By Leif Palmer
Posted on December 21, 2022
One of the great things about visiting downtown Gatlinburg is that it offers the chance to visit fun theme parks that aren't necessarily located downtown themselves. For example, from downtown, you can ride the Aerial Tramway up to the ski slopes at Ober Gatlinburg, or you can ride a chairlift up to Gatlinburg SkyLift Park, which overlooks the city from a mountaintop.
And then there's Anakeesta theme park, which we visited recently. The experience starts right on the Parkway in the heart of downtown. If you're driving into town for the day, just park at one of our many Gatlinburg parking lots and walk to the attraction's ticket office and transportation station. If you happen to park closer to the south end of downtown, the walk to Anakeesta may be a little longer, but you could always take a trolley if you prefer to be driven.
Once you arrive at the Anakeesta ticket office, you can buy your tickets there. But we recommend purchasing them in advance on your phone. That way, you can skip the ticket line and immediately queue up for the journey to the mountaintop on which Anakeesta is located. We waited in line for only 15 minutes or so before it was time for us to catch our ride to the top.
Guests have two choices: You can ride Anakeesta's Ridge Rambler, an open-air shuttle bus that follows a winding roadway to the top of the mountain; or you may head up via the Chondola, which shuttles you up the mountain on a cable system. Passengers may ride either inside an enclosed gondola car or in an open-air chairlift, similar to what one would find at a ski resort. The enclosed gondola would be a better option if you have infants or small, squirmy children in your party. We chose to head up via chairlift; the ride was relaxing and took us far above the downtown action below. Along the way, we passed over city streets and one of Anakeesta's zipline cables.
At the top, you're required to briskly exit the chairlift so it doesn't knock you over from behind. Ahead of you, Anakeesta is laid out along the mountain's summit ridgeline, and the architecture of the quaint buildings is reminiscent of a village one might see in a Lord of the Rings film. The whole place exudes a fanciful feel throughout its multiple sections, including Firefly Village, Forest Adventures, Black Bear Village, Vista Gardens and Lumina Village.
Now that we've got you on the mountaintop, we're going to leave you hanging until our next post, which will go into more detail about what Anakeesta has in store.
About Leif Palmer
Leif Palmer loves residing in Gatlinburg. He is an avid outdoorsman: rowing for exercise on the lake, trail hiking, and free climbing rocks in the mountains. He indulges his arty side by periodically beating up pieces of marble by sculpting. He is always frustrated by his inability to sink long putts, and hates his curly hair (but his wife loves it). Leif has been known to muster enough courage to change a diaper, and hopes his son will become a chip off the old block.