Anakeesta in Gatlinburg is about to get bigger

by Susan and Simon Veness

Gatlinburg’s mountaintop theme park, Anakeesta, begins a $34 million expansion that will add a new double coaster, an enchanted night walk, a European-themed village, and an extensive birdhouse-style play area for kids.

anakeesta european village
Photos and artist renderings courtesy of Anakeest

The expansion will take place in phases over the course of the next three years, starting with the November opening of Astra Lumina Enchanted Night Walk, an illuminated, immersive stroll through the Smokey Mountain Forest. Lighting, projections, and audio will help tell the story, connecting guests with the mystery of the stars through an experience created in partnership with multimedia entertainment studio, Moment Factory.

“Anakeesta’s continued investment into expanding its park will allow even more visitors the opportunity to experience the authentic wonder and beauty of the Gatlinburg area,” said Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner. “These planned developments at Anakeesta will continue to add to the many reasons visitors will have to choose Gatlinburg as their vacation destination.”

In Spring of 2023, the initial phase of the park’s new European-themed village will open, and will feature two new attractions.

The first to open will be BirdVenture, a children’s play area inspired by bird houses. Here, three larger-than-life birdhouses will inspire guests of all ages to imagine the lives of the Smokey Mountains’ birds, as will a dozen adventure zones and seven 50-foot serpentine slides that will wind their way down the mountainside.

anakeesta birdventure

During this phase, a mountain waterfall and cave system guests can explore will debut, surrounded by walking trails and lush gardens.

The second European village attraction will be Hellbender, a mountain coaster that twists and turns its way through the forest during a downhill, immersive ride punctuated by tunnels. The new attraction will have both a single-rail and double-rail coaster, each based on the Smoky Mountains’ native salamander.

The new village will include French-inspired Mimi’s Bakery and the park’s largest retail area. Additional shopping, dining, a brewery, event center, and entertainment stage will complete the park’s renovation.

“As Gatlinburg’s iconic destination, we’re excited to continue offering Tennessee visitors incomparable adventures that elevate the Smoky Mountain guest experience,” said Bob Bentz, founder and managing partner of Anakeesta. “This historic expansion will take our park to new heights, with unparalleled moments of magic and extraordinary mountain thrills that only Anakeesta and the Great Smoky Mountains can deliver.”

Mark Ezell, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, added, “These expansions at Anakeesta provide even more compelling reasons for vacationers to choose a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, our country’s most visited national park. The variety of authentic adventures offered in Tennessee is becoming even more elevated and unique with each of these new tourism mountain experiences.”

The expansion project is due for completion in 2024.

For more information visit Anakeesta.com.


Related Articles

1 comment

Candy Collins September 26, 2022 - 7:10 am

I love all of this except the name of the coaster…So much of the park is kid friendly but I can’t see the children saying that they want to ride Hellbender. It just doesn’t sound appropriate for an Anakeesta attraction. But, that’s just my opinion.


Leave a Comment

Email Newsletter Signup

Get the latest news direct to your inbox.
Simply submit your email address below.