Alcatraz was a favorite site for my husband and grandson. They found it fascinating to explore this infamous prison.
I imagine one could spend hours getting to know the penetentiary and its grounds. Of course, from the outside looking in!
A former prisoner said they could hear celebrants toasting the New Year as their laughter drifted over the waves to this isolated island. It was a good dose of reality.
Picture #2 A typical jail cell
Picture #3 C Block
Picture #4 Solitary Confinement Area
Picture #5 The Wardens House
The cellhouse was designed by Major Reuben B. Turner, a construction engineer. It became the largest steel-enforced concrete building in the world when it was completed in 1912.
It was a state of the art facility with electric lights, skylights and central steam heat!
FYI: Inmates provided the labor and became the first prisoners.
Interesting facts about Alcatraz:
The average number of prisoners was 260, the maximum was 302. The cellhouse was never filled to capacity
No executions occurred at Alcatraz, but there were five suicides and eight murders
There was no death row
Although rumors of shark infested waters persisted, the only sharks in the San Francisco Bay were harmless sand sharks
picture #2 Jail cells
picture #3 Visitation
picture #4 The cut-off
An audio guide gave thorough information on the cellhouse and included inside stories of the prisoners and life inside THE BIG HOUSE.
On the day of our tour, Darwin Coon, a former prisoner, was on hand at the gift shop to sign his book on Alcatraz.
After a life of rebellion and crime, Mr. Coon turned his life around and was touched by God's mercy.
He isn't a man of many words, but his story is very interesting. We bought the book for our grandson, who found it to be an interesting tale of crime and redemption.
The Alcatraz bookstore was a depository for all types of souvenirs stamped with the prison's name. Aside from books, there were mugs, pencils, pens, magnets, photos of prisoners, sweatshirt jackets, t-shirts, candy, posters and many other item (picture 2).
We left the store with a mug decorated with prisoner stripes and ALCATRAZ imprinted on its side--a gift our grandson selected to send to his Mom.
Go San Francisco Card offers admission to many of the attractions/tours in town as well as many in the East Bay and Wine Country. Also includes discounts at restaurants and shops around the city. Comes with a great guidebook too. A big money saver if you want to see more than one or two attractions while visiting town.
Some of the admissions included are the Exploratorium, Red and White bay cruise, Gray Line Trolley Hop, Historic Cable Car ride, Zeum, Asian Art Museum, SBC Park Tour, Chabot Science center, Wine tastings, etc.
You should really take a trip to Alcatraz during your visit. Alcatraz was once the home of Al Capone and the Bird Man of Alcatraz, among others. The trip includes an audio tour for a few dollars more and I would definitely reccommend the audio portion. The ride out, by ferry, is wonderful and scenic in and of itself.
Cost is typically less than $20 (more in the $15 - $17 range when you purchase tickets from the Parks Department Website - http://www.nps.gov/alcatraz/ )
During the summer you can take a night tour to add a special creepiness to the whole experience.
Take a boat over to Alcatraz Island, and take a tour of the former maximum security federal prison. Tours take 2-3 hours to complete and operate year round.
It's advised that reservations be made at least a week in advance online or by phone.
Don't miss out in visiting Alcatraz while you're in San Francisco. It is a part of American history and is truly a great experience. You'll receive an audio guide at no charge and with it you'll hear stories of the Rock from past inmates and guards of Alcatraz. You'll hear about prison riots and escape attempts. The audio guide and the feeling of being here is pretty eerie, I had to look behind me a couple of times, I swear it felt like there was someone behind me. Prison cells of some of the more famous inmates are on display as well as what daily life was like for the inmates as well as the guards.
There is a fairly steep climb to the prison and if you have mobility issues there is a tram to take you up.
There are ferries leaving for the Rock every couple of hours. We decided to take the latest tour of Alcatraz at 5:05pm and it was a good choice because there are some extra activities when going at night like lockdown, this is where they open and close the cell's bars. Or there are movies to watch. Also I found it better at night because it's creepier and boy does it get quiet on the Rock. If you do go at night look into the prison's windows and see if you can spot any ghosts staring down at you.
You can buy your tickets online or at the pier. We decided to buy ours online through alcatrazcruises.com which cost us 33.00USD per person. The tour lasts approxiametely 2 hours or if you go at night you get an extra half hour.
Having visited San Francisco many times on business and one time for pleasure during the 80's and 90's I never planned far enough in advance to take the Alcatraz Tour. This time though with several months to plan, one of the first things I did (even before getting a hotel room, but after booking the flights) was to book the tour through the following official website.
On the advice of my VT friend Kristi (Dabs) we booked the night tour which starts out in the daylight at 4:30 p.m. and ends in the dark after 7:00 p.m. On our visit in the first part of November about 2/3 of the way through the tour we were able to capture a beautiful sunset with the sun disappearing behind the Golden Gate Bridge which was worth the price of admission alone.
You will need to line up starting about 4:00 p.m. for this tour. After you snake your way through the line they will want to snap your picture in front of a picture of Alcatraz and then try to sell you 2 5 X 7 photos for $22. That is a bit of a tourist rip off, so my advice is to don't have them even take your picture (they weren't happy with us for even skipping that part, but tough, just smile and say no thank you and move on). Instead if you have your own camera (and if you don't your missing a lot of great shots) give it to someone on the boat and on your way over to the island stand by the ship's railing and when Alcatraz is in the background take a real picture of the island with you.
Once you arrive at Alcatraz after about a 15 minute boat ride you are met by one of the park rangers and then divided up into smaller groups. To get to the prison itself you will have to do a little bit of walking (all uphill) so if you are physically unable please opt for the tram. We had one lady in our tour that didn't opt for a tram and only was able to make it halfway up. I'm not sure if they were able to get her back up to the top or not.
During the night tour (don't know what they do during the day so I won't comment on that) you will get an audio to listen to and they have several small lectures done by other park rangers. The only one we had time for was the opening and closing of the cell doors which was cool. They don't lock you inside anymore since some people were accidentally locked in a few years ago, but you can go inside several different cells to get a feel how the prisoners lived.
A great attraction, just don't be snookered into buying those 5 X 7 pictures.
I've heard it said that it must have been horrible to be locked in Alcatraz because you could see San Francisco but you couldn't go there. The water around the island is rough and treacherous and the chances of surviving in it, very slim.
So there you go, what a tease.
BUT... what a view! Maybe it didn't suck that badly...
We had booked in advance before leaving England for our "Night Tour" of Alcatraz Prison because we had heard that tickets went fast, and we only had two nights to choose from our busy schedule.
We took the 18:10 departure on a balmy Saturday evening. It was a leisurely, calm crossing, with the wind gently blowing in our hair.
Before boarding, you have to go through the, by now obligatory, pose for a photo shot in front of a picture of Alcatraz. I think really a way of them knowing who went onto the island for security reasons although it did add to the atmosphere as you could imagine yourself being treated as a new inmate to the prison.
Alcatraz Island is part of the National Park Service and so is looked after by the friendly and knowledgeable Park Rangers
Once on the island the ranger gives you an introduction and then leads you up to the prison itself. You are then given headphones and instructions on how to get the best out of the audio tour. The tour was rather good, especially the descriptions of the place from various individuals including former prison guards and prisoners. The night of the riot where prison guards were taken hostage and then later murdered was especially good a s the light in the prison was fading and the shadows were appearing.
After the audio tour there were other options you had to choose from, including a visit to the hospital ward, which is not normally open during the day. Also a ranger would demonstrate “Slamming” procedure for locking and unlocking the cells. Also there was a very good discussion, lead by two rangers, on three inmates who escaped from the prison in 1962. The debate was whether they survived and made it to freedom or perished in the waters of the bay. I was in the camp of “No they didn’t survive”.
A good site to get some more info about the goings on in the prison is alcatrazhistory
After about three hours we made our “escape for the Rock” and hopped back on the boat again, landeding back at Pier 41 at about 21:45.
All good fun
Alcatraz Island in the center of San Francisco Bay is one of America's most interesting National Parks. Here are some things to know which may help you get the most enjoyment out of your visit:
Tickets can be purchased from the Pier 33 ticketing area but same day tickets are often booked out so it is preferable to book a day or two in advance. Night tours are very popular as the island affords dramatic evening views of the San Francisco skyline. These tours are usually sold out a few weeks in advance. Booking tickets online prior to arrival would secure tickets.
The first ferry to the island leaves at 9am and then at intervals of 30 - 40 minutes during the day. Closing time for people with DAY tickets is 6.30pm in Summer and 4.30pm in Fall, Winter and Spring. Alcatraz is closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day.
There is no food available for purchase on the island. Bottled water is available to buy from the bookstore near the dock. With the exception of bottled water, food and drink must be consumed in the picnic area at the dock. There is a kiosk on the ferry. Restrooms are located at the dock and near the entrance to the cell block.
The island is a no smoking zone except for a designated area at the landing dock. As the island is a National Park no collecting is permitted and feeding the wildlife (especially birds) is prohibited.
The distance from the landing dock to the prison cells is about a 1/4 mile or 400m and the gradient is quite steep. While the footpath is wide it can be a little uneven in places and there are steps. In the unlikely event of an accident there are first aid facilities available.
Visitors unable to make the climb can take advantage of an electric shuttle that runs from the dock to the cell block. For people with mobility issues - Pier 33, ferry boats, the Alcatraz dock area, main floor of the prison complex and the bookstore, museum, theater and toilets are fully accessible. Further information on accessibility can be obtained by phoning the National Park Service on 415-561-4900.
Rangers are available to answer any questions and outdoor interpretive walks are conducted by Rangers and/or Alcatraz volunteers. A 17 minute orientation video runs on a loop in the theater (50 yards up the road from the landing area) and this is an excellent introduction to the island. It is open captioned in English and Spanish.
A brochure called Discover Alcatraz is available in English, Spanish, Italian, German, Japanese and French and can be purchased from a self service area beside the dock for $1.00.
A 45 minute audio tour is also available in the above languages as well as Mandarin and Dutch. It is included in the price of your ticket and can be collected from the cell block.
Souvenirs and items related to the island including DVD's and books can be purchased from either of the two bookstores located near the theater and inside the prison building.
Alcatraz is the Spanish for pelican, the island's first inhabitants. This steep sided rocky island lies 3 miles east of the Golden Gate Bridge. The US military established a fort here in 1859. In 1907 this became a military prison. From 1934 to 1963 it became a Federal maximum security prison, housing many notorious inmates. The island was then unoccupied until 1969 when it was seized by members of the American Indian Movement, they were removed in 1971. Alcatraz was then made a part of the National Park Service in 1972.
Today the island is well worth the ferry ride from Pier 41. Once here you can take your time exploring, ferries depart about every 30 minutes & you can return on any ferry. On arrival you are met by a National Park Service representative who gives you a brief talk about the island's orientation & what to do here. My highlight was the cell house, it was fascinating to walk round. Some of the cells had information on their famous inmates. I also enjoyed the exercise yard, recognizable from many films made at the prison.
Although, the Alcatraz island was at first place a base for a lighthouse and the a military fortification it became famous because of the federal prison on it and the claim that it is an inescapable fortess. The prison closed down in 1963. Alcatraz island always reminds me that classic movie Escape From Alcatraz (1979) starring Clint Eastwood. The prison held famous criminals behind the walls (Al Capone was one of them) and the myth (?) claims that no one ever escaped (alive). Even, those three on the escape of 1962 lost at sea and never found, offially they died because of the cold waters, but who really knows… I have to admit that because of the movie I think they made it :)
The Spanish word Alcatraz means pelican, probably the island was full of them when Juan de Ayala discovered the island back in 1775.
Many people refer to it as The Rock and you can see it from many places in San Francisco as it is located in San Francisco bay just 2.4km offshore from SF. You can visit the island by ferry from Pier 33, don’t forget to book your tickets in advance because they go sold out easily. The day tours costs about $26 while the night tour goes up to $33 (web prices). The audio tour was interesting with voices of ex-guards and ex-prisoners of that era (I hope it’s true). You just walk around on your own, don’t forget to take pics of San Francisco city, we had the sun at the background so we could take good ones, I wish we had taken the night tour, a friend told me the city looks great at evening.
The abandoned prison, the first lighthouse in the west coast and early military buildings are some of the sites you can see here. What I didn’t know was the Native American occupation that took place in 1969 and lasted for two years. The native Americans claimed Alcatraz island because the Sioux treaty of 1868 stated that all abandoned federal land adjacent to the Sioux reservation could be reclaimed back!
Alcatraz Island America's Premier Maximum Security Prison. Alcatraz was once a military prison, it has also held Native American prisoners in the 1800's. During the 1906 Earthquake of San Francisco civilian prisoners were kept here until the city jails could be rebuilt.
Alcatraz is most famous for the infamous it housed from the 1930's to 1963. This federal prison was built to lock up the worst of the worst, inmates including; Al Capone, Robert "Birdman" Stroud, bank robber Floyd Hamilton who once robbed banks with Bonnie and Clyde, Members of the Ma Barker Gang, and Machine Gun Kelly. Alcatraz was built/reinforced to set an example that it was an inescapable fortress. Alcatraz is a 3-story cell house and has one of the largest steel-enforced structures, it stands 121 feet above sea level.
Inside Alcatraz ia a museum filled with exhibits, artwork and escape materials made by inmates. Alcatraz is now a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, it is open for tours, you can reach the island by ferry from Pier 41
We took lots of pictures of Alcatraz as we only saw the tips of the Golden Gate Bridge during our stay (due to the fog) but we didn't actually visit it. There were many tour companies offering tours to and around the island from the Fisherman's Wharf area. I don't regret not doing a tour but my friends did when they were there and loved it.