(Special YouTube video of our trip is included. Trust me you don’t want to miss it!)
I had an exciting opportunity to be one of the firsts to ride the all new Ridge Rambler that launches at Anakeesta later this month. My husband had to work, so I only brought my three older kids with me, ages 4, 6, & 8). My mother in law graciously kept my younger two. This was the perfect trip before they go back to school!
Firstly, you would never know it exists, the bottom part is right across from Ripley’s Aquarium. I had no clue the whole new world that was awaiting us 15-20 minutes away!
The parking was quick and easy, and super close to the building area so that was a huge plus! I was greeted by the staff, and got to meet both Bob and Karen Bentz (the owners and visionaries behind Anakeesta). They were extremely kind and made it a priority to meet with each of us in the group and talk to us, which spoke volumes to me about them!
We got to hear a speech on the all new Ridge Rambler before boarding. Upon boarding the ride began. We got to see downtown Gatlinburg in all its beauty while in a covered 17 ton 45 passenger truck! As we ascended up higher I was stunned by the scenery! My kids were in complete awe as well! The full tour information we received was also adding to my excitement to reach the top and experience it all for myself!
Once we got to the top I was speechless! I can’t even begin to describe the beauty of it all! We then unloaded and got to tour the place. Cora was my tour guide and she was amazing. Before walking off I made sure to snap a picture of the all new Ridge Rambler! And of course a photo op with Mr. Bob Kentz himself!
We were dropped off at Beer garden. There was a craft beer truck and a coffee truck, and a stage. Cora informed me that theres’s kids crafts there, games, music, and lots of other fun things.
The first thing my kids wanted to do was check out Vista Gardens.
This was full of greenery, beautiful flowers, twigloos, play areas, a fun course, pergolas where you can relax and take it all in, a children’s instrumental play area, the most whimsical gnome village ever, informative signs, and so much more! The kids were immediately drawn to the BearVenture area.
The views and photo ops were breathtaking. There’s even a heart shaped twig area that our tour guide said many people have used to propose by. I can totally see why.
Did I mention we also met Willow Man, the 20′ tall protector of the forest!
There was even a neat elevated bird nest that overlooked everything.
Next we made our way over to Treehouse Village Playground, and I kid you not the kids spent an hour over there. It was perfect because there’s only one way in and out (brilliant). I was able to sit confidently at the entrance of it in the seating area and watch them. There were parts they could climb up, or they could go into a little house. It was so much fun just seeing the magic in their eyes as they explored and played.
Outside of the playground area is another spot for the perfect photo op, which we had to take full advantage of! It was too funny to pass up.
After the little photo op we walked to the Tree Canopy Walk entrance which is near the Treehouse Village. However, it was closed off due to lightning being close. There was a guide that explained to us that it would be closed until the lightning was a lot further away for safety precautions. That was perfectly fine with us because it gave us more time to explore around back on the other side. Nearby was a gem mining area with an interactive waterfall and sluice where you could pay for the kids to search for gemstones and fossils.
Not even the rain could stop our fun! We made our way back down towards were we had gotten dropped off at, and decided to check out the food and shops in Firefly Village. We passed a Smokehouse truck that immediately made us hungry with the most delightful aromas of hickory bbq.
We also passed this stand full of mouth watering treats!
Once we got into the heart of Firefly Village we saw; a huge fire pit (I bet it’s so cozy at night time), Cliff Top Grill and Bar, and Pearl’s Pie in the Sky packed with famous pies, baked goods, hand dipped Bluebell ice cream, milk shakes, and sundaes!
We also saw Rail Runner. Which is an adrenaline filled mountain coaster. And the first single- rail coaster in the U.S! You can ride alone of tandem with young children! You can even control your speed as you race and wind through trees flying down the mountain. I want to definitely do this next time! I love how they made sure to make it child friendly as well!
We also saw the Chondalas. It’s what the visionaries behind Anakeesta call the gondolas+ chair lifts! There’s a red enclosed one that seats 6 people, and then the chair lifts that have a safety bar and hold 4 people. That was the main way to and from the mountain, until the Ridge Rambler came along. I should also add that during the heavy rain they were offering complimentary rides in vans to get back down. But thankfully the rain stopped so we could continue our adventure. They are open rain or shine, even through the snow!
We checked out a few shops, Great Outdoors Trading Company, and Catching Fireflies boutique which was our all time favorite shop ( if you visit you will know why).
After browsing we went to the dueling zip line area just to look around. The view was captivating! You could even see part of the Tree Canopy Walk!
On the way back to the other side to do the long canopy walk we stopped by the Memorial area:
“On November 28, 2016, more than 17,000 acres of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Gatlinburg were damaged by the most devastating fire in the state’s history. The south side of Anakeesta Mountain which was badly scorched is a fitting location for our Fire Memorial Walk. Stroll through the charred forest that serves as a reminder of the courage of the brave men and women who fought the fires, the fortitude of those affected and the resilience and restoration of our beloved Smoky Mountains and the city of Gatlinburg that truly are ‘mountain tough.’”
It was absolutely devastating that the fire happened, I remember seeing it all over the news. It was heartbreaking and tragic. However, I love how they acknowledged it for the brave people who fought in it, the innocent lives lost, and the restoration. It displays the beauty in standing together after tragedy and rebuilding together. It really made me pause and just take in everything around me.
Once we made our way to the entrance of the Tree Canopy Walk, I found my heart racing.
What was I about to get myself into?
Keep in mind this is the Longest treetop skybridge in North America!
It’s almost 900′ long, and 40′-60′ above the forest. There’s 15 connected sky bridges suspended in the trees. There’s observation platforms and interpretative signage throughout. The only hard part…try not to look down!!!
With each step my heart was racing, as my kids bravely pushed forward looking down searching for bears! I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it! I have road countless roller coasters. But I have never in my life experienced something so thrilling, yet so beautiful like this!
It was so surreal being up so high with nothing but the forest floor beneath me. Ahead I could see more bridges, and with each step I found myself trying not to look down. Yet part of me was almost compelled to look! I was drawn into the deepest parts of nature, parts I’ve never seen before from the height of a bird! I could barely hear my kids squealing with excitement, over the sound of my beating heart.
At the end I finally caught my breath and something came over me. I felt empowered! I felt strong, brave even! I did something I have never done before and I looked at my kids who were jumping with joy and no amount of photos or videos can capture how glorious it all was!
There’s something about Anakeesta that I loved the most.
It was the fact you are completely immersed in nature and all its beauty.
I had no desire at all to scroll through social media. Sure I had my phone out taking photos and videos. But other than that I didn’t even think of social media. I was completely one with nature. The trails, the smells, the sounds, the mountains, the scenery, every bit of it!
Once arriving to the chondolas we waited to load onto the red enclosed one. Maybe next time I will be brave enough to ride the open one.
The ride down was about 20 minutes, and it was the most serene feeling taking in all the scenery. Since riding the chondala + experiencing the new Ridge Rambler I will say that the Ridge Rambler is my absolute favorite. But both are something you have to really experience to decide for yourselves.
The whole trip is still vividly etched in my mind, and I am already planning to go back in the fall. Anakeesta literally has something for everyone. From the play areas, to the zip lining, and thrilling skybridge there is something the entire family can do.
It would even make a great date night adventure, or just something to come and do to unplug from the hustle and bustle of life. There’s seating sprinkled throughout showcasing the beautiful view of the mountains, which gives you a moment to just sit and relax. There’s just so much to see and do. It really is like a whole new world here. If you are thinking of planning a trip here’s the pricing info. I think it’s very reasonably priced and a trip you have definitely got to experience or add to your bucket list!
And after watching the video I had so much fun putting together, I’ve got to know…would you look down from the skybridge?
Thank you Anakeesta for hosting us! The beautiful memories will be cherished forever!