There’s just no reason why you shouldn’t visit the most famous prison of all time: Alcatraz, located in the San Francisco Bay. We had a blast going there, even though at the beginning it seemed that we won’t make it at all. But let’s start at the beginning.
I was on a roadtrip with my brother and all he really, really wanted to do in San Francisco was visiting “The Rock”, as he had recently seen a documentary about it and was fascinated with the history of the former military fortification, later prison, now tourist magnet. We were a bit naive to think we could just get our tickets online, a day prior to our visit. It turned out: You can’t. In order to really get a chance to visit the island, you have to book way prior to your visit. If you didn’t, there’s on option to still get tickets: Line up in front of the ticket booth at Pier 33 no later than 6 in the morning and hope that there are some tickets left that weren’t sold. Chances: below low.
My brother and me were really sad when we found out, but then, somehow, stumbled into the little shop of a (we think) blind man. He offered us two tickets to the island (that’s important: make sure not to get an “Alcatraz”-Ticket that’s only offering a tour to the island without a visit of the prison, because then you can’t leave the boat and all you see is the prison when cruising around the island!), but they were only available in combination with a two-day sightseeing bus ticket. We had to pay in advance, got the tickets for the bus tour immediately and were supposed to pick up our tickets next day in the morning. Of course we were really dubious and thought we might have been scammed, but the tickets weren’t that expensive and what we had for sure was the sightseeing bus tour, so it was not a big deal.
We were surprised: It was no scam. We showed up next morning to get our Alcatraz tickets and it turned out to be all perfect. We took the ferry to the island, got our audio guides at the entrance and spent almost three hours in prison, so to say. And it were well spent hours, because I never imagined, that visiting a prison could be so interesting. We learned a lot about the history of the island (1868 military prison, 1933 to 1963 federal prison) and it’s infamous “inhabitants”, which were some of the most notorious criminals in American history, such as Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Bumpy Johnson and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis.
You can see the cell block, visit the “recreation yard”, peek into the kitchen and wander around the housing provided for the prison staff and their families. Of course you won’t be there on your own, as there are hundreds of visitors a day, but due to the fact that you walk around with your audio guide it’s easy to forget about that and feel like you are in the middle of the chaos caused when inmates tried to escape. I at least had goosebumps during the whole visit and my brother enjoyed it too, a lot. We’ve been there during the daytime, but there are also nighttime tours available – the best choice for the daring ones!
Daytime tickets start at 29,75 USD for kids and 43,50 for adults, during the night visits are 33,25 USD for kids and 50,50 USD for adults. All tickets include the ferry ride from Pier 33 to the island and back as well as audio guides. Tickets are available up to 90 days ahead – you should definitely book in advance! Get your ticket here: www.alcatrazislandtickets.com.
All pictures mine.