Restored prison that operated from 1876-1909.
My family was fascinated with the history presented at this museum. The kids (ages 10, 7, 5, 3, and 1) all had a great time and learned a lot. We were able to spend almost 2 hours here.
The prison is high up on a hill and provides a beautiful view of the surrounding area. The Colorado River is directly below and across the river is California. There is signage all around to explain what you are looking at, what it used to look like, and the historical significance of the landscape. A pair of coin operated binoculars is available for an even closer look at the landscape. The grounds are nicely landscaped. There is also a granite timeline showing the history of the area.
The Yuma Territorial State Prison only has portions of the original structure, but it was enough to give an idea of what life there must have been like. My boys (ages 7, 5, &3) loved going into the cells and trying out the iron bunk beds. They especially loved the “dark cell” where prisoners were sent for solitary confinement. My oldest (age 10) was able to enjoy the stories of the prisoners who lived there. In the cellblock, there are motion sensors that activate recordings of prisoner diaries. You hear voices coming from the cells and are able to imagine they are still there telling what happened to them.
A museum showcases famous prisoners who served time here. There are also interesting displays about prison life. Make sure to stop into the theater to watch the short film. It was great for the kids as it explained a lot of what we saw without us having to read a sign to them. Also in the museum is a fun photo opp. The prison had a special mirror for mug shots to get a profile and front facing picture in one shot. Visitors can dress up and take their own mug shot with this same mirror.
The staff here seemed very knowledgeable and friendly. There is a gift shop with some fun souvenirs. The small price of admission is very worth the unique history you are able to experience here. Children 6 and under are free but there is still a lot here they will enjoy so be sure to bring the kids.
My family learned a lot and enjoyed experiencing the Yuma Territorial State Prison. I would recommend this museum to any family that is interested in history, the wild west, or prison life in general.
Disclosure: The Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park hosted my family for the purpose of review but the opinions expressed are entirely my own.