ANAKEESTA MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE

Gatlinburg’s newest tourist attraction, Anakeesta, is a Cherokee word meaning “the place of the balsams” according to their website. I am part Cherokee (my great-grandmother’s name was Morning Dove) but I wouldn’t dream of vouching for the language. Anakeesta is located across the street from the aquarium in case you’re wondering but it’s pretty hard to miss the huge brand new building next to Arrowmont.

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You can choose between the 4 person chair lift or an enclosed gondola to take you to the top. The line is much longer for the gondolas but if you have tiny humans I think it’s worth the wait. It’s a 14 minute ride up to the summit and that’s only if they don’t stop the lift to allow the elderly or handicapped more time to board. Of course this is how it should be, I’m simply saying the length of time it will take you to reach the top of the mountain is unpredictable and so are tiny humans.

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Once you disembark you are greeted by a quaint little area called “Firefly Village” that includes shops for browsing, an ice cream shop, and a BBQ food truck serving up delicious hot sandwiches.

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We ordered two sandwiches (turkey for me, brisket for the mister) and enjoyed a late lunch. Our sandwiches were full of flavor and Chris who is a BBQ snob liked the brisket. Honestly, I could have stayed all day soaking in the view. This should be the selling point for a lot of people. You can see multiple summits from Anakeesta including Sugarland summit and 3 peaks ofΒ  Mount LeConte. The best part is that Anakeesta is building an outdoor concert space right next to this sweet spot that will be finished some time next year.

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Memorial Forest Walk was built to honor those who lost their homes and loved ones in the Smoky Mountain fires that devastated the area last November. Jeremy Cowart’s photos from “Voices of Gatlinburg” are on display.

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There is also a kid’s play area that includes one of my all time favorite Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg activities… gem mining! Give me an overpriced bag of dirt and leave me in peace to find sparkly treasures. My parents paid way too much for me to “mine for gems” as a kid but I loved it so much that I had my own rock and gemstone collection.

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We headed back to get in the line for the chair lift and got to see Firefly Village from a different vantage point. The wood and stone elements used in construction are very complimentary to their natural surroundings.

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Anakeesta offers ziplining as well as a tree canopy walk. They also have a mountain coaster that is set to open in winter of this year.

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My only critique would be that Anakeesta should let passengers know when they purchase a ticket that the chair lift will stop for the elderly and handicapped. If you grew up riding other chair lifts that didn’t have handicap accessible gondolas you assume the lift is broken if it stops. We were stopped for more than 15 minutes wondering what was going on with the lift. The ride should take 14 minutes in total to reach the summit. It wasn’t until we were heading back to our car that we realized why it kept stopping. I don’t mean this to sound rude at all it was simply something we thought people should know ahead of time so they don’t panic.

We were grateful to have the most beautiful weather and had the perfect opportunity to see far out from the summit. I am excited to see what the future holds for this new Gatlinburg hot spot. I would highly recommend riding to the top to grab lunch with a front row seat to a picturesque mountain skyline.

Until next time,

Carly

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