Alcatraz East Crime Museum

This family-friendly museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, shares the behind-the-scenes stories of America’s most notorious villains and artifacts such as a 1963 Harley-Davidson police motorcycle. 

From the outside, the Alcatraz East Crime Museum is an imposing stone fortress with guard towers and barred windows.

Inside is a history museum that gives visitors the behind-the-scenes story of America’s most notorious villains — Old West gunslingers, organized-crime mobsters, serial killers and white-collar thieves — and the dedicated law enforcement officials who bring them to justice. The Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, museum shares a name and focus on criminals with San Francisco’s infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, which closed in 1963, but otherwise there’s no relation.

More than 100 hands-on activities and 500 artifacts are displayed throughout the galleries. Among the collections are a vintage electric chair and O. J. Simpson’s famous Ford Bronco.

It’s all designed as entertaining and educational family fare — no blood, no gore. “I usually tell people what you see in the museum is nothing worse than what you would see on prime-time television,” says Rachael Penman, the museum’s director of artifacts.

Junior detectives and their grownups can try their hands at cracking a safe, tying a pirate’s knot and escaping from a replica prison cell. In the Crime Scene Investigation lab, you’ll learn how forensic science technology like DNA and ballistics are used to solve crimes. Sneak through the laser maze to see if you have what it takes to be a jewel thief.

Selfie ops abound. Take your picture while locked in a pillory like those used during the Salem witch trials or perched atop a 1963 Harley-Davidson police motorcycle. Maybe you’ll even nab a hug from McGruff the Crime Dog.

A temporary exhibit through June 2021 features the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and details its famous solved crimes and ongoing cases. It also highlights current missing children and a modern-day cold case.

2757 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, 865/453-3278, alcatrazeast.com