Touring Alcatraz should be a priority when in San Francisco – it’s up there with riding a cable car. Yet, when I talk to people who visit, many don’t make it to Alcatraz.
Alcatraz is absolutely, hands down, my favorite San Francisco attraction! (Yes, I realize this is a bold statement!)
There are so many things to see and do in the Bay Area. Touring Alcatraz is a time commitment, and it takes advanced planning as tickets often sell out. So, is it worth the time, effort, and money? YES! Here are 3 things that ROCK at Alcatraz:
- The Tour ROCKS: A tour is a great way to learn more about a destination without having to do a bunch of work. It is fun to hear all those extra little details one might miss just reading a brochure or guide. The Alcatraz tour is no exception. This tour is actually an audio tour. Oddly enough, I think it feels more personal – like they are talking just to me. The tour guides visitors throughout various parts of the prison explaining the daily life of prisoners. It is an immersive experience.
- The Boat Ride ROCKS: The tour of the notorious Alcatraz includes a boat ride across infamous San Francisco Bay. From the boat, you’ll see the Golden Gate Bridge which is still amazing even when it is shrouded in fog! From the boat, you can also enjoy a nice view of the city. I see this as a 2 for 1 deal in that you get to tour Alcatraz AND enjoy a boat ride in San Francisco Bay.
- The Stories ROCK: There is certainly no shortage of captivating stories involving Alcatraz. Of course, there are many movies which feature The Rock as a central character. However, given its rich history, the true stories are even better! (This is NOT a time to skip the park movie as it recaps many of these stories!) Alcatraz’s long history as a prison dates back to the 1850’s. Although, most of us are more familiar with the prison’s more recent guests including Al Capone and The Birdman. The Alcatraz Occupation from 1969 to 1971 is an often forgotten but historically significant period when Alcatraz Island was occupied by a group of Native American protesters. In 1972, it became a National Recreation Area which is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area managed by the National Park Service. Perhaps this island’s biggest mystery is the Great Escape – when 3 inmates escaped by chiseling a hole the back of the cell. They fooled the guards by placing fake heads in their beds and fled in the dark of night. It is not known for certain if they made it across the treacherous bay.
San Francisco is not a cheap place to visit which makes it even more important to strategically plan your itinerary in order to make the most out of your time there. Despite all of the incredible sights in and around San Francisco, I highly recommend making time for a visit to The Rock!
Trip Tip: Don’t book a late afternoon tour for Alcatraz if you can avoid it. It is best to have plenty of time to explore and participate in any Ranger led programs which may be offered. Your visit will be much more enjoyable if you don’t feel worried about catching the last boat back!