A Day Away by Mike Steely

My wife and I have been to a lot of places over the years that we recently rediscovered at Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge. The attraction had exhibits that reminded us of our trip to New York City the Thanksgiving following 9/11. Likewise, our memories were stirred of visits to the sites of the Oklahoma City bombing, the 1968 Washington, D.C. riots, and President John Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas.

We never deliberately visited crime scenes but taking a side trip while on business or vacation to those destinations was always interesting. When we wanted a day away from Knoxville recently, we decided to revisit Alcatraz East and it recalled also our visit to the original Alcatraz Island prison in San Francisco.

Knowing that the traffic would be horrible, especially when pulling a camper trailer, we wanted to find a quiet campground near all of the attractions when planning the trip. We found Creekside RV Park just off Wears Valley Road and a few blocks from the center of Pigeon Forge. The park has just about anything a large or small camper would want including a pool, a friendly and helpful staff, and very clean bathrooms with showers.

The name “Creekside” is appropriate because many of the camper sites back up to Walden Creek. There are lots of trees, a laundry room, tourist pamphlets, full electric and sewer hookups, cable TV and free Wi-Fi. Each site has a fire pit and the campground is walkable and other visitors were friendly. My wife liked how quiet it was there while camping.

The campground was only a couple blocks away from Alcatraz East and other attractions on the parkway. It seems there are tourism-related businesses all the way from I-40 to the national park entrance. The campground is affordable and you can leave the car at your site and take a trolley to many stops along the tourist strip; the trolley circles through the campground about every hour.

The Pigeon Forge attraction not only emulates s the original prison but has just about any major crime- and law enforcement-related incident in the United States represented. That includes the history of crime, punishment and investigation in our nation and so much information and artifacts that it takes an hour or two to tour the large museum. The outside facade facing the parkway is a pretty good replication of the original prison and inside there are many exhibits staged perfectly for a camera shot.

Whether you’re into police actions, escaped criminals, kidnappings, punishment, court cases, or you-name-it, Alcatraz East has more than you’ll expect. We found we could take as much time as we wished for each exhibit and I enjoyed the unsolved crime exhibit the most. My wife found the display about Knoxville’s Body Farm and Dr. Bill Blass interesting. We went just as the place opened at 10 a.m. and did not find it crowded.

The general admission is $28.95 for adults and $14.95 for kids. There are also special packages available for additional fees. You can find Alcatraz East at www.alcatrazeast.com or call (865) 453-3278 for more information.

You can photograph your family within many of the interactive exhibits including a dunking seat, a suspect lineup, a courtroom and much more. There’s a small gift shop with anything you would expect including logo mugs, tee shirts, related books and videos.

You can extend your trip by also visiting the Bush Beans Visitor Center in nearby Dandridge or drive through Wears Valley and take the new scenic Foothills Parkway to Townsend. Or you could just stay put in Pigeon Forge and take in the many attractions there or in Sevierville and Gatlinburg.

Find out more about the campground by visiting www.creeksidervpark.com or by calling (865) 234-4101.