A Look Inside the Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge, With Photos

alcatraz east crime museum exterior in pigeon forge tn

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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.

knot tying like the pirates did - interactive exhibit at alcatraz east
There are plenty of interactive activities for guests at this crime museum (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

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.

ted bundy's car
Ted Bundy’s car at Alcatraz East in Tennessee (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

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.

Read Also: Alcatraz East vs. Titanic Museum: Which Attraction Is Better?

copper moonshine still in crime museum pigeon forge
You can also see Tennessee crime history in this museum (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

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.

Read Also: 13 Best Museums in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg With Coupons

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.

csi gallery in alcatraz east crime museum
The CSI gallery was one of my favorites (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

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.

old smoky - tennessee's electric chair
Alcatraz East is for all ages, but there are some mature themes throughout the museum (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

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!

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Photo of author


Alaina O'Neal

Alaina is the owner and founder of Alaina Media LLC, a freelance graphic design agency, the owner and founder of BoardGameChick.com, and the co-founder of TheSmokies.com LLC – a media company that specializes in regional travel sites.

3 thoughts on “A Look Inside the Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge, With Photos”

  1. No its not worth it I lived down thier and worked thier and I got a discount on my tickets and it still wasn’t worth what I paid to go threw the place I would rather go spend my money on riding the go carts at least you get your moneys worth doing that

  2. I toured the crime and punishment museum when it was in D.C. about 10 years ago. Being a police officer at the time (now retired) I found it fascinating. Am contemplating stopping at Alcatraz East on my trip to the Smoky Mountains area.

  3. I found it completely fascinating, and it was so fun! I plan on having a career in the forensic science field, and this was a very helpful guide as to how it has changed and evolved over the years. I particularly loved the temporary exhibit with Ted Bundy and the fact that his interview played throughout the exhibit at various intervals. It also listed different tid-bids about him that even I, a crime enthusiast, had not known. I also loved the different exhibits on American crime histories, such as DB Cooper and Al Capone (a personal favorite). The tribute to 9/11 was quite moving, and I found myself emotional at times. Overall, I recommend spending some time at the museum, and look forward to going back to visit it on my next vacation!

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