If you’re visiting San Francisco, visiting Alcatraz is required for anyone! Alcatraz is famous worldwide for some of its prisoners like Al Capone AKA Scarface, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and Robert “Birdman” Stroud… And it’s one of the places in San Francisco and every year attracts more than thousands tourists.
The island is located close to San Francisco’s Bay and it’s most of the times surrounded by strong winds and the other times hidden inside the fog.
Between 1934 and 1963 Alcatraz was a federal prison, the nightmare for every prisoner in there was the severe weather conditions and the impossibility to escape.
There are guided tours planned every day to visit Alcatraz from early in the morning to late afternoon, when you arrive to the island the prison cells tour is available in all languages, so don’t worry if you can’t understand english!
The audio tour honestly is the best one that I’ve ever had, and features some recordings of the people that were imprisoned in Alcatraz in the past, and this grows the quality of the tour, becoming really interesting, fascinating and absolutely not boring.
If you want a thrilling adventure, this is for you: there’s a tour after the sunset in addition to the day tour.
If you’re lucky to visit Alcatraz on a shiny day, you can enjoy the beautiful view to the city, the Golden Gate bridge and the stunning Bay Bridge over East Bay, the greenest Marin Country in the north and the close Angel Island, a Californian state park and another excellent thing to see in San Francisco Bay.
The island has a rich story that you’ll start to learn when you arrive to the dock. Just to have some tips, you have to know that on 1854, due to the huge amount of ships in San Francisco Bay, they finished to build the lighthouse, that was the first one of ever in the pacific ocean!
After the big earthquake in 1906 in San Francisco area, 176 prisoners from other prisons in the city were temporarily moved to Alcatraz and after that in 1909 the lighthouse was took down to build up the prison and another one was built on the other side of the island. And then in 1933 Alcatraz became a military prison and after it became in August 1934 a federal maximum security prison. Famous due to the strictly rules for the prisoners, in Alcatraz were been sent only extremely dangerous people or someone that has already tried to escape from other prisons.. Names like Al Capone have been “living” here for a long time.
During all 29 years of activity of the prison, there were only 14 attempted escapes, but the impossibility to escape from Alcatraz wasn’t never denied! From this story was inspired the famous movie “Escape From Alcatraz” with Clint Eastwood. From the total of 14 attempted escapes during the period when the island was a federal prison, the most famous was the one in 1962, when Frank Morris and Anglin brothers succeeded a brilliant jailbreak removing some bricks from the walls of their cells, leaving only fake dummies under the blankets to earn time! That work took probably years to implement!! Their destination was probably San Francisco, but they’ve never been found, and the people think that they drowned or died because of hypothermia due to the extreme cold water. Maybe the tv serie “Prison Break” was inspired also by those events?
In 1963 due to the rising of the maintenance and management costs, the government decided to close the prison and a few decades later Alcatraz was opened again but this time as a Museum for guided tours!
Alcatraz during the years became also an important place for nesting oceanic birds, and during the breeding season, more or less 4 months/year, the island is closed to the public.
If you’re interested to visit the island, I recommend you do not wait the last minute! The ferry boat from Fisherman’s Wharf are frequent, but most of the times you have to books weeks BEFORE visiting Alcatraz. So, you’re warned, book in advance!!
You can book your tickets right now from this link to the official website.
And enjoy the visit, trust me, you’ll love it!