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Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz—the very name conjures dark images of impregnable prisons, infamous criminals, and daring escape attempts. But the island is not all murder and mayhem. “The Rock,” set a few kilometers offshore in the San Francisco Bay, is designated a National Historic Landmark and managed by the National Park Service. It’s an important area for nesting seabirds and the site of the West Coast’s first lighthouse, and has hosted a military garrison and been occupied by American Indian activists. The main draw for visitors, of course, is the abandoned maximum-security state penitentiary. Between 1934 and 1963 this almost-mythical prison housed some of the country’s most dangerous and troublesome criminals, including Al Capone. The audio tour is fascinating. Narrated by former inmates and guards, the tour ushers you down dank corridors, into cramped cells, and through common areas and staff quarters. You hear stories about the prisoners’ daily routines, escape attempts, and riots, all set to an atmospheric prison life soundtrack of echoing footfalls, clanging doors, and jangling keys. The only way to reach the island is via an Alcatraz Cruises ferry from Pier 33. Advance booking is recommended; during peak times tickets can sell out weeks in advance. By day you can explore the island, or combine it with a trip to Angel Island; by night you get more broody views of the Rock.

the prisoners' soft side
Alcatraz was another place the kids wanted to see, while my anticipation was more of a “not so much.” Touring an old prison with a guide cracking gangster jokes. Please, I'm from Chicago. Like I don't hear enough of those. But heeding advice, I located the door to the prison yard, where the wind nearly toppled me from the giant concrete steps leading into it. Slipping out a side door, I discovered the reaches of the island no one else had found, and I conducted my own private tour of the gusty side populated only by birds and flowers. Here is where the prisoners' soft side emerges. Glorious gardens tumble down the rocky edges of this prison island, tended, once upon a time, by the prisoner themselves. Their care lives on in the display--forming a waterfall of color to the walkway. Across from the gardens, I spy a pair of egrets in the bushes, fluffing their wings before taking to the sky. Prison behind me and guardhouse ruins across the island, I see here only what both prisoners and guards were able to create from their bleak surroundings. It's a landscape of hope.

Alcatraz Island
It was a pain in the butt to get a decent shot of the island with all the fog and mist.

Alcatraz Island

In 1859, Alcatraz Island, in the middle of San Francisco Bay, began hosting a garrison of troops that would be charged with defending the city in the event of an attack by the Confederacy during the Civil War. While the attack never came, the island remained a military base until 1934, when the island's most famous chapter began: It became home to a maximum-security prison. Among those incarcerated here were Al Capone and Robert "Birdman of Alcatraz" Stroud; no prisoner ever escaped. While the penitentiary closed in 1963, more than 50 years later it remains one of San Francisco's most visited sites.

You can't escape....a life sentence of 360 degrees of beauty
It might be touristy, but the history of The Rock and the incredible view of The Bay Area is the reward. Only a mile from San Francisco offers a full range of views, Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, Angel Island, the waterfront and downtown SF, sailboats you name it you can see it. Just find a spot and take it in.....then go there!!

Prison Break
Alcatraz is a one of kind type of place! The island itself is a National Park!

Battling ships on the San Francisco Bay
The ships used in the A&E Hornblower series give a display on San Francisco Bay near Alcatraz.

Alcatraz: A Slice Of History Worth The Visit
A major tourist attraction to this day, Alcatraz boasts a million visitors each year. It's clearly still worth the visit. Stepping off the ferry, I immediately had a sense of the history this island holds. Heavily surrounded by fog and stared at by nesting seabirds, we made our way up to the prison, passing by infrastructure from crumbled buildings. Once inside, you have the option of using the headphones for a self-guided audio tour. I highly recommend doing so. The stories the old prisoners and guards tell adds to the ambience and overall experience. Explore the cells, see where the prisoners ate every day (pictured above), step outside and into the yard for a great view of San Francisco and feel the seclusion from the rest of the world. Tickets are $30 per person and includes the audio tour. And don't forget to stop into the store and buy a piece of history! Proceeds go to the upkeep and preservation of Alcatraz.

Alcatraz was a maximum security prison located on an island in the San Francisco Bay about 1.5 miles from the shore. After you take the ferry out to the island, you can wander around on a self guided tour. The prison is still very well preserved and stills feels creepy. Learning that the families of the men who worked at the prison actually lived on the island was the most intriguing story. Book your tickets in advance because this tour sells out fast.

Best Alcatraz Island Tours And Tickets Online
The places of interest on the Alcatraz include the Former Military Chapel, Baker Beach, Building 64, the Boat Dock, the Lighthouse, the Main Lighthouse, the New Industries Building, the Officers Club, the Wardens House, and the Main Cellhouse. The Alcatraz is also the natural habitat to Californian Slender Salamanders, Black Crowned Herons and Western Gulls.

San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
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