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.
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.