Smoky #3 – Anakeesta

Betty and Dan standing in front of a large sculpture of a daisey

Next on our Smoky Mountain trip was a visit to Anakeesta. Anakeesta, which opened in 2017, is a 70 acre mountain top attraction located in downtown Gatlinburg. Anakeesta means “the place of high ground”, and, in fact, you are up so high, your money just flies away.

Dan and I rode the trolley into Gatlinburg and bought our tickets for Anakeesta at the entrance. Tickets can be bought online, in advance, but we chose to buy our tickets on the day of our visit, so we could ensure we would have good weather.

The basic entrance fee does include many attractions but not all. Additional activities such as ziplining or riding a mountain coaster cost extra. Dan and I wanted to attend an evening attraction called “Astra Lumina”, and this was an additional fee as well. Our entrance tickets for the both of us, plus Astra Lumina, cost about $98. We were given a 10% discount for being AAA members.

The chondola ride going up

The day begins first by getting to the top of that big mountain. You can ride the “chondola” to the top. A chondola is basically a ski lift type operation offering both open air and enclosed cars to the top. Another option is to ride an open air jeep, the Ridge Rambler, to the top. We chose the chondola. The ride to the top takes several minutes, and we figured there were about 100 chondolas in motion on the ride.

Rocking chairs overlooking the Smoky Mountains

We spent over four hours at Anakeesta. We walked all around, enjoying the beautiful views and gardens. There are numerous colorful sculptures throughout. We climbed the observation tower, and we listened to two different music groups featured as part of the “Blooms and Tunes” festival. We ate lunch which was basically a hot dog for Dan and a flat bread pizza with veggies for me. We also had chips and a soda. Lunch was $38.

A bandstand with a three person band playing
Three women dress up as flowers (in yellow, red and blue) singing

More money flew away later when we enjoyed ice cream cones for dessert. We also walked through the tree top sky walk which consists of swinging bridges 50 to 60 feet high. There are a couple of challenge courses and a play area which are included with the basic, general admission ticket. We did not participate in these activities; however, I think younger people, especially families would love these areas. There are several stores, but we did not do any shopping.

Betty and Dan on a swinging bridge in the tree top village
View of a swinging bridge in tree top village

Our tickets for Astra Lumina were for 9:15 p.m., so around 5 p.m. we decided to ride the trolley back to our campground. There, we rested and ate our dinner. We returned shortly after 8 p.m. and walked around a bit more to enjoy the beautiful grounds with the evening lights.

Anakeesta lit up at night
Betty and Dan standing in front of a large sculpture of a friendly creature
Two large red roses lit up at night

As a side note, when we returned to the park, we did drive our car since the trolleys (at that time of year) do not operate after 9:30 p.m. We had to pay $20 to park – which is the standard fee in downtown Gatlinburg. This was the only time we had to pay to park in Gatlinburg as we took advantage of the free trolleys several times during our stay.

A display at Astra Lumina.  Looks like a spaceship going up.
A map of Astra Lumina
Display at Astra Lumina.  Looks like a giant lit up ball

Astra Lumina was an amazing experience. It is about a one mile walk, through the grounds, with music and various light displays. I have not experienced anything like it before. There are several stops along the way, and each stop is a different experience with lights. Click here to see the Anakeesta’s short YouTube video about Astra Lumina. We had a beautiful evening, and our experience at Astra Lumina was stellar. We very much enjoyed our day at Anakeesta, but it was Astra Lumina that “made” the day for me.

A view of the Gatlinburg lights from the chondola going back down
Chondola Ride Back Down

My next post will bring us back to the National Park.

27 comments

  1. What a wonderful day! Your photos are beautiful and it sounds like you certainly got your flying money’s worth. Astra Lumina sounds fabulous. I see they put on displays in many locations. The light show reminds me that there are three light shows I’ve yet to see in South Texas … hopefully this winter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Terry! We absolutely got our flying money’s worth that day. I did read that there are 7 Astra Lumina’s installations in Canada. I would be interested in the light shows in Texas. I hope to visit more light shows in the future, too.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It was a very fun day! I think kids who like to climb would really love Anakeesta, too. Thanks for your comment, and enjoy your day!

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  2. Seeing this makes me want to go back to Gatlinburg, Betty! Anakeesta wasn’t there when we went to GSMNP. Do you know if it was built as a result of the horrible forest fire a few years ago? What a fabulously fun place Anakeest must be, and Astra Lumina would be beyond amazing. Thank you for sharing this great venue!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Astra Lumina was really amazing. According to Google, Anakeesta was in the planning stages when the forest fire happened in 2016. We did see some damage from the fire, but not too much. (We saw much more fire damage when entering the south entrance of Yellowstone last year.) Anakeesta is called a theme park, but I would call it an adventure park. They are also expanding it now; I believe it is going to be a roller coaster. I am glad you liked the post. Have a great day!

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  3. Wow, you two have been busy. There seems to be so much to do in the area. But it also seems like you would need to take out a second mortgage to go there. Between the cost of the site plus all the attractions. That’s what has kept me away. Maybe though I’ll take out that second mortgage and plan on a trip there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, we certainly don’t spend like this on most of our trips. We usually find free or low cost things to do. We did open the purse strings a bit more on this trip; however, we were mindful about it. Our site was almost half the price of those on the river, but I truly loved it. The best part or our time there, I thought, was being in the National Park – and that had the best price of all. 🙂 Have a great day!

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    • It is a unique place – different from a traditional amusement park; although, they are in the process of building a roller coaster. I’m glad to know it was new to you! Hope you have a great Monday. 😉

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  4. Well Betty you have introduced to another activity I have not heard of. And I can see how the Astra Lumina was the highlight of the day. Beautiful view on your way down too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, David! That’s a pretty good accomplishment for me! You are right – It was a beautiful view of the twinkling lights of Gatlinburg at night. I enjoyed that very much too! Hope you have a great rest of the week!

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  5. That is beautiful and looks like so much fun with never a moment for boredom! The Astra Lumina sounds exciting and how nice to finish the night with a beautiful view!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Beth. It was fun; it was something very different. It was called an amusement park, but really I think of it as an adventure park. We were blessed with a beautiful night. Enjoy the rest of your evening and your day tomorrow!

      Liked by 1 person

    • We like a little bit of touristy. Some, but not too much. For the most part, we kind of alternated days – being in the park one day, other activities the next. We did enjoy the day. Hope you enjoy yours!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for sharing this place with us. I, like many others, have never heard of it. That is one of the great things about traveling – always sharing places to go and things to do.

    Liked by 1 person

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