Anakeesta in Gatlinburg is one of the area’s most popular attractions – and for very good reasons! The mountaintop village in downtown Gatlinburg, TN has so many things to do, places to eat, and places to play., including the crown jewel – the AnaVista tower – Gatlinburg’s highest point.
Flying High at Anakeesta
If you happen to look at Anakeesta, the gorgeous mountaintop village in downtown Gatlinburg, from one of the overlooks coming into the town, you cannot miss the AnaVista Tower. It stands as the highest point in Gatlinburg and offers guests 360 views of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Blue Ridge Mountains, and downtown Gatlinburg. I was totally blown away when I got up there. The views are just incredible.
Designed by one of the founders of Anakeesta, Bob Bentz, it is meant to resemble the Lily flower opening its petals to the sun.
The tower stands 50 feet high and has helpful plaques on every side about what you’re looking at, from Clingman’s Dome to Stone Mountain to Pigeon Forge. You can see for miles. There are also chairs set up on every level if you need to take a break on the way up to the top. It’s the highest point in Gatlinburg and is part of Anakeesta’s $6.5 million expansion plans.
Places to stay in Anakeesta
Use the map below to discover great places to stay in Anakeesta for your family.
The map below uses links from Stay 22. Kidding Around earns when you book through these links, through an affiliate relationship with Stay 22.
Surrounded by gardens
The tower is in the middle of the stunning gardens atop the mountain, artfully strewn with lilies, colorful little flowers, roses, lilac, and all kinds of other beauties that I love but have no idea what they are called. The views from the garden are amazing. You get up there and look out over the Great Smoky Mountains and just want to take it all in, to breathe freely, and to never leave. It’s peaceful and serene. The founders of Anakeesta are both landscape architects and it shows.
By the way, Anakeesta is only six years old. Millions of people have made their way up to the mountain and already the mountaintop adventure park has earned an impressive number of travel awards.
You can read my full review of Anakeesta and all their attractions including the mountain coaster, the zip lines, the restaurants, and the treetop walk here.
The AnaVista Tower isn’t the only recent addition gracing the top of the mountain. The TreeVenture adventure course was recently unveiled. It easily fits into the landscape of the mountain with natural wood, nets, and fun obstacles for both kids and adults.
That’s right, adults can have just as much fun as the kids! I tried it out and definitely enjoyed the swinging bridges and wobbly structures and huge slide. TreeVenture is creatively designed so it’s a challenge for everyone but also lots of fun.
There are three levels of play on the course, six netted bridges, three treehouses, plus a slide. There’s no extra cost for all this fun!
In the last couple years, Anakeesta has just kept expanding. They have added an outdoor splash pad for the summer, new restaurants in the Firefly Village, and the wildly popular Astra Lumina, which is a night walk that makes it seem like you’re walking among stars. We have not done this yet but we do know that it has gotten rave reviews.
Admission is good for all day access and unlimited Chondala or Ridge Rambler rides up and down the mountain. Also included in the admission ticket is the AnaVista Tower, TreeVenture, Treetop Skywalk, Treehouse Village Adventure, Overlook Event Area, Vista Gardens Walk, Memorial Forest Walk with interpretive signs, shopping and dining opportunities at Firefly Village, and the most stunning scenic views in all of Gatlinburg.
Be sure to check out their seasonal events as they have a ton going on every season and you don’t want to miss anything when you go.
An adult ticket is $33.99 and children ages 4-11 are $21.99. Kids three and under are free.
The all-day access I think is one of the best perks of admission to Anakeesta. We stayed at the beautiful Greystone Lodge, right across the street from Anakeesta, maybe a five minute walk, and the ability to head down the mountain and take a break there and then come back in the evening is a great way to spend the day. The Greystone has a fun pool, perfect for kids and a nice way to relax for parents.
Anakeesta also offers seasonal passes, which are good for an entire year from the date of purchase. This is a great option for families if they know they are coming to Gatlinburg at least twice a year and want to make Anakeesta a part of their visit.
Season passes are $69.99 for adults and $57.99 for kids plus you get extra perks like unlimited access to the Chondola express lane, an extra guest pass, and discounts on food and beverage and entertainment.
It’s hard to miss the bright pink Jeeps around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, guests clearly loving the experience seeing all the Smoky Mountains have to offer. We sent Kidding Around contributor Kristina to the Smokies to check out the Smoky Mountain PINK® Jeep® tours and try the off-roading experience. Here’s why it should go on your itinerary the next time you’re in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge.
Looking for a fun place to stay in the Gatlinburg area for your family, a girls’ trip, or even a romantic getaway? Kristina took her kids to Camp LeConte Luxury Outdoor Resort and tells us all about it and why it’s sure to be a destination choice for your next vacation to the Smokies. A complimentary stay was given to us for this review.
If you like the outdoors and would love to stay overnight in the woods but camping just isn’t up your alley, maybe you have heard of “glamping” – it’s where you get the experience of camping but without having to set up a tent, sleep on the ground, and deal with no air conditioning.
I’ve done all kinds of awesome glamping, as well as regular camping, and if I have the choice, it’s going to be one of comfort! And I stayed at an unforgettable glamping resort in Gatlinburg that may just seal the deal on your family’s next trip.
Glamping at Camp LeConte Luxury Outdoor Resort
Staying in a European Safari Tent
Camp LeConte Luxury Outdoor Resort is only two-and-a-half hours from Greenville yet feels a world away. It’s a luxury camping resort that has safari tents, campers, and treehouses for rent plus spaces for RVs and regular tents. I had seen signs for the resort on my previous trips to the Smoky Mountains and was intrigued, so when I had the opportunity to stay in a safari tent there, you bet I took it.
Our safari tent, which was imported from Europe, was basically a huge tent with walls of strong fabric stretched over wooden poles. It had two areas, one for sleeping, and a deck for sitting and eating. The back sleeping part was closed off with a zippered door and you could also close off a second part with a counter and storage area, leaving the deck open. We did that just for privacy and saw most of the other occupied safari tents doing the same.
While there are no lions or tigers outside this safari tent, there may be bears, so you need to be sure to store your food sealed in your car or in a bear-proof canister. No bears showed up for our stay though (I really wanted to see one – maybe next time).
There is also an outdoor charcoal ring with a grill top for use plus a table and chairs and a wooden chair swing. Fire pits with chairs are nearby as well as potable water spouts.
Comfortable Beds and AC
The most uncomfortable part of regular camping for me is the hard ground and lack of air conditioning. It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep when you’re sweating on top of a thin mat. That’s no issue at Camp LeConte. Our tent had a large, comfortable bed with a set of bunk beds and an air conditioning unit. It was super clean and the tent even had windows (you could roll them closed at night for privacy) and a closet to store your bags. There’s also electricity so charging your phone is no problem.
It was very comfortable and my kids loved the outdoor swing and deck.
Amenities & Location
One thing I’ve learned about taking kids on vacation is that a pool on location is key. Camp LeConte has a small heated pool, perfect for lounging after a long day of hiking and where the kids somehow still have the energy to go for a swim.
The resort also has a playground, ping pong, and laundry on-site if you need it. The bathhouse is within walking distance of the tents and campers and was very clean. Towels, linens, and shampoo/conditioner/soap are all provided.
There’s a general store also so if you forgot anything essential, you should be able to get it. They also sell firewood and ice, which is convenient.
Check-in was a breeze. A welcome packet is placed outside the bathrooms and laundry area and you just grab it and go to your tent, treehouse, or camper.
Camp LeConte is located only 4 miles from downtown Gatlinburg and about 25 minutes to Pigeon Forge. The trolley stops right outside the resort so you can easily make use of that service if you don’t want to drive and park in town. There is a grocery store right down the street from the resort as well as nearby restaurants, gas stations, and a CVS. The entrance to the Smoky Mountains is maybe 10 minutes away without traffic.
I loved that the resort was close enough to Gatlinburg to be convenient but far enough to be away from the noise and traffic. The resort was pretty full when we went but it was quiet and peaceful and best of all, restful.
The resort is open from March through December.
Family, Friends, or Couple Options
Camp LeConte caters to everyone and I love the variety of options they have. Our safari tent easily slept a family of four but they have others that are better suited for couples or even a girls weekend. Safari tents sleep two, four, or six people and range in price from $186-$233 a night. There was a group of four girlfriends next to us who looked like they were having an awesome time!
If you have always wanted to stay in a luxury tree house, this is the place. I’m totally eyeing one for my next trip, they look amazing. There are three of them at the resort and perched in the trees (obviously). They start at $210 a night. There are also two 1960s retro campers at the resort that look adorable. They are $151 a night.
If you plan to bring an RV, they offer full hook up with water, sewer, cable tv hookups, and free wifi.
One important item to note is that pets are not allowed in the safari tents, the campers, or the luxury treehouses. Pets are allowed if you reserve one of the RV sites.
Here’s a video tour of our safari tent:
Make Some Memories in the Gatlinburg Area
All of these options at Camp LeConte are just perfect for that getaway you’ve been wanting to take but maybe aren’t sure where to go or what to do. We have a huge guide to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge if you’re looking for options on things to do in the area. This is by far personally one of my favorite places to take my kids because of all the unique things to do and the endless adventures to have at the National Park.
My kids were sad to leave Camp LeConte – they loved the bunk beds and the whole experience of glamping plus the pool was endless entertainment. We explored Gatlinburg and the park during our trip, heading to Cades Cove, Clingmans Dome, and the SkyBridge. It was nice to know we had a quiet, comfortable place to come back to each night after our adventures!
If you have visited Gatlinburg, Tennessee, you have probably walked by with curiosity about what may be inside the Ripley’s Moving Theater. Reviews of this 5D theater, including our own mom review, find that the ride is a great experience for big kids and tweens looking to have fun while exploring downtown Gatlinburg.
What is the Ripley’s Moving Theater anyway?
Ripley’s 5D Moving Theater is exactly what you think it is – one of those moving roller coaster-esque experiences where you are seated in one chair the entire time, but through the magic of 3D and moving chairs and giant screens, you feel exactly as if you have been on a roller coaster or a jet plane or a parachute or a log flume or a helicopter or a sinking ship or all of the above.
Find a place to stay in Gatlinburg, TN. This article contains Stay22 affiliate links.
Our Ripley’s attendee was rather enthusiastic and very kind and quite chatty as we prepped ourselves for the “ride”. For my kids, this was their first moving theatre experience to their recollection. (Seems to me I have vague memories of riding one at some museum with them, but as not one of them said they could remember that and my memory is rather hazy on it, we’re calling it the first.) The theatre was small, but more than adequate for a large number of guests. During our ride, there was only our family and two other couples.
London and Mosely decided rapidly and emphatically that they were not interested in the seats that moved a lot and anxiously sat together in the first row – a row of seats that were completely stationary. Provided for those guests who were pregnant, suffering from heart conditions, suffering from back pain, prone to motion sickness, or otherwise unable to actually enjoy the experience for which they had just forked over some cash.
I knew the girls would be missing the real gist of the ride, but I wasn’t willing to force the motion on them if they truly were not interested. They still both received their 3D glasses and they seemed content with their choice.
What Happens During the Ride?
During our ride – where we faced landslides and avalanches and swept through both the jungle and the tundra, also the Arctic and the ocean (we were really time and space traveling) – we were jolted and raised and shaken in our seats. The kids (the ones in moving seats with me) laughed and sighed and screamed at all the appropriate places. I felt a lot like I was just in a car accident and suffering through some serious whiplash, but I wanted to be a team player and not an old person prone to motion sickness (which is what I actually am, in fact) so I endured the shifting and the shaking and the jolting and the jarring. I endured. They enjoyed. (That seems par for the parenting course sometimes, does it not?)
We never did count all the “Ds” but there was the movement of the chairs of course and the 3D glasses and screen and another was also water that sprayed on us as we went down the waterfall and snow that fell from the “sky” as we hung out with the penguins.
London and Mosely, as one might expect, did not report their enjoyment levels to be as high as say, Otto and Piper, and Bergen did. However, Mosely also did not suffer from an upset stomach, to which she is prone, so – that’s a win.
It was fun to see the younger kids, especially Otto and Piper, really get a kick out of the moving seats and the snow coming down (I actually really liked the snow effect too). I can’t say the movies are high quality – they are definitely more about falling coasters and moving fast than any semblance of a plot or characters. But – hey, that’s not why we were there. We were there for 3D glasses, falling snow inside a building, and jumping off virtual waterfalls in a virtual boat!
Planning a trip in the Smoky Mountains this summer? Kidding Around’s Kristina Hernandez spent a few summer days in the Smoky Mountains. While she was there she visited Townsend Wye. This swimming hole is FREE and perfect for families. You’ll want to add this one to your vacation things to do if you’re headed up to the Smoky Mountains!
Have you visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? The park straddles Tennessee and North Carolina, and is one of the most visited national parks in the entire nation. And the best part? It’s less than three hours from Greenville.
You can walk across the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the country in Gatlinburg, just a few hours away from Greenville. We sent Kristina to do it because she won the coin toss. Here’s what you need to know if you want to go. Media tickets were given so we could review this incredible experience.
I think my mouth may have hung open the first time I saw a video of the SkyBridge in Gatlinburg when it was completed in May of 2019. It was gorgeous. And so, so high up in the air. I knew I had to go, no matter how scary getting up there may be. Sometimes you need to take those risks, right?
The SkyBridge is part of Gatlinburg SkyLift Park, which was founded in 1954, way before the town became the destination it is today. The park is the longest running attraction in Gatlinburg, which borders the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The national park is the most visited in the entire country. Last year, more than 12 million people stepped foot in the Smokies.
But the views are still the same as they were in the late 1950s – sweeping and majestic and unforgettable. You have to take a gondola up to the SkyLift Park, five hundred vertical feet to be exact. Just don’t look backwards and you’ll be fine.
The SkyBridge was completed in May of 2019 and holds the record of being the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. It’s 680 feet in length and sways 150 feet off the ground. There are glass panels in the middle of the bridge, which honestly I didn’t even think about until I had to walk across 30 feet of it. You look straight down. It’s terrifying but also awesome.
The people who run the SkyBridge social media pages are geniuses. You may have seen the videos of the bridge all lit up in Christmas lights around December or when snow was falling in the mountains or when the leaves were bright reds and oranges in the fall. They do such an amazing job of bringing viewers onto the bridge who have never been yet still entice them to go. At least that was my opinion and one of the reasons why I really, really wanted to walk the SkyBridge.
If you’re wondering if you can feel the bridge sway, the answer is yes. If you’re wondering if it’s worth the five hundred feet vertical ride in the yellow gondola with nothing but a bar separating you from a long drop, then yes, it’s worth it. The views going up and down the mountain are incredible. You can see all of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains. We got lucky and the clouds were moving between the peaks of the mountains, creating a surreal view. I could never get tired of that view.
This is such a unique attraction that is just amazing and I certainly recommend it when you visit Gatlinburg. And don’t you want bragging rights for walking the longest pedestrian bridge in North America? I did.
Walk the SkyTrail
New for 2021 is the gorgeous SkyTrail, a trail that lines the ridge around the mountain. Part of it is a boardwalk and the other part is natural dirt. The views are just spectacular and you can go across the mountain without actually walking the bridge. Just don’t run into a bear! It’s a great opportunity to build you the courage to talk the 700 foot walk across the swinging bridge.
I had no idea that the wildfires of 2016 totally destroyed Crockett Mountain, where the Sky Park is located. There are plaques around the trail that talk about the devastating fires and what happened in the rebuilding process plus how the SkyBridge was engineered. If you’re a homeschooling family, this totally counts as an awesome field trip.
The trail is brand new and is an entirely unique experience. There are no hills (I mean, you’re already at the top of the mountain) so it’s an easy walk. Most of the trail is only open during the daytime hours for now.
Climb the Tulip Tower
Also new in 2021 is the steel Tulip Tower rising 70 feet in the back of the ravine behind the SkyBridge. It has four floors and is accessed by two rope bridges.
The tower has educational plaques inside the middle of each floor that talk about the wildfires, local wildlife and native plants and trees. The tower is so named because the Tulip Tree was one of the last remaining trees when the wildfire swept through the mountain and wiped out the park. So the tower is named for the resilience of the tree and all those people who rebuilt the park and those who lost their homes (five SkyLift Park employees lost their homes because of the fire).
Again, the views are unreal. I legitimately took 100 photos of the bridge from all along the SkyTrail and the Tulip Tower. The tower is open for daytime use.
Relax, Eat, and Drink at the Sky Deck
What makes a great view even better? Food and drink! The gift shop at the park is awesome. It has all kinds of cool bridge-related items plus the warmest winter hats I think I’ve ever felt. They also have a basic menu of pizza, pretzels, and snacks plus coffee.
Head upstairs and grab a craft beer and an outside table and take a deep breath while you gaze at the scenery. It’s breath-taking. These views are incredibly unique. If you’re going to Smokies, why not see the sweeping views they offer right there at the park? Just do it.
There are rocking chairs and tables outside on the deck also. We saw plenty of people just rocking away their worries up there. I would have swiped one to do the same but they were all full.
Tickets to the SkyLift Park, which include access to the Gatlinburg SkyBridge, SkyTrail, Tulip Tower, and Sky Deck are $29.95/ages 12-64, $18.95/ages 4-11, $23.95/seniors, and kids 3 and under are free.
Your ticket is good for unlimited visits for the same day so if you wanted to get up there in the morning, take a walk across the bridge, climb the Tulip Tower and then come back for sunset, you’re welcome to do that. If you purchase your ticket after 8 pm, you get to come back for free the next day.
The SkyBridge opens at 9 am and closes at 10:30 pm during the summer and 9 pm other times of the year. We were planning to head back up there during sunset but my kids were tired from a long day of fun. But I Imagine those views would be spectacular during dusk and for the seasonal lights that adorn the bridge. They are open all year round, seven days a week except for Christmas Day and Maintenance Week (January 17-21). See full hours here.
I recommend parking at the garage next to Ripley’s Aquarium, which is about a five minute walk to the SkyLift Park. It costs $10 all day as of November 2021.
Follow the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park on Facebook and Instagram for beautiful photos and videos, which will probably entice you to go there on your next visit!
Anakeesta sits atop a mountain overlooking Gatlinburg and we sent contributor Kristina and her kids to explore the village and learn why people just love this magical place right outside the Great Smoky Mountains.
Media tickets were given for this review but opinions are solely those of the author.
Planning to travel to Gatliburg with the family? It’s hard to find a perfect hotel that has is family-friendly, clean, within a budget, and ideally located. Enter the Greystone Lodge in Gatlinburg. We sent Kristina and her family there to see what the hotel is all about and why families love it.
Kristina’s stay was part of a media trip and included complimentary nights to the hotel but all opinions are her own.
They are top-notch resorts that have plenty of entertainment for both families and couples who want to relax and have fun. They also take great pride in providing excellent dining, spa amenities, and family-friendly activities and events to guests.
You Don’t Have to Leave the Resort to Have Fun
We were thrilled to stay at the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort in Gatlinburg, just outside of the main drag and less than ten minutes from both Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. But really, if you wanted to just drive there, park your car, and enjoy the resort amenities without ever getting back in your car until it was time to go home, you could absolutely do that.
The resort has enough things to do to keep your entire family entertained easily for a weekend or more without ever leaving the property.
The Westgate Smokies is enormous and if you don’t have a room on the base level where the indoor waterpark and restaurant is located, you’ll be up the mountain with amazing views of downtown Gatlinburg and the majestic Smokies right outside your doorstep.
And the views are just breathtaking. The resort looks over to Anakeesta, the mountaintop village that we’ve often written about and just love, which is framed by Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the park, and Mt. LeConte, which is nearly as high.
We could even see the snow-covered peak of Clingmans Dome! The clouds roll in and out of the mountains, creating those postcard-perfect photos that you can’t even believe exist in real life.
Shuttles & a Trolley are Available
Because the resort is so large, they have constant shuttles running to get you where you want to go and will even pick you up if you start walking back and forth to your room. The staff is very friendly and eager to please.
If you feel the need to leave the resort, you can jump on the Gatlinburg trolley, which has a stop right at the resort entrance. That will take you into town for a minimal fee.
How much does it cost to book a room?
The Westgate Smokies offers studio rooms up to five bedroom villas. Prices vary according to room type and season. As of this writing, a studio in January ran about $105/night and a one-bedroom was $130/night. In April, those same rooms are currently going for $185 and $200, respectively. July and October are typically the busiest and more costly seasons.
If you’re looking to visit, be sure to go to the Gatlinburg hotel deals, as they actually have more than one resort in the area.
Wild Bear Falls Water Park
Please note: The Wild Bear Falls Water Park will be closed for maintenance January 17, 2022 – February 10, 2022.
For families, the main draw of the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort is the indoor waterpark, Wild Bear Falls Water Park. I kept this part a secret from my kids when we went, only telling them to bring their swimsuits. It was worth it to see their utter amazement when we walked in. They were speechless, which, for kids, is quite incredible.
The waterpark is huge, more than 60,000 square feet, and is nice and warm. It looks like a giant greenhouse with a big glass ceiling and glass walls. Parents or caregivers need to be in the water with their kids so be prepared to join in on the fun.
Zero-Entry Pool and Playground
There is a zero-entry pool area with two slides that is perfect for smaller children. There is a big playground in the middle of the waterpark that pours gallons and gallons of water on kids as they slip down wet slides and play in the foot-deep pool.
Pool with Basketball Hoops Right Next to a Hot Tub
A bigger pool for older kids has basketball hoops in the center and is the deepest at four-and-a-half feet. Next to that pool is a deliciously steamy hot tub. Adults seemed to gravitate over there.
My kids loved the lazy river, which was only two-and-a-half feet deep and warm. You cruised around the park in a tube and could get out to go on one of two water slides.
Guests need to be 48 inches tall to ride the water slides. Tubes are needed for the red water slide, which is half open to the ceiling until the very end when you go through a short tunnel.
The yellow one is body-only and is totally enclosed. I preferred the red one best and my oldest went on it several times by herself.
There’s also a very warm hot tub near the water slides that opens to the outdoors, which feels really nice in the cool air.
Locker rooms are on-site with showers and there are plenty of towels available for guests to use free of charge. Paid lockers are available if you want to store your backpack with your phone or other valuables.
How Crowded was Wild Bear Falls Waterpark?
We went to the waterpark both on a weekday and weekend. It was more crowded on the weekend than on the weekday but still had plenty of space to not feel like people were close to you.
Are masks required?
All the lifeguards and employees were wearing masks and masks were required for guests everywhere but the actual waterpark area.
How much does it cost?
The waterpark is open daily 11 am – 7 pm and rates are $24.96/single day admission, $53.85/two-day admission, and $84.75/three day admission. Children three and under are free.
Are day passes available?
Even if you’re not staying at the resort, you can go and enjoy the waterpark as they offer day passes.
What is there to do at the Westgate Smokies Resort?
We (myself and two kids, ages 9 and 6) stayed at the Westgate Smokies for three nights and nearly four days and didn’t get to do half of the things the resort offers just because we ran out of time. They have that many things to do.
Outdoor Pools with Views
There are two outdoor pools, including an infinity pool at the top of the mountain. I saw that on the map and decided to check it out and am so happy we did because it was amazing. The view up there was insane and the infinity pool was perfect and warm. There’s a hot tub there as well.
Towels are provided and during the warmer months, they have a bar. It’s completely picturesque.
Right below the infinity pool is an inviting firepit that overlooks the mountains. It was quite the place to get warm after our dip in the water and I could have looked at those mountains forever.
Playground, Mini-Golf and a Zip-Line
A playground for kids is halfway up the mountain and right near one of the shuttle stops so you can stop there and play or just play while you wait for your ride. There is a mini-golf course and a zip line next to the infinity pool. Guests need to weigh at least 75 pounds for the zip line, which my youngest didn’t quite reach so we had to skip that one. Next time!
Fitness Center, Snack Bar, and Activities
A fitness center overlooks the waterpark and a snack bar also is at the same location as the waterpark. The resort also has a huge list of activities for families and their kids like archery, ornament making, survival courses, guided hikes, ghost tours, and free movie nights. Again, we just ran out of time to do any of these because we were so busy having fun doing other things there.
If I had my husband with us on this trip, I would have taken advantage of a spa treatment because how amazing does that sound, right? They have everything from massages to luxury pedicures to hot stone treatments.
Washer and Dryer
Every floor also has a free washer and dryer, which we definitely used. It was especially convenient to dry our swimsuits after going to the waterpark and pool.
Kitchens and Kitchenettes
The rooms at the resort are spacious and some of them have kitchens or kitchenettes. Whenever we travel, I always look for this feature because it saves us so much money when it comes to not having to eat out at every meal if we can make some of our food at the hotel.
Yet you may not want to cook when you try the restaurant on-site, Southern Comfort.
Southern Comfort Restaurant
Southern Comfort is a brand new restaurant at the Westgate Smokies that serves southern cuisine with a lowcountry, Cajun twist. We sampled several dishes at the restaurant and each was better than the last.
The chef at Southern Comfort used to work at the Biltmore and her food was incredible. It was flavorful with just the right amount of spice that even my kids, who aren’t into anything with spicy flavors, enjoyed it.
One of their favorite dishes was the Nashville hot chicken and biscuit that we had for breakfast one morning. I was shocked. It was like their little palettes were changing right before my eyes.
This is how I can best describe every dish we had: it was so obviously made with love. You could taste it. I don’t mean that mushy romantic love. This was a love of food, of ingredients, and a kind of pride in the dish that the chef was serving to guests.
We had everything from Egg Nog French Toast (as good as it sounds), Blackened Catfish, Pulled Pork with Sweet Potato Cakes, Southern Fried Chicken, Deviled Eggs with Spicy Pickle, Fried Green Tomatoes, Mac & Cheese, and my favorite, a Cajun Gumbo.
The kids’ meals are also tasty. My oldest daughter got a cheeseburger and fries one night and I kept stealing her curly fries when she wasn’t looking. They were perfectly crispy and salty and hot.
On our first night there, the general manager Crystal, told us about their s’mores dessert that has marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate, and peanut butter cups. I had to get that the last night we were there and it didn’t disappoint. We managed not to burn the place down, which was a success.
The entire staff was so kind and helpful. They not only talked to us about the recent opening of the restaurant but also gave us some tips on places to explore in the area.
And the decor of the restaurant keeps with the whole cozy cabin theme of the resort with high ceilings, a log cabin feeling indoors with a large fireplace, and candlelit tables.
All staff wear masks and guests are required to unless they are eating or drinking. Adults are also required to do a temperature check before entering which is contactless on a neat screen (I was a tad bit fascinated with this technology).
Make a Reservation
Southern Comfort is open to both guests and the general public but definitely make a reservation if you want to enjoy a meal there. Weekends can have a long wait. Word is getting out just how delicious this place is.
There is parking on site.
Marketplace & Starbucks
Lastly, there is a marketplace and Starbucks at the resort, which is so convenient if you want to grab breakfast and coffee on the go if you’re heading to the National Park for a drive or hike. I definitely made use of those when we were there.
As already mentioned, masks are required anywhere indoors at the resort and on the shuttles. There are temperature checks for Southern Comfort and the marketplace and if you don’t have a mask, the staff will provide you one.
The resort has instituted the WestgateCARES program, which assures guests of the enhanced cleaning and sanitizing procedures the resort has taken to make sure touch points are frequently cleaned.
You can read more about the program at the link but in summary, the resort is taking COVID seriously and is making great efforts to keep their guests and staff as safe as possible.
Other Local Attractions in Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge
Kidding Around readers know how much we love Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Smokies as we have many stories on things to do in the area. Additionally, the Westgate Smokies has these 51 things to do in Gatlinburg, most of which are within a quick jaunt from the resort. Yet every time we go, we always discover something new.
Even after going to Anakeesta several times, we’ve never been during Christmastime, which was a special treat. Lights are strung so beautifully up on the mountain village and the new restaurant is now open (make reservations as the waits are long). We finally got to watch one of their outdoor movies for a bit, which my kids really enjoyed. Elf was playing and they had never seen it before and thought it was hilarious.
Ole Smoky Moonshine
I got to do a special moonshine tasting as well this trip at the state’s oldest distillery, Ole Smoky Moonshine, right in the heart of Gatlinburg. I’m not a big straight liquor drinker but it was a lot of fun learning about the history of the distillery and tasting their surprisingly delicious offerings. The White Lightening, the straight up moonshine, was quite the kicker.
The others were a lot less of a punch in your face and I loved the peanut butter chocolate one, which hardly tasted like liquor at all (could be dangerous, right?).
The distillery is America’s most visited and you can sample several moonshines for $5. The samples are thankfully tiny since the alcohol content is so high.
Their moonshine making process is open to the public and you can see how it’s made so if you happen to be homeschooling your kids, that’s a science lesson right there.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park
And of course, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is just minutes from the resort. I love this park for its beauty, its miles upon miles of trails, and its fascinating history. The Westgate sent us on a short hike to the Noah Oglesby cabin with a guide and it was so interesting.
The trailhead was just 15 minutes from the resort and we learned all kinds of history about the family with nine kids who lived there and farmed the area.
My kids soaked up all the information and loved learning about the environment and different things to look for on hikes like twin trees, quartz, and woodpecker restaurants, which looked like lines of holes circling trees.
Virtual Learning & Homeschooling at Westgate Smokies
For families who are homeschooling or doing virtual school, taking a trip to Westgate Smokies is ideal because there are plenty of opportunities to learn about different subjects while getting homework done online at the resort and then playing at the waterpark or enjoying other amenities offered.
It’s a nice change of scenery that could help give everyone a break while still making sure the work that needs to get done happens.
As of this writing, the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort is offering a Schoolcation package that includes a discounted rate plus up to a $100 resort credit when you book two nights. Other specials can be found here.
Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Water Park 915 Westgate Resorts Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 865.430.4800 Website Facebook