A visit to Alcatraz starts with a ferry ride that leaves visitors plenty of time to ponder just how remote and hard to escape from The Rock truly is. On the island, the peeling paint and dimly-lit cell blocks further add to the creepy vibe of the notorious prison. That, and the fact that visitors are simultaneously in their own worlds, yet moving in packs as they follow along an informative audio tour of Al Capone's one-time residence.
“Welcome to "The Rock"!”
Golden Gate National Recreation Area-Alcatraz Island features the extensive collections from Alcatraz Island, also known as "The Rock." Collections include objects made by notorious inmates, historic photographs and documents, escape materials and inmate artwork; items used by officers including correctional materials when Alcatraz was a federal penitentiary from 1934-1963; military prison period materials from 1859-1934; and the American Indian occupation of 1969 -1971. Alcatraz Island offers a close-up look at the site of the first lighthouse and US built fort on the West Coast, the infamous federal penitentiary long off-limits to the public, and the 18 month occupation by Indians of All Tribes which saved the tribes. Rich in history, there is also a natural side to the Rock—gardens, tide pools, bird colonies, and bay views beyond compare. Every year thousands of American Indians return to Alcatraz Island to honor the veterans of the 1969 occupation by Indians of All Tribes and to continue their political struggle for self determination. The Rock, the Birdman of Alcatraz, Point Blank, etc. were all filmed here. Visitors and tour guides alike have reported unexplained screams, slamming cell doors, banjo music and footsteps. The site has been investigated by both Ghost Hunters and Ghost Labs. Featured in Escape from Alcatraz, Catch Me If You Can, X-Men: The Last Stand and more!
Definitely an interesting stop if your in San Fran. I did the audio tour and it was very informative, filled with crazy stories and loads of history. Some parts felt quite creepy, you could feel that horrible things used to go down. My favorite part was walking through the old jail cells and learning of the famous prisoners who once called Alcatraz home.
Ive been twice, and each time I’ve learnt a ton of new stuff... It can get uber cold up there, so take warm clothing. There is a flippin awesome self-guide tour where you listen to stories told by inmates who were once held as prisoners on the island....
My top tip would be to do the tour, then take off the earphones etc... and walk around again, and read all the info boards, signs, and look at all the stuff you miss while doing the tour.... The tour is quite jam-packed and designed to hurry people through. So take your time... its is definitely one of the most unique and super interesting places you’ll ever experience... and a great monument of U.S history...
Now just to convince them to let folks stay the night.... that would be mega cool!
I had an afternoon free in San Francisco during a business trip and the one thing I wanted to do was see Alcatraz. It did not disappoint! The boat trip over was about 15 minutes (and very windy, take a sweater even if it's warm out) and you get a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge on the way over. Once you land there is a guy to sort of give instructions and a general overview of what's there and where. It's a pretty good walk, all uphill, to the cell block where you can catch the audio tour (included in your ticket price). I didn't have a lot of time and was by myself, so I found myself skipping ahead (and around the throngs of people), so not everything I was hearing was exactly what I was looking at, but it was still really enjoyable. I will say you have to get tickets at least a week or two ahead (longer if you have a big group). There were a number of people from my business meetings who wanted to go but couldn't get tickets once we were there. Very cool, well worth the roughly $30 price tag.
Went when I was younger, but I remember the experience very well. I personally think this is a must see if you are in the San Francisco area. So much history here (such as Al Capone's prison cell) and hopefully for most of us, this will be the closest we'll ever get to seeing the inside of a prison in person. Remember it is its own island so you will have to take a ferry out there!
If you want to visit and actually GO on this island, you have to book your trip through the National Park Service. AND you have to do this weeks, months in advance. So we didn't get to do this, but we did take a Blue and Yellow cruise from Pier 39 at Fishermans Wharf, which took us all around the island so you at least got a flavor of it and see it closer than from the shore, so it was a good consolation prize. Next time I get to go to San Fran, I will definitely plan ahead so I can actually go on the island.
Alcatraz has an "After Dark" tour. This amps up the spookiness a little. Really recommend it. The tour leaves before sundown, so you still arrive in daylight, but during the tour the sun goes down, the ghosts come out, and the real fun begins.
One of the most awesome tours you can take, and it really gives you a sense of how incredible, and awful, the prison really was back in the day. Favorite part? All the stories about prisoners who tried to escape... and the one set that just might have been successful.
The audio tour is really informative, but try not to miss the extra information provided by tour signs and guides. There is some cool history about how children got to school and about the Native Americans claiming the island. If you are not able to get tickets, local residents sell tickets on Craig's List for a little extra.
I've never made it to the actual island, but I've been on a boat tour around it and can't wait to go someday. It's such an unreal concept that it was actually a jail. Also, the Alcatraz triathlon is #1 on my bucket list of races to run-- you take a ferry out right near the island and then jump off/swim in. Supposed to be one of the coldest and most challenging tri swims out there!
I had a great time visiting Alcatraz! Because of the packed boat on the way to the island, I thought the whole tour would be crowded but the audio tour was a great pacer. It was pretty cool (just for a little bit) to hop inside one of the (tiny!!) cells where inmates would stay. Hearing all the Al Capone stories was super interesting as well.
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