With the opening of its new AnaVista Tower, now the highest point in downtown Gatlinburg, Anakeesta is literally taking guests in the Smoky Mountains to new heights.

During a Grand Opening Ceremony on Wednesday, July 8, special guests and tourism leaders had the chance to experience the breathtaking beauty from the top of the new observation tower and recognize the impact of Anakeesta’s $32 million mountaintop investment that opened less than three years ago.

“The sweeping panoramic views – especially from the top of AnaVista Tower – are even more beautiful than I had imagined,” Tennessee Commissioner of Tourist Development Mark Ezell shared during a Grand Opening celebration on Wednesday. “With these magnificent views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – the most visited national park in the country – this iconic observation tower is a must-see for anyone who lives in or visits Tennessee. Anakeesta truly is the perfect outdoor family theme park for an authentic mountaintop experience.”

Offering 360-degree views of the Smokies and the only one of its kind in the world, AnaVista Tower offers a unique view of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and surrounding states. The tower which has multiple look-out levels was also built with a Compass Rose in mind. Its eight beams, each stronger than steel, signify the points on a compass. Compass points at the base and top of AnaVista Tower help orient guests, with signage designed for each direction, identifying about 50 of the highest peaks plus dozens of landmarks that you will see from the top.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash spoke during the event, pointing out the Mount LeConte mountain range to the South, the highest peaks located completely inside the state of Tennessee.

“What sets Anakeesta apart – what makes this entire outdoor adventure park truly unique – is its focus on what you see, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” Superintendent Cash shared. “From Page 2 of 2 AnaVista Tower to its ziplines, treehouses, and tree canopy walk, Anakeesta keeps creating ways for all of us to enjoy and experience these incredible mountains together. In many ways, Anakeesta shares this scenic vision with our National Park. It’s clear Anakeesta treasures the Great Smoky Mountains and basks in their glory, and they are also wonderful community partners.”

Co-Founder and Managing Partner Bob Bentz, a landscape architect and former Park Ranger himself, designed AnaVista tower to resemble a flower.

“Perched here on the summit of Anakeesta mountain, it’s certainly the largest flower in AnaVista Gardens,” Bentz explained. “This fall, we will also add a light show to the tower at night. It’s my hope that everyone who visits Gatlinburg can experience the magic and the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains in an authentic way, outdoors from the peak of Anakeesta’s mountaintop with views in every direction that are easy to reach at the top of AnaVista Tower.”

As part of its $6.5 million expansion, Anakeesta is also adding a water play area designed to resemble a Tennessee mountain creek, a new stage for live music, mountaintop firepit with a walk-up bar for beer including local craft brews, and walk-up windows for pizza and frozen yogurt. In addition to the shopping and open-air dining already available, Anakeesta is will double its dining capacity with a new Smokehouse Barbeque and Brewery. It will be the only place to see the Great Smoky Mountains and Mt. LeConte while enjoying full-service dining in Gatlinburg.