Several months ago I took a day trip to Alcatraz, right outside of San Francisco.
Did you know that ALCATRAZ was much than the infamous prison? It was also a military fortress (active before and after the Civil War), bird sanctuary, first lighthouse on the West Coast, and the birthplace of the American Indian Red Power movement.
However, it is best known a federal penitentiary. It was open from 1934 – 1963. If you are in the San Francisco area, we recommend spending a few hours to take a visit.
Tip: Book your trip to Alcatraz ahead of time. You can book online and I’ll post the link at the end of this post.
It’s a timed trip – so if you arrive, give yourself at least 20 minutes before your booked time. There was a line and around half your wait will be in shade. They won’t let you go earlier than the time you book, so grab a snack at the Alcatraz Landing Cafe first. It serves coffee, sandwiches, and soups. It that also has a bathroom, so you may want to get a snack or refresh yourself before you go, there isn’t anything . For those dairy free peeps — they offered almond milk (I was so excited)
The ferry over is quick and the bay is so beautiful. Summer days can sometimes be as cool, due to thick fog and strong winds. Dress in layers.
When you get to Alcatraz, you’ll hear a quick orientation on what to do and then you start the trek to the top. It’s kind of a steep walk, but manageable. Strollers are welcome (we saw a lot of them). You can wait on line to get the free cellhouse audio tour apparatus.
It was fascinating to learn all the history associated with Alcatraz.
With the exception of one part of the audio tour (the), it was suitable for children. You may want to let them know that Alcatraz’s history wasn’t peaceful. The Battle of Alcatraz in 1946 was an escape attempt gone wrong and is talked about. Two correctional officers and three inmates would be killed during this escape. Go here for more info.
Learn about some of the famous, and not so famous people associated with the Rock, click here.
To see learn more about all the history of Alcatraz, click here.
Visiting Alcatraz is partially a self guided experience which you can do at your own pace. Park Service staff offer numerous free programs throughout the day on a variety of topics: escapes, military history, American Indian occupation, natural history, etc. Since your admission price was included with your ferry ticket, you won’t have to shell out additional money (unless you buy souvenirs).
Once on the island you can stay as long or as short as you wish – there is a ferry departing about every half hour and you can return to San Francisco on any ferry. Most likely you’ll spend 2 to 3 visiting the island.
There are numerous videos and exhibits on the island, as well as the cellhouse audio tour which is included in the price of the ferry ticket.
There is no food service available on the island – only water is available on site. Eating, drinking and smoking is only allowed at the dock level.
Alcatraz tickets are all inclusive. The ticket price includes the ferry transportation service provided by Alcatraz Cruises, the cellhouse audio tour provided by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act fee. For additional information on schedules, prices, and to purchase tickets in advance (tickets are made available about 90 days in advance) please visit the Alcatraz Cruises website.
Note: Tickets for Alcatraz frequently sell out in advance, especially around holidays and weekends. Night tour tickets sell out even sooner, as much as a month or more in advance. Order your tickets up to 90 days in advance to avoid disappointment.
There is a ferry departing about every half hour and you can return to San Francisco on any ferry (you will have to wait on a line, but we didn’t have a problem getting back on one). Most people spend 2 to 3 hours to fully see everything.
Official Website: http://www.nps.gov/alca/index.htm
This post was not sponsored and I paid for my tickets.