LOCATION: Alcatraz Island. San Francisco, California.
This post is part of my San Diego/San Francisco trip series.
My first attempt to see Alcatraz was in 2011 on my last trip to San Francisco. After hearing wonderful things about the night tour, I found out it was booked months in advance. Apparently it really was wonderful. I knew my next trip to San Francisco had to include this historic landmark.
Located only 1.5 miles off the San Francisco bay, the island known as “the Rock” was made for a lighthouse, military fortress and prison where families lived among prisoners, and then famously known as the maximum prison from 1933 to 1963. The prison is known for holding some of the worst criminals of its time, including Al Capone and Robert “Birdman” Stroud.
The name “the Rock” came about due to the fact no prisoner has fully escaped. During its history, 14 prisoners attempted to escape. One man made it out onto the water and all the way to the Golden GateBridge before becoming unconscious. He woke up later, back in the Alcatraz hospital and was back in jail. Finally in 1963, the prison closed due to the high cost to run it. The closing of Alcatraz left a dark castle looming on an island as a reminder to San Francisco of its deep and dark history.
We embarked on our tour just before sunset. The ride took us around the island so we could view all sides of the rocky terrain and fortress. It looked massive and mysterious. Upon arrival, we were equipped with headphones and an audio tour of the prison.
The tour took us to various rooms of the jail and to jail cells, narrated by some of the prisoners themselves. The interior looked creepy due to the emptiness and I could see why anyone would want to try to escape.
After the audio tour, we were led to the library to hear about the escape attempts. From there, we were allowed to hear the jail cells open and close while a woman described the Battle of Alcatraz when prisoners tried to over throw the guards. While it was interesting to hear the locks open and close, 15 minutes and 20 locking sounds later it seemed a little much. After a short 2 hours on the Rock our tour was over and we were led back to the life of the free.
The tour was interesting, but I’m not sure why the hype of the night tour is there. I thought we were getting a more creepy and behind the scenes tour, but it seemed like the same day tour stuff, just at night. However, Alcatraz is definitely worth a visit. After all, I can now say I survived the Rock.
*Thank you Troy for accompanying me on this adventure.
WOULD I DO IT AGAIN? I would like to try the day tour to roam around the island more. I don’t really see the hype in the night tour. You’re limited on time and it doesn’t seem like you get much more out of it.
HOW TO DO THIS: Night tours book months and months in advance. $37