Anakeesta is taking visitors' experience to new heights atop AnaVista Tower.
The structure is now open to the public, standing among the mountains at Anakeesta's peak and offering views from the highest point in downtown Gatlinburg.
The Gatlinburg Space Needle stands taller at 407 feet, but the location of the 60-foot AnaVista tower puts visitors 1,947 feet above sea level.
A celebration with a view
Confetti and rose petals floated through the air as co-founder Karen Bentz unveiled the AnaVista Tower at a grand opening ceremony Wednesday. The tower is the newest addition to the outdoor theme park, which is in the process of a $6.5 million expansion.
Mark Ezell, the state tourism commissioner, and employees from other Sevier County attractions stopped by the ceremony to show support.
AnaVista's height and design give visitors an unobstructed 360-degree view of the Smokies and surrounding states that can't be found anywhere else downtown.
AnaVista Gardens surrounds the structure and also is visible from above.
More than meets the eye
The tower acts as a compass, with each beam marking one of the eight cardinal and intercardinal directions. Signs are in place to help visitors identify more than 50 peaks and mountain ranges in Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina.
AnaVista Tower has plenty of space for visitors to relax and take in the beauty. Just climb to the top or rest in a rocking chair on the way up.
AnaVista's panoramic view of the Smokies is unlike any other, and details in the structure's design add to the experience.
Bob Bentz, co-founder of Anakeesta and the tower's designer, was inspired by the natural beauty of East Tennessee when planning AnaVista. He designed the tower's bowed beams to resemble a blooming flower.
Visitors can look down from the tower and see landscaped petals below.
"It's certainly the largest flower in AnaVista Gardens," Bentz told Knox News.
Anakeesta keeps growing
Like the flowers in AnaVista Gardens, the park around it continues to grow.
Anakeesta employees have been working all year on expansions to the park, including a tree house adventure course appropriately named TreeVenture and a full-service indoor restaurant.
The restaurant, Smokehouse Barbeque and Brewery, is scheduled to open this fall, according to Anakeesta's website.
The AnaVista observatory and surrounding areas will also receive some upgrades, said Bryce Bentz, Anakeesta's director of development.
Work will begin on retail spaces, a cafe and a pavilion below AnaVista Tower once the first phase of the park's expansion is complete. Climbing features and slides for children also will be added inside the tower.
Anakeesta has not announced a timeline for the next expansion phase.
What to know before visiting
Anakeesta has made some changes to slow the spread of the coronavirus and keep everyone safe.
Policies are available on Anakeesta's website, as well as a calendar of open dates and times. Hours are limited and vary by day.
Only 50 people are allowed in the tower at once. Social distancing reminders featuring Anakeesta's Sasquatch mascot can be found throughout the park, encouraging visitors to stay one Big Foot away from others — more specifically, 6 feet.
Visitors will be required to wear masks inside retail shops starting Friday to follow Sevier County's new mask mandate. Most of the park is outdoors where masks are suggested but not required.
Anakeesta's general admission costs $21.99 for visitors 12 to 59 years old. People 60 and older can get in for $17.99, while children 3 and younger get in free.
Tickets for children between the ages of 4 and 11 are $17.99.
Ziplining and the Rail Runner mountain coaster have additional costs. All tickets are available at anakeesta.com.
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This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Gatlinburg's new AnaVista tower has birds-eye view of Smoky Mountains