I'm sure many of you at least know what Alcatraz Island is and where it is located. However, just in case you don't, it was a 1800s military fort located about 1.25 miles from San Francisco Bay where it served as a military prison. The most notorious role that it held was a federal prison, and the latest role was for the Native American occupation. For me, Alcatraz Island is somewhere I've always wanted to visit. I'm fascinated by real life crime stories, gangster history, and the very idea of this eerie federal prison. Thus, it was on my "must visit" list while in San Francisco earlier this year (2017). If you're going to visit Alcatraz Island, there are a few things you should know before you go: wear comfortable shoes, buy your tickets in advance, be sure to check the weather, and get to the marina early.
We chose to visit the island with Alcatraz Cruises. This was the most affordable and easiest route I found and it was nice because although you have a certain departure time from San Francisco you can come back on any ferry of your choice. I'd advise you to arrive at the marina at least an hour before your scheduled departure time; this way, you'll have time to park and walk to the marina, use the facilities before getting on the boat, and get a good place in line. We were picky about our seats because we wanted a good view but also wanted to be indoors for the ride over. We visited in early spring so it was a chilly outing. Because the island isn't surrounded by tall buildings, it's usually cooler than the city. My best advice is to be prepared with layers. On the day that I went, everyone in my group took light jackets and they were pleased to have them! I repeat, you'll want to wear a good pair of walking shoes! The island and prison are both a lot bigger than you'd think and the majority of it is uphill. Someone once said, "The coolest winter I ever spent was the summer I spent in San Francisco." This phrase is widely repeated because you really never know what the weather is going to be like there. Most people think Mark Twain said this quote when in fact, he did not. That's another story for another time but if you're interested you should look up the history behind this famous saying.
Today, the island is managed by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. If you visit today you'd get to see the abandoned prison, the oldest operating light house on the west coast, early signs of the military fort, and beautiful scenery. I was taken back by how pretty the view of San Francisco is from the island. If you're interested in more history on Alcatraz there are loads of great books and documents about the island. I've read Escape from Alcatraz and Alcatraz: A Definitive History of the Penitentiary Years. There have also been several Hollywood movies produced about the island. It's obviously most famous for the years as a federal penitentiary and that's what I was most interested in learning about during my time on the island. Given its high security and location of the prison the operators believed Alcatraz to be escape-proof. It housed some of America's most ruthless criminals such as Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud ("Birdman"), George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Mickey Cohen, and Alvin "Creepy" Karpis just to name a few. There were a total of 36 prisoners who made 14 known escape attempts. There is one escape though that is the most intricate escapes ever devised. Prisoners Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin might have pulled off the only successful escape from Alcatraz. I say might because no one knows if they actually made it. They broke out of the main building via an unused utility corridor after making a tunnel from their cells. It's thought that they departed on an inflatable raft which had to have been highly improvised. No one knows if they ever made it to the other side alive. There are numerous theories and leads that have been pursued by the FBI. During your visit, you'll get to see the cell they escaped from and the hole they climbed through is truly unbelievable. It looks like a toddler couldn't fit through it. I've added some of my favorite photos from the day. If you ever get a chance to visit Alcatraz Island it is definitely worth your time! This is a tour that's good for all ages. Tell me, have you ever been there? What were some of your favorite or most surprising facts?
A southern girl trying to make my dreams come true. My husband and I love to travel and go on new adventures--We love Jesus and the blessings He provides!