Museum A Smoky Mountains Tourist Attraction
I was behind bars!
But then I escaped from my prison cell, tried to dodge lasers tracking me and hijacked a police motorcycle.
It’s all part of the fun I had at the Alcatraz East attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Unlike its original namesake in San Francisco, Alcatraz East is a museum devoted not to a single prison, but to crime. And everything about crime you can possibly imagine. It has exhibits detailing the history of crime through time, from Midievel times to pirates to the Wild West to 20s gangsters to modern-day pop-culture crime.
It has displays on crooks and cops, killers and a courtroom.
One of the more, ahem, interesting areas, is one devoted to serial killers. It even has Ted Bundy’s Volkswagen, which has the front passenger seat removed where he hid his victims. This is something that gives me chills so I sprinted through the area, although my associates spent half an hour in it.
This demonstrates how the Alcatraz East literally has something for everyone and if you don’t particularly care for one area, then simply move onto another.
One section details crime-solving techniques and forensics, and there’s an automotive section where Bundy’s Volkswagen is joined by a bullet hole-riddled car used in the “Bonny & Clyde” movie, the actual (and pristine) 1933 Essex Teraplane that belonged to John Dillinger and a white Ford Bronco like the one O.J. Simpson used in the famous freeway chase (it’s not the actual Bronco, the display points out, as it was torn apart for evidence and then – get this – returned to Hertz!).
But it’s not all displays. There’s a police firing range, you can get on your hands and knees to “escape” from a jail cell, crack a safe, take a lie-detector test and, a personal favorite, stand in a police lineup in which a voice actually gives instructions.
You can pay a little extra to dodge lasers or step through lasers like a criminal trying to escape detection (fun!) and get a headseat which explains the displays and areas in even further detail than the wall plaques.
Figure on spending at least two hours, several more if you or someone in your group is an avid reader of museum wall plaques. In addition to what’s described above there’s a movie devoted to 9/11, an autopsy table, areas where you can identify fingerprints and dental records, a display on famous assassinations and even more almost too much to even mention.
The museum is vast and keeps on going and going and going, so much so you’ll let out a big “whew” when you exit.
Attractions have to do this if they want to stand out in Pigeon Forge, the Branson, MO, of the East, with its seemingly endless line of tourist stops and activities: dinner shows, waterslides, go-kart tracks, putt-putt golf courses, the Titanic exhibit, and, of course, the Dollywood theme park of Sevier County native Dolly Parton.
“This was the best museum we’ve been to,” one patron said while leaving as we were entering it.
It certainly starts out that way, for the second you enter the door a host gives a two-minute rundown of what’s all inside in a very entertaining, comedic routine. It sets the tone for what is a different kind of Pigeon Forge adventure.
Alcatraz East is located in The Island, just down from Margaritaville. Look for the prisoner trying to scale the front wall while a policeman watches from a guard tower.
ALCATRAZ EAST DETAILS
• Address: 2752 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN
• Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m., daily
• Admission: $24-95-$34.95 adults, $14.95 ages 12 & younger, free ages 5 & younger
• Website: AlcatrazEast.com
• Phone: (865) 453-3278
• Social Media Hashtags: @AlcatrazEast, #AlcatrazEast, #crimemuseum