360-degree views of the Smokies like you've never seen before.

By Perri Ormont Blumberg
January 10, 2020
Anakeesta

Planning a Smoky Mountains getaway? In addition to the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park and Dollywood, you'll want to make sure Anakeesta, the outdoor adventure hub, is also on your must-visit list.

This year the theme park will welcome the arrival of a new observation tower, slated to become the tallest point in downtown Gatlinburg. “Our iconic tower will be the crowning element on top of Anakeesta mountain,” Anakeesta co-founder and co-owner Bob Bentz, who also designed the tower, said in a company press release. “Visitors travel from all over the world to enjoy the beauty of the Smoky Mountains and now they will be able to experience 360-degree panoramic views right in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg.”

Bentz, who is also a landscape architect and former park ranger, spent his summers growing up in Gatlinburg and put much thought into the tower's design. A spokesperson for the theme park told Southern Living that Bentz's vision for the observation tower is to blend in with the natural surroundings of the garden. "The tower’s shape actually is designed to emulate a flower—and the feeling of growth and movement of the flowers and trees that surround it in the Vista Gardens installed last year,"the spokesperson relayed. "It will be a bit of a challenge to bring up the wooden beams being constructed in Kentucky to the top of Anakeesta. But [Bentz], along with his wife and son, are determined to use laminated wooden beams for the aesthetics, and because they are stronger than steel but one-tenth the weight of steel and one-sixth the weight of concrete," they continued. We're excited to see the finished product and soak up these sweeping mountain views for ourselves.

This addition to the theme park, which first opened in September 2017, comes as part of a $6 million expansion project. These updates will include an outdoor play area with a cascading waterfall and wading streams and new restaurants—including a Smokehouse and Brewery restaurant focusing on Southern barbecue. “This restaurant is truly unique. Where else can you dine and enjoy the sun setting over the Smoky Mountains or watch the clouds roll in through the valley below?” Bentz said of the new eatery in the same media statement. “Every seat from the Smokehouse restaurant will offer views of Mt. LeConte, the highest mountain peak that is completely within Tennessee.” We're hungry for sprawling vistas and tasty grub already.

WATCH: Gatlinburg Is Getting Its Very Own Treehouse Resort Next Year

What's your favorite Smoky Mountains attraction? Do you love the bustle of mountain towns like Gatlinburg or do you prefer to spend your quality time hiking, biking, or simply hanging in the great outdoors?

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