If you are planning to visit Anakeesta in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, you may be wondering what Astra Lumina is all about. We are sharing the deets on Astra Lumina Night Walk, and all things Anakeesta. You’ll enter with your plan to navigate Anakeesta, armed with the top things to do while visiting.
Gatlingburg is a fun mountain town in Tennessee, that oozes charm and adventure! From nearby Dollywood in Pigeon Forge to Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort, you can be as busy as you’d like with things to do. An experience you may have yet to consider is Anakeesta.
What is Anakeesta?
Glad you asked! Anakeesta is an award-winning theme park, an adventure destination within Downtown Gatlinburg. It sits at the highest point of the town. In fact, from its Anavista Observation Tower, you can see all of Gatlinburg in its glory! It is within Anakeesta, that you will find the celestial pathway that is Astra Lumina, the new nighttime series created by The Moment Factory.
The most common question we heard during our visit was, “What does Anakeesta mean?” We asked it ourselves. Anakeesta is a Cherokee word that means, “the place of high ground.”
How do you get to Anakeesta?
Assuming you know how to get to Gatlinburg, Anakeesta is at 576 Parkway, in the thick of bars, restaurants, and all of the nightlife in town. You can purchase a ticket prior to arriving and take the scenic Chondola ride. The Chondola is an enclosed gondola cabin that seats up to 6 people or an open-air 4-person chair skylift.
Both routes take you on a 600-foot scenic ride up the mountain to the top for your entry into Anakeesta. Anakeesta is literally, the highest ground in Gatlinburg.
Not thrilled with the sky route? Anakeesta offers a Ridge Rambler, which is an open-air passenger truck that will take you on the curvy route to the top. All of these options are included in your entry fee and can be used as many times as you’d like.
What are the top things to do in Anakeesta?
Buckle up. Literally, buckle up because this is going to be a fun adventure!
Anakeesta Astra Lumina
This is what you came for, right? Let’s dig into the night walk series that cannot be missed while you are in Gatlinburg.
If you’re looking for an experience unlike any other, then this is for you! Welcome to the Anakeesta’s Astra Lumina. This is a one-of-a-kind nighttime immersive adventure within the park of Anakeesta. The idea is that you can do far more than reach for the stars, the stars can be brought to you in the heart of the Smoky Mountains.
Going into this event, we weren’t sure what to expect, and what an experience it turned out to be! We were invited as VIP guests for the preview night on October 10, 2022, just one day before their official opening night. With our fancy media pass, we were able to experience Astra Lumina, as well as all of Anakeesta for one wonderful fulfilling day!
This nighttime walk was full of magical sights and sounds that should not be missed when traveling to Anakeesta. Astra Lumina is the first of the Lumina Enchanted Night Walks to be created in the United States, making it even more of a must-see!
But what is Astra Lumina, really?
Well, to try to sum it up, Astra Lumina is all about allowing us to experience astral phenomena. The observatory grounds at Anakeesta have been wonderfully transformed into mysterious pathways that lead us on a journey filled with energy from fallen stars. This energy opens a portal for us to learn about and see the process of stars regenerating and rising back into the sky!
Okay, since we’ve got a little background behind the meaning of Astra Lumina, you are probably wondering about what it looks like. Stunning, mystical, and one of the coolest nighttime experiences in the Smoky Mountains are just a few ways to describe this adventure.
This new attraction showcases hundreds of lights, and different projections, and even incorporates sound into the experience. There are eight different zones to walk through.
The Astra Lumina Zones
The walk starts with entering through the Astra Archway. This leads to discovering the Falling Stars. You then continue on to the Cosmic Choir and are serenaded by the sounds associated with the energy of the fallen stars. The Stardust Rays are up next and this is definitely a place to admire the connection we have to nature and the stars.
Travel next to the Stellar Visions. When I (Shannon) say that it felt like I was actually traveling through space, I mean it! The projections are full of color and are truly captivating. From here we visited the Celestial Trail and then the Astral Genesis before heading to the Rise Of The Stars where we watched the stars return to their rightful place in the sky.
Tons of Photo Ops
Now, of course, we couldn’t miss the designated photo opp at the end. Who can avoid a step-and-repeat? Seriously though, if you are looking for something out of the ordinary to do at night to experience the beauty of the Smoky Mountains in a whole new light either solo, with a loved one, or with family and friends, then Astra Lumina is one of the coolest things to do at Anakeesta that you should add to your list!
There are about a hundred photo ops to choose from, within the Anakeesta, but more specifically, Astra Lumina.
How much time should I plan to spend at Astra Lumina – Anakeesta?
The night walk of Astra Lumina is a mile long. You will definitely stop to take Instagrammable photos and videos. You will also find yourself just standing, observing the light show. So, it depends on the person, but we think you should plan 1.5 – 2 hours.
Dueling Zipline Adventure
Let’s move on to the most adventurous, the most exhilarating, the zipline. This zipline is not for the faint of heart. Whether or not you have been zip-lining in the past, this experience is like none other.
We were told, “there is a surprise on the zipline tour.” We were thinking, maybe we would see some bears, or some beautiful mountain landscape scenery, but spoiler alert, even if you see those things, they are not the surprise.
What is the ziplining surprise?
What is the surprise? Note- there is a spoiler alert for the zipline tour. If you don’t want to know, skip down to the next section. If you want to know, well, here it is.
There are two free-fall zones during the zipline tour. They should be called the “leap of faith” zones because stepping off of a platform, even while zip-lining, is terrifying, but stepping off of a platform into nothing, just to fall, is excruciatingly exciting, and horrific at the same time.
Let’s just say that I (Shannon) was so scared that I held our group up from moving on to the next area because I had to talk myself, and have Shay (our tour guide) talk me into it. I then had to have Shay check, re-check, and re-check all of my safety gear, again, and again, and again before I would do it.
Scary or Exhilarating?
What is so scary about it? Listen, your brain does not find it natural to jump into the abyss. I don’t care who you are. The safety lines catch, a pull of sorts, 1-2 seconds after you take the step off of the platform, but it is the scariest 1-2 seconds, ever!
Though we try to keep “scared” and “fear” out of our dialog, there is just no other way to describe it. Well, it is exhilarating. You’ll have to let us know how you describe it after you go on this Anakeesta Zip-line adventure!
The actual zip-lining experience
Now that we’re through the ‘surprise’ portion, let’s talk about the zip lining. It is a dual-line set-up, meaning, you go off of the platform with another person. If you come alone, one of the guides will zip-line with you.
The guides walk you through everything. Their humor is what kept us sane. Not only are they patient when the fear sets in, but they make you laugh, and try to set your mind at ease during the process.
Safety is paramount with these guys though. No doubt about it. While fun and humor are a common thread throughout the experience, being safe and following procedures are as well.
In total, there are three zip-lining areas, and two free-fall stops. The entire zip-lining tour is supposed to take about an hour and 45 minutes. Due to my delaying our group, yes, I own that, ours took a little over two hours. We tipped them well, so hopefully, that made up for it.
The treetop walk is gorgeous, especially in the fall. It is the longest tree-based skywalk in the US. Imagine a greenway trail, made of wood and ropes, overlooking the mountain region below. It is suspended 60 feet in the air with 880 feet of hanging bridge walkways, combined.
Bears can often be seen in this area, but you are above them, so no worries. It is a little heart-pounding at times because the trail is made of swinging bridges of sorts, but it is safe, secure, and totally worth the walk. The views alone are worth all of the nerves!
This is a swinging bridge, so you can most certainly feel the sway in the breeze or the jolt when someone runs across it, but it is safe for all to enjoy. The little platforms scattered throughout the bridge provide perfect opportunities to stop, catch your breath, take in the view, and then continue to the next one.
What about the food at Anakeesta?
Listen, you are in the middle of a delish food haven in the Smokies, all within the park. So, if you are wanting to spend the day, waiting for your night walk at Anakeesta Astra Lumina, your tummy will be taken care of!
Make your way to the Magical Firefly Village and you will have all of the options you need.
Our fave? The Tennessee Sidecar! It is a little food truck, yes, a food truck where you can get an authentic Tennessee Walking Taco. What is a walking taco? Well, it is genius, that is what it is! You choose a Frito bag or a Doritos bag. It is opened on the side and stuffed with your choice of taco toppers. Grab a fork and walk. Brilliant!
Be sure to grab a cocktail at The Bar at the Top of the World. Even if the temps are super cold, you still must go out on the overlook and take in the view. You cannot miss this!
Cliff Top Restaurant is the best sit-down option. There is something for everyone, and also has the most amazing views of the Smokies! Reservations are not necessary, but why don’t you make the perfect evening of getting ready for your Astra Lumina walk at Anakeesta, and make them anyway?
Know before you go
You may be wondering why you pay an admission fee if you have to pay for many of the things to do while in Anakeesta. Listen, like many theme parks (ahem, that big mouse one for example) requires payment to enter. There is plenty to do at that cost. Heck, if you wanted to ride up and down the skylift taking in the views, that would be worth the entry fee.
With that being said, you should know some of these things before going, so you can plan accordingly.
- The Dueling Zipline is not included in the general entry fee. It costs an additional $59.99 and is considered an “add-on” to general admission tickets.
- The Rail Runner Mountain Coaster is also an additional $14.99 add-on cost for a solo rider or $18.99 for tandem riders.
- Gem Mining begins at $8.00 for a bag of Mining Rough to sift through.
- Astra Lumina is also an add-on experience. The prices for Astra Lumina tickets start at $49.99 for adults but drop a few dollars if you are entering after 5 pm. You can find the pricing structure for tickets here.
- You can skip the lines with an Express Pass. The lines at Anakeesta can be very long, so buying tickets online ahead of time can save you from the hassle of waiting minutes or hours.
- Parking. Yikes! Don’t even think about it. Anakeesta does not have its own parking lot on the parkway, which means you will have to utilize public parking. There are also free park-and-ride services to help make travel a bit easier. Do yourself a favor, and use your feet to walk around Gatlinburg. You can also take advantage of the free trolley system in Gatlinburg. More info on the Gatlinburg Trolley is here.
Our overall take on Anakeesta and Astra Lumina
We hope you take advantage of all that Anakeesta offers while you are visiting Gatlinburg, especially Astra Lumina. It is truly a phenomenal experience, one that you will be talking about and thinking about for years to come! There is nothing like Anakeesta or Astra Lumina.
It is not free, however, annual pass holders receive 20% off Astra Lumina tickets.
Anakeesta (including the Anavista Tower) closes at 5 pm, so even if it is dark at that time, you may be able to see some lights from the top, but it is nothing compared to the experience.
Absolutely, yes! There is nothing like this. If you are in Gatlinburg, or near the area, we highly recommend you visit Anakeesta’s Astra Lumina. It’s an adventure worth experiencing!