will double its dining capacity with a new Smokehouse Barbeque and Brewery. It will be the only place to see the Great Smoky Mountains and Mt. LeConte while enjoying full-service dining in Gatlinburg.
“Just when we thought the views couldn’t get any better, Anakeesta builds AnaVista Tower,” Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner said. “It’s fitting that AnaVista Tower opens during Gatlinburg’s 75th Anniversary year, a time to look back and appreciate the beginnings of our city that’s grown from a dirt road into the United States’ most visited mountain town. This is also a time to look ahead to envision what is next. And looking around from up here at Anakeesta I think you’ll agree – the outlook is incredibly bright and clear.”
Anakeesta’s wide open spaces and fresh mountain air offer visitors a memorable place to share some of the best views of the Smokies – just a Chondola or Ridge Rambler ride away. Anakeesta is located in and above the heart of downtown Gatlinburg at 576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 (traffic light #5). Visit www.anakeesta.com or call 865-325-2400 for tickets and more information, including current hours. Anakeesta has implemented a new Express Pass online admission option. Express Pass guests and Annual Pass holders will travel directly to the summit via the Express Pass Chondola lane.