It may seem odd to have a crime museum in Pigeon Forge named after the famous San Francisco island prison. But somehow, it works.
The architecture of the museum reportedly blends a mixture that represents both Tennessee’s first state prison in Nashville as well as the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary.
Originally, the museum operated as the National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, DC, but it closed in 2015 when its landlord terminated the lease, according to the museum’s website. Then, the museum re-opened in Pigeon Forge in 2016.
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How much does the crime museum in Pigeon Forge cost?
At the time of this writing, the tickets are:
- $28.95 for adults (13-60)
- $21.95 for seniors
- $14.95 for children (8-12)
- $19.95 for law and military
- $19.95 for Sevier County residents
Children 7 and under are free. Also, adult tickets can also be purchased on Tripster for $26.95, which can save you a couple of dollars on general admission.
There are add-ons, of course. You can choose to buy an audio tour or additional challenges if you want to opt for the VIP treatment.
What’s inside the Alcatraz East Crime Museum?
Initially, I assumed Alcatraz East Crime Museum would mostly be a dedication to its namesake, with loads of fun Alcatraz facts and some miscellaneous American crime history sprinkled in.
Surprisingly, it’s a bit of the inverse. It’s mostly American crime history with a few Alcatraz facts sprinkled in.
You begin the tour with how most criminals start their prison time – with a mug shot. And as you walk through the 25,000-square-foot museum over two floors, you walk through various galleries dedicated to the antiheroes of American history.
The museum makes a point to humanize the stories of those affected by crimes and also celebrate law enforcement.
The galleries take a look at criminal intent, criminal profiles, the penal system, crime prevention, law enforcement and the judiciary branch of government. These exhibits include:
- A Notorious History of American Crime
- Punishment and the Consequence of Crime
- Crime Scene Investigation
- Crime Fighting
- Counterfeit Crimes and Pop Culture
The museum also brings in temporary exhibits regularly, so there’s almost always something new to see.
One of my favorite exhibits was the CSI lab, where you learn about the use of forensic science, DNA, facial reconstruction and fingerprinting – AND see a real body in the middle of the room. (Okay, not real).
Along the walls, you also see morgues. Despite the sign that says they do not open, you can tell almost every guest passing through attempts to open them.
The museum also has a dedication to 9/11. It’s very respectfully done, and guests can write notes about where they were when it happened. Some of the notes said they were there when it happened. It’s a solemn part of the tour.
Is Alcatraz East Crime Museum good for kids?
While I honestly think young kids could stand a chance to get bored here (there are a lot of signs to read), it’s full of teachable moments for the older kids.
And the good news is, kids under 7 are free. The official website says that they cater to all ages.
Yes, there is mature content, but there are also fun activities for the younger members of the family.
Overall, the museum is chock-full of the history of crime, and there’s a lot of science and puzzle-solving that goes hand-in-hand with crime with a focus on crime prevention.
What museum in Tennessee has Ted Bundy’s car?
That would be Alcatraz East in Pigeon Forge! The Ted Bundy car is one of the museum’s most popular exhibits.
Ted Bundy preyed on young college women and gained their trust before striking. His 1968 tan Volkswagen Beetle is on display at Alcatraz East.
How long does it take to go through the crime museum in Pigeon Forge?
Plan to spend at least 2-3 hours of your day here, and I’d plan for closer to the three-hour mark if you stop to read everything.
Also, it’s worth noting that the crime museum is conveniently located at The Island in Pigeon Forge, so it’s a great location for you to plan your day around.
Is the Alcatraz East Crime Museum worth it?
The Alcatraz Museum in Pigeon Forge is certainly an interesting place to visit, especially if you’ve hopped on the bandwagon of true crime fandom.
Overall, the museum has lots of interactive exhibits that provide an in-depth look at a variety of topics. You’ll find little challenges such as safe cracking, a lie detector test and trivia questions throughout the museum.
That being said, going through the museum also involves a lot of reading.
Sure, you can pay a few extra bucks to have an audio-guided tour, but in my opinion, the museum could use a few employees (or even crime-enthusiast volunteers) sprinkled throughout the galleries to talk to guests, answer questions and elaborate on the stories and artifacts.
Overall though, I would say this museum is worth a visit, unless you’re just not very interested in crime history. I’m not saying it’s for everyone.
Tips for your visit to Alcatraz East Crime Museum
My number one tip is to take a bathroom break before you start.
Alcatraz East doesn’t have a restroom in the lobby area, and you have to go roughly more than halfway through the museum before you reach a potty. My tiny bladder and I think that’s a crime.
Parking is free at the back of the museum. Since it’s at the entrance of The Island, you could also take advantage of The Island’s large, free parking lot on a busy day.
You may also want to make your lunch or dinner plans before or after visiting the museum.
There’s no restaurant on-site. However, The Island will have quite a few restaurants and dining options for you to choose from within walking distance.
Coupons for the crime museum in Pigeon Forge
Looking to get a “steal”? Alcatraz East Crime Museum will periodically run specials and promotions for discounted tickets. Check out their Deals and Steals page or follow them on social media for current promotions.
Remember, you can also save a couple of bucks by booking with Tripster.
Alcatraz East Crime Museum is located at 2757 Parkway in Pigeon Forge TN. The museum is open Sunday-Thursday from 10 am to 9 pm and Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 10 pm. The last ticket is sold an hour prior to closing, and hours may vary by season.
Have you been to Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!