When I think of Alcatraz, three things come to mind:
- A old sundae at Ghirardelli Chocolate’s sweet shop, called the Alcatraz Rock, with rocky road vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup encased in a chocolate shell and all the other typical sundae ingredients;
- The silly but entertaining 1996 movie called “The Rock,” with Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage, where a rogue military unit takes a group of tourists hostage, so they can extort money from the government;
- An impossibly difficult triathlon called Escape from Alcatraz that the supremely fit – and slightly insane – only participate in.
Alcatraz: Numero uno in the City
Of 528 listed things to do in San Francisco, Alcatraz Island is number one. It’s difficult to secure tickets through the official National Park Service-sanctioned site in advance. Since it’s the least expensive option for tickets, they sell out quickly.
If you want to have more leeway about when you go, you’ll have more luck going to an outside vendor like Viator. You will have to do some digging around to find one, since many of them bundle Alcatraz with some other San Francisco attraction and considerably jack up the price.
Go to Pier 33, where the ferry boat transports visitors to and from the Rock. You’ll find a few hundred visitors lined up in a Disneyland-style line. TV screens above play segments about the prison’s unique history and visitor procedures. Don’t let that queue scare you. The ferry boats come every 30 minutes.
Alcatraz = Seagull Island
It takes about 15 minutes to leave the mainland and get to La Isla de los Alcatraces, or Pelican Island. When Spanish explorer Juan de Ayala named it, I’m sure he saw all manner of seabirds, including the ubiquitous and squawking seagull, which everywhere in the City. But the Anglicized version of “Alcatraces” now is an association to one of the most notorious prisons in history…and a major tourist attraction today.
When into the prison’s former shower room, you can get the self-guided audio tour. I did this years ago, when I first came on this tour. I chose to skip it this time, while my family all received their portable Walkman-like devices.
About 99.8% of the visitors here take this audio tour. So I felt a little weird not having one, like I was in a club where I didn’t belong.
But being free of a soundtrack, I could focus on taking photos without a preconceived agenda.
I won’t elaborate much on the details about Alcatraz. You can find that on a lot of sites, so my post here is just to show some of the more intriguing aspects of this forsaken place, and how prisoners could have survived here.
Have you ever been to Alcatraz? What has your experience been? I’d love to know, so please comment 🙂