I mean, this is San Francisco. What list would this be if I didn’t include a visit to Alcatraz??
Alcatraz Penitentiary (derived from the Spanish word “pelican”), located on Alcatraz Island is a must visit. Over the years I have visited tourist attractions that left me wanting more and wondering why it was significant.
Alcatraz is not that place.
I am not a prison history buff by any stretch, but this place is fascinating. There is a reason it is the stuff of legends (Al Capone, the Birdman of Alcatraz, and other mobsters and violent criminals) and featured in movies (The Rock, Book of Eli, X-Men: The Last Stand). The island was once a military fort during the Civil War, houses the first lighthouse on the West Coast, and contains the infamous Alcatraz federal prison (which was once a military prison). Furthermore, there are remnants of a time when it was occupied by Native Americans for 18 months during protests to termination and relocation (who knew?). Fascinating is an understatement.
And the views of the bay and San Francisco are beautiful. It must have been torturous for prisoners to be so close to San Francisco that they could occasionally hear noises from the mainland. After all, it is only about 1.5 miles away, yet it is a treacherous mile of cold water and strong currents which pulls towards the ocean. This fact, along with several myths that were circulated (i.e. man-eating sharks) limited the number of recorded escape attempts to 14. But, several of those were ingenious plans- 3 supposedly dug with spoons and made rafts of raincoats.
If you visit, you need to know:
- There are several sites that sell tickets to Alcatraz. Only one is official http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/, it includes the ferry and entrance to the museum/prison, and does not have the upcharge found on other sites.
- It is chilly (by California standards) and windy, so layer up.
- There is quite a bit of climbing, comfortable clothing and shoes are recommended.
- They say expect to take 2- 2 1/2 hours. That is to view the prison and its grounds. There are additional special presentations and activities. So, it can easily be an all day trip. Ferries leave regularly. Since you board at Pier 33, you could spend a portion of the day at Alcatraz then head to the popular Pier 39.
- You take a ferry to the island. There are great photo opps so choose your side carefully.
- Eat first. There are limited options while waiting for the ferry.
|photo from http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/|
|The only time I ever intend to be in a prison cell.|
|My sister & I. Yes. We have heard we look alike.|
|San Fran in background|